We all want what’s best for our kids. We raise them until they’re 18 or so, and then we let them loose on the world. They attend college, get a job, and start a life, if we’re lucky. It’s the part after college that we often worry the most about. Will they have a job? Will they have a family? One thing that we worry about is debt. How will their student debt affect them after they graduate?
Ideally, we want to save up enough for them to go to college without debt, but that isn’t always the case. Student loans and other financing options are crucial for millions of kids to get an education. However we want to minimize the burden that they will face. Here’s how to help your kids graduate with as little debt as possible.
529 plans are a common way for people to save money for their kid’s college education. They are programs run by states that are tax free and can be used for things like tuition, textbooks and residence. If you start when your child is young enough, then you will get the benefit of it growing throughout the years. Withdrawals made on it are tax free, as well.
You need to be committed, however. You should be aggressive when they’re young since it’s going to grow as they get older. However, you need to balance your day to day expenses, and your retirement plans. You certainly don’t want to get your kids into college and then find that you don’t have enough. If you can keep contributing, then that’s fine. However, if you are unable to contribute, then you shouldn’t. The fact is that kids can take out loans to make up the difference, but you can’t take out loans to pay for retirement.
Search high and low for scholarships, and you’d be amazed by what’s out there. There are scholarships that are based not just on academic marks, but on talent and trades as well. There are scholarships if you or your partner belong to unions, too. Google is your friend, but you should also try books that are released every year that have an updated listing of available scholarships.
Getting scholarships is hard work. Your child should absolutely spend time working on them, and thinking and how to respond to each question. While you can help find the scholarships to apply to, your child has to do the work. However, it will pay off in the long run if they can get a few scholarships that will help minimize their debt.
There are several loan options that you can take out so your child doesn’t have to. It’s not an ideal situation, but it’s one that helps the student and makes up for not having enough savings to pay for college. There is a federal program, called the Parent Plus program, that provides funding to parents of dependent age kids who are going to college. If you are thinking of applying, then you should use a Parent Plus calculator to see how much you can expect to spend on a monthly basis.
The same goes for private loans. There aren’t many loans for parents of kids looking to go to college, but you may find some. The other option is to be a cosigner on a loan they take out, and to make the payments for them. They can get the great rates that come with having a student loan and a cosigner, and you can support their education.
Perhaps college isn’t in the cards, or if it is, they have no idea what to take. As opposed to finding ways to pay for a four-year program that might not get them the job they want, they could enroll in a trade school. They spend less time in school, and they are almost guaranteed a job. They will have less debt, and they make more money right out of school.
For most trades, there is an almost endless demand. They get an education in things like plumbing, electrical, or mechanics. All of those jobs are getting more technical, so the technological savvy of today’s teenagers would come in handy. Of course, these are physical jobs and they aren’t for everyone, but they are a more affordable option.
Paying for your child’s schooling isn’t going to be easy, and tuition is only going up. The key is to get started early and to have a plan of attack. Little bits here and there will help, but it’s important to be consistent with how you save. Student debt is necessary, but for some students it gets to be too much. It can be a burden for years to come. With a little foresight you can help your child avoid student debt and get a head start on life.