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Pay For College Without Busting Your Retirement Nest Egg
When your paycheck stops at retirement, will you have enough to pay your bills, travel and live the lifestyle you want in your Golden Years? Sure, you might be one of the lucky ones with a pension. Social Security may even still be around. But if you want to live your vision of retirement, then saving and investing properly is important. And how you pay for college for your children will affect your own retirement. Think about this: College tuition, books, fees, and housing continue to rise faster than inflation in general. Based on current trends, the cost of sending just two children to a private or elite college for a total of eight years will cost more than $360,000 if paid after taxes. This means that those in the 28 percent tax bracket must earn more than $500,000 to meet the costs of cash flow. Regardless of where you send your kids to school, the bottom line is this: How you pay for college affects how much you save for retirement. For every dollar you save on college costs, means more for your personal retirement down the road.
There are a number of strategies you can use to improve your chances of a better retirement and a solid education at a lower personal cost. There are more than thirteen strategies for increasing need-based aid. There are at least a dozen small ways that any family can use to improve their bottom line. Ultimately, it depends on how well you know how to use the IRS code to your advantage to lower your Expected Family Contribution (or EFC in terms of financial aid). Regardless of whether you expect to qualify for need-based aid or not, here are some examples of cost-cutting strategies available to you.
Strategy 1: Get College Credit Through Exams By taking Advanced Placement exams or even a “challenge” exam for basic college courses, a student can get through school faster potentially saving thousands in tuition and fees. Opportunities are available for Advanced Placement (AP), College Examination Program (CLEP) or DSST exams for 37 different courses. For more information on these, check the CollegeBoard or search for “Get College Credit.”
Strategy 2: Stay Local In-state tuition and fees at a public college are a bargain compared to the elites and even crossing the border to go to another state’s public college. If you are considering moving across the border or away, consider having your child establish residency in that state. Find out what the residency requirements are ahead of time by contacting the admissions office.
Strategy 3: Get the Credit You Deserve from the IRS Use the Hope Education Credit, renamed the “American Opportunity Tax Credit.” This was recently increased to $2,500 (from $1,200) and now applies to all four years of college, not just the first two. In addition, forty percent of the credit is now repayable. Another help comes in the form of the Lifetime Learning Credit, which is available for one family member and allows you to take up to 40% credit for educational expenses up to $10,000. Income limits apply, so be sure to consult a qualified tax professional or visit the IRS website.
Strategy 4: Employ Your Child If you own a business, work as an independent contractor, or own a rental property, consider hiring your child to work for you. Perhaps your child can provide administrative support or help with marketing or real estate related tasks. By employing a child and paying him or her, you will lower your own taxable income through a business expense deduction and provide income for your child. In addition, the child can use the earnings to open a Roth IRA, a tax-advantaged retirement account that is not assessed as an asset for financial aid purposes. And if necessary, a child can withdraw a portion of the income to pay for qualified educational expenses. There are certain limits and time restrictions that apply.
Strategy 5: Establish a Section 127 Education Assistance Plan As a business owner you can establish a Section 127 paid tuition program for your employees. This plan allows the business to pay up to $5,250 per year to employees (including employee children) as a qualified tax-deductible expense. This can be used for both undergraduate and graduate programs of study. Assuming that Junior will work in the family business during the summer and throughout the year, Junior can earn a salary (a deductible expense for the business) that he can use for his own support and a Roth IRA contribution (which may be eligible for reimbursement). educational expenses) and earn a tuition benefit (another deductible business expense). If you’re going to give the child the money anyway, you can also structure it to be tax deductible. Consider this: There are over 110 different other strategies for you to consider. All the more reason to have a coordinated plan by talking to a professional advisor who can help evaluate these options with you. Food for thought:
- Encourage your pre-teen to open a Roth IRA with earnings from their paper trail or other jobs.
- Consider hiring your child to work in your business or help with tasks related to your investment property.
- Use a CollegeSure CD issued by an FDIC-insured bank to accumulate savings
- Consider using a fixed income annuity to hold a portion of money for college to avoid the potential loss in principal that can occur with a 529 plan invested in mutual funds.
- Pursue private and merit-based scholarships (For more information on some of these options, check out Fast Web, the CollegBoard and the Scholarship Experts or the Scholarship Coach on the web.
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