A Thanksgiving Reflection from a Mom of a Recent Grad

This time of year, our homes are typically filled with heartfelt reflections on a wide range of blessings for which we are grateful. 

This Thanksgiving, as a mom of a fairly recent college grad, my heart is filled with gratitude for the foresight to begin saving for my son’s education when he was young and for my determination to stick with the process through the years.

And I’m grateful for other aspects of my college savings journey as well:

  1. Grateful for my knowledge of 529 plans

Let’s face it. Knowledge is power. You cannot take advantage of something you’re unaware of. So, first and foremost, as I look back on where I began, I’m most grateful to have learned about the existence and usefulness of 529 plans through my workplace. Without the good fortune of discovering these easy-to-use, tax-advantaged savings and investing vehicles, I would not have opened an account so early in my son’s life to begin contributing to it. 

2. Grateful for the role my employers played  

Beyond being the place where I learned about preparing for college expenses with 529 plans, my employer at the time, and subsequent employers since, played another valuable role by allowing me to contribute to my 529 account directly from my paycheck. This made the savings process easy for me, and I’m grateful for this. And over the past five years, I’ve also been thankful for the matching contributions my current employer has made to my son’s 529 account. 

3. Grateful for others’ contributions too

I’m also grateful for the ease with which friends and extended family could be invited to contribute to my son’s account and grateful for those who welcomed the opportunity to do so for birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions throughout the years. Each contribution meant a lot to us and proved to be very helpful once needed. 

4. Grateful for the opportunities savings provided 

Knowing we had prepared for the cost of his education provided my son with the opportunity to pursue courses of study of greatest interest to him, to volunteer his time for causes he cared about, to consider unpaid internships in summer months, and to study abroad without financial concerns.

And now, as a recent graduate, unencumbered by student loan debt, he has been able to pursue employment that interests him, begin saving for retirement, get his first post-graduate apartment, and begin saving for other aspects of his future. He is most grateful for all of this, and so am I.

5. Grateful for the peace of mind and sense of accomplishment

From the time I began saving, I was grateful for the peace of mind that having a plan in place gave me. And as a mom who paid back tens of thousands of dollars of my own undergraduate and graduate school debt, I’m now particularly grateful for how good it feels to have taken consistent steps to help my son avoid the stress his dad and I experienced through our post-secondary education and the twenty years of student loan repayment that followed. 

Lastly, I’m grateful that my experience of helping my son graduate debt-free –by saving directly through the workplace– has motivated me to inspire employers of all sizes to bring 529 resources into the workplace so that many more parents can be educated about ways to avoid or minimize student loan debt and start saving as early as possible.  

About the author:

Patricia Roberts is the Chief Operating Officer of Gift of College Inc. She has been part of the 529 higher education savings arena for more than 23 years, serving as an attorney, product manager, and is the past chair of the CSPN Corporate Affiliate Committee.