During a recent run, I listened to Real Simple's Adulthood Made Easy podcast episode on New Year's Money Resolutions. And I was in major agreement with three keys they shared to making resolutions stick. First, your goal needs to be simple -- it can’t be overwhelming or difficult. Second, your goal needs to be specific (they noted the example that a goal of “signing up for a 401K” is much less overwhelming than a goal of “save for retirement”). And third, you need to feel/see a fairly immediate payoff.
These three tactics are totally relevant to moving from overwhelm to action when it comes to college savings. And today I wanted to share some goals to help you make progress on your college savings goals, bearing in mind the above tactics. Here are 6 goals that are totally doable. Some of them are lightning quick and/or require you to do next to nothing!
GOAL #1. Take 5 minutes to think about and embrace the mantra that “financial knowledge = good!” I’m totally serious about this goal. So many of us get squirrely about finances, but the plain reality is that financial knowledge = good. It’s a good thing to know what’s coming in, what’s going out, and where you may have room to save (or play!). So literally, sit down for 5 minutes and repeat “financial knowledge = good!”
GOAL #2. Look at financial data for the past three months. Now that you’ve slayed goal #1, it’s time for something a little more involved, but still contained. Looking at your data from the last three months is not a super fun task, but in reality it’s a task that probably wouldn’t take more than a couple of hours. DO NOT MAKE THINGS COMPLICATED or try to account for a million small things. The point is to get a rough idea of your major monthly expenses vs. income so you can see how much you could allocate to a monthly 529 contribution.
GOAL #3. Open a college savings account. Armed with your data, open a college savings account for your kid. You can do so via the Fidelity.com/college or MEFA U.Fund pages. High five yourself after you complete this goal!
GOAL #4. Re-evaluate + up your monthly contribution. Saving more + borrowing less for college = good. If you already have an account (GO YOU!), look at simple ways to up your contributions. It could be as simple as cutting out one meal out per month or a latte per week. In the vein of the simple, specific, immediate payoff ideas I mentioned earlier, you could set a really simple target of looking for $10-25 where you could adjust your spending each month to reallocate to college savings contributions.
GOAL #5. Add college savings contributions to all gift lists! This is an easy step that requires you to do almost nothing! Whenever your relatives and friends ask for birthday, holiday, or special event gift ideas for your kids, put 529 fund gift contributions on the list. The awesome 529 gift snowball effect that happened in my family this year was so wonderful -- and I was overwhelmed by the generous 529 contributions we received from a couple of my siblings.
GOAL #6. Involve your kids. I firmly believe that kids need to learn about money too. Make a tangible goal of having them help raise funds 1-2 times this year via something like a bake sale or lemonade stand.
Disclosure: This post reflects a compensated editorial partnership with Fidelity + MEFA. Storytelling is, of course, my own.
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