Updated on March 10, 2008.
Click here to see the worksheet below
FIRST, THE BAD NEWS: If you have dreams of sending your newborn child to Harvard, you'll have to raise a small fortune to foot the bill. Now, the good news: Thanks to 529 plans, saving for college is easier than ever. (And, thankfully, most schools don't come with the hefty price tag of the tony Ivy league.) Of course, even with a 529 plan's tax-free savings, you're going to have to come up with a savings plan early — and stick to it for many, many years.
Our worksheet will help you do it. Based on how much you've already saved, the rate you expect your savings to grow and how quickly you expect college costs to rise, we'll tell you how much you should be socking away on a monthly basis. Be warned: The figure may frighten you. But before the panic truly sets in, realize that if you do come up short, there are ways to fill in the gap, like student loans.
This calculator assumes your college-savings fund is invested in a 529 college-savings plan — not a prepaid-tuition plan. (Click here if you don't know the difference.) We believe 529 plans are the best way to save for college, since they offer tax-free withdrawals. This means that while you have to save a staggering amount, it's still significantly less than you'd need to save in a taxable account. Click here to see what we mean.