$ave Me: Coming up with $500,000 for college

Parents scraping together cash for this year's tuition bills may have it relatively easy. By the time today's newborns graduate from high school, the total cost to attend a four-year private college could tally nearly $500,000.

Intimidating? You bet. Manageable? Certainly—and it'll be a lot easier if you start early.

I talked to certified financial planner JJ Burns of JJ Burns & Co. in Melville, N.Y., for some tips about what parents need to consider to get started, including where to stash that cash and whose name it should be in. (Hint: Not your child's.)

Burns also recommends signing up for rewards programs like Upromise, which generate cash back in a college savings account for purchases made on linked credit and debit cards. It might not amount to much extra, but that free money can make a big difference over 18 years of saving.

The total amount parents need to save might not be quite so high, either. Factors such as what college a child attends, and whether he or she gets scholarship money, can reduce the total needed by 50 percent or better.

—By CNBC.com's Kelli B. Grant. Follow her on Twitter @KelliGrant.

Contact Digital Workshop


    Get the best of CNBC in your inbox

    To learn more about how we use your information,
    please read our Privacy Policy.
    › Learn More

Ask the Car Chasers

Off the Cuff

Big Data Download

Selling the American Dream

Death & Dishonor: Crisis at the VA

  • A pedestrian walks past the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) headquarters in Washington, D.C.

    The Veterans health care system has come under fire as officials reap big bonuses while patients suffer. CNBC's Dina Gusovsky investigates.

  • America has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and that opens up the door for companies to have a captive market -- literally. One of those companies is JPay, which provides electronic money transfers and other services to about 70 percent of state prisons. But in order to get that lucrative state prison contract, the state takes a commission as well. Critics argue all the costs are passed down to families and inmates, often burdening them financially. CNBC's Dina Gusovsky Reports.

  • This photo shows the aftermath of the accident, including the burned out shell of a truck. The Lindner minivan was so crushed its wreckage cannot be seen.

    Fatal truck accidents happen nearly 11 times a day. CNBC looks at the causes, who's to blame, and why it gets little attention.