Saving enough for college expenses, like saving enough for retirement, is one of the top financial concerns for many investors. Both goals require many years of discipline and compounding returns to achieve.

With those long-term challenges in mind, we asked Motley Fool contributors to highlight some attractive stocks that could help an investor accumulate funds. Read on to see why (CRM -0.61%)TJX Companies (TJX -0.78%), and NIO (NIO -3.70%) topped that list.

A recent grad hugs his parents.

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Your kids will use this software company

Nicholas Rossolillo (Salesforce): Just as personal computing and mobile computing have shaped the world we live in and enriched investors along the way, enterprise software for businesses and organizations is in process of doing the same. Leading the charge is early cloud computing adopter and customer data champion Salesforce.

Once a specialist in customer relationship management (CRM) software, Salesforce has rapidly expanded over the last decade into all sorts of solutions for businesses. The company now reports four separate segments: sales, service, marketing, and other (which includes its data integration capabilities, which it jump-started with the MuleSoft acquisition last year). Though Salesforce is now a $121 billion juggernaut, its combined suite of software is still growing by double digits. In 2018 revenues increased 26% year over year.

Always on the offensive, Salesforce's management has no intention of slowing down anytime soon. Excluding acquisition of smaller peers -- at which Salesforce is prolific -- full-year 2019 revenues are expected to grow at least 20%. By fiscal year 2023 (which corresponds with the 2022 calendar year), the executive team expects revenues to be double what they were in 2018 without the help of any takeovers. Ambitious numbers, but nonetheless achievable given the momentum at the back of the suite of services. 

This enterprise software company has already woven itself into the fabric of many businesses' operations, and it looks as if that dominance will only continue. When your kids grow up, there's a good chance a Salesforce product will be an integral part of their workday. In the meantime, owning Salesforce stock could help pay for their future tuition.

On-target returns through off-price retailing

Demitri Kalogeropoulos (TJX Companies): Retailing trends come and go, but consumers always love getting a deal. That helps explain why off-price specialist TJX Companies, which owns TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Home Goods, is such an attractive stock to buy and hold.

The retailer recently closed out its 23rd consecutive year of positive sales growth in a streak that peers like Target and Walmart can't match. Its flexible and constantly rotating inventory offering is just one of many reasons TJX Companies can keep customer traffic rising through all but the worst industry conditions.

Two women shop for clothes.

Image source: Getty Images.

The retailer is facing a few challenges right now, including rising labor and supply chain costs. It doesn't yet have a big presence online, either, although management believes its treasure-hunt atmosphere helps insulate it from e-commerce disruption. That approach also means TJX Companies can add hundreds of new locations to its global base each year as it works toward its goal of over 6,000 stores -- up from 4,300 in late 2018. Even better, investors can collect a robust dividend while they watch the progress toward that ambitious target. TJX Companies has hiked its payout in each of the last 23 years and is just two increases away from membership in the exclusive Dividend Aristocrat club.

Driving the future

Daniel Miller (NIO, Inc.): If you're looking for stocks that can help send your kids to college, you'll want to find a company solving problems and riding long-term trends. One company doing exactly that is NIO, whose Chinese name, Weilai, translates to "blue sky coming." NIO is a leader in China's premium electric vehicle industry that can help solve the country's severe pollution problem as fleets of combustion engine automobiles are replaced with electric vehicles.

NIO investors have had a rough go recently: The stock dropped 47% in March alone after weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings and the government's decision to cut subsidies for electric vehicle buyers. You could argue that while cutting subsidies could hinder near-term demand for electric vehicles, it will force NIO, and other Chinese companies, to innovate technologies faster -- and that's good for long-term investors. Also, in the grand scheme of things, as NIO and other automakers try to significantly reduce pollution and increase sales of electric vehicles, this fourth-quarter result will be long forgotten, even if it was a painful decline in March.

Enough doom and gloom; let's look at a couple of reasons investors should be excited about the future. First, NIO's CEO had an interview on 60 Minutes in late February that brought the company much attention and was well received. Also, in February NIO was named to Fast Company's annual list of the world's most innovative companies for 2019, giving more credibility to its innovative culture and brand image. And we can't forget that NIO's launching its ES6 SUV this year, and it looks to be a compelling five-passenger, upscale vehicle. 

Management has admitted that 2019 will be tougher for the company, but if NIO continues to design and manufacture premium electric vehicles that draw consumers and continues to build its already-impressive brand image in China, investors have an opportunity to buy an intriguing stock for the long haul. If NIO remains an electric vehicle leader and can take advantage of a surge in electric vehicle sales in the coming decades, it's certainly a stock capable of helping send your kids to college.