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Financing Your College Dreams

Posted on October 27, 2014

There’s no question that having a college degree increases your earning capacity.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, people who hold a bachelor’s degree earn a weekly average wage of $1,108; people with a high school diploma earn $651 per week. That’s a difference of nearly $24,000 a year!

Graphic of rolled diploma and graduation cap sitting on a spread of 100 dollar bills Getting to the degree is a challenge, though, especially financially: tuition and fees can run from $18,391 at a public, in-state 4-year college to $40,917 for a private 4-year college. This is why it’s important to start saving for your children’s college as soon as you’re able, and for young people to contribute by saving money on their own. On Tap Credit Union offers several youth savings clubs and programs to help instill the important habit of saving. For parents, there are a variety of ways to save for college.

529 Plans
Similar in some ways to an IRA or 401K, 529 Plans are state-specific investments plans with a designated beneficiary – the student for whom you are saving. The money put into the 529 Plan is invested you’re your choice of options offered by the provider. Though contributions to the 529 Plan aren’t deductible on federal tax returns, the money invested grows tax-deferred and any money used to pay for qualified college expenses are federally tax-free. There are many benefits of 529 Plans, though contributions are limited to the amount necessary to provide for the qualified education expenses of the beneficiary. 529 Plans must be purchased directly from the 529 Plan manager or through a financial advisor such as the LPL Financial Advisors in On Tap Credit Union’s Investment & Retirement Center.

Another option is a Prepaid Tuition Plan through which you effectively purchase tuition credits for future education at today’s rates. There are currently 13 Prepaid Tuition Plans (sometimes called guaranteed savings plans) offered by 12 states and one not-for-profit organization. Although anyone can participate in any state's 529 Plan, you can learn more about Colorado’s 529 Plans here.

Prior to investing in a 529 Plan investors should consider whether the investor's or designated beneficiary's home state offers any state tax or other benefits that are only available for investments in such state's qualified tuition program. Withdrawals used for qualified expenses are federally tax free. Tax treatment at the state level may vary. Please consult with your tax adviser before investing.

Education Savings Accounts
Educational savings accounts (ESA) can be used in addition to a 529 Plan, with contributions to both for the same beneficiary in the same year. The interest earned on the money you put into an ESA grows tax-deferred, and withdrawals for qualified education expenses are tax-free. Contributions to an ESA are limited to $2,000 per beneficiary per year.

Other Options
If you’re unable to save enough in advance of your children reaching college age, don’t despair! Financial aid is often an option, either through the federal government or the specific school your child plans to attend, and numerous scholarships are available through the school or through service organizations or other businesses. For example, On Tap Credit Union awards two $2,000 scholarships to credit union members each year.

Investing in mutual funds involves risk, including possible loss of principal.

Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Insurance products offered through LPL Financial or its licensed affiliates.

Not NCUA Insured / No Credit Union Guarantee / May Lose Value

On Tap Credit Union is not a registered broker/dealer and is not affiliated with LPL Financial.

Photo by: David Castillo Dominici via