5 Things I’ve Learned About Saving For College Since Becoming a Parent

What is one thing you've learned about saving for college since becoming a parent? I've found that everything changed, once they were born, and it's a rewarding journey. I'm still learning day by day, but here are the 5 things I've learned about saving for college since becoming a parent! #finances #UFundDreams #ad

I saw a funny quote recently. It was something about everyone being a parenting expert, except those who have kids!

And it’s so true! I’m completely guilty of this. I remember saying that my kids would ONLY eat organic food 100% of the time, would never wear character pajamas, and would travel the world from young ages – to be cultured and open to adventure. I do think they’re pretty open to adventure, but I’m still waiting (on myself) for those kids to have passports. And conventional food and character pajamas are winning right now! And that’s ok. What’s important is to be doing the best I can do with what I have, striving for a better future, and for loving them with all the big love I have. No problem there!

I think a more productive quote, or thought, is that parenting is a series of powerful life lessons, and that we don’t necessarily know what we’re up against, until we’re up against it. That’s why I find such a power in controlling what we can control, thinking about what we should think about, and preparing for what we’re able to prepare for right now. And it’s never too early to think about saving for college. Some people think about it when their kids are almost grown, while others are already thinking about it before their babies are even born! I think I fall somewhere in the middle of that one.

What is one thing you've learned about saving for college since becoming a parent? I've found that everything changed, once they were born, and it's a rewarding journey. I'm still learning day by day, but here are the 5 things I've learned about saving for college since becoming a parent! #finances #UFundDreams #ad

Thinking about money does not have to be hard, or even anything less than fun. On Sunday, May 6th, my family will be at the U.Fund Dreams Tour at Mayfair – at Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This is a full and interactive experience that allows children to imagine themselves in different occupations, while parents learn about saving for college.

I’ve attended several U.Fund Dreams Tour events in the last few years. My daughter even knows to ask which ones we’ll be attending every new spring. Where will we go? What will we learn? It’s awesome! In honor of this event, I’m sharing 5 things I’ve learned about saving for college since becoming a parent – now over eight years ago! Yikes. And yay!

1 – It’s never too early, and it’s a mistake never to start! I remember thinking and hoping that financial aid would cover everything, or that the savings wouldn’t make a difference. But financial aid can include grants (free money) and loans, which have to be repaid so it’s more cost-effective to save NOW, rather than borrow later. And it’s important to, keep your college savings plan on track. Start early and save regularly. Start NOW! You can start with a small (or large) amount right away! Designate, and save.

2 – Don’t play it too safe. You want to aim for a 529 college savings plan, rather than playing it too safe with low-risk, low-return options – like checking and savings accounts. A 529 college savings plan will offer you tax-free growth, which checking and savings accounts don’t do.

3 – It’s important to tell your loved ones. Why? My kids have six grandparents, and a dozen aunts and uncles. If I tell my loved ones that Scarlet and Des have college savings accounts, this makes it easier for them to contribute to it for birthdays, holidays, Communions, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, and other important events.

What is one thing you've learned about saving for college since becoming a parent? I've found that everything changed, once they were born, and it's a rewarding journey. I'm still learning day by day, but here are the 5 things I've learned about saving for college since becoming a parent! #finances #UFundDreams #ad

4 – College saving requires monitoring and maintenance. Check to make sure you’re hitting your goals and targets. Ask yourself if you’re hitting monthly targets, and if you’re aiming to put a certain amount away each month. Then think about adjustments for the new year. Also, update your goals with family changes. It might not be one fluid motion, but you’ll find plans to fit your goals.

5 – College saving isn’t and shouldn’t be a constant stressor. At all! You can set it and forget it, for the most part. Most 529 plans can be linked to your checking account for auto investments. You can start a plan with a small initial contribution. I don’t want to refute my fourth tip to say that you shouldn’t monitor, but this shouldn’t have to be a daily thing.

What is one thing you’ve learned about saving for college since becoming a parent?

I’ve partnered with Fidelity & MEFA in support of the U.Fund Dreams Tour. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.