Personal Finance 101: Save for College

In this personal finance 101 series I want to focus on college savings for our children. I am a Millennial and our generation is drowning in student loan debt. The average college graduate is finishing school with nearly $38,000 in student loans. That is crazy and its taking most of us Millennials one to two decades to repay that.

Open a 529 for Your Child

I was lucky enough to become a dad for the first time this year in 2017, and I knew I wanted to get a 529 account up and running ASAP. I don’t use this personal finance blog to brag, but I would like to say that I am thrilled to state that I made my daughter’s first 529 account contribution when she was just 6 days old.

My goal for this post is to encourage all other Millennial parents out there to begin saving now for their child’s college education. Don’t let your child be in the same debt the rest of us Millennials are in. This is your chance to create a better future for your child…a future with way less student loan debt!

Cost of College in 2035?

College is expensive and that is not news to anyone. The problem is most college tuition rates have been increasing between 6-10% each year…way more than inflation. The cost of college is soaring out of control! I anticipate my baby girl to attend college around the year 2035 and the calculations I received off a few future college estimator calculators is utterly shocking.

I calculated the cost of attending two different in-state schools in my state; the first is my alma mater, which unfortunately is the most expensive state university in my state. And the second is a quality in-state university, a much smaller university, but one that is far cheaper, while still providing a quality education. I love my alma mater, but I am absolutely leaning towards the latter (cheaper) in-state university.




In-State Public College #1 (Alma Mater)

Tuition and fees alone I expect to cost approximately $170,000 in the year 2035, if I want my daughter to attend my alma mater. This cost is for four years of schooling.

If I want to cover all expenses, tuition, fees, room and board, I expect that to cost roughly $310,000 in the year 2035.

In-State Public College #2 (Smaller and Much Cheaper)

Tuition and fees alone I expect to cost approximately $92,000 in the year 2035, for my daughter to attend a smaller, in-state university (which I am 100% on board with…and I am encouraging this school actually). This cost is for four years of schooling.

If I want to cover all expenses, tuition, fees, room and board, I expect that to cost roughly $111,000 in the year 2035.

How Much to Save for Future College Expenses?

I don’t know if I can afford to pay for all of my daughter’s college education, but I am certainly going to save early and often so that I can help her (and my wife and I) to avoid as much student loan debt as possible.

If we simply save $50/month for the next 18 years, I estimate that we’ll have roughly $23,000 to put towards my daughters education. It’s not a lot, but that is 25% of school #2…which is better than nothing!

If we can increase that to $100/month, we could expect $45,000 by the year 2035.

And if I can double that to $200/month, we could expect $90,000, which would pay all tuition and fees for school #2.




Calculator: What Your Net Worth Should Be?

I just finished rereading my favorite non-fiction “money” book of all time, which is the 1996 research book by Thomas J. Stanley titled The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy. To be transparent on the claim of this being my favorite non-fiction book of all-time, will mention that virtually all I read is non-fiction, business-related books. So in that respect, this is the best book I’ve ever read in that particular category.

In this book, Dr. Stanley gives you a simple formula to calculate your current “expected” net worth, based off your age and income at the time of calculation. It is a very simple formula. You simply multiple your age by your income, then divide that number by 10, and that is what your current net worth should be.

Age X Income / 10 = Net Worth

For example, let’s say we have a Millennial named Mike who is 28 and earns $50,000 per year. Mike would calculate his “expected” net worth (to see if he is on track to becoming the next Millionaire New Door) by multiplying 28 by 50,000, then dividing by 10. This should give us an anticipated net worth for Millennial Mike of $140,000. I know most of you are thinking that sounds high for a 28-year old Millennial, and it is slightly high but not that unrealistic.

If Millennial Mike began working at age 22 and has averaged a salary of $45,000 over these 6 years and saved 10% annually, he should have roughly $35,000 saved in his retirement account. If Millennial Mike was also getting a 401(k) company match of 5%, then that $35,000 looks more like $52,000. Still a ways off from $140,000, I know. But what if Millennial Mike was also a homeowner? The equity he has in his house would also factor into this equation and increase his net worth substantially as well, depending on how long he’s been a home owner and how well that market as appreciated.

I am also not factoring in any debt into this equation just to simplify the math, but I know that is unrealistic. In all likely hood Millennial Mike has a student loan of roughly $30,000 and a car note of $15,000 to $25,000. Those can quickly eat at and slow down your accumulation of wealth and growing your net worth. But if you focusing on paying off these debts, increasing your savings, and living below your means, its all possible.

At the end of the day this net worth calculation/formula is supposed to be inspiring to Millennials, not dejecting. You may be off at first, but that doesn’t mean you can’t turn it around quickly. You just have to act and get your financial life in order. Get on a written budget, pay down your debts, live well within your means, and save early and often for retirement.


Cost of College Calculator

Previously I wrote about my newborn daughters projected college costs in the year 2035. If any of my fellow Millennial parents out there have done this, I assume there was sticker shock for you as well. The future college costs numbers are truly staggering. Now that I know what my daughter’s costs ranges are 18 years from now, I now have to figure out how exactly I go about hitting those numbers.

529 College Savings

Luckily I opened a 529 savings plan for my daughter when she was 6-days old, and I now have 18 years of compounding interest on my side. So let’s start crunching some numbers to see what exactly I need to contribute each month to my daughters 529 college savings plan.

In-State School #1

$170,000 (Tuition and Fees Only)

The first in-state public university I would like to send my daughter to costs $170,000 for four years’ worth of tuition and fees (no room and board).

$420 per month contribution x 18 years @ 7% annual return = $170,000

$310,000 (All Expenses – Tuition, Fees, Room and Board)

If I want to pay for all college expenses for my daughter at my first choice of colleges, that price tag would be $310,000. And that costs would include tuition, fees, room and board.

$760 per month contribution x 18 years @ 7% annual return = $310,000

In-State School #2

$92,000 (Tuition and Fees Only)

The second in-state public university I would like to send my daughter to costs $92,000 for four years’ worth of tuition and fees (no room and board).

$225 per month contribution x 18 years @ 7% annual return = $92,000

$111,000 (All Expenses – Tuition, Fees, Room and Board)

If I want to pay for all college expenses for my daughter at my second (much cheaper) choice of colleges, that price tag would be $111,000. And that costs would include tuition, fees, room and board.

$275 per month contribution x 18 years @ 7% annual return = $111,000




I Opened a 529 for My Baby at 6 Days Old!

I don’t use this Millennial personal finance blog to brag about anything I do financially, whether it be via investing or my professional career and my salary. However, I do want to take a minute to pat myself (and my wife) on the back because we just opened a 529 college savings account for our newly born daughter, who is less than one week old. To be exact, she wasn’t even six days old actually!

529 college savings plan

I know there may be some naysayers out there, considering you can technically open a 529 college savings plan prior to your child’s physical birth. You can open an account long before you even have a child or the minute you find out you’re expecting. I was fully aware of this option but I just couldn’t bring myself to opening an account for a baby we hadn’t had yet. I know the risks are ultra-low of complications with the baby, but I just felt like it was a possible jinx if I opened a 529 before my baby was born. But I was determined to open a 529 nearly immediately after she blessed us with her presence.

Oddly enough, I actually opened my account for my 6-day old the same way you would if you opened a 529 college savings plan for a child 6 months before birth. I didn’t yet have a social security number for my daughter, which along with a name and birthday is all you need to open a 529 college savings plan. So instead I opened the 529 and assigned myself as the “student”, aka the beneficiary of the plan. Once I have a social security number for her I can then transfer the account over into her name. Any transfer within your family is free of charge. It is no different than the transfer policy from one child to another due to one child receiving a scholarship and deciding not to attend college.

The process for opening my daughters 529 college savings plan could not have been easier. I was able to quickly setup the account and connect it to my bank account via a routing and account number. I easily setup an automatic monthly transfer that begins this April. And then I setup an auto increase on her birthday each year. So beginning in March 2018 I will contribute $25 more each month, and then again in 2019, 2020, etc. I was then able to make a one-time contribution to kick start my daughters 529 college savings plan.




Automate Your 529 Savings Plan

I love automating my savings goals and this 529 plan allowed me to do this effortlessly. I will now be contributing to my daughters 529 at least monthly and that amount will go up each year to ensure I save as much as possible. We hope to receive some “college money” as gifts for her birthdays over the years from grandparents and other family members as well. We can then easily log in and make a contribution to her account when that happens. Its great.

Future Cost of College Calculator

And I am going to need all the help I can get to afford college in 18 years (year 2035). I played with a future cost of college calculator and the projected costs are unreal. Seriously, unreal what the anticipated costs of college would be in 18 years. For an in-state public university in my state, college tuition is expected to range from $92,000-$170,000, depending on the university, in the year 2035. Again, these ranges are only for in-state public school, nothing private, and these costs are only for tuition and fees, no room and board. If I want to pay for all college expenses (tuition, fees, room and board), that will run me anywhere from $111,000-$310,000 for four years of college. Wish me luck…at least I opened her account when she was 6-days old so I now have compound interest on my side.




What Does it Cost to Raise a Child?

Earlier this month my wife and I welcomed our first child into this world. It’s truly a miraculous experience. Witnessing the birth of your child and the miracle of life is truthfully life-changing. Everyone says you’ll never really be ready to be a parent. While I agree with that to an extent, I do believe waiting as long as my wife and I did benefit us greatly.

We’re in our 30’s and we’ve been married for nearly nine years. Last year we decided it was finally time for us to begin a new chapter in our marriage and lives; and that was to start a family and have a kid. We knew we were ready emotionally and financially. We were more mature than when we were married and obviously much better off financially. So when people say you’ll never really be ready, they may be partially right because no one knows what it’s like to raise a child until you actually do it, obviously. But financially speaking it makes a huge difference to ensure you’re in a good spot and have your financial house in order before you bring a child to your house.

Becoming financially ready to raise a child

Prior to having our child earlier this month, we were able to pay off all of debts, except for our house, and build a fully funded emergency fund. It feels tremendous. We have a great sense of financial security because of it. Again, this is how we knew we were ready to start a family. Debt can really set you back, especially when you include a baby.

I remember when we first started discussing the prospects of having a baby a couple of years ago and that’s when I began looking into just how much it costs to raise a child. The articles out there around the costs of raising a child are truly remarkable. And these costs don’t even include college tuition, which is even more astonishing.


Cost of raising a child calculator

Per an article on CNN Money, a married couple in the middle-income range is estimated to spend approximately $234,000 to raise a child up until the age of 17. This number doesn’t include the cost of college or any private schooling prior to college. This total figure equates to roughly $14,000/year as the cost to raise a child.

A similar article on The Huffington Post and their projected cost of raising a child is slightly higher, coming in at approximately $245,000. This total figure equates to roughly $14,500/year as the cost to raise a child.

I used a calculator on CNPP, which is the United States Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition Policy Promotion, and their figure was even higher. They gave me a projected cost of approximately $24,000/year as the cost to raise a child in my particular region of the country.

An article from NBC News game me a projected cost of approximately $13,000/year as the cost of raising a child.

Cost to send your child to college

I played around with several “cost of college calculators” to get an idea of what it would cost to send my child to college around the year 2035. I definitely plan on sending my child to an in-state public university to save some on tuition. I don’t think out-of-state or private is worth, unless they get a hefty scholarship. I’ve already discussed my views on public school versus private in a previous post. Anyways…there was definite sticker shock to what the calculators threw back at me and my projected in-state college cost in 18 years.

Much to my dismay the projected cost of college for my child in 18 years ranges from $92,000 (tuition only) all the way to $310,000 (tuition plus room and board, e.g. ALL college expenses for 4 years).

Cost of college tuition for my child

Below are my calculations for a couple different in-state schools I would like to send my child to. Historically over the last 10 years the cost of college inflation rate has been roughly 5%.

Cost of college tuition: my (child’s) first school

Cost of college for my preferred public, in-state university for my child, e.g. my alma mater. The school I am using below currently costs approximately $16,000/year to attend for tuition only, and when you include room and board that yearly cost jumps to nearly $30,000/year.

– In-state public, tuition only: $170,000 with a 5% inflation rate
– In-state public, tuition plus room & board: $310,000 (wow!)

Cost of college tuition: my (child’s) backup school

The backup university for my child, e.g. the cheaper state school, which is still a good school and clearly more affordable. A very viable option if we want to keep the cost of college down. The school I am using below currently costs approximately $9,000/year to attend for tuition only, and when you include room and board that yearly cost jumps to nearly $20,000/year.

– In-state public, tuition only: $92,000 with a 5% inflation rate
– In-state public, tuition plus room & board: $111,000

True cost of raising a child, including college

Based off of these averages it essentially costs nearly one half million dollars to raise a child and send them to a 4-year in-state, public college. On the low end it would be roughly $325,000, which includes raising and sending them to college, but only paying for tuition. On the high-end, the cost of raising a child could potentially costs as much as $355,000 if you plan on paying for all of their college expenses (tuition, fees, room and board).

My plan via this blog is to track just how accurate these numbers are. I really question the projected cost of roughly $245,000 to raise a child from age 0-17. The anticipated cost of college in 2035 does feel fairly accurate to me, unfortunately, considering just how expensive college continues to be.

However, I am encouraged that it has become such a hot topic these days and that one day the inflation rate or cost of college could be regulated, even if it’s just slightly. It’s almost inconceivable the cost of college for an in-state 4-year public school could cost $310,000. If this is true then many, many families will be severely ill prepared, and in piles of student loan debt (parents and students). And we think we’re in a student loan crisis now in 2017. Doesn’t look like there is an end in sight, whatsoever. Well, unless you start saving aggressively now via a 529. I do plan on having an account open for my child before they are 2 months old.


Public School vs Private School?


Recently I was getting together with some buddies of mine to catch up over a few beers. Funny how much our conversations have changed over the years, considering I am expecting my first child, my other friend is expecting his second daughter, and another already has two kids. So now family and kids dominant the conversation these days, which is great actually, because previously is was more trivial issues like sports, weekend events, golf, and boys’ trips. Boy has life changed for us over the last few years!

I previously wrote about saving for college and deciding between a 529 plan or a Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA). Well, my friends and I spoke about this a bit as well and the 529 won out across the board, solely because of the contribution limits, which was my conclusion as well.

Public School or Private School?

The talk of saving for college brought up a more philosophical education question for your child; public school or private school? And now that conversation includes not just college but high school and even earlier “private” education. When I looked up the cost of private schooling the results just floored me.

To give you some background and my group of friends and me, we’re all obviously Millennials and we all grew up together in middle to slightly upper-middle class city. We all went to public high school and a state university. The one caveat is one of my really good friends did go out of state for college and went to an Ivy League school, which is a phenomenal feat and probably most parents’ dream. So good for him and his family on accomplishing that. He is the one outlier in the group though as we’re all “public school” educated and doing fairly well in life, both personally and professionally for now being out of college for 10+ years. All of our careers are moving in the right direction.

Now back to our philosophical question of public versus private schooling. My one friend said they are 100% planning on sending their two daughters to private school, and by private school I mean early childhood education. Not just private high school. The yearly tuition rates at the school he will send his two daughters to is astounding. See for yourself.

2016-2017 TUITION

Pre-Kindergarten (full day): $18,820
Kindergarten (full day)-grade 5: $23,510
Grades 6-12: $25,430

I fully understand tuition is different for every child because of grants, financial aid, etc. But either way, those numbers are jaw dropping in my eyes when you consider public schooling, kindergarten throughout high school is free (except for a few minimal annual schooling fees).

Is Private School Really Better Than Public?

I have three “sibling” in-laws, two sisters and one brother, all of which are public educators. My two sister in-laws teach young elementary aged children, while my brother in law teaches high school students. All of them are very passionate and one has a master degree in childhood education. I’ve talked to each of them multiple times about the difference in public versus private and a lot of the variance is purely on curriculum (and funding, obviously). A public school has a set teaching curriculum to follow, whereas a private school can change to emphasize some subjects over others (like science and math).

I think the main misnomer about private school is that the teachers aren’t exactly “more qualified” thank teachers at public schools. In reality, there are actually more requirements and standards for public schools then there are for private. I think people think most teachers at a private high school are equivalent to a professor at a university and their background in the field (formal education and research). That is simply not the case.

Public School is Just Fine

I will get off my soapbox now as being very anti-private schools, because it’s obviously ever families own personal decision to do this. If you have the funds to send your child to private school, by all means go for it. But don’t profess that your child is getting a substantially better education than those of us sending our kids to public school. Your child can still get into a great college when going to public high school (see my great friend who made it to an elite Ivy League school). And they can still be successfully when going to public school all the way through college. Me and my friends are all doing fine and I know tons of people who were “publicly” educated.

I just urge all Millennial parents to really research and think twice about private school. It feels way more of a status symbol than an educational play, in my opinion. At the end of the day, your child is as successful as you want them to be, regardless of public or private. If you are highly involved in your child’s schooling, homework, and lives in general, I think they will be just fine.

Being Involved As a Parent is What Matters Most

That is my humble advice from a soon-to-be parent. I will be sending my child to public school, but I will be as involved as humanly possible with their schooling. I want to push my child to work as hard as possible in their schooling and studying. I know that will guarantee more success in life than which particular school they attend.


529 vs ESA for College Savings Plans?



I am lucky enough to be a newly expecting parent this coming year. My wife and I are thrilled about the joy a baby will bring to us (and the challenges too, of course). We’re less than two months away from the anticipated birth of our child, and it feels like its going to be here any minute now the way time is flying by!

This past summer once we found out we were finally expecting, my first thought was, “wow, a baby is going to be expensive…how are we going to afford this?” We’ve been avid savers and budgeters for some time now so I had to figure out how I’m now fitting two more huge expenses in my month budget; diapers and college savings.

Like most new parents, the thought of college comes to mind fairly quickly, despite it truly being 18+ years away! But I know I want to address the issues ASAP versus delaying our savings plan. My parents did not save any money for me for college. They took on the brunt of student loans (and are still paying on them to this day).

I actually feel like they are miserable because of it too. My parents were never really open about college when I first began applying 15+ years ago. We didn’t really discuss anything about who was paying. I just applied, got accepted and they took control of the rest. Turns out I paid for most of my tuition and they paid for my room and board, as well as some other expenses.

I vow not to do this with my kid when this time rolls around. I was naive and had no idea just how much college cost and who was paying for it. My parents and I never really had those discussions. So here I am now trying to figure out how I can set money aside early and often to hopefully pay for as much college as possible for my soon-to-be child.

What is the best way to save for college?

529 College Savings Plan

529 plans are tax-advantaged savings vehicles that let you save money for the college expenses of a named beneficiary, such as a child or grandchild.

529 Contribution Limits

One of the primary benefits of 529 plans is its large contribution limits. Each state operates its own 529 plan and makes its own rules for the plan, so maximum contribution levels vary across plans. Generally speaking, contribution limits are high enough that most investors will never have to worry about hitting the ceiling.

Coverdell Education Savings Account

A Coverdell ESA is a tax-advantaged savings vehicle that lets you save money for the qualified education expenses of a named beneficiary, such as a child or grandchild. Qualified education expenses include college expenses and certain elementary and secondary school expenses.

ESA Contribution Limits

The annual contribution limit for Coverdell ESAs is $2,000 per beneficiary until age 18.

529 Plan vs Coverdell ESA

After doing my research on the two college saving vehicles, I lean much more heavily on the 529 plan. My main reason for choosing the 529 plan is because it has significantly more potential for future savings. If you maxed out an ESA account, which is $2,000/annually or $166/month, and earned an annual return of 7% annually, your savings would reach $67,726 after 18 years. That is still a nice chunk of change for college.

However, don’t you think during that 18 year span you can challenge yourself to save more than $167/month? Maybe not in the first few yeas but certainly shortly after you can find a way to scrape together $200-300 each month for your child’s college fund. With the same assumptions as above (7% annual return), your investment could be worth $122,396 after 18 years if you managed to save $300/month. That makes expensive college look a lot more affordable.



10 Personal Finance Tips for 2017


1. Get on a written budget

Getting on a budget is your single greatest wealth builder. If you’re not on a budget you have no idea what you’re bringing in, putting out, and able to save. A budget allows you to track your expenses so you know where you can potentially cutback in order to save more. Saving more can be effortlessly at time with a proper budget.

2. Save for retirement and get your match

Saving for retirement is of the utmost importance for any Millennial. We Millennials have so much time on our side for the market to work in our favor. And by “time” I actually mean the power of compounding interest. Keep investing into the market regularly and watch your wealth grow. If your company offers a 401(k) match you absolutely must take advantage of this. Its free money! Contribute enough to get your full company match. If you feel you can still save more, you should open a Roth IRA. If you’re self-employed or your employer doesn’t offer a 401(k), open a Roth IRA and put the maximum annual contribution of $5,500 in it, spread-out over the course of the year via dollar cost averaging.

3. Pay yourself first

Whether you’re new at personal finance or have been doing it well for a while now, everyone has heard of paying yourself first. This is paramount in your attempt at becoming financially independent. Paying yourself first means taking your cut before paying anyone else. I suggest saving for retirement and an emergency fund (3-9 months’ worth of living expenses).

4. Live below your means

Learning to live below your means is perhaps the single hardest personal and behavioral finance tactic you’ll have to master. It’s not easy to live on less than you actually make, especially as you get older and begin getting promotions and making more money. This goes back to paying yourself first. If you live on well less than you make, that means you can save at least 15% of your income. You should be putting at least 12-15% of your income towards retirement. Then another 5-8% in your savings account/emergency fund. If your emergency fund is fully funded, keep putting that money towards retirement via a Roth IRA where your contributions are withdrawable (it’s like a pseudo-emergency fund).

5. Pay down your debt

Once you have begun saving for retirement, next you should put your remaining money towards paying off short-term, non-tax-deductible debt, e.g. credit cards and car loans. I would advise to at least save enough to get your company match for retirement. Then throw the rest of your income (after living expenses) towards your debt. Carrying credit card debt is your biggest barrier to becoming financially independent and accumulating wealth. And once your car is paid for – drive it for as long as possible. You’ll be amazed and how much money you can save when you don’t have a car payment.

6. Increase your savings rate yearly

Once you begin saving regularly for retirement, increasing your contribute rate is actually not that challenging at all. I would advise increasing your retirement contribution 1-2% each year. This is even easier if you get a raise. I personally have both a Roth and traditional 401(k) at work. For the last few years I have increased my contribution to each by 1%, netting me an increased savings rate of 2% each year. I also contribute to a Roth IRA. Once you start you can’t stop. You’ll be surprised and how you want to keep contributing more and more as time passes.

7. Do not try and keep up with the Joneses

In every stage of life we’re tempted with keeping up with those around us. We want to look successful. What better way than to project success of your friends, family and even those around you whom you’ve never met? Try a large suburban home, a luxury car, and expensive name-brand apparel and accessories. Regardless of your age, this is always an issue. When you’re in your 20’s you want to really look successful and buy a nice expensive car. Same thing happens when you’re in your 30’s and 40’s. It really never stops, but you have to try not comparing yourself to others. Stay the course. Save regularly for retirement and you’ll be much better off.

8. Continuing (financial) education

You are your single greatest investment. Always seek to further your education, personally and professionally. Not in finance? That’s fine. There are thousands of books, magazine articles, blogs, podcasts, and news shows out there to help your further your personal finance acumen. Same goes with your profession as well. Continue to read and learn about your trade so you can quickly advance in your field.

9. Set goals

Always set financial goals for yourself so you have something to strive for and achieve. I am a Millennial in my early 30’s. I really want to become financially independent in my 50’s and retire by age 60. That’s not going to be easy but it’s my goal. I check in on that often to make sure I am saving enough so my wife and I can do just that. I know how much we need in our retirement accounts in order to achieve this feat. We’re still nearly 30 years away from this date, so it gives me time to tinker and adjust where needed. I have a goal and I’m saving for it.

10. Pay down your mortgage

Once you are debt free except for the mortgage it’s time to tackle that house payment. This step isn’t until you are in a great place financially, meaning you have no debt and you’re maxing out your retirement accounts, e.g. 401(k) and Roth IRA.