By Farm Bureau Financial Services on August 8, 2019

Saving for College: 4 Essential Strategies

Planning for college—it’s an exciting time in your child’s life. If you have a son or daughter heading to college, it’s a good idea to plan early.

College tuition and fees currently cost anywhere from $28,000 per year for a public university to $59,000 per year for a private college.

Feeling stressed about your college funding options? Start saving for college with these four smart strategies.

1. Start Saving for College Early

One of the best moves is to start a college savings account when your child is born. Deposit money your child receives for birthdays and holidays into the account. Encourage your child to start saving, too. If you can spare it, offer to match any money your child saves.

2. Diversify Your Savings Strategy

Savings accounts are a great start, but there are additional options for investing in your child’s education. These popular savings strategies will help you and your child save for college.

529 Plan

Every state offers 529 plans, which are tax-advantaged savings plans that let you set aside money for college. If you use the money for education expenses (tuition, books, room and board), it grows tax-free. The sooner you start saving for college, the more time the money has to grow.

Coverdell Education Savings Account

If you have a modified adjusted gross income of less than $110,000 ($220,000 on joint returns), a Coverdell Education Savings Account might be right for you. It’s like a 529, but it can also be used for certain education expenses from kindergarten through high school.

The Uniform Transfer to Minors ACT (UTMA)

This allows adults to contribute funds to a UTMA account for people under 21. The money can be used for educational purposes, but it’s not required.

Savings Bonds

These are one of the safest investments, though when interest rates are low, the earning potential can be limited. Savings bonds don’t have to be used for education, so if your child doesn’t go to college, they can be used for something else.

Certificate of Deposit (CD)

A CD invests your money for a set period with a fixed interest rate. CDs generally have a better interest rate than a standard savings account. However, when interest rates are low, the returns aren’t as good. Like savings bonds, there’s no requirement that CDs be used for education purposes.

3. Encourage Teens to Earn Money for Their College Fund

Once your child becomes a teenager, encourage them to get a part-time job. Allocate a portion of each check to a savings account designated for college expenses.

4. Focus on Scholarships and Grants

There are numerous scholarship opportunities available. There are websites that make it easy to search for scholarships by major, college and other categories. You can also check with your employer and investigate other options in your community. You may not find something that covers all your child’s expenses but can help you chip away at the larger costs.

Every student should fill out a FAFSA (Free Application for Financial Student Aid) to find out what other financial aid they qualify for. Federal Pell Grants are money you never have to repay. Pell Grants are awarded based on need, at up to $5,815 per year.

It’s never too early to plan for your child’s education. Learn more college savings tips on Farm Bureau’s College Funding page. There’s a variety of options to put you at ease and make you feel secure about your child’s college fund.