It’s Never, Ever Too Late to Save for College — Even for High Schoolers. Here’s How You Do It!

written by Melissa Brock

As you start to tentatively peel back the calendar to August, do you have butterflies in your stomach? Does this feeling have zippo to do with your high schooler wearing a mask in English class?

Does it have a little bit more to do with how much (or actually, how little) you’ve saved for college?

You’re in the right place because UNest can help.

Make Saving for College Your Back-to-School Goal

You might sit down with your high schooler before the school year starts and go over some ground rules. 

  1. “No, you can’t wear that to school — ever.”
  2. “Driving your sister to school is mandatory. And don’t forget to pick her up!”
  3. “You’re going to try harder in math this year, even though Mrs. Deal is your trigonometry teacher (again).”
  4. “We’re going to agree on some college application goals next week.”

Hopefully, your student’s all on board with those goals — whatever they may be! Why not make one big goal for yourself as well? 

If you’ve got that block of ice in your stomach, it’s time to melt it by saving for college. Here’s why and how.

Why Save for College? 

Have you lost the excitement and momentum to save for college? (Maybe there are other things you want or need.) Do you do things like tell yourself you’ve missed out on 18 years of compounding interest? Unfortunately, that’s just something you’re telling yourself. Change that mindset to I can.

Tell yourself: 

  1. “My regular earnings have amazing potential. Even small bills add up.” In other words, you can do a lot to contribute to college with your regular paycheck. 
  2. “I can do anything I set my mind to.” Start with a goal in mind and watch it bloom. It’s amazing how much sticking power that one small idea can have!
  3. “My family will help.” Many 529 plans make it easy for family and even friends to contribute — and it’s coming soon for UNest! The money can really start rolling in when you tell your child’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, etc. Ask family members and friends to forgo the clothes and video games for birthdays or holiday gifts. Ask for college money instead.
  4. “I might have already saved a bunch!” You can use money collecting dust in an already-existing savings account for college. It’s a matter of reframing your intentions, transferring that money to UNest and building more momentum.
  5. “I want to help my child take out fewer student loans.” The more you pay out of pocket, the fewer loans your student will need to take on. Pretty good reason, huh?

Take 20 Minutes and Download UNest

Trust me, this takes so little time. UNest is so easy. You don’t have to fill out mounds of paperwork and it’s not hard to choose your investments — a sticking point for so many families. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Download the UNest app.
  2. Put a monthly payment plan into place. 
  3. Track your savings.

You can choose investments based on your child’s age, add your bank account and you’re done. It takes minutes.

You’re done! Brush off those hands. Congratulations!

The Antidote to Fear and Indecision is Action

But wait… You have some questions?

Pushback questions you may have include:

  • But what if I don’t want to use a 529 plan for my kids? 
  • What if I want something with more flexibility? 
  • I’m scared. What if I don’t want to make a decision like this?

But I have a different question: What if you never take action? What if you bypass this incredibly easy way to save for college? 

I know it’s easy to put something off because you’re scared of the unknown. Open that account anyway. You won’t regret it! The antidote to fear or indecision is action. Go. for. It.

Here are a few other things to consider.

Determine How Much You Can Save

How much should you save? This is another tripping-up point for so many people, and the answer is simple: Save as much as you possibly can! 

Sit down with a pen and paper or a spreadsheet or a budget app — whatever you want! — and figure out how much you can contribute per month toward this wonderful app.

And make it attainable! Don’t pledge right off the bat to save every penny of what you think college will cost for your high schooler. That may be impossible. Don’t make that stop you. Again, save as much as you can.

Only take into account reliable income when setting your goal. If you need to adjust your goal, that’s okay, as long as it’s realistic.

Treat Savings Like Bills!

Don’t forget to treat your college savings like a bill.

Why is it that we’re more apt to scrape and pinch and divert money from one source to pay a bill like an insurance bill but we don’t do the same with really, really important things like college savings or retirement? 

Pretend like saving for college is another obligation — just like paying your bills religiously.  

Committing to monthly contributions with UNest:

  • Reduces the possibility of failure. Monthly contributions give you a constant goal.
  • Focuses you. Life is crazy most days, right? Goals help you be more strategic.
  • Allows you to see success. You can see savings growing before your eyes. Nothing feels better than seeing how far you’ve come!
  • Builds momentum. When you’re hitting your goals like crazy, you may feel like there’s nothing you can’t do. Chase that feeling by setting more college savings goals and achieving them!

You Can Do This — No Matter Your Child’s Age

As the calendar turns to August, UNest challenges you to take action on your child’s college savings. 

Doing something within 24 hours makes it more likely that you will meet your goals. The first step you can take within 24 hours is to download the UNest app

Keep a photo of your child with a sticky note on it that says something powerful, like, “He will graduate from college with my help!” Knowing your “why” will help you stay motivated in months that it can feel like a major challenge.

It’s not too late, and you can do this. Set that goal, contribute each month and make it happen. Amazing things will come.