By Mary G. Morris
CEO, Virginia529
August 15, 2013

It really is easy – and inexpensive – to get started with a 529 college savings account.

I talk to hundreds of people about higher education in the course of a year – about how important it is, plans to attend and how to pay for it. Many conversations are at Virginia529-sponsored events and some are with people I meet in the course of a day at the grocery store, a restaurant or at the dentist’s office. The reality is that most people are interested in college and its costs and once they know that I work at a 529 plan, the questions come quickly.

For those who do not already have a 529 account (and that group is getting smaller every day), many say they haven’t taken action because they think it is too hard or too expensive or because they can’t save enough. Some worry about changing needs of family members. But the key is to just get started as every dollar saved in a 529 account is one that does not have to be borrowed or come from other resources. Virginia529 focuses on simplicity, flexibility and affordability – and we are joined in those concerns by every other 529 plan in the country. And don’t forget about the tax advantages!

Whether you make investment decisions on your own or with the assistance of a financial adviser, spend just a little bit of time with the many excellent 529 resources available online for free. They will help make taking the first step simple and easy. The CSPN website is a great place to start as it provides unbiased, straightforward information about 529 plans across the country. Although you are not required to open a 529 account with your home state plan, it is generally a good place to start looking and where you can find out whether any special tax or other benefits are available for doing so. Think about your goals, your saving or investment style and how long it will be before you need your 529 savings in deciding which plan is best for you.

A few things that make 529 plans attractive – as easy, flexible, affordable ways to tackle the cost of college – are listed below. You should look for these features as you compare plans and you will find that you can check off “YES” for many 529 plans across the country:

  • Online account opening – quick and easy – 10 minutes of time and basic information
  • Low opening contributions – often as little as $25 opens a 529 account
  • Reasonable fees – fees vary widely among 529 plans, as do investment choices, but many low cost options are available
  • Account owner control – including changing beneficiaries, timing and payees of distributions, investment selection and funding method
  • Online one-time or recurring bank debit options to fund accounts

So, take the leap today and get started With many families getting ready for the “back-to-school” season, think further into the future and start saving for college with a 529 account. You won’t regret it.

About the Author:

Mary G. Morris is CEO of Virginia529, the independent state agency which sponsors Virginia’s four tax-advantaged 529 college savings programs, including a prepaid tuition program, two direct-sold savings programs and one adviser-sold savings program.  As of November 30, 2012, Virginia529 has more than $42.5 billion in assets under management across its four programs in over 2.3 million active 529 accounts across the country.  Morris serves as a member of the Executive Board of the College Savings Plans Network (CSPN) and Co-Chair of the CSPN Federal Initiatives Committee.  For more information about Virginia529, visit or call toll-free at 888-567-0540.