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Welcome to NerdWallet’s Smart Money podcast, where we answer your real-world money questions.

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

Then we pivot to this week’s money question from Katie, who sent us an email: “I want to start saving for my young son. I’ve considered an educational savings account, but worry if he doesn’t choose college that there will be a penalty. What advice do you have about setting your kids up for financial success and independence (when you don’t have a ton of money to put in)?”

Check out this episode on any of these platforms:

Our take on complaining to get results

Smart Money co-host and NerdWallet columnist Liz Weston wrote recently 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 collect relevant information like confirmation numbers and warranty information to have on hand.

Companies have multiple avenues for consumers to submit complaints, including through social media, by phone or with a chatbot. Choose the method of communication that suits you and the nature of your complaint. Liz also offers suggestions for dealing with customer service reps. When you eventually get in touch with one, clearly explain the problem and how you’d like for it to be resolved, and be kind. 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 vehicles are not mutually exclusive, so if you want, you can open multiple accounts that can be tapped to pay for educational expenses.

One of the most popular education savings account is the 529 plan. Withdrawals are tax-free when used for eligible expenses, and there is some flexibility in how funds can be spent. If your child doesn’t attend a four-year college or university, the money in the 529 plan can be used to pay for vocational school or for the schooling 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, familiarize yourself with the penalties for early withdrawals. A Roth IRA is another option for parents of children with earned income. Its name indicates that it is a retirement account, which it is, but Roth IRA earnings can be used to pay for qualifying educational expenses. What’s more, those earnings may be withdrawn without incurring a tax penalty.

Our tips 

  • Know your options: Pick an account to use for savings, such as a 529 savings account or Roth IRA, and try to put money into it regularly.
  • Make this a learning opportunity: Talk to your child about how you’re saving and why it’s important.
  • Be flexible: Research your options for early withdrawals or beneficiary changes if your circumstances change.

Have a money question? Text or call us at 901-730-6373. Or you can email us at podcast@nerdwallet.com. To hear previous episodes, go to the podcast homepage.