Children get off a bus at a school in Dubai. Experts say considering the large sum of money that may be required to fund the children’s education, the key is to start saving early. Image Credit: Atiq ur Rehman/Gulf News Archive

Dubai: To avoid school and college fees taking up a chunk of your monthly salary, experts advise an effective and a realistic plan to save early.

Children’s education is getting expensive, and expenses increase when these children join the university. Zurich recently pegged the lifetime education cost at Dh933,945 per child. In the United Kingdom, for an international student’s undergraduate education, the expenses were pegged at $15,500 (Dh56,885) per year excluding living expenses. In the United States, the an undergraduate course fee is more than $22,000 per year, while in Canada, a similar course costs about $11,400. Living expenses come to another $20,000 per year.

“Without exceptional financial planning assistance, saving to fund your child’s future can come at the expense of your own future, because other important goals such as saving for retirement can fall by the wayside,” Stuart Ritchie, Chartered Financial Planner & Chartered Wealth Manager at AES International told Gulf News over email.

Brendan Dolan from Old Mutual International concurred.

“Most parents want to provide the best for their children and would agree that funding their children’s education is a key financial priority and this is especially the case in the UAE where all expatriate parents need to pay for their children’s education,” Dolan, regional director, Middle East and Africa, for Old Mutual International, said.

Funding education with debt

Experts say getting into debt for finance children’s education may be bad idea even though studies suggest that 64 per cent of the parents would be willing to get into debt to support their children.

Experts say considering the large sum of money that may be required to fund the children’s education, the key is to start saving early.

“You need to spread the cost of investing to fund education over the longest term practicable, and remain disciplined and committed to the plan you create,” Ritchie said.

And these savings should not get in the way of saving for other objectives like buying a property or retirement, among others.

“When considering the best ways to save for a child’s education there are many options available. Many parents may want the security of ring-fencing these savings to ensure future educational needs are safeguarded — in such cases, a trust arrangement may be beneficial, and will ensure the child’s future is provided for in the event of something happening to one or both parents,” Dolan from Old Mutual said.

But despite this, parents tend to finance children’s education from day to day income.

Saving schemes

Ritchie from AES International advises to stay away from contractual savings schemes and plans that are heavily marketed and sold in the international financial marketplace. They are particularly prevalent in Dubai, but many are expensive and ineffective at best.

A long term passive plan may be handy in situation like these.

“In order to get the best returns on any investment you make towards your goal of funding your child’s education, there’s no need for exotic investments, just build a low-cost, flexible portfolio of passive funds, (ETFs), investing in bonds and equities. Make sure you can access your money at any time, in case of a personal emergency for example, with no penalties for doing so,” Ritchie said.

And Dolan from Old Mutual warns of risks.

“The various potential risks should also be taken into account, for example, what if one or both of the parents lose their jobs, have an accident, or dies? Or an unexpected situation may arise when there are competing priorities, such as looking after an elderly relative. Speaking with a financial adviser will help to ensure a robust financial plan is put in place.”