How to complain and save for your children's future

How to complain and save for your children’s future

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Welcome to NerdWallet’s Smart Money podcast, where we answer your questions about real-world money.

This week’s episode begins with a discussion with Liz Weston about her column “How to Complain and Get Results”.

Then we move on to this week’s money question. from Katie, who emailed us: “I want to start saving for my young son. I have considered an education savings account, but I am concerned that if you do not choose college there will be a penalty. What advice do you have on preparing your children for financial success and independence (when you don’t have a lot of money to invest)?

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Our take on complaining to get results

Smart Money co-host and NerdWallet columnist Liz Weston recently wrote about filing a customer service complaint and getting results. First, Liz recommends preparing yourself mentally and physically for the interaction. She accepts that dealing with customer service can be frustrating and time consuming, and collects relevant information, such as confirmation numbers and warranty information, to keep on hand.

Businesses have multiple avenues for consumers to file complaints, including through social media, over the phone, or with a chatbot. Choose the method of communication that works best for you and the nature of your complaint. Liz also offers tips for dealing with customer service representatives. When she finally gets in contact with one, clearly explain the problem and how you would like it resolved, and be friendly. It may help you get what you want.

Our take on saving for college

Parents have a menu of options that can help them save for their children’s education. Also, these savings vehicles are not mutually exclusive, so if you want, you can open multiple accounts that can be used to pay for educational expenses.

One of the most popular education savings accounts is the 529 plan. Withdrawals are tax-free when used for eligible expenses, and there is some flexibility in how the funds can be spent. If your child does not attend a four-year college or university, the money in the 529 plan can be used to pay for vocational school or another family member’s education.

Parents can also deposit money into a high-yield savings account, certificate of deposit, or savings bond. If you open a CD or bond, familiarize yourself with the penalties for early withdrawals. A Roth IRA is another option for parents of children with earned income. Its name indicates that it’s a retirement account, and it is, but earnings from the Roth IRA can be used to pay for qualified educational expenses. Plus, those earnings can be withdrawn without incurring a tax penalty.

Our advice

  • Know your options: Choose a savings account, such as a 529 savings account or Roth IRA, and try to deposit money into it regularly.
  • Make this a learning opportunity: Talk to your child about how he is saving and why it is important.
  • Be flexible: Investigate your options for early withdrawals or beneficiary changes if your circumstances change.

Do you have a money question? Send us a text or call us at 901-730-6373. Or you can send us an email at To listen to previous episodes, go to the podcast landing page.

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