Ask the Patch Pros: All Your College Planning Questions

Do you have a child going to college next year? Thinking of going back yourself? We have some experts on hand to answer all your college planning questions.

Choosing or applying to colleges can be a daunting task.

When is my state's FAFSA deadline? What is a FAFSA? How am I going to pay for this? Where's the best place to get a good interest rate on a student loan?

So many questions.

But we're here to help make it easier for you.

In this week's edition of Ask the Patch Pros, we've got a small but growing panel of experts standing by waiting to answer all your college planning questions. Nothing is off limits.

This week's participating pros are:

Shane Blanchard November 14, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Yes Jody, 529 plans are great. It offers unsurpassed income tax breaks. Although your contributions are not deductible on your federal tax return, your investment grows tax-deferred, and distributions to pay for the beneficiary's college costs come out federally tax-free. You stay in control of the account. With few exceptions, the named beneficiary has no rights to the funds. You are the one who calls the shots; you decide when withdrawals are taken and for what purpose. Most plans even allow you to reclaim the funds for yourself any time you desire, no questions asked. It's a very easy hands-off way to save for college.
David Leonard November 14, 2012 at 05:36 PM
A great source of free information is www.collegeaid.gov. Whatever you do, don't pay anyone for information about financial aid for college. There's all kinds of free information out there, including in high school guidance counselors' offices.
Adam November 14, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Jody, while we have 529 plans in the funding process for our kids, my wife and I also bought rental properties that will someday pay for the tuition of our children. You can certainly pay in to the 529 system, however, when you pay for your kids' college it's gone. With real estate, we'll "pay in" to get the mortgage paid down or off, the passive rental income will pay for the tuition (or the equity if we have to borrow against it) and we'll still own the property after our kids graduate from school. The question how much do we need to save is replaced by... how much would we need per month or per semester coming out of a cash flow producing entity. Just a thought!!
Adam November 14, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Hey Beth, while I don't know the exact numbers, one of the ways we've really jacked up our 529 contributions is by telling relatives when our kids are young that instead of a houseful of toys as Christmas and birthday gifts, we'd prefer they have flush college funds. Our relatives would normally give the kids a CD/DVD or books, and then contribute money to the college fund. Hope it helps!
David Leonard November 15, 2012 at 01:03 AM
Oops, sorry! That's www.iowacollegeaid.gov.


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