Paying for your kids’ college in the best of situations is difficult. It’s way harder when you’ve been through a divorce.
The best way to pay for college is through a combination of strategies, for example:
- Start saving early.
The earlier you start saving for college, the easier it will be to pay for it. Invest $50 per month from the time your kids’ are born and you’ll have saved up a good bit. Only $100 per month is even better and will likely pay for most of college.
- Start at a junior or community college.
Yes, I know your kids are smart and they probably think community college is beneath them (full disclosure: I thought it was beneath me when I was a teenager). Thing is your kids can knock out those general education classes at a community college for a fraction of the cost of most universities.
- Move on to an affordable university.
Not every kid needs to go to Harvard. And no one needs to go to a private liberal arts college that charges $35,000 per year. Those types of schools are indulgences, not necessities. Pick a good, reasonably priced school so you and your kids won’t be saddled with debt for twenty years.
Get good grades. Play sports like a boss. Apply for every $500-$1000 scholarship under the sun. Scholarships can drastically decrease the cost of education.
Advanced Tactic: Utah Educational Savings Plan
One of the advanced strategies that can help accelerate saving for your kids’ college is by investing with the Utah Educational Savings Plan (UESP).
UESP is what’s called a 529 plan. (“529” after the code section it’s written in.) Essentially, it lets you invest money for your kids’ education in a very tax-advantaged way.
Investment earnings in 529 plans are not subject to federal tax, and in most cases, state tax, so long as you use withdrawals for eligible college expenses, such as tuition, room, and board. So, it grows tax free if you use it on college. Tax-free growth is huge for divorced families struggling to save enough for college. (Click here to see some other benefits.)
Also, Utah provides its residents who invest in its UESP a state income tax break. It’s not a huge amount (about $95 per year if you invest at least $1920 in a year) but every little bit helps.
UESP is consistently voted one of the best 529 plans in the entire country. The plan administrators really thought through things and set up a good, low-cost plan with lots of options.
Personally, after studying the options from all over the U.S., I invest in UESP for my son.
Bottom line: using UESP will accelerate saving for your kids’ college and make it easier to afford a university education. And divorce families can use all the help they can get saving for college.