One of the most common financial goals that couples have is to save money for their children’s education, whether that be at a private school or a tertiary institution. Saving for this purpose is no different than saving for any other goal in life, yet there is a common misperception that funds need to be set aside separately or even in the child’s name for this purpose. That can lead to a lower rate of investment return in some cases.
If you are going to save for your children’s education, then you’re probably looking at saving tens of thousands of dollars and it will take a number of years to get to that target.
That means starting when the child is young – in fact, probably at the preschool age. Anybody with preschoolers most probably has a mortgage. With mortgage interest rates being so high, the best place to put your money is into your mortgage to keep the interest payments down. If, for example, you are paying say 7.0% interest on your mortgage you would need to earn at least 7.0% after tax on an investment to make it worthwhile investing and not paying your mortgage. So pay off your debt as fast as you can, and then remortgage later if your still really want to help your kids. If you have grandchildren that you wish to provide for, the situation may be a little different. You probably won’t have a mortgage and you may wish to make funds available that are clearly earmarked for your grandchildren and clearly specified to be used only for education costs. A good way of achieving these objectives is to set up an education trust. This can be done through a solicitor or trustee company. There will be a fee involved to establish and maintain the trust, but there will be safeguards in place to ensure that the funds are used for the purpose you intend. An education trust can be particularly useful in certain situations, for example, where there is a relationship breakdown between parents and a parent or grandparent wishes to make funds available without the risk of the money being used for a different purpose. An education trust can also be used where funds might be at risk of a possible future claim by business creditors.
There are specialist funds available that offer educational scholarships. The idea is that you contribute a regular amount into the fund and, if your child attends a tertiary institution there is a scholarship payable. Such funds need to be looked at carefully in terms of the likelihood of your child attending a tertiary institution and, in the event they do, the value of the scholarship in relation to the funds invested.