By Tim Gorrell, Executive Director, Ohio Tuition Trust Authority
February 5, 2019
The first month of 2019 is now behind us, so what’s the status of your New Year’s resolutions? Whether you make resolutions or not; whether or not saving for educational costs after high school was a part of your 2019 plan, it is never too late to resurrect that resolve to save now. There’s a simple formula to stay focused and succeed with your goals. It’s S.M.A.R.T. — a strategy that creates focused steps to take on your resolution, which can add up to big savings.
S.M.A.R.T. stands for:
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A — Achievable
R — Relevant
T — Timely
Here’s how to work this approach for your college savings.
S is for Specific
Studies have shown that the more focused your objective is, the more you strive to reach it. Therefore, think of what you really want to accomplish with your 529 college savings account. Maybe your goal is to open a college savings account, to set a new contribution amount, to increase the number of times you contribute in a year, or to stretch for a new savings goal. Place a number on your goal, making it as definitive as possible. Then write it down.
M is for Measurable
This step is why you wanted to add a number to your goal. With it, you have a starting point to map out how to reach this goal. For instance, if you want to contribute a certain dollar amount to your 529 plan this year, divide that number by your payday schedule. Then, you can start tracking your contributions and see your progress. As that total starts to climb, so will your sense of accomplishment.
A is for Achievable
Make your resolution realistic. It’s great to have big dreams; however, if your goal is impossible based on your family’s budget, it’s easy to get discouraged. Therefore, take into account your family’s other obligations when aiming for a new college savings goal. And it’s OK to start smaller than you wish; baby steps can add up to big savings in the end. Besides, once you’ve accomplished a smaller goal, the next larger one seems more achievable.
R is for Relevant
Ask yourself why you want to work on this resolution. It’s simple for most parents: They want their child to have a better life than they did. A higher education makes that possible. You make their higher education possible by saving in a tax-advantaged 529 plan. That makes any college savings resolution relevant.
T is for Timely
Every goal should have a target-finishing date to keep you focused. Whether you’re stretching toward a goal for a few weeks, a few months, or a few years, a deadline makes the goal easy to track so you can judge how you are doing. A target date also highlights the successes you’ve had along the way.
Use the S.M.A.R.T. strategy with any of your New Year’s Resolutions to improve your chances of accomplishing them. You should be especially proud of your resolve to work on your higher education goals. If you’d like to learn more about 529 plans, visit collegesavings.org.
About the Author
Tim Gorrell is the executive director of Ohio Tuition Trust Authority. For almost 30 years, Ohio Tuition Trust Authority has sponsored and administered Ohio’s 529 Plan, CollegeAdvantage. Ohio’s 529 Plan oversees more than 639,000 accounts and over $11 billion in assets. Visit CollegeAdvantage.com or call 1-800-AFFORD-IT (233-6734) for more information.