Parents and grandparents who are saving for children's college education are concerned about being able to save enough and plan to start saving earlier to meet their goals, according to a recent study conducted by Alliance Capital.

The study, which surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. residents age 18 and older, found that 66% of the respondents were very worried about the effects of protracted market volatility on their college savings plans. Thirty-seven percent were somewhat concerned.

Those who have not yet started saving for college said they plan to do so sooner, most likely when their child is around the age of four. By comparison, in 2001 respondents said they would start saving when their child reaches age 11.

Seventy-two percent of the respondents said that they considered a portfolio that insured their principals against market volatility is their top priority in choosing a 529 college savings plan. Investors also want to be able to develop custom portfolios of mutual funds and choose from more than 10 investment options.

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