How to Allocate Assets when Saving for College

| August 10, 2022

Have you ever considered that saving for college is different than saving for your long-term retirement?

Let’s start with the fact that, when saving for college, you’re saving for a specific year (the year of high school graduation). When you’re saving for retirement, it’s more likely you’re saving based on the amount of financial accumulation you want to have. Think of it this way; if you plan to retire but the market’s down you can keep working a bit longer. Try telling an eager teenager they have to wait a couple years before heading to college.

Next up, keep in mind the amount of time you have to build that college-savings fund is much shorter than the time available to save for retirement. Typically the time from birth to college entrance is 18 years, conversly, heading into retirement could span 40 years or more.

One investment strategy to consider, according to a Morningstar article is, “A college portfolio's asset allocation should begin downshifting into cash and bonds when the child is in grade school, and the portfolio should be dominated by bonds by the time the child is in high school. That's because an equity-heavy college fund that encounters a bear market in the years leading up to college could incur losses that it couldn't recoup during the student's time horizon.”

Now, we aren’t saying this is the blanket answer when saving for college. Every situation is different and you need to build your strategy with the help of a financial professional.

Another common savings approach is the 529 college savings program. These “age-based options aim to provide age-appropriate asset mixes that gradually become more conservative over time.”1 In addition to the “set-it-and-forget-it” mentality that a 529 provides, you will typically discover several tax advantages. Contributions are made from after tax dollars, earnings accumulate on a tax-deferred basis, and the qualified distributions are tax-free.

“The cost of college in the US from 1982 to 2018 has only gone up,”2 leaving many wondering how they will afford their child’s education when the bill comes due. With the average student loan debt in the US at $37,013 according to the Department of Education,2you’ll want to create a smart financial strategy when your child is still very young.

Adapted from Morningstar1

Adapted from Student Loan Planner2


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