Student loan statistics never cease to disturb. Just in the United States, there are 44 million borrowers with $1.3 trillion in outstanding debt. With that kind of debt burden on new graduates, it's no wonder that many parents want to try and find a way to save for both their children's college expenses and retirement.
It may not be possible for every parent to do that and even those who manage should not expect to save all the money their children need, but they can certainly help reduce the amount their children need to borrow by learning to balance their savings.
Start by Maxing Out Your 401(k)
Borrowing from a 401(k) to fund college costs is a plan that can quickly backfire. With early withdrawal penalties and taxes, it's an expensive option that should probably be avoided. But a saver can make sure to max out their employer matching contribution to increase the amount that's saved toward retiring and reduce their personal savings burden.
Check Out Your State's 529 Plan Options
Planning for college is hard when tuition costs keep rising but in some states, a 529 plan can help by allowing you to prepay tuition costs, locking in today's prices. However, not every state sets up their 529 plans that way. In some states, the plan acts as a normal savings account.
Get Help with Financial Aid
Taking on the entire burden of school costs without looking into financial aid is a huge mistake, especially since about 66 percent of full-time students in the 2014-2015 school year qualified for some financial aid. Have your child work with the school's financial aid counselors to determine which programs, grants and scholarships they might qualify for.
Automate Savings Deposits
Planning to save money and really saving it are two different things. One way to ensure you actually save for both your retirement and your kids' tuition is by automating your savings deposits. In addition to automating your 401(k) through work, you can automate transfers from your checking account to your kids' tuition funds and your IRAs every week or month. There are also some bank programs and apps that can allow you to regularly save $1 with every debit card purchase or save the change difference between your sales totals and the next rounded up dollar.
Open an IRA
Every year, you can deposit a good chunk into an individual (non-employer) retirement account called an IRA. You can choose between a tax-deferred Traditional IRA or a tax-free Roth IRA. If you're in a high tax-bracket now, the Traditional IRA can help you reduce your tax burden, which may leave you with more cash to save toward your dual goals. Choosing a Roth means you can take tax-free distributions later on which reduces the amount you need to have saved.
Even if you can't fully fund your kids' tuition costs, the savings you amass can reduce the number of loans they need, putting both you and your child in a much more secure and comfortable financial position during your future golden years.