Basics of Education Planning

Michael Orecchio |

Education planning is the process of creating a realistic strategy for funding the higher education costs of your children. It is important to create a plan that works along with other aspects of your comprehensive financial plan. The following is a list of items to consider when creating your education plan.

Total Amount You Want to Fund

Most people start with a goal of funding their children’s entire education. However, this is not always possible given the specific situation of each family. You should choose a funding objective that is realistic and be flexible enough to change that goal as the situation warrants.

Remember that it is important to not commit too much money to education planning at the expense of under-funding other priorities like retirement planning. There are outside sources of help when funding college such as grants, scholarships, and loans. There is no such help for your retirement.
Type of Account(s) to Use

There are multiple types of accounts where you can save your money. Some offer significant tax benefits but possibly at the cost of higher expenses. Some offer lower expenses but potentially more taxes. Some accounts may be more advantageous if applying for financial aid for children.

While the most important action you can take is to actually save money, it is important to use the type of account most beneficial to you.
How Much To Save and How to Allocate

The amount you can save is of obvious importance when creating a plan, but the proper allocation is often overlooked. Education often provides a shorter time frame to save as well as a very short timeframe for the actual event, unlike retirement for example. Therefore, it is important to use an allocation appropriate for shorter timeframes. While you can be aggressive with the allocation for young children, a more moderate allocation is generally warranted for teenagers since your timeframe is typically limited to 5 years or less. Do not overlook the importance of reviewing your allocation every few years and making changes when appropriate.