(WTNH) – As parents send their students back to school, you may be thinking about how one day you’ll be sending them to college. The big question though, is this: will you be financially ready for it?
As kids head back to the classrooms this week and focus on the year ahead, parents may find themselves wondering about what lies ahead. The cost of college is something that weighs on people’s minds.
Financial planner Derek Mazzarella said there are three options he recommends his clients consider.
“CHET is the state’s 529 plan. Every state has one,” said Mazzarella.
First, there’s the CHET program, the state’s 529 plan. It’s money set aside specifically for college, and you can decide how aggressive or conservative you want to invest depending on how old your child is. There’s also a tax benefit to consider.
“If you contribute up to $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for married filing jointly, you do get a tax reduction up to those amounts in the state of Connecticut for the state income tax,” said Mazzarella.
The only catch is that there is not a lot of wiggle room for how the money can be used.
“It’s definitely designed for college and at five years old we don’t know if they’re going to go to college or not, or what their interests are, so it’s challenging,” he said.
Then there’s the UTMA account, the Uniformed Trust for Minors Act. It’s more flexible when it comes time to spend.
“The real benefit is you can invest in anything, it’s liquid. And the first $1,050 in income that year, is basically tax-free. The next $1050 is a 10% tax so if you’re in a higher tax bracket, that could be a good option,” he added.
Mazzarella cautions the flexibility when it comes time to use it, and a big pot of money ends up in young hands.
Then there’s a regular savings account, you have total control and flexibility, but it’s just not as tax-efficient as the other two. This is why Mazzarella says he recommends all three.
“I recommend doing a blend of the three because they have their pros and cons and especially with the 529 plan, if they don’t go to college, there’s a 10% penalty on the growth,” said Mazzarella. “Plus you pay taxes on it”