Like many parents of small children, I hope to be able to afford to make sure that in 15 years' time they can afford to go to university and graduate without tons of debt hanging around their necks.
But the cost of university is now so steep that a significant proportion of children now expect parental help - whereas in the past they would treat this as an unexpected bonus. Research from Legal & General Investments has found that more than a quarter of children (28 per cent) expect their parents to foot at least half the bill for university. With tuition fees alone topping £27,000 for a three-year course, that means that the pressure is on to start building up a higher education fund as early as possible.
But it is not just university that parents help with. Weddings, cars and grandchildren also top the list of things parents help adult children with, on average to the tune of over £15,000, according to research from Standard Life. This means that 62 per cent of parents are giving, or plan to give, their grown-up children more financial help than they received from their own parents.
So how much to put aside? Previous research from Legal & General Investments revealed that UK parents are putting aside an average of around £40 a month per child, creating a pot likely to reach £13,866 (based on growth of 5 per cent a year for 18 years, not including the effect of any taxation or charges).
The Junior individual savings account (Isa) provides parents, family and friends with an attractive and tax-efficient way of saving for eligible children up to a maximum annual allowance, which is currently £3,600. According to Legal & General this could generate a lump sum in the region of £103,000 (estimated using an annual deposit of £3,600 and based on growth of 5 per cent a year for 18 years).
Use all your own annual Isa allowance (£11,280 for 2012/13) first before subscribing to a child's Junior Isa. Then you'll keep control over the money - in a Junior Isa they get it automatically at age 18.
Bear in mind that some children's investment schemes can be useful for their lower investment limits - some will accept as little as £25 a month. But just because an investment product is branded for children does not always mean it's more suitable. Check the performance, as well as the level of risk. Our preference is for investment trust children's savings schemes.
Don't sacrifice your own ambitions for a comfortable retirement. To give you an idea, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation's Minimum Income Standard for retired people - the smallest income level acceptable to 'participate properly' in society - is £14,960 in today's prices. At today's annuity levels, that means you're going to have to build up a pension pot of £300,000 (treating any state pension as a bonus rather than a guarantee). If you are on track for this sum, fine - but, if not, then I'm sure your children will not want to see you struggling in retirement.
Don't pay the money up front - give it to them when they graduate so they can pay off their debts. Most students do not need to pay any tuition fees upfront - as they can take out a Tuition Fee Loan. There are also grants and loans to help with living costs, such as rent, food, books, transport and entertainment.
Encouragingly the Legal & General research also found that more than a quarter of children plan to help pay for university fees themselves, which will teach them the value of money.
If you do tell them you are saving on their behalf, along the way don't miss the opportunity to nurture the next Warren Buffett. Introduce them to investing in companies they can identify with. "Darling, you own a little bit of Tesco, Entertainment One and Apple," could be the start of a wonderful investing career.