Yes, You Can Save for College!

Beyond 529s

Not convinced a traditional college plan is the right move? Try these out-of-the-box alternatives.

Open a Roth IRA

This retirement plan lets you contribute up to $5,000 in after-tax dollars annually, and the money grows tax-free. You can't touch the earnings till age 591/2, but you can withdraw the principal when that first tuition bill arrives.

Pay off your mortgage

If you can afford higher monthly payments, refinance to a 15-year mortgage. It'll let you own your home out-right by the time your child goes to college. Then write a monthly check for tuition instead of one to the bank.

Buy universallife insurance

This policy doubles as an investment: A portion of your premium goes to tax-deferred holdings. When it's time for college you can withdraw contributions, reduce coverage, or borrow against your plan.

Invest in a state municipal bond fund

These funds are averaging a 4 to 6 percent return, and as long as you pick one that buys bonds in the state of your residence, it's tax-free too. Plus, you can use the money as you please.

Originally published in the June 2010 issue of Parents magazine.

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