BY DAN CLUTE
Iowa Student Loan Board Member
April is Financial Literacy Month, so it's a great time to figure out or revisit your family's financial plan. Parents with K-12 students should include financial planning for education or training after high school as an integral part of any such plan.
These tips from the experts at Iowa Student Loan can help.
1. Know what your goals are. Every situation is unique. You may need to reduce debt, plan for your students' college expenses, save for retirement or fund some large purchases - or all of the above.
The important thing is that you have a concrete list of your financial goals to start with.
2. Make reasonable estimates. Once you've defined your goals, it's time to come up with a good estimate of the amount of money you need for each. How much will you need to save between now and retirement to fund your future lifestyle? What will college or a specific training program cost by the time your student is out of high school?
In regard to college funding, we recommend that parents look at the current cost of multiple options, including set costs of attendance (tuition, fees, housing, meals and supplies) as well as other expenses (transportation, specialized tools or materials, and everyday expenses). Currently, we project an annual increase of around 2% of current costs, based on previous increases reported in the Commonfund Institute's Higher Education Price Index.
If you have a student approaching high school graduation, the College Funding Forecaster is a useful tool to create an estimate of total college costs.
3. Update or create an investment plan. Especially over the past year or so, you may have experienced dramatic financial changes. As your children age, you may also revisit the amounts and types of college savings you've already established.
Several traditional means of college savings are available to you, including 529 plans (also called college savings accounts), Education Savings adviser can provide more information about which type and investment options are most appropriate based on your family's situation.
4. Stay on top of information. It's a good idea to watch for financial updates and information throughout the year. You can find useful tools online or download handy apps to help develop your family's plan.
One easy thing you can do if you have students in eighth to 12th grade is to sign up for our free planning service for parents at www.SP3.org. This email service provides twice-monthly college planning and financing tips based on your students' grade levels. It is a simple way to be aware of important milestones and involve your children in actively planning for their futures.
5. Revisit your goals and progress. Whether you choose to evaluate your financial plan during April or another time of year, an annual checkup will help ensure you stay on track financially as life changes. Check your balances and investment options, make a plan for any major expenses you expect this year, and decide whether your current budget is working for you.
As your students enter and advance through middle and high school, you can use the free tools available at www.IowaStudentLoan.org to help them develop a career and education path that will help ensure their future financial success.
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