By Julie Shields-Rutyna, Director of College Planning, MEFA
January 8, 2019
It’s a new year, and I am two weeks into my new year’s resolutions and doing pretty well! Near the end of last year, I read a lot of different advice and strategies about how to successfully keep resolutions, and I have tried to adopt those that will help me reach my new year’s goals.
As MEFA’s Director of College Planning and the parent of one child in college and one child in high school, one of my resolutions is to continue to save for college, and I urge others to do the same. Here are some of the success tips I’m using – I encourage you to adopt them as well so that you, too, can successfully save for college this year.
Just get started!
For some, the new year is a good time to make changes. For others, it may seem like an arbitrary date. Whatever style of new beginnings fits you, just pick a time to start. In my work, I find that many families delay saving for college because they either don’t believe they have enough extra money to start a college savings account or can’t decide on the best savings option. I understand these concerns and they can be figured out in time, but one great way to kick start a goal is to start. Consider the 529 college savings plan in your state. 529 plans offer significant tax benefits and flexibility, and are easy to set up and manage. Or you can check out any prepaid plan that your state offers. Start saving a small amount (or a large amount if you are able) right away. The key is to designate the money specifically for college savings.
Make it convenient.
Setting up an automated way to put money aside for college savings makes the process of saving for college easier. Once you designate a college savings account, set it up to automatically withdraw from your paycheck or a checking or savings account. In doing so, you won’t have to think about it every month, and you’ll save yourself from having to make too many decisions.
Accountability is a positive driver in habit formation. Tell your child that you’ve started a college savings account for him or her. Research shows that students who know they have a college savings account are more engaged in their own education. Also, tell friends and family that you started the account. Many college savings options make it easy for friends and family to contribute to the account for birthdays, holidays, or other special events.
Review your college savings plan at least once a year. Take the time to learn more about different savings options and see if you can allocate even more money in your budget toward saving for college.
As you continue to save, keep up with the organization that manages your college savings account. Most offer savings tips and helpful resources through emails, their website, and/or their social media pages. These can all help you to stay motivated as you save. Good luck sticking with those resolutions. You can do it!
About the Author
Julie Shields-Rutyna is the Director of College Planning for MEFA, Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority.