If thinking about your child’s college fund gets you down, you’re not alone. Parents frequently described their feelings about college savings as overwhelmed, annoyed, frustrated, or scared, in a recent study.
Don’t let college savings anxiety zap your energy and steal your hope. Here are five ways you can move from fearful to fearless.
1. Look your fear in the eyes. What is your greatest fear when it comes to saving for college? You don’t think you’ll save enough? You worry that your child won’t be able to afford their dream school?
Maybe you think that without a proper college fund, your child will fall in with the wrong crowd, start a life of crime, and end up the subject of a Lifetime movie.
Sit in a quiet room, close your eyes, and allow yourself to experience your worst college savings fear. Imagine that you didn’t save enough. Feel the weight of your child’s puppy dog eyes as you explain that they will have to earn scholarships or get a part-time job.
Would that be the end of the world? Not in my book.
As for that Lifetime movie, if your child goes apes over their college fund, you might be better off investing in counseling.
2. Shed the guilt. Just as breastfeeding doesn’t make you a better mother, paying for college doesn’t make you a better parent.
Even if your folks covered your tab, that does not obligate you to foot the entire bill or even a portion of your child’s college tuition.
Make your own decision about how much you will contribute to your child’s college education. Don’t let anyone—not even the kiddos—make you feel bad.
3. Stop pleading poor mouth. Recent changes to 529 Plans have made saving for college more flexible and affordable.
Grandparents can contribute more, 529 funds can be used for laptops and Internet service, and the management fees on some plans are dropping.
But I’m broke, you say.
You’re not powerless, even if you don’t have the cash for a college savings plan right now. Information is free. Educate yourself on your college savings options, including low cost plans.
Money man Dave Ramsey’s discussion of Educational Savings Accounts versus 529 plans is worth the quick read.
Learn your options. You never know when overtime at work or an unexpected windfall might jumpstart your college savings.
4. Hunt for scholarships early and often. Let someone else write the check for your child’s college education.
Free college money isn’t just for high school seniors. Awards are available for students as young as kindergarten on through graduate school.
Set aside time each week to research and apply for scholarships.
5. Make college planning a family affair. Your kids can be your secret weapon against college savings anxiety. They can:
- Brainstorm ways to trim the family budget to free up cash.
- Become a strong scholarship applicant (e.g. good grades, special skills, community service).
- Work a part-time job or start a small business.
- Research affordable colleges.
To my readers: Who do you think should pay for college? How does college planning make you feel (be honest)? What are your tips for conquering college savings anxiety?