Maximizing college savings
Lisa Brady Ketteler, of Prairie Village, Kan., shares her story:
When did you start saving?
When my 7-year-old son, Gus, was a newborn. I heard about it through a financial planning seminar offered by my employer. When I went online to check it out, I discovered how easy it was to get started. It only took me 20 minutes to set up, and you can open an account with as little as $25.
I think there's a misconception that you have to be a financial expert to plan and save for college. The hardest step is just deciding you're going to take action. Once you go online, it's actually a breeze. You can even select a hands-off approach that is based on your child's age and risk tolerance (conservative, moderate or aggressive); then you're done. The "set it and forget it" ease and simplicity of the program makes it even more appealing. Anyone can do it.
What do you like best about the plan?
There are lots of perks. My top three are:
- Upromise® -- I'm a shopper and a foodie. This is a cash-back program connected to Learning Quest that deposits a percentage of my spending (like when we order pizza) to Gus' 529 account. I'm always going to get groceries or need gas for my car -- things I would do anyway -- but this program allows me to maximize savings. It all adds up!
- Automatic monthly contributions -- I end up saving significantly more because I don't have to hassle with remembering to manually make a payment each month. Plus, I never miss the money because the funds go straight to Gus' account. I recently checked the account and was absolutely shocked to see how much I have already saved.
- PIan flexibility -- When the time comes for college, the funds can be used for tuition ... but also in a variety of other ways, such as paying for books, fees, computers, and room and board.
How does it make a difference?
I'm probably not your typical long-term planner/saver. But when I saw how easy it was to get started and how much extra savings I could accrue by starting when Gus was a baby, I was immediately on board. Time marches on, which allows our money to compound and grow. It's a no-brainer to start saving as soon as possible! I explained Learning Quest to six or seven of my friends with young kids, who ended up opening accounts too. We all want the best for our children's future, and giving them a college education is certainly a good place to start.