Recently I welcomed my first granddaughter into the world, and I’ve been busy doing all the things one does as a grandma: posting cute pictures of the baby on social media; making sure my daughter is rested and hydrated; answering questions about what is “normal” during the first few weeks after a birth; and opening a savings account for the newborn. If that last item gives you pause, it shouldn’t.
Finances are a huge factor in whether or not someone attends college. In one study, 53 percent of the young women surveyed in Utah cited economic reasons as the biggest obstacle in reaching their academic dreams. But it’s not really a matter of wealth; it’s a matter of saving. Interestingly, one of the highest predictors of educational success in our study was if the participant saved money for college — even a small amount — and the younger this starts, the better. In fact, research by the Assets and Education Initiative found that a low- or moderate-income child “who has school savings of $1 to $499 … is about four times more likely to graduate from college.”
Growing up, I literally had a piggy bank, and every time I put money in it, whether a handful of dimes or a wad of babysitting cash, I thought about college. That bank symbolized my future. A frequent theme of family home evening at our house was money management and the need to save. There were seven of us kids and my dad taught seminary and institute for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah and Idaho. You can do the math. This meant that I understood from a young age that part-time jobs and getting good grades were a necessary means to my educational ends. In fact, I grew to love saving money. I found great satisfaction in looking at my savings account register and seeing that tidy sum of money increase over time.
The state of Utah has several programs designed to encourage savings. Last week was “Utah Saves Week,” organized by the Utah Council on Financial and Economic Education, or UCFEE. Its aim is to get people to pledge to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth over time by setting specific, realistic goals, planning and taking action.Comment on this story
Another of my favorites is My529. Former Gov. Olene Walker once shared with me how important it was for parents and grandparents to open My529 accounts in Utah for their children and grandchildren. These accounts are designed to encourage saving for college and are controlled by the account owner, not the beneficiary. She had one for each of her grandchildren and regularly deposited money for their college education. I am following her example with my two grandchildren.
Although I was able to pay for nearly all of my higher education through the years, tuition and other expenses are higher today. It’s more important than ever before that we teach our children to save for college — and age 5 is not too early. And I strongly believe that parents and grandparents should plan ahead and help save money for their kids’ and grandkids’ college as well. We need to help our kids graduate. When we save for the future, we are saving the future.