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Saving for Your Kid's College: Start Here, and Start Now

Editor's note: Ask TheStreet is designed to answer questions about the market, terms, strategies and investment methods. Please email us to ask a question, but keep in mind that we cannot offer specific investment- or stock-related advice.

What do you think of buying a particular stock as a long-term strategy to pay for my daughter's college education? -- S. (via Stockpickr Answers )

To the question of whether any single stock is a good long-term investment strategy to finance college, the answer is an unequivocal "No."

When you're looking at a long-term, big-budget goal like college, asset allocation rules apply (see " Allocate Your Assets Like a Pro ").

If you want to avoid the headache and risk of allocating an education-focused portfolio yourself, taking the hands-off route with a target-date mutual fund (offered by most 529 plans ) is a good way to go.

Here's what you need to know if you're ready to set up a college savings plan for your little Einstein.

Paying for College: It's All About Goals

According to Stuart Ritter, a certified financial planner at T. Rowe Price (TROW - Get Report), there are three decisions you need to make when planning for any financial goal: how much to save, what kind of account to use and what investment strategy to follow.

A Tear-Free Guide to College Savings

Figuring out what your goals are (and thus how much you need to save) is a very important step in the process. "How much you're going to save has a bigger impact than anything else," says Ritter. "You may nail everything else right, but if you're only putting away $25 a month for your child's college education, you're probably not going to have what you need to fund it all."

How Much

College is becoming a fairly lofty financial goal for many. The College Board projects that four years at a U.S. in-state public college or university will average more than $90,000 a decade from now.
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