Practicing what we preach

Posted by on December 17, 2012 @ 10:00 am in college

Anybody can give good advice. But taking the advice we give to others? That’s sometimes easier said than done.

For example, I could probably write the definitive guide to diet and exercise. It would be informative and inspiring, full of simple, fool-proof tips on how to eat better and live healthier. It might even sell millions of copies … as long as the publisher didn’t put my photo on the cover.

As a Vanguard crew member, I’d like to think I’m better at “practicing what I preach” when it comes to money. My wife and I do our best to spend less than we earn, save and invest diligently, keep debts under control, pay attention to expenses, and stay focused on long-term goals.

One year ago, all of that got a little complicated.

The birth of our first child heralded a multitude of financial challenges. We had less money coming in, and more going out. So, in true Vanguard style, we slashed our discretionary spending—much less dining out; goodbye premium cable channels; sayonara to a vacation in Japan. I even sold my car and started carpooling. So far, I’m pleased to say the results have been good, and we haven’t lost too much sleep over our finances. (Late-night diaper changes are another matter.)

But there’s one area where I’ve refused to pinch pennies.

Just a few days after our baby arrived, I logged onto vanguard.com and set up a 529 college savings account in her name. Long before she was sitting up and crawling, our daughter had a college fund. Every two weeks, part of my paycheck goes into that account … before Daddy and Mommy have a chance to even think about spending it.

At the same time, of course, we’re still putting aside money for our own retirements. In fact, in a funny way, I find it touching to look at my Vanguard portfolio statements and see those accounts listed side by side—our retirement savings and our daughter’s college fund. Each account represents a hope for the future, a commitment to responsible money management, and, ultimately, a vote of confidence that the financial markets will do what they’re supposed to do over the long run.

I may not be much of a role model when it comes to staying in shape, but I can teach my little girl about responsibility and self-control when it comes to money. And that’s not a bad lesson to learn.

Notes: All investing is subject to risk, including the possible loss of the money you invest. For more information about any 529 college savings plan, contact the plan provider to obtain a program description, which includes investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other information; read and consider it carefully before investing. If you are not a taxpayer of the state offering the plan, consider before investing whether your or the designated beneficiary’s home state offers any state tax or other benefits that are only available for investments in such state’s qualified tuition program. Vanguard Marketing Corporation serves as distributor and underwriter for some 529 plans.

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