Your child’s education is probably the most important expenditure you’ll ever incur. It’s also one of the largest you’ll spend on. In a recent study by market research company Ipsos MORI, the average annual cost of a public university student in the US is about USD 24,914 each year. If you include the cost of living, including lodging, sending your child to college will cost you USD 36,564 annually. By the time your school-aged kid enters the university, fees could have doubled or tripled due to inflation.

According to the Value of Education study, college education in the US is the 3rd most expensive in 15 countries worldwide. Australia ranks first followed by Singapore.

Despite the high cost of a college degree, your child’s schooling is an expense you cannot disregard. Here are six tips to help you start funding for your kid’s college education.

Start early

The earlier you start saving for your child’s education, the better. Know how much you’d need to save based on your kid’s age, the prospective school and the field of study. Check out websites of insurance companies and financial advisers for free calculators that will give you an idea on how much you’d need to raise. You can seek advice from professionals on budgeting for your child’s education. Know how much you’d need to set aside monthly or quarterly, and how you’d meet these amounts.

Know the right options for you

Preparing Your Financial Status As Your Kids Start Schooling

If you have 10 years to save up USD 400,000 to fund your child’s four-year liberal arts degree, you need to set aside roughly USD 3,350 per month. This amount doesn’t have to come 100% from your salary or active income. You can explore traditional savings accounts and investment products. A savings account is safe as your entire deposit, or a portion of it, is insured. It offers a fixed interest rate (1 to 2%) computed based on the prevailing balance on your account’s anniversary.  

In financing for education, placing money in a savings account may not be enough. The interest from deposits is lower than the inflation rate, decreasing the value of your dollars. You can explore risky investment products that offer high yields.

Discover investment tools

Preparing Your Financial Status As Your Kids Start Schooling

Generally, there are two types of securities you can invest in. Equity securities, or representation of ownership in a corporation, offer unlimited earning potentials. Shareholders of Google, IBM and other tech giants can attest on the viability of stock investing. Debt securities are evidence of indebtedness by a government or corporation to creditors or people holding these securities.

Investing in these tools requires an understanding of “risk-return tradeoff.” Investopedia defines this principle as one where “low levels of uncertainty or risks are associated with low potential returns, whereas high levels of uncertainty or risk are associated with high potential returns.” If you want to earn 300% of your money on tech stocks, you should also be prepared for the possibility of losing your investments. The higher the risk, the higher the return.

You can try a combination of bank savings and stock or debt securities. You can start with a 50%-50% allocation, then gradually reduce the percentage in favor of the safer bank products. This allocation gives a sense of security via insured deposits and a bit of a “kicker” from high-yield securities.

Invest offshore

Preparing Your Financial Status As Your Kids Start Schooling

Don’t place all your eggs in one basket. Whether you’re preparing for your child’s university fees or managing your retirement funds, it’s essential that you spread investment risks. Understand your risk profile with the help of a financial planning expert. Your profile will guide you in choosing the type of tools that you should go with. If you’re an average earner saving up for your kid’s college education, it’s neither advisable to invest more than 70% in speculative stocks nor 100% in bank deposits.

Explore mutual funds or pooled funds. You can also try investing in offshore securities via online brokers. According to analysts, emerging-market assets are among the hottest investment picks today and in the next couple of years. Discover managed funds in Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa.

Explore your tuition plan options

If you want to simplify your strategies, you can purchase a tax-advantaged 529 savings plan. These qualified tuition plans may either be pre-paid tuition plans and college savings plans.

A pre-paid tuition plan allows you to buy credits for future tuition. It locks on college costs and may include lodging. A college savings plan doesn’t lock in tuition prices but covers tuition fees, room and board, books and computer. Both type of tuition plans are sponsored by states, government agencies, and authorized educational institutions.

Manage your financial loans

Preparing Your Financial Status As Your Kids Start Schooling

If you want headache-free years while your child is in college, you’d need to reconsider your money management habits. The earlier you start putting your finances in order, the better. It’s important that your child’s college fund is left untouched until the day it’s needed. How do you ensure this? Set up safety nets. Try getting a  family insurance coverage, as well as life insurance plans. Make sure your house and other valuable assets are adequately covered under non-life insurance products. Create an emergency fund, preferably equivalent to your household’s six-month budget, to answer for fixed expenditures when you suddenly lose a source of income.

Manage your cash advance loans and other debts well. These should be applied on necessary expenses only such as tax payments and not on luxuries like vacations or a new entertainment system. It’s basic in personal financial planning that you should be meeting your fast cash loans repayments to avoid penalties and running the risk of tainting your credit record.

Financial planning is not rocket science. Thanks to technology, information gathering is easier more than ever. You can now create a budget plan, based on your income and financial goals, via online tools such as financial calculators. You can invest in offshore funds through online brokers and seek sound advice anytime, anywhere. The tools for you to achieve your long-term financial goals are readily available. Wield them effectively.