Parents may be late, but not too late, to save for college


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By Life Inc.

 If you’re one of those parents who put off saving for college and is now panicking because your kid’s nearing the end of high school, it’s not too late.

But don’t keep procrastinating! It’s time to stop putting it off and act now, advised Sharon Epperson, CNBC’s personal finance expert during a live web chat Wednesday.

Many readers, including a few with upper-middle class salaries, were wondering how to go about footing the hefty bill for college if they didn’t have the funds, or the inclination to have saved for their children’s education when they were still tots.

“I have a son who will be in college in two years,” wrote Jeanne. “We have not saved anything for college. Our home has no equity available. We make roughly $180,000 a year as a couple. We are extremely stressed about how to pay for his college. Where should we start? What is the best way to pay for his college?”

For some, college savings plans and saving in general would still be a good idea, Epperson said.

“You and your son need to devise a plan to pay for his college years together,” she stressed.

“Number one: Ramp up your savings. Both you and your son need to start putting away as much money as you can into a college savings fund.”

And junior? “He should get a part-time job and put the money in a high-yield savings account,” she suggested.

As for a 529 college savings plan, she said,

“Open a 529 savings plan. Even though your son is only two years away from enrollment, this is a good way to earmark the money for college and possibly get a state-tax deduction. The best part: you can take this money out tax free to pay for college. Go to to learn more about 529 plans. Grandparents, godparents, close friends and relatives can open a 529 in your son's name as well.”

Epperson also took on the issue of student debt that’s a burden to so many graduates and parents lately.

“The key in repaying student loans it to choose the right type of repayment plan,” she maintained.

“Calculate your payments over the life of the loan and make sure there is no prepayment penalty in case you change your mind and want to pay more than is due,” she explained. “It's great to be able to defer loan payments while in school to focus on your studies, but paying a small amount each month, say $25, or paying the interest while in school, can shave 10 percent to 20 percent off your total loan cost over the life of the loan.”

You can see the entire Q&A with Epperson here: