By Rachel Biar, CSPN Chair, Assistant State Treasurer, Nebraska
For me, the beginning of a new year is a chance to look back and reset. Those of us who practice the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions typically promise to do something to improve ourselves or perform more acts of kindness for others as the new year unfolds. Studies show that, by far, the large majority of those who set New Year’s resolutions fail. Their goals were unrealistic. They had no way to track their progress. They made too many resolutions. Or, they simply forgot.
As you evaluate your 2022 resolutions, it is the perfect opportunity to open a 529 college savings plan account or to spend some time reviewing your existing 529 plan account and resolve to maximize your savings. More easily said than done, right? As we’ve experienced, a lot can change in a year. No need to worry — with a 529 account, opening an account or increasing your contributions in the New Year is a simple process.
One resolution you can stand firm in to improve your own future financial well-being and to perform an act of kindness for someone else is to open a 529 college savings account for your child, grandchild, niece, or nephew and resolve to contribute that account regularly. This one simple resolution can help you avoid the common pitfalls that others experience when trying to keep their New Year’s promises.
Do you already have an account? Keep it simple and consider automating your savings process by establishing recurring contributions towards your 529 account. An automatic investment plan is easy to set up and can be implemented at any time allowing contributions from checking and savings accounts into your 529 account. Additionally, if your employer offers direct deposit, you can make automatic contributions to your 529 account from your paycheck through a payroll direct deposit of after-tax dollars.
Another easy resolution is to make saving a combined effort and inviting your family and friends to join by using your plan’s gifting service. The holidays may be over, but that doesn’t mean that the goodwill has to end. Friends and family members can contribute to an account owner’s 529 account electronically or by mail with gifting options. Perfect for graduations, birthdays, or just as a ‘thinking of you’ gesture, gifting platforms make it easy to add dollars to your account and maintain your connection to loved ones near and far. All you have to do is ask! That’s a resolution that everyone can keep.
Still not convinced it’s easy to save with a 529 plan? Or maybe your saving goals have changed. Life happens, and sometimes we need to reassess the next steps. Even if you have to develop a new strategy for your savings goals, remember there are many 529 plan options available to help cover the cost of higher education. The more you can contribute to your 529 account, the less you will have to rely on other sources of college funding — and potentially have to pay back later. With this in mind, spend some time developing a revamped budget and game plan that includes a realistic goal that best suits your investment philosophy and your budget so you can successfully build your 529 account savings. You can easily keep track of your progress, and you can count your blessings when you file your taxes, as many states offer a state income tax deduction or credit for contributions made to a 529 plan. And don’t forget, you can always reach out to a trusted financial advisor for assistance as well.
As we embark on 2022, and the days and months ahead will soon begin to click by, I hope you will aspire to affirming your commitment to saving with a 529 plan. Based on my experiences, I am certain you will find joy when surrounded by the smiles, hugs, and love of your beneficiaries. Those children, grandchildren, and nieces and nephews in your life who will continue to give promise to every New Year’s resolution you could ever make when investing in a 529 college savings plan. I wish the best to you in 2022 and encourage you to track your progress throughout the year.
About the author:
Rachel Biar is Chair of the College Savings Plans Network and the Assistant State Treasurer for the Nebraska 529 College Savings Program. The Nebraska Educational Savings Trust (NEST) provides four plans: NEST Direct College Savings Plan, the NEST Advisor College Savings Plan, Bloomwell 529 Education Savings Plan, and the State Farm 529 Savings Plan. The Nebraska State Treasurer serves as the Program Trustee. Union Bank & Trust serves as the Program Manager, and all investments are approved by the Nebraska Investment Council. Families nationwide are saving for college using the NEST 529 plans, which have $6.97 billion in assets and more than 294,000 accounts. Visit NEST529.com and treasurer.nebraska.gov for more information.