The earlier you begin preparing for your child's college education expenses the better, but it's never too late to start. The checklist below will help you determine the college savings you'll need and help you create a SMART529 savings strategy to help save for college.
Set your college savings goals.
- Estimate the cost of your child's college education.
Our quick SMART529 College Savings Calculator can help you project college costs at the time of your child's enrollment and the savings you'll need to meet your goals. You can base the projections on actual costs for a particular college or use the averages provided.
- Set your savings objectives.
College Savings Calculator results will tell you how much you'll need to save on a regular basis based on the college of your choice. Or, if you can't save the full amount recommended, save what you can and see how that regular investment can grow over time. The most important thing is to just get started!
- Know your options.
Financial aid, grants and scholarships can help with the cost of college, and but they most likely won't cover everything. Loans are another option, but come with interest charges that will only increase your overall college outlay.
Decide how you'll invest.
- Determine your time horizon.
How long will it be before your beneficiary is ready for college? The longer you have to save, the more risk you can potentially afford to take, an important factor to consider when choosing your investments.
- Evaluate your risk tolerance.
How willing are you to watch your investments fluctuate in value? Some people are more comfortable investing primarily in low-risk investments, whereas others can live more easily with market ups and downs.
- Choose your investments.
The SMART529 Select plan offers seven age-based portfolios and ten static portfolios designed to suit a wide range of risk tolerances and time horizons. You can choose one or a combination of investment options to suit your needs.
- Start Early.
The best way to meet your college savings goals is to use the benefit of time. The sooner you get started, the more your investment will benefit from the power of compounding. Even if you have to start out with a small amount, the key is to just get started. You can adjust your contributions as your financial situation changes and improves over time.
- Open an account.
You can open an account online or mail your application to our SMART529 College Savings Service Center.
- Make regular investments.
The Payroll Direct Deduction (if available) feature and the SMART529 Automatic Investment Program (AIP) are a convenient, electronic means to make regular contributions to your account. Monthly contributions are a great place to start.
- Manage your account online.
SMART529 for account owners lets you track your account balance, make contributions, request distributions, and complete other account management activities.