One Way to Save for College
What is a 529 plan? I have heard people talking about it as a good way to save for children’s college education. – Thinking Ahead
A 529 plan is a great way to save for your children’s education. Grandparents, relatives, even friends can all contribute to this savings tool. There are two types of 529 plans: prepaid tuition plans and savings plans. The prepaid plans let you pay at today’s rates for future tuition. For example, if you buy a year’s tuition now at a state college, it will pay for a year’s tuition when your child is in college, even if the tuition rate has doubled. Typically, college savings plans build by investing in mutual funds.
Every state has a 529 plan. However, not all offer both types of plans. Prepaid plans are administered by both states and other organizations; however, savings plans are only administered by states.
You definitely should investigate 529 plans, as all withdrawals are exempt from federal taxes, and many are exempt from state taxes. You can purchase plans from any state. However, your own state plan may offer the advantage of matching grants and scholarships as well as exemption from state financial aid calculations.
Before choosing a 529 plan, it’s important to do considerable research. You especially need to know the advantages and disadvantages of each plan. Be sure to study carefully the tax implications of both plans. You can find ratings of the various state savings plans at several websites, including finaid.org and collegesavings.org.
Is My Child Reading on Grade Level?
How can I tell if my child is really reading on grade level? Everything seems to be going along all right for him in third grade. – Curious
First of all, your child’s report card should indicate if he is reading on grade level. It will also tell you how well he is reading on grade level. A visit to your child’s classroom during reading time will give you an added picture of how well he is doing compared to his classmates. Plus, a chat with his teacher should make it clear to you how well he is reading.
You can do an informal reading test by having him read a passage of a current assignment in a grade level reader. If he doesn’t make more than five errors per 100 words, you can be fairly confident that he’s reading on grade level. You can also find out if his reading skills are developing appropriately by visiting the Reading Rockets website (readingrockets.org/article/162). This site also has information on other grade levels.
Finally, one more important determiner of his reading skills is if he truly enjoys reading. Should you find your child frequently with his nose in a book, things are probably fine.
Incidentally, you are right to be concerned about whether or not your third-grader is reading on grade level. Children who are not reading on grade level at the end of this year are likely to face considerable difficulty in school in fourth grade and beyond when reading shifts to reading for learning content area material.
If, after evaluating your child, he does appear to be behind or struggling, look into hiring a tutor or asking the teacher if he can have one-on-one time with a reading specialist at your school. Practice reading with him at home in a relaxed environment. Just be sure to address poor reading skills now. Being a strong reader is very important to your child’s academic future.
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