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 real-world money questions.

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

Then we move on to this week’s money issue from Katie, who emailed us: “I want to start saving for my young son. I was thinking about an education savings account, but worry if he doesn’t choose a college there will be a penalty. What advice do you have for setting your kids up for financial success and independence (when you don’t have a ton of money to invest)?”

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Our position on appeal to get results

Smart Money co-host and NerdWallet columnist Liz Weston recently wrote about how to complain to customer service and get results. First, Liz recommends preparing yourself mentally and physically for the interaction. Accept that dealing with customer service can be frustrating and time-consuming, and gather relevant information such as confirmation numbers and warranty information to hand.

Companies have multiple ways for consumers to file complaints, including through social media, by phone, or through chatbots. Choose the method of communication that suits you and the nature of your complaint. Liz also offers suggestions for working with customer service representatives. When you do eventually get in touch with someone, clearly explain the problem and how you would like it resolved, and be polite. It might 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. Plus, these savings accounts aren’t mutually exclusive, so if you want, you can open multiple accounts that can be used to pay for your education.

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 is not attending a four-year college or university, money from a 529 plan can be used to pay for vocational school or the education of another family member.

Parents can also put money into a high-yield savings account, CD, or savings bond. If you open a CD or bond, be aware of early withdrawal penalties. A Roth IRA is another option for parents of children with earned income. Its name suggests it’s a retirement account, which it is, but Roth IRA earnings can be used to pay for qualified education expenses. What’s more, those earnings can be withdrawn without a tax penalty.

Our advice

  • Know your options: Choose an account to use for savings, such as a 529 savings account or a Roth IRA, and try to put money into it regularly.
  • Make this a learning opportunity: Talk to your child about how you save and why it’s important.
  • Being flexible: Explore your options for early withdrawal or changing beneficiaries if your circumstances change.

Have a question about money? Send us a message or call us at 901-730-6373. Or you can email us at To hear previous episodes, go to podcast homepage.

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