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Should College Savings Be in a Parent or Child’s Name?

Question: When saving for college, is it better to have money in the child’s name or a parent’s name? How does this affect financial aid?

Tina Aldrich, Holden, Mo.

Answer: It’s never a bad idea to get kids involved in their own college savings. But it’s worth noting that most custodial accounts (those managed by an adult for a minor) are considered assets of the child. And even though there are small tax savings that come with having money in Junior’s name, the financial-aid formula generally offers more protection for parent-held savings, says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org, a financial-aid information site. For instance, a smaller percentage of parental assets can be tapped for college costs, while some funds, such as retirement plans, aren’t included in the financial-aid calculation at all.

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