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It’s just been the two of you for so long. You have careers. You bought the house. You’re doing pretty well for yourselves. Now you’re onto the next step: having a baby. First off, congratulations! Now, this is no time to be complacent in terms of savings. Yes, you’ll want to contribute to a liquid savings account, because, let’s face it, babies bring with them unexpected expenses. However, it’s not too early to start saving for your child’s college – even though she’s still in diapers.

Take a look at the numbers: two decades from now, tuition is expected to grow to $68,471 for one year, or a total of nearly $300,000 on a four-year program, says CNBC. For ONE child.

Here’s how you can start saving now:

Pre-Paid College Plan

Your state may offer pre-paid college tuition plans, such as UPromise, if you plan on having your child attend an in-state school. Earn as much as 10 percent cash back on college savings when you make qualified purchases that relate to higher education.

529 College Savings Plans

This type of investment account is designed so you can set aside money for your child’s education, with the ability to grow tax-free. When it comes time to withdraw before they enter college, you won’t have to pay taxes on it provided you use it for higher education. There’s a lifetime maximum contribution of up to $300,000, depending on which state you live in. You can kickstart an account with as little as $25. Later, when you have a substantial fund at college time, use it to pay for an accredited college or university in this country.

Roth IRA

There are two types to select from: traditional IRA and Roth IRA. Both are investment accounts that allow you to save money for retirement or college while avoiding those worrisome tax pitfalls. You have two more choices: deductible and nondeductible. A   traditional deductible IRA depends on your income and availability of a company retirement plan. Your annual contributions are tax deductible, but you will pay taxes on the contributions and earnings when you withdraw later on.

A Roth IRA means your contributions are not tax deductible; however, there are tax-free earnings you can take advantage of if you withdraw after the required five-year holding period has passed. You need to apply that money toward qualified expenses like tuition and books.

Mutual Funds

Don’t like how aggressive stocks are? No problem. Try the less volatile mutual funds, sticking to ones that have three- to five-year track records for low expenses. Set automatic withdrawals for contributions right from your paycheck. Asset allocations are based on the age of your child. A good rule of thumb at any age is to diversify. Don’t rely on one type for college savings and become the victim of fraud – just another reason you should know a qualified securities lawyer!

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