Saving for college has never been more stressful. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, prices for undergraduate pursuits rose 34% between 2005 and 2016. And tuition costs will only keep on rising. That has put a tremendous burden on today’s students—and the families who support them.
According to Stress.org, money is one of the top causes of stress in the United States—higher even than health, relationship and sleep deprivation issues. Furthermore, 73% of survey respondents reported high levels of stress during the college admission process.
But there are ways to reduce the stress of saving for college. Here are some tips for creating a savings plan that won’t require extraordinary sacrifices along the way.
The U.S. government lets you save for college with tax-advantaged investments, which are more beneficial the earlier you start. One such education investment product is the 529 plan, or a “qualified tuition program.” While the tax benefits of these plans can vary from state to state, the idea is simple: Using a 529 plan early in your child’s life means taking advantage of compounding interest. That translates into saving more money for your child’s education.
Long-term investments also reduce stress because no investor will rely on a single year’s stock market performance for the long-term benefit of the account. Many financial gurus recommend at least a 10-year timeline for investing in the stock market. This may reduce the risk of short-lived downturns, which could ruin an investment plan.
While the act of putting aside money for college can feel like a sacrifice, not all savings have to feel that way. For example, the Upromise Mastercard from Barclays provides 1.25% cash back that can be linked to a 529 college savings plan, automatically depositing the cash you earn simply from living your life. For example, if you secure one of these cards when a child is born and use it consistently, you’ll put aside money that grows into potentially tens of thousands of dollars.
Why is this so powerful? It gets at the heart of what makes saving less stressful: Automatically putting away money. For example, setting up direct deposit with an employer means reducing the time and friction that comes with cashing checks. The more you can make college savings a part of an automatic system rather than something you have to spend time on every month, the more likely you are to stick to the habit and reduce stress.
Saving for college doesn’t have to be a chore—and it doesn’t have to feel like a sacrifice. Here are some tips for saving for college in ways that reduce stress and give you confidence for the future.
Start as early as possible. The more time you spend automatically saving for college, the less you’ll need to save on a per-month basis.
Prepare your student for the college entry process. The less your student has to pay for college, the less stress you’ll encounter. A student can reduce the cost of college by going to in-state schools, applying for scholarships, and taking test-prep classes to improve their scores and potentially get more financial aid. The student should also consider their goals, and you can determine what those academic plans will cost.
Saving for college doesn’t have to be a chore. It should be an exciting way to spend one’s wealth—it means that you’re investing in the future of your family and helping your child get a head start in life.