ST. LOUIS — Just about the time John and Lori Mazzone got their three children out of diapers, they decided to start making tuition payments.
Five years ago, the Ohio couple read about their state's prepaid tuition plan in the local newspaper. With twin daughters born just one year after their son, the Mazzones decided they better start saving for college - "before we turn around and find out it's too late," Lori says.
Their son, Nicholas, is now 8 and twins Jessica and Christine are 7. "We figure that if we continue at the rate we're going now, by the time they each reach 16, we'll have accumulated four years worth of prepaid college for each," Lori says.
Unlike some state plans that simply offer lump-sum or installment payments, the Ohio program sells individual "units" of tuition. So families can purchase tuition at whatever pace they choose.
The Mazzones made large bulk purchases - a year or more of tuition - for each child about five years ago to get the ball rolling.
"Then we kind of fell off the program for awhile," Lori says. "We just got caught up in life and all the expenses of young children."
About a year ago, they began regular monthly purchases: $43, or one unit of tuition, for each child.
The plan makes sense for them, Lori says, because it was a "safe, secure, easy way to save."
The appeal was definitely peace of mind. "You can just make your purchase, and then you don't have to worry about it anymore," she says. "We didn't have to go out and come up with our own portfolio or anything like that." Neither she nor her husband wanted to learn about investing in the stock market.
The Mazzones went to college in West Virginia and say they wouldn't mind seeing their children attend school there. And that's possible, since the Ohio plan will pay the funds to any college their children choose.
The Mazzones like the "safeguard" of having their money locked in for tuition. "Sometimes there's that thought that you'd rather buy a new house or take a vacation." Lori says. "If the money is immediately available, you may pull it out without thinking."
Sure, she's heard the argument that they could do better investing in mutual funds. "It's the same way with any type of savings. Things can fluctuate, but in the long run, it will stabilize and work for you."