By Troy Montigney, Executive Director, Indiana Education Savings Authority
June 20, 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 weeks ago with the birth of my daughter, Sophie. Despite my life being consumed by all the little things needed to keep her happy and healthy in the present, I’ve often found myself daydreaming about all the big things that will someday make hers one of purpose and fulfillment. Where will she go? What will she become? And most critically, how can I help her get there?
In every outcome, education plays an outsize role — and I feel a deep responsibility to help her prepare for it with a 529 college savings plan.
But just in case you’re not a 529 plan director with a newborn who had the good humor and timing to arrive on May 29, let’s recap a few of the benefits of 529s that are especially important to new parents, as experienced by a first-time father:
Whether a child goes to dad’s alma mater or learns a skilled trade, a 529 can take her there. Parents tend to hold very specific hopes and dreams for their kids from the get-go, but it’s 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 is covered whether she ends up at a liberal arts college like me, heads to a state university like her mom, or is way handier than either of us and decides to become a mechanic.
If your plans change, you can change your 529 beneficiary. A while back, I opened a 529 for myself in case I decided to get an MBA. Once my wife told me we were expecting, I viewed “my” money as my daughter’s and stepped up our recurring contributions for a bit before diapers and daycare could wreak havoc on our budget. 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, the account can be changed again to an eventual sibling or other family member.
Your student loans? A 529 is about preventing them. Every dollar saved now is one not borrowed and repaid with interest later. I’ve been fortunate to navigate the decade 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 Sophie to have the same advantage I’ve had is the greatest commitment I will ever make.
Clothes will be outgrown. Toys will 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 with gifts. Seriously, it is remarkable how excited and generous people get for someone else’s baby. But for every adorable 6-month outfit she’s received, there’s a newborn one she never wore because she was big at birth. Fortunately, her 529 plan has a gift-giving option. For this Father’s Day, Sophie’s Great Uncle Eric made the first gift contribution into her 529. It’s a simple gesture now, but one that will become more meaningful with years to grow in her account. It takes a village to raise a child, and to finance her education!
I will never forget my first Father’s Day with Sophie. While I’m relishing every second with my baby girl now, I am comforted by knowing that her 529 will help her step into her own future a confident, educated, and empowered young woman.
About the Author
Troy Montigney is the proud father of CollegeChoice 529 beneficiary and 529 Day baby Sophie. By day, he is Executive Director of the Indiana Education Savings Authority (IESA), working to grow participation and investment in the state’s tax-advantaged CollegeChoice 529 program beyond the current 370,000 accounts and $4.7 billion in assets. Learn more by visiting collegechoicedirect.com or calling 1.866.485.9415.