Are you really ready for a new school year?

You've shopped for new clothes, bought their school supplies, enrolled them in after-school activities and arranged the carpool. Congratulations, you're well on your way to starting the new school year on the right track. But what about next year and the years following? If your back-to-school checklist doesn't include a plan for future education needs, you might need to make some additional preparations.

It may seem like college is years away, but waiting to save for those expenses - even for one year - can make a great difference. Children grow quickly, and the cost of a college education is growing at an even faster rate. Today, many of the elite institutions cost upward of $30,000 annually to attend - and those costs are projected to double in 18 years. The sooner you start thinking about future college costs, the more time you'll have to develop and implement a solid education plan.

Creating an education plan will help you determine how much you'll need to save for your family's future education needs. When it's time to implement your plan, there are several options available, including 529 College Savings Plans.

The plans are one of the best ways to save for higher education, since they provide tax-deferred asset accumulation, professional management, flexibility, as well as several other benefits not available in other education saving options. Most 529 plans also offer systematic investment options, allowing you to make regular, automatic contributions and take advantage of compounding and tax-deferred growth.

As you prepare for a new school year, make an appointment to speak to your financial advisor about developing a customized education plan that may help you meet your college-funding goals.

Even if you already have a plan, it is still a good time to meet with your adviser for an annual education review to make sure you are still on the right track.

Whether your child is preparing for kindergarten or studying for the SATs, an education plan should always be a part of your back-to-school checklist.

• For more information on family councils, please call me at 689-8704 or e-mail me at William.a.creekbaum@smithbarney.com.

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