By Lael M. Oldmixon, M.Ed, Executive Director, Education Trust of Alaska

November 22, 2022

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because the star of the show is gratitude. Gratitude helps us focus on the essentials, like family, friends, colleagues, experiences, and the community and place where we work and live. 

I reside and work in Alaska, a place of extremes. It’s dark and (very) cold in the winter and light and warm in the summer. These polar swings have taught me to be grateful for moments like the amazing aurora dancing on dark winter nights and for gifts like the abundance of autumnal blueberries and cranberries on the tail end of summer. Homegrown foods will grace our table at Thanksgiving in the form of pie and root vegetables, reminding us of midnight sun gardening during our longest days of the year. The extremes offer bounty and beauty, and I am grateful for that. 

(photo credit: Lael Oldmixon) 

I am grateful in my career to inspire and influence families to save for a loved one’s future education. According to the most recent 529 Insider’s Report, “15.9 million accounts hold $388 billion in assets in 529 savings and prepaid plans.” As my 529 colleagues and I seek ways to help individuals access, afford, and attain their academic aspirations, “529 saving plans continue to grow and help even more families.” 

As one of those 15.9 million account holders, I appreciate the ability to set aside a small amount each month to help reduce future debt my kids may incur as they pursue their education and training past high school. My children wish we’d spend more on technology, popular toys, and trendy clothes, but education savings is the gift they’ll never outgrow and one that keeps on giving. It’s not flashy, but they will give thanks for the thoughtful gift of education when they are ready to take their first withdrawal. 

I’m also thankful for the community that supports our savings goals. My employer’s commitment to education provides support by offering a systematic way to save from a paycheck into a 529 account. The simple direct deposit option has resulted in at least twenty-six additional contributions annually to my children’s 529s. Extended family members have also demonstrated a dedication to education with contributions to celebrate birthdays and other milestones. It powerfully conveys that we are not alone on our savings journey. 

For all of these reasons and so many more not mentioned in this blog, it is with a grateful heart that I look forward to this holiday season. We will have a table filled with delicious treats. We will appreciate our Alaska community and focus on the star of the season, gratitude. 

About the author: Lael M. Oldmixon, M.Ed is the Executive Director of the Education Trust of Alaska which offers Alaska’s three 529 plans, Alaska 529, the T. Rowe Price College Savings Plan, and the John Hancock Freedom 529 Plan. She lives in Alaska with her spouse, two children, and two dogs. Learn more about Alaska 529 at, the T.Rowe Price College Savings Plan at, and the John Hancock Freedom 529 at