Reader call: Money stuff

From the "heck if l know" file:

Shay's Mamala writes:

"I have 2 questions related to money:

1. What do you and the readers think about saving for college? Is it a good idea to have an account set up? What are your opinions about a 529 versus an Education IRA? Is it better for us to concentrate on our own retirement savings? College was not something that people in my family did, let alone saved for. I maxed out grants and loans and worked several part time jobs to pay my way. I don't want my DD to have to juggle work and school and I certainly don't want her to leave college in debt like I did. However, I don't know if saving separately for her college makes sense. We could just use our own savings at that time if she does not get funding from other sources.

2. Related to the above question and thoughts stemming from the posts on digital organization. I wondering if other families use financial software packages and if they are helpful in actually spending less and saving more. Are they time consuming to use or can most information be automatically imported into them from financial institutions. Do they make tax time easier? Not that we have wads of dough to manage, but somehow I think we might do a better job with our money if we were actually tracking it. What's a good system?"

I know there's an answer to both of these questions, and my suspicion is that a separate account is definitely the better choice for tax purposes (here in the US, at least, but I'd love to hear what Canadians, Aussies, people in the UK and other countries say). It sounds like some of this question is cultural, too, though, and that's another interesting discussion.

And, yeah, question 2 is something I have no opinion on, but probably should.

I know you know, though, so please share.