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Saving for College Calculator Guide

Putting money away for school for yourself or a future student? If so, having a goal or estimate of how much you need to save is helpful. If you haven’t started saving yet, it is never too late to begin. Even small savings today are better than no savings at all.

This article will serve as a guide for our college savings tool. Remember this is simply for estimation purposes only. Use your results carefully and make sure to read the terminology carefully.

Getting Started

  1. First, review some basic terminology below to understand what information is required for accurate results.
  2. Once you’re comfortable, check out our calculator to estimate how much you need to save to meet college costs.
  3. You can modify your monthly contribution amount to see how much your savings can compound and grow over time. Also, you can modify your savings interest rate to see how different types of investments could perform.

Calculator Terminology

  • Total Savings for College
    • Total amount of money for total college costs (including tuition and other expenses). This is not a year by year estimate. Estimate the full cost of the four or two years.
      • Ex: $25,000 for 4 years (including room and board and living expenses).
  • My Current Savings
    • Amount of money you currently have saved.
      • Ex: $10,570 saved so far in a checking account that will be invested.
        • Also, for your savings make sure to include any confirmed scholarships, grants or other familial assistance that will offset costs.
  • Savings Interest Rate
    • Is the money being kept in a traditional savings or checking account? If so, a typical interest rate will be between 1-3% APY. But if the savings funds are kept in an investment account, like a 529 Savings Plan or Roth IRA, it is possible to see greater returns per year. It will depend on market performance, but it is possible interest rates could be 5% or more per year — or lower in the event of a financial downturn.
      • Ex: 529 Savings Plan @ 5% APY.
  • Additional Amount I Save Each Month
    • Amount of money you intend to save and put into above account each month. The more you can contribute, the more interest you will accumulate and compound to reach your savings goal faster.
      • Ex: $250 per month.
  • Number of Years Until College
    • If you plan to enroll in school (whether undergraduate, graduate or other) simply enter the number of years until you plan to enroll.
      • Ex: 6 years.

Hypothetical Saving Example #1

Using the information above, here is my sample savings plan from the calculator:

Shows a sample college savings plan
Success!

According to the calculator, I met my savings goal. To play devil’s advocate here, this calculator does not currently account for future tuition increases. Still, I will be roughly $10,000 above my goal amount which should account for any tuition increases within a three year period.

Remember, this is only a ball-park estimate for school costs. This is why it is so important to make sure you increase your monthly contributions over time or find a higher-yield investment account.

Hypothetical Savings Example #2

Same information as above, except attending school in three years as opposed to six years. In other words, saving later as opposed to earlier.

Hmm. May need to save earlier or more per month to hit my goal.

Instead of saving for six years, three years doesn’t quite get me to my goal. I fell $3,034.90 short of the $25,000 target. Again, this stresses the importance of starting as soon as you can and making savings a habit.

Now try the college savings calculator on your own.

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