College Planning: 7 Financial Mistakes to Avoid

By Kirsten Klahn

College costs continue to increase each year. That means families need to prepare for those costs and not wait too long to get started saving. But, often there are a few mistakes that families make while saving for college. In fact, about 75 percent of kids ages 8 to 14 say they will probably or definitely go to college, yet 49 percent of parents are not regularly saving for the cost of attending, according to a report from T. Rowe Price. The good news? These mistakes are definitely preventable, and it’s never too late to start saving the right way.

1. A savings account is the way to save.

This is false. Parents should set up a 529 plan, which is a tax-efficient college savings plan, for their kids rather than a savings account. “There is more parents can do, and they’re not doing it,” Stuart Ritter, CFP, senior financial planner at T. Rowe Price, told Forbes. “The idea that parents think a savings account is better for college than a 529 plan is akin to a retiree believing a savings plan is better than a 401(k) or IRA. They are missing out on financial opportunity.”

2. Who’s paying for college?

There is often some disconnect between families when it comes to who is paying for the schooling. Make sure you’re having talks about college costs early on to avoid confusion. According to the repot from T. Rowe Price, 29 percent of parents say they expect to pay for most or all of their kids’college costs, while 53 percent of kids who were surveyed said they expect their parents to pay for most or all of their schooling.

3. College savings should come before saving for retirement.

This is incorrect, yet 52 percent of parents say it’s more important to save for their kids’ college instead of their retirement. But parents need to make their retirement account a priority. There will always be scholarships or grants available for their kids when it comes time to go to school. Unfortunately, nothing like that exists when it comes to retirement.

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