How to Talk to your Ex about Starting a College Savings Plan for your Child

Even if your child is in diapers, it is a good time to begin considering how he or she will be financing college. Tuition costs for higher education are steadily increasing, and the recession has also slowed down state funding for scholarships. Many of today’s graduates are financing their education through loans, which is putting a substantial burden on their lives and delaying their ability to begin making major purchases and achieving milestones in their lives.

Most likely, financing college is a subject that you and your ex-husband will need to consider together. Try to keep the conversations as simple as possible, and do not rely on him for research or allow him to influence your initial opinion. (Feel free to contact a financial advisor if you have questions.) Once you’ve made your decision, print your research and put it inside a manila envelope. If your ex is rarely in the area, give him a call before sending him the research. Otherwise, hand him the envelope and explain the contents at the next pick-up date.

Give him the facts and stick to the data. Approach him as a business associate, and avoid any “I think” or “I feel” remarks. These emphatic phrases could potentially lead your ex to dismiss this as a personal opinion, not a well-researched plan.

For example,
“I was reading an article in the New York Times about the increasing cost of tuition. I kept researching, and I discovered that finances are a huge issue for students right now. It looks like it’s not getting any cheaper or any easier for kids to pay for college, so I started researching some savings options. I included the one that will work the best for me, but if you have any ideas, I’d be open to your suggestions.”

As opposed to,

“I think it’s time we start saving for our child’s college. I mean, I know we have years, but it’s just so expensive, and if we get a jump on it, we could be more prepared down the road. Could you read over this and tell me what you think?”

Now, if you have a great relationship with your ex, there is nothing wrong with the second option. This is how we approach friends and family – those we trust to support us. However, if your ex is still resentful, disrespectful or irrational, your best bet is to avoid asking him for anything or giving him the opportunity to turn you down.

Be prepared for the possibility that he may be unwilling or unable to contribute. Your job is to pitch and sell the plan. You are the authority in your child’s future, so you can feel confident in your approach and management of the situation. However, if your ex is willing to contribute, you will gain a partnership, which will mean opening up to new ideas and opinions. You and your ex can always visit a financial advisor together, but remember to keep a professional attitude.

Before visiting an advisor, determine how much each of you will be willing to contribute. Any negative emotions, such as resentment or jealousy, about finances are better to be encountered privately. If you think he is contributing too little, let him know what percentage you are spending on your child’s present and future. List your expenses, and simply ask him, “Would you be willing to contribute more?”

Do the math to let him know how much you could save for tuition and expenses if both of you paid the same percentage.

If he answers, “No,” accept it and move on. Remember, this is business. Disrespect and bad blood gets you nowhere in business. You can always revisit the topic later.

Know the ins and outs of the policies that you are considering. Some will allow the beneficiary direct access to funds. Some allow only the parents to have control. Many have fees. When you meet with a financial advisor, come prepared with questions on your policy of choice.

Lauren Bailey is a freelance blogger who loves writing about education, new technology, lifestyle and health. As an education writer, she works to provide helpful information, pointers, and the most recent online college news for students looking into online degrees. Lauren welcomes comments and questions via email at blauren 99