Saving for the Kids’ Education

Preparing for higher education

Like most parents, you want your children to have the best education possible, yet school and university expenses and fees are undeniably costly. The money you spend on your kids’ education could be one of your family’s biggest expenses.  Depending on where you’re based, it may be right up there with your Mortgage repayments.

Not that many of us begrudge the spend, viewing it more of an investment in our children’s futures.

Some will need to decide whether 12 years of formal schooling will be undertaken in the private space or whether just the high school years will be funded.  Others are also happy to help with University costs and some allow Fee Help (formerly known as HECS) to pick up that tab.  Whatever you choose, there’s costs attached and it’s best to be prepared.

Once you’ve worked out your family’s preference, starting to save early will help your children have a high-quality learning experience.

It pays to do your homework.  Research what schools in your area charge each term so you have an understanding of what is required.  Will you need to move to be in the catchment area of your preferred school?  Do you know other parents or students of the school you can ask for testimonials about their experience there?  Do you need to register your child years in advance to get into your preferred school?  Knowing your costs early will give you greater time to save and help avoid disappointment.

The decision to send your children to public or private schools and then to university will determine just how much you need to put aside to start saving.  Despite your wishes, it’s also hard to know whether your children will want to go on to University until they’re some way into their academic career and begin to form some idea about what they’d like to do for a living.  Will a gap year needed to figured into the equation with money for travel?  Or will they fund that by working a part-time job from when they’re able.

What will you need?

As an example… if you send two children to private high school for six years each, which costs around $20,000 a year for each child, by the time they graduate you’ll have spent $240,000 on school fees. And that doesn’t take into account any extras like school uniforms, textbooks, trips and excursions, tutoring, extra-curricular activities, sporting clinics and the like.  This could see costs closer to $275,000 by the time they’re through.

If you only wish to save only for high-school years, you’ll have around 11 to 12 years to save for each child.  If the figures seem out of reach, you may need to rethink what you have to put aside, or review the schools your child will attend.

Public schools are much cheaper but there’s still no such thing as ‘free education.  There are extra fees for textbooks, uniforms, trips, stationery and school camps to pay for. These can easily add up around $1,000 per annum.

Trade Colleges are dearer than public schooling but for those looking to enter trade’s or take over dad’s business, these can be a great option for later high school years.  Often they’re around $4 – $7,000 and only two years is required.

The cost of going to university or college can also vary. If your child is eligible for HECS-HELP (a government loan available to tertiary students) they can choose to defer payment of university fees until they’re earning a living.  Entering the work force with large student loans may not be ideal, but in many cases is unavoidable.

Even if you (or they) aren’t paying upfront tuition fees, there’s still books, textbooks and materials, union and sports fees, lunches, accommodation and transport costs. Contact the university or college and find out how much each of these things will cost each semester, so you have an idea of how much money you will need to save.  And if you’re thinking ahead, don’t forget to allow for inflation too.

The earlier you start saving for your children’s education, the better. Education costs are usually a long-term goal that can take more than 5 years to achieve so stashing early is your best bet.

Then, once you’ve got a ballpark figure in mind to reach for, work out where you’ll put that money.  Are you happy with high interest, web based savings accounts and term deposits or want to invest in education funds or bonds for the longer term?  With interest rates at historical lows, it’s hard to find good returns on conservative styles of investments.

If there’s a top tip to getting set for education costs, it would be to research, plan, track and manage your savings goals on the go.  And be sure to review on at least a half yearly basis to make sure you’re on target.

Managing a Financial Windfall

We’ve all got that dream – we’ll have that massive lotto win, Great-Aunty Betty will die and leave us everything… or even that a spectacular tax return or bonus will come our way.

Although they’re aren’t regular occurrences, financial windfalls can come our way now and then… so instead of blowing it all, what’s the bet way to take advantage of a bonus or extra dollars that come our way?

The temptation to splurge can often be overwhelming, but your future self is hardly likely to thank you for replenishing a wardrobe or buying more “stuff” that is likely to end up in a charity bag in a year or two.  So what are some eminently sensible and grown-up ways of making that money work harder?

Here’s a few ways to spend this money that will give you long-term benefits.

  • If you have debt, especially non-deductible debt like credit cards or personal loans, pay them down first, followed closely by long-term debt like your Mortgage
  • If you’re really not sure what to do and everyone is putting their two cents worth in and confusing you ever more, put it in a high interest savings account until you can do some research and be comfortable with your decision
  • Can you put a bit extra in your super?  Retirement might be a long way off, but that means you have the benefit of long term compounding interest in your favour
  • Is there enough for you to start investing?  It may be worth kicking off a portfolio of shares, property or managed funds if there’s enough.
  • Getting financial advice can be of great benefit.  Financial professionals often have access to funds and research that are unavailable to many and they can ensure that you invest in line with your risk profile, not putting ‘all your eggs in one basket.’
  • Have you put off personal protection strategies like income protection, trauma cover or health insurance?  It may be worth investing in looking after yourself
  • Have you considered taking time out and learning new skills?  Maybe it’s time to invest in yourself and do that course.  Who know’s a career change might be just what you need!

And if you’d really like to still blow just a little of it – set a limit – maybe 10 – 20% and knock yourself out.  Have that splurge, but be smart too.

Do something that your future self with thank you for.

 

Financial Things to do Before You Die

While it might not be as exciting a list as Bucket List inclusions like:

1. Head to Base Camp;

2. Dive the Great Barrier Reef;

3. Have a Champagne at the top of the Eiffel Tower;

4. Stay in a yurt in Mongolia;

5. or sleep in an Igloo under the Northern Lights… it’s definitely a very loving legacy to leave behind for those you care about.

Unfortunately, I’ve had to assist in unraveling affairs of those who instead leave behind a financial mess for their family to navigate.  On top of grief, it’s a bitter pill to swallow when your financial affairs have not been left ‘in order.’  I know I’ve covered this issue before, but it’s so important to have finalised.

And I understand, it’s not a popular question to ponder and is likely hard to imagine, but what if something were to happen to you? Would your loved ones be taken care of or would they face a tough financial future?  Do they know what your wishes are?  Do you even have your important documents sorted?

The greatest gift you can leave your family and loved ones, is having your affairs sorted out before you go.  Please don’t think of this as something morbid… it might seem like I’m backing up the hearse and asking you to smell the roses here… but this isn’t about you, I promise.

If you have made plans, do your loved ones know where to find them? Would they know what assets you have, what insurance policies are in place or how to access your superannuation or life insurance?  Have they met your trusted advisers and know who to get in touch with if something were to happen?  Have you kept them in touch with what your wishes are?

Here are some simple steps you can take to protect the important people in your life:

  • Consolidate your assets and sort your bank accounts out
  • Ensure your life insurance is adequate based on your current circumstances
  • Make sure beneficiaries have been nominated (where possible) on your superannuation and insurance policies
  • Chat with your partner about what you’d like to have happen in the event of the unexpected
  • Ensure your Will is current – circumstances can change quickly!
  • Have your arranged for an Enduring Power of Attorney or completed an Advanced Health Directive?
  • Make sure those who need to know are aware of where your important documents are stored

Not everything will pass through your estate, so it’s wise to ensure you understand what forms estate assets and what stays outside.

Work through the list steadily and once it’s done, make sure it’s reviewed regularly.  Your loved ones will be glad you did.