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Saving for College Checklist

Not sure where to start? This checklist will help you get started with investing and savings ideas for education


General information

  1. Has relevant personal information been gathered?
    • Child's name and date of birth
    • Type of college child is interested in (e.g., public, private, two-year, or four-year)
    • Each parent's name and date of birth
    • Names and dates of birth of other children
  2. Has parents' financial situation been assessed?
    • Income
    • Expenses
    • Assets
    • Liabilities
    • Tax rate
    • Filing status

Estimating college costs

  1. Have any savings already been earmarked for child's college?
  2. If yes, has average rate of return been estimated for these savings?
  3. Have grandparents earmarked any funds for child's college?
  4. If yes, has average rate of return been estimated for these savings?
  5. Has type of college been narrowed? (e.g., public, private, two-year, or four-year)
  6. Has review been done of what expenses are included in the total cost of college?
  7. Has the college inflation rate been discussed?
  8. What percentage of college costs will be funded by parents?

Investment planning

  1. How many years does money have to grow?
  2. Has risk tolerance been evaluated?
  3. Is it important to retain complete investment control over assets on day-to-day basis?
  4. Is it important that assets are in parent's name and control?
  5. Is it important that funds be accessible, without penalty, in case of an emergency?
  6. Is it important to look for savings strategies with tax advantages?
  7. How much will be available to save each month or year?

Specific savings options

  1. Have different college savings options been considered?
    • Section 529 college saving plans
    • Section 529 prepaid tuition plans
    • Coverdell education savings account
    • UGMA/UTMA custodial account
    • Series EE bonds
    • Gifting to child
    • Other tax-advantaged strategies
    • Other

Financial aid issues

  1. Has basic financial aid information been discussed?
    • Loans, grants, scholarships, work-study
    • Need-based aid versus merit aid
    • Main sources of financial aid
    • Federal methodology versus institutional methodology
    • EFC (expected family contribution) and financial need
    • Names and descriptions of major federal loan programs
  2. Has the financial aid impact of various savings options been explored?
  3. Has positioning assets to maximize financial aid been considered?
  4. Has a dry run through the federal financial aid formula been done to estimate EFC?

Other ways to lower college costs

  1. Have other ideas to lower future college costs been considered?
    • Attend public over private college or two-year over four-year
    • Attend community college for two years, then transfer
    • Student lives at home while attending college
    • AP courses in high school for college credit
    • Three-year accelerated college degree program
    • Joint undergraduate/graduate degree program
    • Canadian schools
    • Cooperative education
    • Parents purchase housing for student
    • Military programs

Balancing need for college savings with other goals

  1. Are there any other children for whom college saving is a priority?
  2. If so, will their years of college overlap?
  3. Has a retirement savings program been implemented?
  4. Have expected retirement income needs been calculated?
  5. Have other short-term and long-term financial goals been examined?

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Enhance Financial Aid Eligibility

Financial Aid eligibility can be limited and confusing. Read this article for basic information on eligibility and planning.

Saving for College Calculator

College can be expensive. Use this calculator to help you get a jump start on understanding the savings you need for your child’s education.




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