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McRae: Did I wait too long to save for my child’s college education?

The following piece was written and submitted by State Treasurer David McRae
By the time your child is nine years old, they are halfway to college. As the father of a 10-year-old, that’s a pretty startling sentence to write, but I think it helps put it in perspective for a lot of us parents who think we have an eternity until their kids are old enough to live independently.
That said, many Mississippi parents don’t feel ready to start saving while their child is still learning to read and write. Maybe there was an unexpected medical expense. Maybe you have multiple children in diapers or daycare. Or maybe your career just isn’t in a place where you feel financially stable. Whatever the reason, many families delay saving, leaving some to later ask themselves: Did I wait too long?
True, the earlier you start saving, the longer your investments can grow tax free. But even if your child is in high school now, there are still options to make sure their college ambitions can move forward in a financially responsible way.
First and foremost, help your student succeed academically. Encourage them to take advantage of advanced placement (AP) courses, which can count as college credit hours. This will save both time and money in the long run. Additionally, help them achieve the best ACT or SAT scores possible. Then, research which schools offer scholarships or aid based on their academic performance.
Second, put away what you can now. Even if you’re starting late, four years of saving is better than zero. Through College Savings Mississippi, you can open a Mississippi Affordable College Savings (MACS) account for as little as $25. Once you make that first deposit, your investments have an opportunity to grow tax free. Set up a monthly direct deposit to help ensure consistent contributions. To learn more, visit Treasury.MS.gov/MACS.
Finally, invite your family to participate. Once you set up a MACS account, almost anyone can contribute to it. Consider encouraging your child to ask friends and family to make a contribution to their MACS account as a birthday or holiday gift. It could also be used as an incentive for academic performance or as payment for a job well done.
Whether your child is six or 16, take a few minutes this week to look into a College Savings Mississippi plan. If you prefer to skip the online research, simply call my team at 601-359-3600 to get your questions answered. Even if you aren’t sure of your child’s education ambitions at this point, know that a MACS account is very flexible. It can be used on tuition at a two- or four-year college, apprenticeship programs, books, room and board, and much more. It can even be rolled over to another beneficiary, if you’d like.
I know it can seem like we have an eternity before our kids will leave the nest, but whether we like it or not, that reality is often closer than it seems.

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