I really try and not look at our investments in this bear market because it doesn’t change any of our savings behaviours and it won’t make a lick of difference to stress myself out like that. HOWEVER, I got to thinking about the things we save for and I wondered, “what does tuition at a local university look like now?” Some quick googling later and I realized that we have enough education savings for both kids to each do a four year degree at a local university (even with our market losses).

What is really interesting is how the savings is divided. Half of that half of that savings happened in the past 3 years when we had more money to put away. The other half of it was mostly all done in the 9 years previous to that! When the Sprout was born we opened an RESP at a bank and started saving $80 a month – $40 for each child. It wasn’t a lot but it was all we had. On top of that, we asked family to contribute to the RESP for birthdays and Christmas. The kids were young, probably wouldn’t remember anything that they bought them but we figured that they would appreciate being able to go to post-secondary without debt. So for years we added all the cash they got to their savings – until they were older and wanted to use the money for other things, of course.

We still aren’t finished saving for them as they are only 12 and 14 now. It is nice to know that tiny amounts saved over long periods have got us to the point where they won’t have to worry about student loans for at least an undergraduate degree.

So if you are a young family and thinking of saving in an RESP but are worried that you don’t have a lot to contribute, remember that $40 a month + gifts from family essentially added up to half of a degree for her by the time my eldest was 14. Of course, as soon as we made more we invested more and that covered the other two years. The takeaway here is that small amounts invested over long periods add up to big gains. The difference between taking a student loan for two years vs. four years is also huge in terms of time it will take to pay it back. If they get scholarships, great – you have enough to help with grad school! If they decide to not go to post-secondary, great – it can be rolled into an RRSP (contribution room willing).

To learn more about the RESP, check out the Government of Canada website.