Saving for college has become an increasing concern for many families — and it's not just affecting parents. A Fidelity Investments survey found that rising education costs are a major worry for high school seniors as well, a sign that advisers can be an important part of including children in the conversation around college savings and building a sound financial plan.
Fidelity, a provider of section 529 college-savings plans, last week announced the results of its second annual study, College Bound and Cost Conscious: A Survey of High School Seniors. The study revealed that with college tuition rates increasing 5.4% per year, and the average total cost of a four-year public or private school reaching $124,600, high school seniors are more concerned than ever about financing their education.
In fact, 69% of seniors report that saving for college is "too overwhelming," Fidelity reported in a press release. Nonetheless, with the job market becoming more competitive and high unemployment rates for Americans without a college degree, 80% of seniors believe a college education is a minimum requirement for a decent job, up from 74% in 2009.
"High school seniors recognize the critical difference a college degree can have on their future, yet college costs are weighing heavily on their minds," said Joe Ciccariello, vice president, Fidelity personal and workplace investing. "This highlights how important it is for families to save early and regularly in a dedicated account and to make sure they get the guidance they need around financing their child's college education."
Thirty percent of seniors that took part in the survey ranked paying for college as their top concern, explained Jeff Troutman, vice president, Fidelity Investments Institutional Services Co. Inc., in a phone conversation Tuesday. Yet many parents, Troutman points out, do not know how to have that conversation with their children. That's where an adviser can come in.
For advisers, the key message is to help families start saving early, create a financial plan and engage their children early in the planning process. Instead of expecting parents to talk to their children separately, have the conversation with the parents and children in the room at the same time.
Troutman encourages families to have a conversation with children as young as six years old. Talking about financial literacy teaches kids to plan ahead for major life goals and instills the mental discipline it takes to manage finances, he said.
"Then families can focus on evaluating colleges based on critical factors like academic profile and personal fit versus strictly affordability."