Cents and Sensibility - May 2012
How Do I Teach My Child to Save for the Future?
By Annie Morrison
May is a fantastic time of year. The flowers are blooming. The kids are
enjoying spring sports, and after a month or so of practice, they look pretty
good out there, too. It's also the time of year when many parents consider
camps and how else their families will spend the summer.
I've met lots of families, in fact, who spend more time planning their summer
vacation and camp schedule than they do their savings and how they'll fund
their children's college education, probably because of the
immediate-gratification factor. And I get that.
Last month I wrote about building your savings by setting aside 5 percent of
your income each pay period. I think we have to deliver that same message of
fiscal responsibility to our children, starting when they're young. It's kind
of like teaching them to keep their elbows off the table or to say please and
thank you: as they grow up, they just won't know any different. Manipulating?
Yep, but they will thank you for it when they're 30, if not when they're 8.
You can start that message at birth. Each week, put $5 into an envelope marked
“savings,” and at the end of the month, deposit it at the bank into an account
in your baby's name. At the end of year five, when he or she starts
kindergarten, that figure will be $5 x 52 weeks x 5 years = $1,300! And that's
not including any interest. When you
throw in birthday or holiday cash, and the I-was-thinking-of-you cash from
Grandma and Grandpa, it all adds up!
When the kids start getting an allowance, let them put 10 percent into an
envelope, and take them to the bank each month to deposit it in their account.
Get a receipt to show them the balance. I have seen the pride in my own child's
face at that sight, and it is awesome.
I often hear parents say, “I don't want my child to graduate from college with
any debt.” A respectable goal, to be sure, but not necessarily realistic these
days as the cost of higher education increases at a 5 to 7 percent clip and
savings at only around 1 to 3 percent, if not negative when you consider fees,
expenses, and inflation.
Furthermore, did you know that loans parents take out for their children are
the parents' debt, which they
could be repaying month after month even into retirement? And, if your child
changes his or her major, adding more years of schooling and debt, or winds up
not finishing school at all, guess what? You still are responsible for the loan, which means that if
you are like me and had children later in life, it's feasible, if not highly
probable, that you could be paying for your child's education with your social
security income. Talk about a really bitter pill to swallow.
In 1996, many families began setting up a 529 college savings plan, “an
education savings plan operated by a state or educational institution designed
to help families set aside funds for future college costs,” according to the
website www.savingforcollege.com. The website goes onto say that, “although your contributions are not
deductible on your federal tax return, your investment grows tax-deferred, and
distributions to pay for the beneficiary's college costs come out federally
Generally speaking, it is best when the student is not the owner of the assets. Assets held
by a child are treated at 20 percent for purposes of calculating the contribution
benefit. Simply stated, the fewer assets a student owns, the greater the
potential for a financial aid package.
My advice on all this: help your child pay for college to the extent you can,
but consider how you essentially might be “mortgaging” your own future to give
him or her a debt-free start to adult life. Do you really want to take on more
debt as you're winding down your own career? Personally, I want my kids to
understand that if they skip class, it's going to cost them, not me.
And, in case you're wondering, I don't just talk the talk. Recently, despite my admonitions not to
touch my things, my 5-year-old daughter, Sophie, broke one of my emery boards.
So I went into her room and took 15 cents from her piggy bank, explaining why I
was doing it. Many (too many, in my opinion) tears later, my little fiscally
responsible flower was starting to blossom. BC
Annie Morrison is an independent financial consultant with Synergy Financial
Group in Towson. Email her, at email@example.com,
or call 410-825-3200.
Securities offered through LPL Financial. Member FINRA/SIPC. The opinions
expressed in this material are for general information only and are not
intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.