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Many people are on a tight budget and don’t save as much as they should for retirement. If you have children and you want to save for their education, things can get even trickier. Here are some tips to help you prioritize and accumulate enough savings.

Make Logical Decisions
You have likely heard stories about recent college graduates who are overwhelmed with student loan debt and don’t want your own kids to wind up in the same boat. That’s completely understandable, but don’t let those feelings cause you to focus so much on saving for your kids’ future that you neglect to prepare for your own.

Your kids can choose from a wide array of colleges and majors. They can start off at less expensive schools to save money and transfer to more expensive institutions later. They can receive grants and scholarships, take out loans and work during the school year and vacations to pay for their education.

You will have far fewer options to cover your retirement costs. If you’re older and not in good health, you probably won’t be able to work full-time and you may have expensive medical bills. You won’t be able to take out loans to cover all your expenses and you don’t want your kids to shoulder the burden of supporting you financially.

If you need to save for retirement and you also want to set aside money for your children’s education, it’s important to make decisions based on logic, rather than emotion. Focus on saving for your own future before saving for your children’s. This isn’t selfish; it’s realistic and practical.

Retirement and College Savings Strategies
If your employer offers a 401(k) or another retirement plan with a match, contribute as much as you can. Any match you receive is essentially free money, so try to contribute enough to get the full match. Whether your employer offers a retirement plan or not, you can also open a Traditional or Roth IRA. Explore the tax implications of each to decide which would make more sense given your financial circumstances.

You can also open a 529 college savings plan for each of your children. Depending on where you live, you may enjoy significant tax advantages. The sooner you start saving, the more time the money will have to grow. You can contribute money yourself and encourage family members to make contributions to the accounts instead of giving your children money for birthdays and holidays. Even small amounts can add up over time.

Seek Professional Advice
Saving for retirement and for your children’s college education are both important goals, but with limited funds, you will need to set priorities. Focus on your own retirement first and then save as much as you can for your children’s education. If you need help deciding which plans would be best for your family and figuring out how to fit long-term savings into your monthly budget, talk to a financial advisor.

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