MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Outside of buying a house, college may be the biggest expense many of us have.

Actually, as the cost of tuition and expenses continues to rise, four years of college might be more expensive than buying a house.

So how should you save for your child’s college education?

“Start early,” said Mary Adamski, senior vice president at RBC Wealth Management in Edina.

First off, Adamski had to make a number of assumptions to answer this question. She started with the current average 4-year costs for college. Public school is $22,261 a year; private school is $43,289 a year.

She set the inflation cost for college at 5 percent, which she says is higher than regular inflation. She also set the average return on the money invested at 6 percent.

For a private school, she said that 18 years from now we’re talking $446,000. That’s the amount of money that you’d need to pay for 4-years of private college.

“I now I don’t want that to be overwhelming,” she said, “It’s manageable, it’s manageable.”

For a public school, you’d need to save up $230,910.

Break it down by month, and you’d need to save about $1,000 a month for private school, and $500 for in-state public school tuition.

“The sooner you plan the better off you are,” Adamski said.

Most of her clients put their money into 529 education savings plans, which is best when you apply for financial aid.

“The 529 counts as the parent’s asset, not the child’s. In that weighting it’s a better place to have the savings,” she said.

The income you earn in a 529 is tax-deferred, as long as you use the money for post-secondary education – college, technical school or graduate school.

“You can save small portions. You can have it, it can happen and it can work,” Adamski said.

If you started saving when your child was 10, and only had eight years until college, you’d need to save about $1,000 a month to have enough to pay for 4 years of in-state public college, according to Adamski. You’d need to save $2,000 a month for a private school.

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