Robert Trishman, editor, my529
February 21, 2023
The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, and the second best time is today—the same is true for starting a 529 education savings plan.
Opening a 529 when your child is born allows years for funds to accumulate. If you add money to the account on a schedule, your future college student could graduate with less debt.
Didn’t start when your child was born? Still thinking whether you should start now? That’s OK. The College Savings Plan Network has a Roadmap that lets you pick up speed no matter when you jump on the college savings superhighway. You also can try activities at any age—for parents and for children—that help you work toward future education savings goals.
Here are a few examples of age-appropriate activities for college savings:
- When you run errands with children, discuss different jobs you encounter, such as auto mechanics, grocery store cashiers and stockers, pharmacists, and doctors.
- Help kids understand the difference between what they truly need (for health and survival) or really want (these are nice to have but that one can live without). Have your child create their own chart with “I need” on the left column and “I want” on the right. This is a great precursor for beginning a discussion about saving for important things.
- If you attended college, take your child for a visit to your alma mater. Show them where you lived, where you took your classes, and where you spent time with your friends.
- Put away tax refunds and job bonus money to boost savings. Let your kids know you saved those funds for a need instead of a want.
- Play a game where you guess what the drivers of other cars do for a living.
- Do research on people in a profession that you’re interested in. What do they do? What kinds of breakthrough things are happening in that area? What’s in the news?
- At the start of middle school, talk with a school counselor about the prerequisites for a college-bound student.
- Consider activities—whether they earn you money or not—that build a college application: civic participation, volunteering, school leadership and entrepreneur endeavors, such as babysitting, dog walking, and even the lemonade stand.
Check out the CSPN Roadmap for their Future to chart your own course, whether your child isn’t quite old enough for school or approaching their senior year. And visit 529forcollege.com to calculate how much you can save based on your child’s age and monthly contributions.
About the author:
Robert Trishman is an editor for my529—and he owns my529 accounts for each of his three sons. my529 is Utah’s official nonprofit 529 educational savings plan. It is the nation’s third-largest direct-sold plan with over 400,000 accounts and billions in assets under management. my529 has been helping families across the United States invest for higher education for more than 20 years. Accounts are free to open and require no minimum deposit.