The dos and don’ts of College Savings

Mar 10 2015

By Amy Hamilton, SMART529


  • Do save as much as possible! In most cases, it’s never enough!
  • Do talk about higher education at an early age. Studies show children who have a college savings account are more likely to attend college than those who don’t.
  • Do ask your children to take part in saving. Help them “bank” their own money in a SMART529 account.  Set family goals!
  • Do sign up for loyalty or rewards programs, like Upromise, that will deposit contributions straight to your SMART529 account.
  • Do your research for scholarships and grants. You may even want to seek the advice of an education planner while your children are in middle school.
  • Do open an account for each child. Distributions must be used for one individual at a time.
  • Do encourage your children to research schools in your area. They may find what they’re looking for close to home.


  • Don’t stop contributing when your children enter college. Continue saving state and federal income tax-free.
  • Don’t expect a full-ride based on academic skills or athletics. Life happens! Be prepared for changes!
  • Don’t forget, anyone can contribute to your account. Tell family and friends!
  • Don’t take money out of your SMART529 account for other purposes (house/car repairs/vacation). Non-qualified distributions are taxable.
  • Don’t neglect saving for your retirement. Discuss your needs with a financial planner to set realistic goals.
  • Don’t use your 401 k for paying expenses. This income could affect your needs-based financial aid.
  • Don’t name your children as account owner. Financial aid formulas typically require children to contribute 35% of their assets toward college costs.

For more information on SMART529, visit

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