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It's Never Too Early to Start Saving for College

By Jeana Lee Tahnk

Having kids is a major financial commitment. There are the daily necessities such as food, clothes and shelter, of course, but longer term, all the activities, lessons and (gulp!) college tuition can be a scary prospect.

Not to add more fear to the equation, but Mass Mutual estimates the cost of a college education to increase by 6 percent annually. That means tuition for a private college for the 2022-2023 school year will be about $76,333. For one year. Double gulp!

Now before you go into panic mode and swear off any more children, there are lots of things you can do as a new parent (or even before those kids come) to start preparing. It's never too early to start.

The first thing we did was set up a 529 account after the birth of each of our kids. A 529 is a savings plan meant specifically for higher education purposes and offers certain tax breaks that other savings plans don't. We set up ours through our bank, so it's worth inquiring at your financial institution if one is offered.

The key to the 529, in my opinion, is putting money into the account as you would a 401k. Regularly and as much as you can afford to put aside. Even if it's $50 a month, every little bit helps.

Another way to start padding that financial nest egg is to ask family members to contribute to your kids' college fund. Grandparents in particular tend to be generous with grandkids, so you can request that instead of getting them expensive toys that your kids will lose interest in or clothes they'll soon outgrow, a savings bond or 529 contribution would be a much more valuable-and valued-gift.

If you decide to sell any of your baby items, such as that crib your baby no longer needs (sniff), strollers or other gear, specifically put that money aside and tuck it away into the account. $100 may not seem like a lot, but any contribution here and there, plus interest over the years, will add up.

Save, save, save is the name of the game when it comes to your kid's college education. If all else fails, pray for a scholarship.

Read More by Jeana Lee Tahnk

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