When Did You Start Saving for Your Child's College?

Updated on February 24, 2014
*.*. asks from Mystic, CT
31 answers

The avg loan for a child when s/he gets out of college is OVER 20,000 dollars.

Are you saving for your child(ren) OR worrying about college( money) when the time comes? You can't always bank on a scholarship.

I have a friend who was lucky to get a ton of money from her parents to put toward her kids college bill. The child will have a 6,000 loan after all 4 yrs...That's it !!!

Just curious

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So What Happened?

So many responses !!! I am going to go back and read them all ! I do not think it is a child's total responsibility to pay because the cost is so HUGE. I think a parent should help pay. Maybe a money tree will come my way...and yours !

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answers from Tampa on

I opened prepaid college savings accounts for each of my kids within a couple of weeks of their birth. They are 6 and 8 now. They will be able to go to any state school and the tuition will be paid for by the time they graduate high school. I will be in a position to help them with dorm costs when they start as well. I do think that it is my responsibility as a parent to help my children get a good start. They WILL have to work hard and I hope that they get scholarships as well. I struggled very hard to make it through college and graduate school...I am almost 40 and will still be paying student loans for a few more years. I want to help my kids get opportunities that were never available to me...

ETA: After reading some of the answers, I am shocked that some do not feel that it is their responsibility to help kids with college. In my own experience, it would have been helpful for me to be able to take unpaid internships to gain experience in my field...I could never do it because I was literally working hand to mouth to afford to eat and live while in college. I had to work a lot to make it through college...I did not do as well as I should have partially because of this. I had NO help with college whatsoever.

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answers from Orlando on

We started saving when we found out I was pregnant. Not everyone is able to, but the sooner, the better!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Green Bay on

Yes - we have 2 different kinds of savings. One is a college fund, one is a - I forgot what it's called - different kind of 401 - like a Roth or something. We did that one different because we wanted to be able to use it in other ways to help them out. Now - I understand the point of view that they feel entitled because they won't have to work as hard. I think they will have to work very hard anyway. The middle class is disappearing. They're going to need every edge they can get.

So - keeping it simple - yes - we started like when they were babies.

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answers from Dallas on

We started saving before our daughter was born. We truly feel
it is our obligation as parents to get her through college debt free.

I'm in the minority on this issue on this site.

Our daughter is currently in year 1 of college and excelling. She has intentions of graduate school which is not a surprise since she's been raised in that type of environment.

She's covered fully through graduate school at this point to graduate with no debt, student loans etc.

It's my job as a parent to get her through college debt free. We had a goal of $10,000 per year by her birthday and make up any differences with the market value.

Our anticipation is a minimum if $250,000 to get her through everything debt free.... If she ends up furthering her degree, we'll still finance to keep her from graduating with huge debt. She needs to start out her life with no debt.

Some will fault me with comments that say she won't " appreciate" her education, etc... All I can say is that I have 1 focused child and she got a 3.875 her first semester of college us graduated with honors from high school.

Some kids are funded and have zero appreciation for their education until later on when they realize the real life. Some thrive and some are just not cut out for higher education.

I vote to save as much as you can for education as well as fund your retirement which is highly important.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

As soon as my children were born. Part of the reason we only had two children is I considered the cost of education. Everyone says they can get aid and scholarships but with so many people looking for financial aid, I certainly don't want to count on it. I also don't want my children to have to go to a lesser school than they could bc the lesser school entices them with financial aid. It's hard enough to get into top colleges never mind be such a strong student they offer a scholarship too. It's a big country and foreign students are competing. Straight a's in AP classes aren't enough. So I don't want to further lessen the chances of my kids going to the best possible college. My parents weren't wealthy but paid for my college. I knew they sacrificed nicer things for themselves to do it so I was always grateful. The education certainly helped me in life. I understand not all parents can pay for college and I respect that. What I don't respect is an attitude of "they're adults. They can pay. We can't afford it." while driving nice cars and taking nice trips etc. Kids don't ask to be born. When I chose to have children it was for me. Therefore I consider it my responsibility to educate them. A college degree is more and more important for a decent standard of living than it was in the past. Sad but statistically true.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Actually the average indebtedness for the class of 2013 was just over 35,000. That is how much they owe AFTER they graduate - meaning loans they need to repay after you have paid their tuition, room and board. The average cost of tuition and fees at a private university this year is $30,094. That doesn't include room and board. The projected 4 year cost for tuition and fees for kids starting in 18 years (the ones being born now) is 312,000 for a private school and $92,000 for a public school. Again - not including room, board, books, transportation, etc.

However the newest info this week is that college graduates earn 60% more than non college graduates. Making the only thing more expensive than going to college, not going to college.

We have been saving since DS was born. After all, he may very well go to grad school too. We both view providing our son with a college education as part of our job as his parents. If we can afford his grad school, we will. If not, we will do our best to help

ETA - I don't get the attitude that kids will be bratty and feel 'entitled' if their parents provide them with an education. Um, do they feel entitled because we feed them, change their diapers and clothe them? In fact, we adults chose to have children (the children did not choose to be born) and we are obligated to provide for them. Technically that makes them entitled. And nobody would argue that they are entitled - to food, shelter, love and education. People may reasonable debate how far that extends into the time when children are becoming adults - but the I have ZERO obligation (not, I wish I could provide but I am prioritizing retirement, medical costs, etc first) seems a bit unfair.

I wonder how parents can possibly expect that their high school graduate children will be able to work part time and save $92,000 (plus room and board) to attend a PUBLIC university. The fact that we could (in the distant past) work full time over the summers and part time during the school year (if you qualified for work study which was competitive) and actually make enough money that it made a dent in our tuition payments does NOT mean that kids today and tomorrow will be able to do that.

ETA - I do believe Leigh's answer. My brother is 44. When he finished school, the cost of tuition at his private college was $14,390/year - with room, board and books, essentially $20,000/year. That is an 80,000 degree, not a $20,000 degree.

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answers from Beaumont on

My father gave us $5000 for each of our son's when they were born and we have added about $100 per month for each of them. The money was invested in a 529 plan and now they are both at about $32,000. That is about the best we can do and while they still have about 5 years til college, I think they'll be on their own after that. They are both planning on Junior College for 2 years and then go to a larger university for the last two years. Hopefully, that will carry them most of the way. They are aware of the amount to spend and it's their responsibility to make it work. We've always taught them about "budgeting" so I think they'll do fine.

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answers from Miami on

I am a financial planner and the answer is yes and no. We are fortunate to have a good "emergency fund" and we save to the max that is matched in my husband's 401K. I am part-time so not eligible for my company's retirement plan and thus save the max allowed in my IRA each year.

Then we save - in a general fund for everything. I live in FL and we don't have a state income tax so a 529 is not as good of a deal as it would be in a state with an income tax. I don't know your situation but I do NOT recommend 529s for people with only one child. It is like putting all of your eggs into one basket. That child may or may not want further education and when you pay the penalties for not using the money for higher education you will likely lose all gains. Better off to just save in an investment account of some sort.

In addition, each of my two children have their own investment accounts. They have a combination of mutual funds and ETFs in their accounts. When relatives given them money for bday or Christmas or baptism, etc I put the money into that. We have also found that sometimes they get gift cards to Target, etc as gifts. In that case, I "buy" the gift card from them and use it for groceries and put the cash into their accounts.

We plan to put each child through an undergraduate degree. Since they are 3 and 7, I can't say yet what the parameters will be on that. I hope that we can pay for everything for in-state at a minimum. I do not plan to allow my children to take out loans.

Good luck!

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answers from Washington DC on

I figure that the folks insisting that their kids must pay their own way through college and suck up the debt on loans must not know adults in their 30s, 40s and even 50s who are still paying back student loan debt. I do know folks like that. It's demoralizing for them and affects their lives more than you realize now when you blithely say "My kid can just deal with it." Why not even make an effort to spare them some of that?

I'm not talking about people still repaying medical school debt or law school debt (though I know two of those). I'm thinking of my friend who, in her 40s, was still paying off her undergraduate loans when she was going through a divorce and other very tough times but had that debt always hanging over her head. She was from a family with next to nothing but got partial scholarships to a good college, yet still had to take out loans. The up side was that she got a great education and had a degree from a well-regarded university that helped her get jobs after college was over, but the down side was this debt. (Her field was not a high-paying one, ever, so it's not like she could pay down the debt fast.)

The idea of my child having to start out with debt in her working life sickens me. We started saving for her college fund through a state college savings plan as soon as she was born.

I want to be able to tell my kid (now in middle school) that she can go to whatever university is the one that has the programs she needs most. I don't want to say "You can only go in-state" like so many people I know. Nothing wrong with in-state but frankly, depending on in-state as being the best option is not always true these days, at least not for us. In our state, it can be extremely difficult for even the kids with the best GPAs to get into their desired majors at the state universities-- that is how competitive it is to get slots at these places. Kids with extremely high grades, solid extracurriculars, etc. are getting turned away at state schools in Va. So those figuring "My kid will have to go to a state school" may need to rethink that; the state school your kid gets into may not be the one you're thinking of if you just assume your child will get a slot at any particular state university merely because you''re residents of the state. Check out articles on how competitive it is now. That's another reason why saving is a good idea. You don't know what will happen or what the situation will be when your child hits college age.

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answers from Kansas City on

All three of my kids have college funds. They were started at birth. My husband's parents contributed to them significantly. We're saving as much as we can. We have no idea where they'll go or how much college will cost, but we're going to help--a lot. My husband and I didn't have to take out loans and that is our hope for our children.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Because my kids knew their college loans would be on them, they are doing it the cheapest way possible. Working p/t and doing the first two years at a jr. college. The way it looks, they will get out with less than 15K in debt, which is less than a car loan, and totally affordable for them. They will probably start their careers post-college making more money annually than I personally have ever made in my life.

I refuse to go into my retirement years and my dotage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt, just so my kids don't have to struggle a little. They have way more energy and stamina than I do.

Kudos to anyone who has enough money to foot the bill though. I still don't understand how so many people can do it, considering that statistically, my generation and below don't have enough money saved for their own retirements. Like someone below said, college debt is the next bubble.

ETA: In response to Tracy, above, I have to pose the question: Are we supposed to sacrifice ALL for our kids? If we simply do not have enough money to pay for our kids' college, are we parents supposed to not have enough money to see us through till the end of our lives, and forego all pleasures for ourselves for the rest of our lives, just so our kids can get their free ride?

If there isn't enough money, there just isn't. Life's kind of hard that way. There are all kinds of struggles people all over the world face because their families cannot afford things. A free ride through college is just one of those things some people have to live without. No one said life was easy.

I repeat -- statistically, Americans don't have enough money for retirement. And we are all slated to live into our 80's. Maybe when people are older and they see the end of their ability to work looming, and they wonder where the money is going to come from to see them through the end of their lives, they will reassess their ideals about kids and college. Old age is a wake up call. Talk to me when you're approaching 60.

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answers from Houston on

Well, we started a few years ago. I went back to school knowing that my salary would go towards their education and that was exactly what happened. I used to laugh and tell my boss to make my paycheck out to Sam Houston State University. Now, it should be Western Kentucky University.

We are happy to have been able to do this for our kids. Our parents did it for us and we were grateful for that. I'm so happy my daughter came out of college debt free. She has been very appreciative of this and has said so many times.

Our son is also appreciative but still a little clueless. However, he will also graduate next year debt free. To me, that is a blessing and a gift that we have given to them.

Some kids may not appreciate this gift, we are blessed that ours do.

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answers from Erie on

Nope, I doubt all of my kids will go to a four year college, the first one isn't, he's going to a trade school. He'll also make twice what we make as soon as he graduates. His tuition is partially offset by scholarships and testing out of 2 math classes, he'll owe about 10k when he graduates.
My next one is already in a prestigious IT program (10th grade) and will be employable upon graduation, or he will go for his Associates degree, again, very little cost to us.
My 3rd boy is a straight A student who just got accepted to the #2 high school in PA. I have no worries he will find the money for whatever college accepts him. We're encouraging him to apply to schools like Harvard that will give him a free ride if he gets in, based on our income.
My 4th child is only in 6th grade. We don't even know what she's interested in yet. We have told them they could live at home if they go to school in town, but tuition is their responsibility.

We are not wealthy people. We do not have the extra money to pay for college for 4 kids, and we also don't consider it our responsibility to do so. And knowing we won't be footing the bill, our kids are aware of their responsibilities for their education.

I am shocked to see so many people judging our choice. So, by that logic, we shouldn't have had any kids. Only people with more than enough money should reproduce.
Gotcha, I'll keep that in mind.

The time and effort we put into raising resilient, creative, and resourceful people was worth nothing.
Got it.

Only parents willing to pay for everything for their children so that there is no chance that they could possibly ever fail are good parents the rest of us are shirking our responsibility?
Lazy? Uninterested? What? Look, I get it.

You want to believe you are the better parent for shielding your kids from having to provide for themselves at what you consider to be too young of an age. We disagree, completely and totally. We don't want to raise our kids that way. Believe what you will about us, but my time was better spent with my kids than making money for their college funds. That was the trade off we made. I wish people would stop acting like doing so crippled their ability to become independent adults, since we can't pay their way through young adulthood.

Yeah, that was a long monologue. Now you know how it feels to have someone criticize one of your most basic parenting choices. Those of you with funds for your kids, good for you. I don't fault you for it, but you're not the better parent for it.

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answers from Las Vegas on

We began at birth.. you have to figure compound interest in 20 years when a kid might go to college would be a good junk of change..
I believe that even if you aren't saving for a kid's college, DO save something... could be for that car they might need, first and last month's rent... I mean so many things..
Sometimes people might think oh why save, what's 20 here and 20 there.. well it ALL adds up...
we not only saved since my child's birth, but he too has saved any money he received from birthdays to other holidays...
he knows that IF he wants to take that cross-country road trip someday or spend time in Europe.. it will cost...
Also, I think it's great to teach a kid about saving..

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answers from Dallas on

I'm not. My dad didn't either and I am glad. My generation is full of bratty adults who think they're entitled and deserve free..

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answers from Richland on

Never did. We just pay as we go. My idea of skin in the game is getting and maintaining scholarships, we paid the difference. Even with scholarships it is still pretty expensive, athletic scholarships are pretty much the only free rides out there.

You also need to not look at average student loans. In that number are state schools, and kids like mine who's parents have the means to pay their full tuition. My daughters tuition, room and board would have been 170,000. That is a middle of the road private four year university. Scholarships only covered about 100,000 of that.

I think this is what I find odd about the saving up for college plan. If you don't have the money to pay for college how are you going to have the money to save for college? We had the money but we tossed it in regular savings. I just don't think the tax savings for a college fund is worth the restrictions it places on the money but perhaps I am just odd.

I feel that parents should do their best to help but I have a very hard time believing Leigh's story about someone in their 40s who still has student loans!! No one took them out for their undergrad back then because even a private university was only about 5,000 a year. And say they did take out loans, that is only 20,000, you are saying that in over 20 years they couldn't pay off 20,000? If she had scholarships that would be even less. Sorry but if that is true they stink at managing money, period! You think a parent going into debt for someone like that is a good thing.

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answers from Minneapolis on

My husband started fairly early, maybe when our teenagers were in elementary school. I can't remember for sure. It is very important to us to pay for our boys' college education to get them the best start possible, in our opinion. My husband and I come from very different backgrounds in this respect, but have come to the same conclusion for our boys. We want to provide that for them and fortunately we are in a position to do so. I realize not everyone can do that. I went to an expensive, highly selective private college and my parents paid for the majority of it. I did NOT take it for granted and worked very hard at least in part because I appreciated what they were doing for me. I paid my own way through law school, primarily with loans. My husband paid his way through undergrad at a large public university by working on campus and paid his way through law school with loans. Our school loans have been paid off for years. Because he had to put himself through college and because he is in a financial position where he/we can afford to put our boys through college he feels very strongly we should do that for our boys. Our oldest son is a high achiever and I know he won't take it for granted. Our youngest son is not quite as driven and so we might approach his higher education a little differently, but we will do what we can to get him a college education or the training he will need to become independent and successful. I agree with some of the posters that many kids these days have an entitlement attitude, but I don't necessarily agree that starts with whether their parents pay for college. It probably started long before, for whatever reasons. My husband and I have been discussing this issue a lot lately because our oldest is a junior in HS and looking at colleges and because we have friends, like many posters here, who don't believe in paying their children's college expenses. It's very interesting to see the divergent views and explanations.

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answers from Boston on

My oldest are 16 & 15 (step-twins, both in 10th grade) and I started saving for them when they were 6 but we haven't saved much, maybe $6000 each. At the same time, I started an account for my middle son. I didn't start a separate one for my youngest (who is now 8) because the chances of all 4 of them going to college are not 100% and I figured that by the time we figure out where the older two land, we can sort out what will be left for the younger two and move things around. We'll be out of credit card debt in a few months so I'm looking forward to throwing another $500 a month in the older kids' accounts for the last two years of high school to try to bump them up a bit. My in-laws have saved quite a bit as well.

At the end of the day, my kids will have to take out loans and frankly, they should. I'm not one to just pay their way and want them to have some skin in the game. Student loans aren't the end of the world - I had more than $30K in loans when I graduated 15+ years ago and I managed to pay them off.

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answers from Tyler on

Don't just count on scholarships, that is way too much risk and added pressure! Start now, it doesn't matter how young your kids are, save now! You'll be so grateful you did and they will be headed off WAY before you can believe it!

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answers from Grand Forks on

I started Registered Education Savings Plans for my kids when they were born. They receive Canada Learning Grants and Canada Learning Bonds, and I make monthly deposits into the tax free accounts for them. I do hope that they will receive scholarships to top it off.

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answers from Denver on

Absolutely not.

I paid my own way. My husband (and all his siblings) was told they just needed to pick a major and "follow their heart". Their parents would pay their way. And these were not wealthy people. He and all his siblings blew off college. I mean they went, but now all their 30's, we have one that dropped out, one that followed an artsy degree and has no use for it now, one who got a degree, and then a couple years in, decided she wanted to get a different degree, and one who partied until he flunked out of a Top 10 college. He then finished at an instate college, and got a business degree.
These kids had zero respect for the sacrifice their parents made. And I understand that; they were kids. I, on the other hand, had no parent help at all. I got academic scholarships, and made the decision to use them where they went the farthest, and got a small loan for the rest. I got a degree that translated into a JOB (not Liberal Arts, Art History, Gender Studies, Dance, Sociology, or any other silly degree that costs $50,000 and doesn't give you any skills).

It is not my job to pay for my kids' every expense. They ALL know that college is on them. We are exploring every creative way to help them get there. We will counsel them about valid degree options, salaries that go with certain jobs, etc. We provide them a home, food, LOVE, and a parent who is PRESENT all the time. We have decided that the time away from them for me to work outside the home and MAKE the money to put into a college fund, is not worth the trade-off. We have decided that we aren't going to sacrifice their first 5 years at home with a parent, so that they can spend 4 years down the road at the college of their choice. It doesn't make sense to us.

And I have no idea what states you all live in, but in my state, we have at least 5 REALLY good state schools. The most expensive is $12,000/yr total. That's only $48,000 for the degree. Really, that's not that big of a deal. And between academic scholarships and Pell Grants, it will be half that, if not less. If they choose to live at home, they can go full time for about 6,000/yr. I don't feel the need to finance my kids' college party life. Why do some of you?

You aren't a better parent for funding college. I could argue that you might have been a better parent if you had been a stay at home mom. Or if you had sent your children to a parochial school. Or if you had breastfed. But that wouldn't be right, now would it? To make you feel inferior for a parenting choice? Hmmm...

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answers from Orlando on

I started a 529/prepaid college plan when they were each about aged 2 or 3. We have good state schools here. My older son has a 4 year university plan and when I went to set one up for my younger son eight years later, the same plan price had tripled. So we are currently paying for a 2 year plan for him as that is all we can afford. Even with these plans, it doesn't cover everything so I know there will be more expenses. That is where grants/scholarships come in and I will expect them to hold a job to pay for any extra things they want to do and for car insurance, etc. I feel the plans help deflect the cost down the road, but there are still other things that will have to be paid for.
I lived at home while I went to college, commuted and worked a part time job in retail. My parents paid for my schooling, I had to pay car insurance, gas and for my textbooks. I never took it for granted, or expected them to pay for everything.

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answers from Washington DC on

we started a college fund when they were born. Hopefully they will have enough to get them through by the time they are in college. I will also be encouraging them to go to a community college first to save money.

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answers from Chicago on

within a month of birth. We do not save nearly enough, but our backup plan is to send them to Europe (they are EU citizens). I'm also thinking they will do the bulk of their general ed while in their teens. There are some local colleges that are open to homeschoolers taking classes. So my plan is to start them working on college credit at 16.

But college is a bubble. It will be breaking sometime soon.

We will NOT be paying for grad school. I will pay for car insurance while they are in school, and I may buy them a beater car, but they can take out loans. I will be paying off mine soon, in the next few months! I cannot wait!

I was reading recently that the middle really gets screwed in relation to scholarships. The article was about how wealthy folks that didn't save for college, and that owe lots (big house, lots of car payments, etc) get more money than their financially conservative middle class peers. The article was actually arguing that you may be better off NOT saving for college.

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answers from Los Angeles on

We opened up college funds for both our kids before their first birthdays. Each one got a big chunk up front (either $5 or $10k, I can't remember which) and then they get a $150 monthly contribution now.

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answers from Washington DC on

When we could, for the older kids. Somewhere between 10 and 13 yrs old. DH got a late start due to the divorce.

For DD, before she was a year old.

For the older kids in particular, we told them we can give them x$ and the rest they have to work for, take loans for, or get scholarships for. SS got nearly a complete academic scholarship. SD has to take loans. DD will have to work out room and board, but her tuition is hopefully covered, within reason. We will support them through 4 years. Not grad school. Not 2 years to party before they buckle down. We don't pay for classes that need to be retaken.

I'm not really worried. We'll work it out. I had about $15K in loans and my sister had a lot more. But she also chose a pricier school.

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answers from Philadelphia on

My daughter will be able to graduate from college debt free if she goes to a state school. I am hoping she will get scholarship money regardless of which school she goes to but she will need it if she goes to a private school. I really do not want her to have debt upon graduation.

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answers from Los Angeles on

We started saving for college shortly after our daughter was born. She got quite a bit of money from family and friends, so I opened up a Coverdell savings account for her. The tax and financial rules have changed since then, but we have 529 plans for all three of our kids now. We started out each account with seed money and then added about $50 per month per kid.

Now that hubby and I are divorcing, we won't be able to put money into the college savings accounts until we are both in a better financial position. But the combined value of our three kids' accounts is about $70k. And we still have about 10 years before our first child starts college. I'm sure our kids will have to take loans to bridge the gap, but I feel like we're off to a pretty good start.

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answers from Atlanta on

We started saving when they were born.

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answers from Washington DC on

My parents helped when they could, and I will help my kids when I can, but I cannot afford college payments for them right now when I am paying my loans at $600 a month. That is low for an undergrad AND an MBA, so I am lucky I had the help I did. But if I didn't have those, then I could technically put away $200 per kid.

The reality of it is, that MOST people I know have school loans. It is what it is. Sucks and is hard, but it's a reality for most people I know.


answers from Dallas on

No. We are fortunate that my parents have a trust fund for all their grandkids that will cover them up to $180000 for college. Which is great because I am paying my own way through college right now so I know they won't have to struggle to pay it off like I am.

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