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The Best Ways to Save for College Early

People often ask, "How much should I save for college?" and several factors can determine that answer. We've outlined some steps below to help you develop a savings strategy and decide on the best way to save for your child's college career. We recommend a monthly savings goal for each child, so that you know your savings accounts will build over time based on your regular contributions. And we also recommend using our College Planning Tool. It allows you to record your college savings and create a personal strategy focused on the best ways to save for college and meet your savings goals.

  1. Use our College Cost Forecaster to find out the future cost of college. However, and this is important, don't let the numbers cause you panic. Use them instead to motivate you to start saving, and to get a general sense of the overall cost. Keep in mind that most people don't save enough to pay the entire college bill and use a combination of savings, financial aid, current income, and loans to finance college costs.
  2. Learn about financial aid to help you determine how much it may help you pay for college. You can use our Expected Family Contribution (EFC) Calculator to calculate an estimate of how much your family may be expected to pay for college based on your financial situation. You can also use Net Price Calculators on college websites to find out what financial aid may be available from different schools.
  3. Once you have a better sense of the amount your family may have the responsibility to pay toward college, you can determine a target number toward which to save. Use our College Savings Estimator to help you determine a monthly savings amount. Remember, most people won't save the entire amount they will need for college, but it's helpful to learn how much you might be responsible to pay.
  4. To determine your monthly savings goal, review your regular financial commitments and budget. How much can you dedicate from your income each month toward a college savings account? Can you forgo other expenses to save even more toward college?
  5. Ask yourself the following questions as your family makes a savings strategy:
    • Will my child be responsible for a portion of the college cost?
    • How does our family feel about borrowing for college?
    • Do we expect our income to increase over the years? How much can we increase our monthly savings goal each year?
    • Do we have other assets that will help us pay for college?
    • Are there other family members that can help?
  6. Once you have a monthly savings goal determined, set up a college savings account, if you haven't already. In Massachusetts, we have the U.Plan Prepaid Tuition Program and the U.Fund College Investing Plan. Many families use both plans to save for college. Learn more about the differences between them. 
  7. Once you have a plan in place, you can feel good knowing that you're helping your child plan for a bright future. Revisit your plan every year to review your savings and modify your monthly savings goals.
  8. And finally, if you need help, we are here to provide information and guidance as you plan for your family's future. Reach out to us anytime for one-on-one assistance.
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