Throughout my seven years in office, I’ve spoken with countless South Carolina parents about one of their biggest concerns: paying for their child’s college education. Though the price tag of college can subject anyone to sticker shock, Future Scholar, South Carolina’s 529 College Savings Plan, is a smart, easy and beneficial savings vehicle available to our state’s residents. September is College Savings Month—the perfect time to start a Future Scholar college savings action plan for your family. Here are valuable insights:
- Define your savings goals: The first step is to determine how much you ultimately want to save for your child’s education. Do you plan on covering tuition only, or also room and board? Do you foresee your child attending one of South Carolina’s fabulous universities, or do you want to save extra in case they decide to venture out of state or attend a private school? Visit Future Scholar’s calculator page found at www.futurescholar.com/resources/calculators to predict how much college will cost when your child is ready to go, and how much you need to save.
- Start early and save often: Start saving as early as possible. Doing so will allow you to put away smaller amounts and give your money more time to grow. It’s never too late to start, but the later you do, the less time you have to build your funds.
- Save as much as you can afford: Take a look at your budget to determine how much per month you can realistically dedicate to your child’s Future Scholar plan. Don’t be discouraged if it’s a modest amount—even just $25 a month will add up over time. The key is to be consistent and gradually increase your monthly savings when you are able to.
- Know what your Future Scholar plan can cover: Future Scholar funds can be withdrawn tax-free when used for qualified education expenses. These include tuition, room and board, mandatory fees, books, supplies, computers and other equipment required for college enrollment or attendance.
- Take advantage of Future Scholar’s tax advantages: Future Scholar has one of the best state tax deductions of any 529 plan as South Carolina tax payers enjoy a state income tax deduction of 100 percent of their contributions. Not to mention, the money in Future Scholar accounts is not taxed as it grows and won’t be taxed when it is withdrawn for qualified expenses.
With more than $3.1 Billion invested, Future Scholar has over 144,000 account owners who benefit from our program. We hope you will think about opening an account. Though your child’s exact educational and professional plans may seem far off, one thing is certain: they will thank you one day for planning and saving for their future.
Curtis Loftis is the Treasurer of the State of South Carolina, and is also the administrator of South Carolina’s 529 college savings program, Future Scholar, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this year.