I was reading this article on usatoday.com and it seams we have a real problem. On one had you want to save for your kids, on the other is the thought of retiring with less and having to mooch off your kids after they graduate. Being alone in making these decisions is not easy. Good rule… first take care of you so your kids won’t have to, then save for them. Here are some ideas on how I worked out a savings strategy with my ex for our daughters education.
1. As hard as it may be, come up with a plan with your ex. You’ll never be able to successfully help your kids through college (financially) if you don’t have a cohesive plan from the start. So make a plan. How much of your kids’ college fees can you realistically cover? Set a goal for how much money you want to save for each kid for college. Decide how much each parent will contribute on a monthly basis.
2. Set up college savings accounts for each of your children, if you haven’t already. Pay attention to how the 529 plans are set up and make sure that your children (and not either parent) are the owners of the account. This will eliminate the possibility of one parent taking the money from the 529 plan instead of allowing the child to use it for college.
3. Before each kid starts college, sit down again with your ex (or you can communicate via email if that makes things easier). It’s time to assess the balance in the 529 plan and take a realistic look at whether there are enough funds to cover all of your child’s college expenses.
4. Decide whether both parents will contribute to college expenses once the 529 plan has been exhausted. If you will continue to support your child financially through college, it is often easier to have each parent make payments directly to the college individually. Discuss whether you will use student loans to help cover college costs and if so, who will be responsible for making the payments. Get everything in writing so there’s no confusion down the road.
5. If there is money left in the 529 account when your child graduates college, you and your ex need to make a decision on what to do with the leftover funds. You could transfer the funds to the next child’s account, allow the new graduate to use the money, or agree on how to split the remaining balance between the parents who contributed the money initially. If you are planning to split any remaining funds, it’s a good idea to keep great records throughout the years of who has contributed what amounts.