10 things you can learn about saving for college from Game of Thrones
What can Jon Snow, Sansa Stark and Tyrion Lannister teach you about planning for college? Find out in this fun Game of Thrones slideshow.
WARNING: Contains spoilers, along with some very useful college savings tips!
"A Lannister always pays his debts"
1. What You Borrow, You Must Pay Back
- If you plan on borrowing to cover college costs, you need to be aware of the consequences of missed payments.
- Delinquencies of at least 90 days will hurt your credit score.
- Default occurs after 270 days of missed payments and can lead to wage garnishing, collections or withholding of tax refunds.
"Theyíre growing fast"
2. Start Saving With a 529 Plan as Early As Possible
- Like dragons, children grow quickly and the time for college will be here before you know it.
- A 529 plan is an investment account, which means the earlier you start saving, the more time you have for compound interest to accrue.
- A family with a newborn baby who starts saving $250 per month will have over $97,572 when itís time for college, but a family who waits until their child is eight years old and makes the same $250 monthly deposits will only be able to save $41,424 (assuming an investment return of 6%).
"It happens in my dreams"
3. We Canít See Into the Future, But There Are Tools to Help Plan For It
- To estimate how much youíll need to save for college, try the Worldís Simplest College Calculator.
- To find out how much the state tax benefits offered by your stateís 529 plan are actually worth, check out the State Tax Calculator.
- If youíre considering taking out student loans, discover the true cost of borrowing with the 529 Savings vs. Loans Calculator.
"It's the family name that lives on"
4. 529 Plans for Estate Planning
- Contributions to a 529 account between $14,000 and $70,000 can be treated as made over a five-year period for gift tax purposes.
- With this strategy, you can significantly reduce the size of your taxable estate while funding a grandchildís college education.
- With a simple beneficiary change, you can pass on leftover funds to future generations, creating an educational legacy for your family.
"The Iron Bank is always glad to be of service"
5. Be Sure to Apply for Financial Aid
- After you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA), the school will determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
- Savings in a 529 account are reported as parental assets on the FAFSA and are assessed at a maximum rate of 5.64%, which is more favorable than a studentís assets, which are assessed at 20%.
- Be sure to review your financial aid package carefully Ė around 38% of awards are given in the form of loans, which need to be paid back.
"We could establish a dynasty that would last a thousand years..."
6. You Donít Have to Be Rich to Start a College Fund
- Many 529 plans offer automatic investment options with minimum monthly contributions as little as $25 a month.
- Earnings in a 529 account grow tax-free over the life of the plan, and withdrawals are not taxed as long as they are spent on qualified education expenses.
- These federal tax advantages, combined with possible state tax deductions, can really help boost modest savings over time.
"He will be a better king than Joffrey"
7. 529 Plans Allow for Beneficiary Changes
- If the original beneficiary is not able to use all of the funds in a 529 account, consider changing the beneficiary to another family member.
- Most 529 plans allow you to change the beneficiary of the plan once per year.
- The account owner will retain control of the account, regardless of the beneficiary change.
"A little lady shouldnít play with swords"
8. 529 Funds Donít Have to Be Used for Traditional College
- If your child heads down a different path from what you originally intended, you might still be able to enjoy the tax benefits of your 529 plan.
- Qualified education expenses include tuition from any eligible post-secondary institution, including trade and vocational schools and international colleges.
- If the child decides to attend a U.S. Military Academy and you need to make a non-qualified withdrawal, the principal portion can be withdrawn tax-free and the earnings portion will avoid the 10% penalty tax and only be subject to income tax.
"Growing up at Winterfell, all I ever wanted to do was escape..."
9. You Donít Have to Use Your Home Stateís Plan
- 529 plans are operated by the states, but you can invest in almost any stateís plan, no matter where you live.
- In most cases, your child will be able to attend college in any state, regardless of the plan you choose.
- However, when shopping for a plan, you should always check your home stateís plan first to see if they offer any tax breaks for residents.
"You know nothing, Jon Snow"
10. Use the Resources Available to Effectively Plan for College
- Get in the know - Savingforcollege.com offers tools like calculators, discussion forums, videos and other content packed with helpful advice on preparing for the costs of higher education.
- You can also research and compare different 529 plans from almost every state.
- If you wish to consult a professional, some financial advisors are very knowledgeable on 529 plans, and can even help with scholarship and financial aid questions.