I always thought about starting a college fund. I even set up a small savings account when they were born. Now they are in high school, time is running out and I am starting to panic. What can I do? Where should I start? Are they going to hate me? I really wish I had started earlier.
Get Started: As their guidance counselors, teachers and friends are helping them evaluate their strengths and weaknesses in an effort to narrow down their career options, you need to take action now if they are going to make it to college. Here is how to begin.
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 action 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 you WILL make progress one step at a time.
Follow These Steps: The following steps will get you started on a nice structured path. You will start a journey that will take you from where you are now, through to the college graduation of your youngest child. 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 stand right now. This is a financial snap shot that will show your assets and liabilities as of today. (You can find a free one-page net worth statement on our site listed 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 help your efforts to send your children to college.
Step 2 – Maximize Income: Now that your children are all in school, consider maximizing your earning and saving potential. If one spouse was the primary care giver for the children, maybe they were working part-time or not working outside the house. Consider having both spouses work full-time to add extra income into the family budget. These increased earnings can be directed specifically into college savings, but make sure you put them in the right type of accounts.
Step 3 – Talk To Your Kids: Discuss 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 to the game, but you are trying to help them as much as you possibly can. Depending on your family size, income and assets, you can get an estimate of your expected family contributions by using one of the online EFC calculators. Once you and your children are aware of these estimates, you can begin looking into your best college alternatives.
Step 4 – Let Them Help: Finally, encourage and help your children to become more “Financial Aid Worthy” students. By doing the right things while they are in high school and positioning your assets properly, you can help them by qualifying for more financial aid and learning how to further reduce college costs.
Keep Moving Forward: The most important point to remember is that even small steps will help, so if hitting a college financial “Home Run” isn’t possible, a solid single or even a bunt will help your cause. Every little bit helps and if you keep moving forward in your efforts to narrow the college funding gap, your children will see your efforts and be that much better off.
In Summary: Don’t beat yourself up. You are in the same boat as plenty of other American families. Your kids won’t hate you, but taking the first steps now will help substantially. Talk with your children and give them realistic expectations about what you can and can’t do to help. Remember – Where there is a will… there is a way.
With the many options for college, students need to evaluate their own situation and decide which path is right for them. It will be easier if they know all the relevant details. They might surprise you, so encourage them and help them to make good decisions.
To discover very specific ways to maximize your financial aid and reduce college costs, I have prepared a FREE College Cost Savings Kit which you can download by Clicking Here.
Please consider printing this article and sharing it with a friend. Many parents are in the same situation as you are. By paying it forward, you could help them save a lot of headaches and plenty of money too.