One of the greatest financial myths is that every parent needs to be saving for college for their kids as well as retirement themselves. This myth causes many single parents to feel inadequate as if they are falling short or not meeting their kids’ needs. This is not true.
It is the highest priority for every single parent to save for retirement before considering saving for their kids’ college education. Remember that saving for and fully funding your own retirement needs is a way to take care of your kids. When you take care of the costs of your care and living costs during retirement, you leave no responsibility or stress for this obligation with your kids!
If you are saving ample for retirement and have other money to save, that is when you can start building some savings for your kids’ college needs. If that is the case, think carefully about where to save money for your kids.
Look for a 529 fund, a Coverdell ESA or a Prepaid Tuition Plan, that will best suit your family’s needs. However, be sure you understand the money requirements, so you know how it will work for your children.
Maximizing on tax savings is a great way to cut your tax obligations to stash money away that will grow for college tuition. Make sure you are using tax cutting options like Flexible Spending Accounts, and Dependent Care Credits to their fullest.
If you don’t have the money to start saving for your kids’ college education, do not dismay. Get creative about ways to cut college costs, so it is easier to send your kids!
Here are a few college cost cutting hacks that you can use to cut the cost when you don’t have the extra money to build college savings.
Encourage strong academics from 6th grade up.
Kids with solid grades and academics often qualify automatically for scholarship money, depending on the school they are applying to attend.
Sixth grade and above builds on each other until high school. If the kids learn to do well in school and keep their grades strong, they are more likely to keep them up through high school, which qualifies them for the scholarships.
Watch for ways your kids can earn cheap or free college credits during high school.
There are several high school programs where students can earn college credits before even being in college, which cuts the final cost of college tuition.
If your kids qualify for AP (Advanced Placement) or IB (International Baccalaureate), these programs offer tests which many schools will award college credit for specific scores.
Dual Enrollment is a high school course that you pay a small fee for, and the student can earn credit for college and high school simultaneously.
Many community colleges will allow high school students to take classes while still in high school, getting ahead and cutting costs if they plan to go to University.
Some Universities are starting online high schools that allow students to take college coursework for free while enrolled simultaneously. One such school is Arizona State University.
Check for scholarship programs at your local Community College.
Some community colleges will offer generous scholarships to kids with qualifying high school coursework and GPA. Sometimes they even allow kids that fall short on the requirements to test into the program.
These programs often come with special treatment, support, and free tuition for the first two years of college. Sometimes, the programs even have agreements with the state university’s special study tracks or honors programs where the kids who do well get priority placement and scholarships to continue at the university level.
Think outside of the box when saving for college.
There are reward-type programs like upromise.com that will allow you to build your money for college or even pay student loans by linking your cards and gaining rewards from your regular purchases.
You can even get friends and family involved, and they will help build your savings by doing nothing other than linking their accounts and spending the money on what they usually do.
Encourage your kids to participate in leadership and volunteer activities.
Many more students earn college scholarships for leadership and volunteer hours than sports every year.
Start a volunteer journal for your kids in 6th or 7th grade and have them record activities, programs participating, and hours served. These can help them acquire scholarships to pay for college when the time comes.
Overall, take it one step at a time.
Feeling shame or doubt only delays you and holds you back.
Enjoy each moment and do what you can. Retirement first, then college.
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