Millennials Are Already Saving for Future College Costs

Because she's an educational consultant, no one needs to tell Colleen Ganjian about the rising cost of college.

“I also have a preschool-aged child,” said the 31-year-old Washington D.C. area resident. “Needless to say, college savings is at the forefront of my mind.”

Ganjian is becoming the norm when it comes to Millennials already thinking about college savings for their children. Likely trying to lighten the heavy load many of them were forced to carry, Gen Y-ers are already saving for their kids’ college at an amazing rate, according to new research.

Gen Y parents — some of whom are still paying off their student debt — plan to pay on average 74% of their children's college costs. That’s compared to 64% for Generation X parents and 60% for Baby Boomer parents. On top that, 43% of Millennials aim to pay for the full cost of their children's college education compared to only 32% of Gen X.

Joseph Carpenito, a financial advisor with Raymond James Financial Services, said there a handful of reasons for Millennials to be taking such a proactive approach to their children’s education.

“An increased necessity of a college degree is by far the most common explanation,” Carpenito said. “Gen Y parents are viewing a college degree as less of a value add and more of a necessity when entering today's workforce. This may be why college savings is becoming a necessity within the Gen-Yers budget."

He said since so many of these same parents also currently are paying off student debt and experiencing the emotional and financial stress that comes along with it, they don't want this added stress for their children.

Stepping up and saving now also can cut the stress on parents, said Coleen Pantalone, a finance professor at Northeastern University.

“The parents will have more money available when their kids are ready to head off to college - both because they saved longer and because those savings earned interest and dividends along the way, along with capital gains,” Pantalone said. “They and the kids won't be scrambling to pay the bills each year.”

She added she expects Millennials developed a far greater appreciation for the cost of a college education earlier than did their parents. They experienced that cost and the need for loans first hand, while college was more affordable during the Baby Boomers’ college years, Pantalone said.

Leslie Tayne, with the Tayne Law Group, said those looking to save for their children’s education should look into different tax deferred saving plans, such as 529 plans or other college savings plans such as a Coverdell Education Savings Account.

“If you are looking for rapid growth, consider saving in investments but understand that there may be financial risks such as the value going down or facing penalties in the event of withdrawing any of the money before a certain timeframe,” Tayne said. “To ensure making the best decisions, it is best to talk to a financial professional about your best options since it the right choice is often dependent on one's individual financial situation.”

As for Ganjian, she said she understands the need to start saving — with students now winding up with more than $115,000 in debt after using loans to cover even in-state school costs. However, she’s not surprised her generation is showing great restraint in long-term saving goals.

“Studies have shown that Millennials are simply savers in general,” she said. “We saw our depression-era grandparents retire early amidst their carefully accumulated wealth, while our Baby Boomer parents are retiring later because of their spending. Millennials have a very high savings rate in response to this, and it simply extends to college savings as well.”

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