58. Keep your hands off your 401(k). When college costs hit, that juicy 401(k) looks tempting. Resist.
J.P. Morgan Asset Management crunched the price: Save a steady 8% from age 25 (with a salary of $30,000 that rises 2% a year), and you could have $1.3 million at 65 (based on 1973 to 2012 returns). Take a $10,000 loan at 33 for a home, a $10,000 loan at 50 for college, and make a $10,000 early withdrawal at 62, and that drops to $930,000.
59. Be sure your kids graduate on time. Budgeting for them to finish in four years? Most students take five or six. "At many schools the credit level for full-time enrollment is less than you need to graduate in four years," says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org.
To avoid spending $18,000 (public college) to $40,000 (private) for an extra year (or two), check that your child is carrying the max course load, or suggest summer community college classes.
60. Go easy on the school loans. Saying no to your kid is hard, which may explain why parent PLUS loan balances have doubled over the past 10 years. But taking out lots of those loans, which carry a 7.9% rate, can be risky.
"If you have to resort to PLUS loans to pay for college, it's probably a sign you can't afford the college," says Kantrowitz. A good rule of thumb: Don't borrow more than you can repay within 10 years or by retirement, whichever is first.
Just starting out? Now's the time to create a solid plan for investing and saving.