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How late is too late to start saving for your child's higher education?

By GARY LIBERATORE

Jessica Cuozzo of Wantaugh, NY down on Long Island is about to finish up her first year at SUNYIT in Marcy.

Cuozzo says the school is worth every penny, and every penny of it, besides the grants she earned, she will be paying back in the form of students loans, "I am actually paying for school myself. So I have a ton of loans."

Cuozzo is definitely not alone.

David Griffith, President and C.E.O. of M. Griffith Investments in New Hartford says he has conversations with clients who are parents, basically on a daily basis about starting to save for college as early as possible.

"It's time rather than timing," Griffith said. "So if you start early and you're regular and you keep depositing, it's going to add up."

One thing Griffith wants all parents to know is, there is a college savings plan here in New York State you can sign up for, as soon as your baby has a social security number.

"When a newborn is released from the hospital, they have to have a Social Security Number and you can't establish an account in a child's name without a social security number,' he said.

That program is the New York State 529 program which Griffith says can be a huge help for parents, "If you utilize it, the gain from the investment over the years is never taxed when the funds are removed to pay for a college education."

Griffith says on top of that, you can also get a deduction in your state income tax in each year you contribute, and adds it's a good idea to sit down face to face with a financial advisor to come up with a savings plan.

He also points his clients to a website called www.savingforcollege.com where parents can get a lot of information, not only about the 529 program, but just what parents can expect in general.

Hannah Applebaum from Brockport, NY is also finishing up her first year at SUNYIT. However, unlike her classmate Jessica Cuozza, she won't have a single student to pay off when she graduates.

"All of my family members kind of saved up for me," she said. "I was the first one to go to college in my family, and grandma really helped. She's paying for more than half."

Griffith says Applebaum's family is becoming the norm. He says it's takes a village to raise a child and that may include the help of grandparents when it comes to saving for college, especially when it comes to contributing to the 529 program.

"Many times, the grandparents are financially in a much better position to make that contribution than are the parents themselves," Griffith said.

Finally, Griffith says when it comes to saving, if you don't start early, you are definitely not going to be in a tough position to help your child or children pay for college.

He says there really is a time when it becomes a little too late to start saving in the state's 529 program.

"Usually I tell clients that if you're within three years, you might as well just, it really isn't worth doing it that time, in a 529," he said. "So by the time kids are in High School, it's almost too late."

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