By Troy Montigney, Vice President, Ascensus Government Savings
June 14, 2022 (updated from original post in June 2019)
Father’s Day means many different things over the course of a man’s life. As a boy, you (or more likely your mom) get to buy your dad practical presents like neckties or new drill bits. The perspective of young adulthood brings a deep appreciation for him and the values he instilled in you. Eventually, you might get to experience it all over again from a father’s point of view.
For me, the redo began three years ago with the birth of my daughter, Sophie (and compounded when little sister Molly joined later). Despite my life ever since being consumed by all the little things needed to keep them happy and healthy in the present, I often find myself daydreaming about all the big things that will someday make their lives ones of purpose and fulfillment. Where will they go? What will they become? And most critically, how can I and their mom help them get there?
In every potential outcome, education plays an outsize role — and we feel a deep responsibility to help them prepare with a 529 plan.
Odds are you’re not a former 529 plan director with a child who had the comedic timing to arrive on May 29 like Sophie, so let’s recap a few benefits of 529s that are especially important to new parents:
Whether a child goes to dad’s alma mater or learns a skilled trade, a 529 can take her there. Parents tend to hold instant hopes and dreams for their kids, but it is impossible to know what a baby’s educational journey will look like 18 years from now. Fortunately, 529s can be used at any eligible institution for any qualified expense — so Sophie and Molly are covered whether they end up at a liberal arts college like me, a state university like their mom, or in a registered apprenticeship program.
If your plans change, you can change your 529 beneficiary. I first opened a 529 for myself in case I decided to get an MBA. Once Sophie was on the way, I viewed “my” money as hers and stepped up our recurring contributions. Two weeks after birth, with her Social Security Number in hand, I officially converted the account to Sophie’s own 529, and she had a head start of a few thousand dollars! Later, if she earns significant scholarships or doesn’t need all the funds in her account, we can change the account beneficiary again and add them to Molly’s own 529 savings.
Your student loans? A 529 is about preventing them. Every dollar saved now is one not borrowed and repaid with interest later. I have been fortunate to navigate the decade or so between graduation and fatherhood with no student debt of my own. This was partly due to advance planning — my grandparents saved on my behalf early on — but more so due to the fact I was an only child. I know it’s not realistic for everyone to completely avoid student loans, but they CAN be reduced or minimized. Striving for my girls to have the same advantage I had is the greatest commitment I will ever make.
Clothes are outgrown. Toys break. A 529 is a timeless and easy gift. We are grateful for every friend, family member, co-worker, and acquaintance that has showered Sophie and Molly with gifts early in life. But for every adorable outfit or unique book they’ve received, there’s another that didn’t fit, or they already had in our home library. Fortunately, their 529 plans have a gift-giving option. For my first Father’s Day, Sophie’s Great Uncle Eric made the first gift contribution into her 529. It was a simple gesture, but one that will become even more meaningful with years of potential growth ahead. It not only takes a village to raise a child, but to finance her education as well!
I will never forget my first Father’s Day with Sophie and look forward to all those ahead with her and Molly. While I’m relishing every second with my girls now, I am comforted by knowing their 529s will help them step into the future as confident, educated, and empowered young women.
Troy Montigney is the proud father of 529 Day baby Sophie and her younger sister Molly. By day, he is the Vice President of State-Facilitated Retirement Programs (SFRP) Relationship Management at Ascensus. Previously he served on its industry-leading 529 team, which helps over 6 million people save for education via 42 plans serviced across 25 states and the District of Columbia.
This article was originally posted in June 2019 and has been updated to reflect new information for 2022.