College Savings

A father’s advice on college planning, from MEFA's Executive Director Tom Graf

My name is Tom Graf and I'm the Executive Director of MEFA. Having been in this role for 14 years, I have had the opportunity to work with thousands of families to help them better plan for college. It would be easy to assume that I have it all figured out. But today, I'm writing to you as a father of four who has experienced firsthand the challenges of saving and paying for college. This is such an important topic for so many families, and through my blog below, I would like to share my own experiences with you.

[caption id="attachment_1207" align="aligncenter" width="226"]Katherine Graf Tom's youngest daughter graduated from Providence College a few short weeks ago.[/caption]

It's graduation season. And just a few short weeks ago, I watched my youngest of four children graduate from college. It was a bittersweet day, as I reflected on all the years my wife and I spent as parents helping guide our children through the maze of childhood, adolescence, and college years. And now, here was our youngest, ready to strike out on her own. I found myself wondering, do I wish I had done anything differently in raising my children?

I know for certain that, given the opportunity to do it all again, I would still be as involved as I was, coaching soccer teams, driving to events, supporting dance auditions, helping with homework, worrying about academics and achievement, and visiting all of those college campuses. Life with four children, each with their own personality and interests, was definitely busy, but incredibly joyful.

Our expectation was always that our children would attend college. My wife and I often talked about our plan to make that a financial reality, including a goal for saving. As I look back today with the last graduation behind me, can I honestly say that I gave saving for college the focus and attention it deserved? Probably not. Like most people, I knew there was no way that I could save it all, but we probably didn’t push ourselves to save as much as we could have, and we borrowed more than we should have.

I often get asked what advice I would give to families with young children about preparing for college, and my answer is always simple and always the same: start saving as soon as you can, save as much as you can, maybe even more than you think you can, and don’t be deterred from that goal. Saving for your children's college education is one of the best gifts you can provide as a parent, and as you watch your child walk across that college graduation stage, you'll look back and be happy you made that decision.

Thomas M. Graf was appointed Executive Director of the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA) by its Board of Directors in December 1999. Mr.Graf received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Merrimack College in 1979. Prior to joining MEFA, Mr. Graf was Co-Director of the Governor's Legislative Office, Deputy Budget Director of the Fiscal Affairs Division, and Budget Director for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Mr. Graf also serves on a number of local community boards.