I always thought about starting a college fund. I even opened a small savings account when they were born. Now they are in high school, time is running out and I’m starting to panic. What I can do? Where should i start? Are they going to hate me? I really wish I had started earlier.
Start: Because your counselors, teachers, and friends are helping you assess your strengths and weaknesses in an effort to narrow down your career options, you need to take action now if you are going to make it to college. Here’s how to get started.
Relax: Your first step is to take a deep breath and realize that you are starting late. You can’t change the past, but you can take positive steps to change the future. The fact that you are reading this article tells me that you are ready to make an effort to help your children as much as possible. It will take some time and effort on your part, but it will progress step by step.
Follow these steps: The following steps will help you get started on a good structured path. You will begin a journey that will take you from where you are now to your youngest son’s college graduation. It will not be easy or without some sacrifices, but if you do it right, it will be fun and your children will appreciate your efforts.
Step 1 – Family net worth: Prepare a current net worth statement so you can see where you are right now. This is a financial snapshot that will show your assets and liabilities as of today. (You can find a free one-page statement on our site found at the end of this article, forms section, or by searching the Internet.) Once you know where you are today, every positive step you take will improve your net worth and aid in your efforts to send your children to college.
Step 2 – Maximize revenue: Now that all of your children are in school, consider maximizing your income and savings potential. If one of the spouses was the primary caregiver for the children, perhaps they were working part-time or not outside the home. Consider having both spouses work full time to add additional income to the family budget. This increased income can be used specifically for college savings, but be sure to put it in the correct type of accounts.
Step 3 – Talk to your children: Talk about college and financial aid with your children now. Review the costs associated with community colleges, state universities, and private colleges. Let them know that you may be late for the game, but that you are trying to help them as much as possible. Depending on your family size, income, and assets, you can get an estimate of your expected family contributions using one of the online EFC calculators. Once you and your children know these estimates, you can start looking for the best college alternatives.
Step 4 – Let them help: Finally, encourage and help your children become more “financial aid worthy” students. By doing the right things while they are in high school and locating their assets correctly, you can help them qualify for more financial aid and learn how to further reduce college costs.
Keep moving forward: The most important point to remember is that even small steps will help, so if a college financial home run is not possible, a solid single or even a touch will help your cause. Everything helps, and if you continue to advance your efforts to bridge the college funding gap, your children will see your efforts and be much better off.
In summary: Don’t punish yourself. You are in the same boat as many other American families. Your kids won’t hate you, but taking your first steps now will help a lot. Talk to your children and give them realistic expectations about what you can and cannot do to help. Remember: where there is a will … there is a way.
With the many options for college, students must assess their own situation and decide which path is right for them. It will be easier if you know all the relevant details. They may surprise you, so encourage them and help them make good decisions.
To discover very specific ways to maximize your financial aid and reduce college costs, I have put together a FREE College Cost Savings Kit which you can download by clicking here.
Consider printing this article and sharing it with a friend. Many parents are in the same situation as you. By paying for it in advance, you could save them a lot of headaches and a lot of money too.