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Middle-Class Families Shrink Their College Fund Contributions

Income

(Bloomberg) – Fewer parents are finding the money to save for their kids’ college. And those who are saving, are saving less. After a 30 percent jump in the level of average savings for 2013, the day-to-day cost of living, combined with lower earnings and unexpected expenses, helped push the amount parents have saved for their kids’ college down 25 percent in 2014, according to a new survey. The average savings level of $10,040 is the lowest in three years.

Parents still value college as much as ever, according to a report released on Wednesday by Sallie Mae. Many still couldn’t match 2013’s savings. The share of middle-class families that saved for college dropped to 46 percent, from 51 percent, the first time in the survey’s five-year history that it fell below 50 percent. Among the income groups broken out, middle-class households also had the highest share saying they’d cut back on household expenses to add to savings in the past year, at 27 percent. (Middle-class families are defined in the survey as having between $35,000 and $100,000 in income.)

On a more positive note, single-parent families are saving a surprising amount, and even saving more than multiparent families. Single parents have put away an average $11,868 for their children’s college costs, compared with $10,341 for parents who live together.

When choosing how to save, about half of all families rely on basic savings accounts, which, as anyone with a savings account knows, yield next to nothing. And 32 percent of lower-income families use checking accounts. These are dangerous places for would-be savers to plunk money, because they’re easy to tap.

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