A college education, while a worthy achievement, does not come cheaply. Forbes has estimated that the price of a college education has increased 8 times faster than wages, making it a struggle for even upper middle-class families. When factoring in the cost of tuition along with room and board, books, and living expenses, a college education can quickly become an unaffordable luxury.
Personal finance, like just about everything else, is mainly common sense. Advice like “don’t spend more than you make; start investing while you’re young; don’t loan money to friends with the expectation of getting it back,” have been around for generations, and most likely will survive the next few generations as well. Even money mistakes that are corrected early enough will have little impact on your wealth going forward. What you do want to avoid are money mistakes that can be hard to recover from. Here are just a few:
Started in 1996, 529 plans provide tax incentives for those saving for post-secondary education. The plan allows funds saved to be used at any eligible education institution, which typically includes colleges, universities, vocational schools or any post-secondary educational institute that is currently eligible to participate in U.S. Department of Education student aid programs. Operating much like at 401(k) or IRA, funds deposited into a 529 plan are not taxed, either by the federal government or the state in which the participant resides.
For young families, the immediate cost of raising a child can be testing financially. Just when you thought you were in the clear from student loan repayments and your never-ending car lease, a hungry mouth appears with countless sleepless nights and a hefty price tag attached. But diapers, baby formula, and stuffed toys aren’t the only financial burdens parents should worry about.
Walking across the stage and receiving your university diploma can be the first step towards the daunting world of adulthood. The structure that educational institutes provide is now replaced by an empty void that we must fill with a professional career. It is commonplace to be riddled with uncertainty!
But there is one thing that will certainly be staring at you after graduation - student loan debt.
In the realm of financial planning, time is our most valuable asset. It’s available to all of us, providing each individual with the same opportunity to optimize its value in building wealth. It’s the only resource we all have over which we have some degree of control. However, it is a wasting resource if it is not optimally utilized. Each day that passes, without some contribution of money, either in savings or interest, the cost of our financial goals increases. As time marches on, the obstacles to achieving goals of any time horizon become increasingly insurmountable.
One of the best illustrated instances of indecision occurs in the story of Alice in Wonderland in which Alice comes to a fork in the road and must choose a path to continue her journey. She seeks the advice of grinning Cheshire cat which appears out of nowhere. “Where are you headed?” the cat asks Alice, to which she replied, “I don’t know.” “Well,” the cat smugly responds, “then it really doesn’t matter.”