Please hold the pickles, and double the deli mustard on my sandwich.
What am I writing about? Well, it’s both a happy time and stressful time in my life as I have one daughter in college and my youngest daughter just three years from college.
Add in being a remote caregiver for my 88-year-young mother, and like many of you, I’m part of the growing sandwich generation. I’m sandwiched between two generations that require diligent attention. For now, my mother is fairly independent, but there will be a time when more caregiving decisions will need to be made with my older brother and sister.
For now, the college side of my life sandwich demands attention. Sending kids to school is an expensive proposition!
I started saving for my daughter’s education when she was 8 years old. Some people would say why so late, and others would say why so early. At the time, my perspective was that I would have plenty of time to save. Guess what: Take my hard-earned advice that time flies by way too fast. I’m sure many of us have had similar experiences when your kids or grandchildren are in high school and the reality of starting college and tuition costs become a reality.
In my case, the decisions around higher education were focused on public in-state schools. I must admit that over the years, I was not that disciplined and consistent in putting money into her “529” college savings plan, so my options were somewhat limited. Don’t let that happen to you.
You see, 529 savings plans are available in just about every state, and they allow parents to set aside funds for a child’s college education and, in certain states, receive tax benefits. Thanks to the Internet, there’s plenty of information available online, so that you can make an informed decision about your child’s college years.
For instance, a great source you can turn to is the AARP College Savings Solutions from TIAA-CREF. This is an informational program designed especially for anyone to learn about saving for college and 529 college savings plans. The program provides education on 529 plans, including what they are and how they differ from other ways to save for college, the tax advantages, who manages the investment options and how to choose a 529 college savings plan.
AARP’s College Savings Solutions from TIAA-CREF will walk you through various states’ plans so you can decide what’s best for you — and you don’t need to live in the state whose plan best fits your needs. These savings plans aren’t exclusively for tuition, either. Your 529 plan can cover school supplies, books. You can save with an automatic monthly deposit or an annual deposit on the future student’s birthday. Note: You still have to get the “fun” present or better yet, presents, and not just give a card that says you gave money toward your child’s college costs. But, you knew that.
We all know that college tuitions will continue to increase, so making an informed decision based on trusted information is key. When I started working at AARP, I was pleased to see that the 529 College Savings Solutions from TIAA-CREF website was so easy to understand.
As an AARP member, you can talk to a representative to obtain other information, but anyone can read the helpful information by visiting www.aarpcollegesavings.com.
That at least helps me to stop worrying so much about one side of my life. Next, we can look at the other side, and we should be able to serve up the tastiest sandwich possible.
Ron Mori is a board member for the Washington, D.C., JACL chapter, and manager of community, states and national affairs — multicultural leadership for AARP.