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We are immigrated parents and our daughter will be going to college in 3 years. What's the best option if we want to start saving for her college education? I would like to have an account with high interest rates but given the short period of time (3 years) I'm not sure what I should go with. TIA for your help.

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given your time frame I'm not sure if investing in a 529 is your best option. If you're investing in a 529 you may have to deal with market volatility and the amount you invest over the course of three years could be worth less than what you had initially invested when it comes to your child's college education.

The main idea of starting a plan like a 529 is the time-frame for your investments to grow.

You also have the option of "pre-paying" your child's college, but that has restrictions. Most of the state sponsored pre-pay plans limit you to state schools if that wasn't obvious. Also, the current political situation is tricky, and may influence the cost of education in ~3-4 years, but I'm not sure this is the proper place for that discussion. Also, as far as the viability of these, it depends state-by-state. I live in Illinois and don't think I would count on a payout given our current financial situation. You could, however, look into paying tuition now for a state school and it will be risk free in terms of inflation, but again, it's hard to anticipate the political scope of this. They also have private pre-pay plans, but that would limit your child's university options just as the state pre-pay.

Check out this investopedia article on 529 plans, it's basic but will give you a high level overview.

Bankrate has an overview as well.

  • Thanks for that great information. I had no clue about pre-paying for tuition. Will definitely look into it. – Keith W. Feb 25 '16 at 2:42
  • Also bear in mind that the timeframe is not necessarily three years. Many college courses are four years, so the timeframe is 3 to 6 years or so. Not much of a difference, but better than just 3 years. – Peter K. Mar 26 '16 at 19:56
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I'm not expert here, but a method used by quite a few people I went to school with was to save as much as possible before starting and continue to save as you go.

Better explained, if you are able to save a years worth of tuition, or in a better case, save even more, you can pay as you, or in this case your child, attend(s) classes, and continue to add money to that account. If your child can hold down a part-time job during school, as many college students do, they can even help by saving some money into that account, and it can allow them to exit college free and clear of any loans, or at least mostly clear, should you fall a little short.

It's not the best option, but given a short time frame, it can work, and I've seen it work.

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