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How to Save for College

So you want to send your kid to college and you’ve been meaning to set aside a buck or two to ease the burden of tuition, but just haven’t found the time and/or money. I hear you. It’s hard to drop dollars in a piggy bank when you have bills to pay and mouths to feed. OR IS IT? (Hint: It’s not.)

My parents didn’t save for my college education. In fact, I’m not sure that it was even discussed. One day I was graduating high school and the next I was enrolling in the local community college because the tuition was cheaper than the university and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. My parents footed the bill out of pocket.

By the time I transferred to said university I had discovered the allure of the student loan. I took all I could without so much as a passing thought for debt or consequence, but they both thought of me, quick and often. When I graduated I had more debt than any freshly pressed job-seeker should ever have and lacked the means to repay it. That’s when the consequences came knocking.

Needless to say, it wasn’t great.

When the boys were born my wife and I talked about college and the loans that I was still repaying. We started thinking about how we could best help our kids avoid the traps of debt. And then we started talking about something else, because we love a good tangent, and the topic of college savings took its sweet time coming back around. Years. Like Neptune around the sun.

And then we discovered ScholarShare, which is why we’re having this conversation.

As you may have guessed, the key to successful saving is in the planning, and the good news is that you don’t have to do it by yourself. The knowledgeable people at ScholarShare will help you set your goals and then you just start saving. It’s that simple.

Seriously, it’s really easy.

This is the part of the post where I’m going to drop some knowledge on you about 529 savings plans. It’s going to sound super impressive and possibly give the impression that I’m smarter than I actually am, but I’m okay with that. I’ve been called worse.

Also, I’m just paraphrasing this from the ScholarShare website because they actually know what they’re talking about.

Basically, a 529 college savings plan is like a 401(k) plan, but instead of saving for retirement you are saving for higher education. I’m talking specifically about ScholarShare, which is California’s 529 college savings plan, because federal law dictates that all 529 college savings plans must be state sponsored; however, a resident of any state can invest in any other state’s 529 college savings plan. There isn’t an income or age limit to participate in any of the 529 plans, including both state-sponsored college savings plans and prepaid plans. In fact, although I tend to address parents that are planning for their children (because that’s my lens), you are totally allowed to open an account for yourself—or someone else if you’re really generous (and if you are call me).

You can enroll online and submit your initial contribution electronically or establish an automatic contribution plan. You can also download enrollment materials or request an enrollment kit to have the materials mailed to you. The minimum initial contribution is $25 per investment portfolio, and yes, it is an investment—you are investing in the future, and that should make you feel pretty darn brilliant. There is even an interactive comparison tool to compare the plan features and benefits, because ScholarShare has thought of everything. EVERYTHING.

And now you can, too.

529 Plan

This post was written in partnership with ScholarShare and I have been compensated for it. All opinions are my own, because education is important, people, and it ain’t cheap.

Whit Honea is the author of “The Parents’ Phrase Book” and co-founder of the philanthropic organization Dads 4 Change. He is the Social Media Director/Community Manager of the Dad 2.0 Summit. His writing can be found at Fandango, GeekDad, Disney, Today, Good Housekeeping, City Dads Group, Stand Magazine, The Washington Post and several other popular publications. He previously covered travel for Orbitz, CBS and AOL, and served as Editor of Family Travel for UpTake. Deemed “the activist dad” by UpWorthy and one of the “funniest dads on Twitter” by Mashable, Whit has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and is the 2015 winner of the Iris Award for Best Writing.

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