The baby steps of saving for college

As Craig and Karen Kurtz worked on their taxes last year, they thought about putting away some college money for their baby on the way.

"We talked to our accountant about what were the best options for us to consider," Karen says. "We thought about maybe just a savings account in the beginning."

But after Peter was born, they had more immediate concerns. Between nighttime feedings, changing diapers, and searching for good day care, saving for something 18 years away has had to wait.

"I don't worry about it," Karen says. "If you want your kids to go to college, you just do what you have to do.... The cost of day care in the long run is going to be more than college."

The Kurtzes work for a daily newspaper in Salem, Ore. Married for seven years, they met at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Maybe Peter will follow in their college footsteps. Even better, Craig laughs, on a football scholarship.

But instead of banking on Peter's football talents, they intend to start saving over the next few years.

Financial experts, however, say new parents should start right away. They should invest while their kids are young, says Judy Heltzel, a financial planner in Salem, Ore.

She recommends new parents find a mutual fund and invest for growth. Even a savings account is fine, if they feel uncomfortable with the higher risk of a stock or bond fund.

"The most important thing is to begin saving now, even if it's just a little bit a month," Ms. Heltzel says.

College "costs are so phenomenal now, if you want to get a little accumulated, you want time working for you."

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