They'll appreciate it more when they're out of diapers.
"We set it up after our first daughter was born, and listed every child as a beneficiary,"
Veda is 3, Tristan is 2 and Layla is 5-months-old.
Parents of young children usually groan when college financial planner
"They hold their hands up and say 'I can't think about this right now,'" Beam said. But college tuition trajectory -- Beam sends her hand skyward -- and the complicated tangle of college financial procedure and policy, means there's no time like the present.
The alternative is ugly. The gap between what families expect to pay and the actual bill can prompt panic and unnecessary loan debt.
"They're overwhelmed. They're confused. So they don't end up doing anything," said
This is sticker shock season, and often a time of last-minute scholarship scrambling.
Families of high school seniors are making a last dash for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid -- the deadline is
"This is the point where families realize 'this is going to cost much more than what we've saved -- now what can we do?'" Beam said.
Higher education is no longer a wistful place of self-discovery. Tuition and fees, have risen 7.6 percent annually since 1978, outpacing health care costs and home prices, said
National averages rose to
"School is way too expensive a place to 'find yourself' anymore," said Breimayer.
Tuition rises tandem to federal and state allocation cuts to universities, have driven costs higher. Families turn to loans to make up the shortfall, and in 2012, student loan debt eclipsed credit card debt in
But planning and financial forethought can put families in a good financial position, Beam said. The pair conduct free Do-It-Yourself workshops for families, and offer a free one-hour consultations to attendees. Families who want additional support and strategy pay a fee.
Learning about layers of financial aid, scholarships and work study is just the beginning. A 529 plan is just a "teeny" part of overall picture, Beam said. Comparing schools and selecting a marketable course of study means the student needs to be thinking ahead to avoid dropping out, extra years of school or going broke.
Just 38 percent of students graduated from
"College planning is not about the next four years -- it's about the next 40," Beam said. "We want to make sure they're not going to a school because of 'Sparty.' We want to make sure they're going to the right school for the right career."
The Roehler family's investment in their children's education began with the decision to enroll their three boys in a private Montessori elementary school,
Their oldest son,
The forethought saved his parents
"That is a savings worth mentioning,"
"It's not as easy road, and you really have to apply yourself, but it is a huge savings,"
Dollar-for-dollar, expensive as it is, college is still a good investment in the long run. A recent
Even by saving at birth, with three kids in college at the same time,
"We might be able to offset a chunk, at least," Urban said. "We like to think that when our kids get out of school, they can get into the workforce without a ton of debt."
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