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How mindful schools help parents achieve their children's goals

The best time to start saving for your child's future is before they are born. This is a commonly ignored advice to parents when the topic on educational planning arises. Mostly parents prioritise expenses on child nurturing based on their current life stage. From year one to three, the top concern revolves around providing them the right nutrition, their regular supply of milk and diapers, and completing their vaccination. Parents save up for their first birthday. While a child is from one to four years old, parents save up for pre-school education. On year six, saving is towards their primary education. The cycle goes on until one reaches the big moment when they start college.

First step: higher education planning; parents must decide goals. Pursuant to my earlier articles, this is worth repeating as this is the ultimate first step in securing a better life for your child.

According to the National Centre for Education Statistics, the average cost of tuition and living cost was about $13,600 at the average public college and over $32,000 at the average private institution in the US in 2011. Even after adjusting for inflation, that's roughly double the cost of a public college in 1980 and triple the cost of a private school. As I write today, the average cost of education in the US for an international school ranges from $25,000 to $70,000 per year. This exponential growth in tuition fees is justified by the expenditure done on research work carried out in the field of education to empower and equip colleges with the latest state-of-the-art research facilities and latest knowledge of subjects. As a responsible parent, we all would like our children to get the best education possible.

While the child is still in school, most of parents are in the growth stage of their careers. Growth brings along increased incomes and hence most of us are able to give our children the best available education based on what we can afford. By the time our children reach college, we will be either at the stagnation or retirement stage in our careers. At this stage, any financial debt liability may not be a wise financial plan. So, ultimately, the bottom line is to save when there is time. The duration that you have to save decides the amount that you need to save per month.

By saving $300 a month from birth, one can save up $100,000 approximately with a humble rate of 4.5 per cent return on investments and $160,000 at 9 per cent returns. What works here is the time at hand. Now, what could be difficult about saving Dh1,000 per month per child? School fees in the UAE are way above Dh1,000 a month for most of the high-ranked schools. Along with the school fees, one can be mindful of saving for future education costs also. In this part of the world where there are almost no fixed return products, one has to be wise and intelligent to know his/her investment options to reach their goals.

So the next burning question is why can't we save enough when we know the right formula? We can credit this to our short-term memories; we also get lured by gold and glitter. Constant reminders to save and save more can surely put some more discipline among savers. How much to save for children is defined and guided by the aspiration. Schools play a major role in defining a student's future and aspiration goals. They build the foundation of aspiration. The quality of education at schools and exposure that children receive there make them the person they become. Fortunately, there are some extremely mindful schools in the UAE that believe in empowering children and their parents by making them aware of their future requirements. These schools introduce children to the saving habits as early as age four or five and even involve parents in the process.

Most of the schools begin their new pre-KG year with an orientation for parents. Orientations are even popular at the time of transition of students from secondary to higher grades. Children go through several physical and emotional changes and so do the parents of growing children and hence schools feel it necessary and important to educate parents with the growing needs and responsibilities of children. Financial goals will need revamping on all such checkpoints to match your aspirations for your children. Orientation helps in bridging the gap between the children and the parents. Thankfully some schools during these orientations rope in some career and university counselors and some even get financial advisors to ensure that parents can rightfully be guided to save and revamp their financial plans to suit their child's future university needs. Schools provide opportunities to educate parents about their future financial needs. This ensures a deserving student gets the college of his choice and money is not the limiting criteria for your child's university selections.

It is not a mandatory part of any curriculum, but if it was made compulsory for every parent to save some amount of money every month as a part of his child's college fund, colleges/universities would seem more affordable. Educators and financial consultants should design a low-cost, high-yield higher education plan that covers the eventualities like death, disability and critical illness of the paying parent so that children can get their share of higher education in all circumstances. Off the counter, insurance products help in filling up the education fees pool, yet the costs are sometimes high. Customised solutions will help committed parents reach their goals easily in all market conditions. Schools are today in a good position to negotiate a reasonable saving and investment product to help parents reach their financial goals on time.

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