Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Ask a Fool: Isn't Investing My Kids' College Savings in the Stock Market Too Risky?

By Matthew Frankel, CFP® - Sep 21, 2018 at 12:00PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Here's the right way to approach college savings and risk.

Q: I've heard that any money I need for a specific expense doesn't belong in the stock market. By that logic, isn't it a bad idea to invest the money I've saved for my kids' college education?

You aren't alone in your reluctance to invest college savings. According to a report by Sallie Mae, 30% of parents choose to stash their college savings in a savings or checking account earning little or no interest.

You're absolutely correct that you shouldn't invest money you need for a specific expense. However, that common recommendation applies mainly to near-term expenses.

My suggestion is to approach college saving in a similar way to saving for your own retirement. While your child is more than a decade away from college, you have time to ride out the market's ups and downs, and therefore can take on a bit more risk.

For example, my daughter is 15 years away from college, so her college savings account is invested in a relatively aggressive portfolio. While it's certainly possible, it's highly unlikely (based on historical performance) for stocks to produce negative returns over a 15-year period.

On the other hand, just as you should do as retirement gets closer, as your child gets closer to college age, their portfolio should gradually shift to a more conservative fixed-income or even cash-based portfolio. If you save for college in a 529 savings plan, there are typically investment options available that will do this gradual reallocation for you.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning service.

Stock Advisor Returns
345%
 
S&P 500 Returns
119%

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 05/16/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.