By Marissa Rowe, Executive Director, Indiana Education Savings Authority
September 26, 2023
My husband works in the bicycle industry. As a bit of an expert, he regularly is asked, “What’s the best bike for me?” Folks want to know if they need a BMX, mountain, road, hybrid…etc. His response 100% of the time: “The best bike for you is the one you’ll ride.”
The same is true for saving for what’s after high school. Whether you’re planning for a Registered Apprenticeship, 2- or 4-year college, or tech or trade programs – the best savings vehicle for you is the one you’ll actually use (that’s not investment advice – just some common sense I stole from my spouse).
In our house, just like millions of other Americans, we go with 529 savings plans. We like their flexibility, tax-deferred growth, free gifting platforms, access to apps, and the peace of knowing it’s how our friends are saving, too. We were all in once we knew what a 529 plan was and that it could be used to reduce the need for student loans. That was six years ago. Now we have accounts for our nieces and one-year-old granddaughter. They’re all going to have a jumpstart on their access to opportunities, simply because we learned about a tool and took action to get the one that works for us.
Getting started is easier than you think. You can use The Google, or visit this handy search tool from our friends at the College Savings Plans Network to compare plans. Pro tip: give your home state’s plan a look, as there may be special state tax credits or deductions available to you. Then, ask your friends how they’re saving. People love to share their tips and insights, and your circle of influence may be just as helpful to you as the internet.
Finally, start saving. Money is tight, so don’t be afraid to start with the plan’s minimum, which is usually around $10-$25. But don’t stop there. Work your 529 into your monthly budget. Set savings goals. Set up auto contributions so that investing becomes a habit. Invite friends and family to contribute on every single birthday and holiday—even the made-up ones.
That’s how you save for college. It’s just like riding a bike.
About the Author
Marissa Rowe is executive director of the Indiana Education Savings Authority, which administers Indiana’s CollegeChoice 529 Direct, Advisor, and CD Savings Plan. A proud first-generation college student, Marissa received her B.A. in Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and her M.A. in Philanthropic Studies from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. She paid off her student loans in 2020, and has 529 plans for her nieces and granddaughter.