In your opinion, what causes overspending?
Overspending is, 100 percent of the time, a choice. It’s a decision. Most of the time it’s linked to immaturity, although there can be other issues at play.
People who habitually overspend are saying that they’re unwilling to act like a mature adult and delay pleasure in order to win with money. This kind of thing is made even worse because we live in a culture fueled by extreme debt marketing. And when things such as credit card offers are constantly in the face of immature people, those two things can combine to make a real mess.
Good question, Kristin!
We have two daughters, and we’ve started thinking about financial planning for college. What are the differences between an Education Savings Account and a 529 plan?
I’m glad you’re thinking ahead and planning for the future. Here’s a quick overview of the two.
The Education Savings Account is limited to $2,000 per year, per child. It has complete flexibility, meaning you can invest it in whatever you like and you can move it — roll it over — to another one if you don’t like that mutual fund, as an example. I use that example because I recommend using good growth stock mutual funds and that you do this for the first $2,000 invested per year.
There are several types of 529 plans, and there’s only one that I would recommend. It’s the kind that has complete flexibility, where you control the investments. Some states have 529 plans that are prepaid tuition, and I never recommend those. You don’t want the state managing anything for you because you won’t get anywhere near the returns you’d get if you managed it yourself. Other types of 529s lock you into a certain kind of investment the whole time, or they move the investment based on the age of your kid. I don’t want anybody doing that. I want you controlling your money.
Most of the 529s vary somewhat from state to state, but the majority have flexibility that allows you to control the investment while contributing up to $10,000 a year. Both those and the ESAs grow completely tax-free on the growth as long as they’re used for higher education. They can also be transferred to a sibling if the kid doesn’t go to school, so a little brother or sister can use the money. If they get scholarships, make sure you keep up with the value of the scholarships. You’ll be allowed to withdraw that amount and refund yourself for the scholarship amount without penalty or taxes on the amount withdrawn.
In short, both ESAs and 529s are fine ways to save for college. Just make sure if you’re doing a 529 that you choose the kind you control from top to bottom.
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