Does paying for college overwhelm you? Here's a helpful post from Kiplinger.
College students who borrow graduate with an average of $25,250 in debt. That's the equivalent of a new-car purchase or a down payment on a home. Even if some borrowing is inevitable for you, first explore other options to help you pay for college.
Coverdells, 529 plans and Roth IRAs come with tax advantages for college savers. Private scholarships are sources of free money. Custodial accounts offer investing flexibility. You just need a little lead time and some background on the alternatives.
We rounded up the best payment strategies, based on Kiplinger's extensive coverage of college values, college savings and student loans. We've highlighted the pros and cons of each option, as well as resources to help you get started. Check out our list of seven smart ways to pay for college.
529 Savings Plans
Pro: Tax breaks galore
Con: Portfolio limitations
Sponsored by 50 states and the District of Columbia, 529 plans let your savings grow tax-free, and the earnings escape federal tax completely if the withdrawals are used for qualified college expenses, including tuition, fees, and room and board. Two-thirds of states give residents a tax deduction or another tax break for contributions. You are permitted to invest in other states' 529 plans.
The appeal of 529 plans lies in their easy access as well as their tax benefits. The plans set no income limit and have a high limit on contributions. If your kid skips college, you can change the designation to a sibling without losing the tax break. But use the money for non-college expenses and you'll be on the hook for taxes and a penalty on earnings.
Another drawback of 529 plans: You lose direct control. After you pick a portfolio, usually from a limited pool of investment options, you must wait 12 months before you can change the mix or transfer the money to another plan. And a state-appointed firm manages the account, not you.
Read on for more.