By: Regina Carmon

December 14, 2018


In October, my nephew Joel celebrated his 16th birthday. A month earlier, he sent me a text message with a list of gift ideas. I was hoping for a long wish list so that I would have options for both his birthday and Christmas. However, there were only two items—a new game for his system and money. No surprises here because this has been Joel’s list for me since I have been consulting with him for gift ideas. This time, he had a different goal underlying his request for money. 

Joel has an older brother in his senior year of college and a younger sister. He noticed that even with an academic scholarship, his brother needed additional funds to offset the difference of expenses during this last year of college. Joel wanted birthday money to start his private education savings stash.

Thinking back to when I was 16, my birthday wish list included a barbeque party, a trip and clothes … lots and lots of clothes! Sure, money was on the list, but for shoes versus savings. My list was not too different from my friends. We planned and prepared ourselves for college; however, it was normal to depend on scholarships, grants and loans to cover the cost. Our money, whether gifted or earned, was meant for frivolous spending.

Fast forward, times have changed and the cost of college has skyrocketed. Cost-conscious thinking has been instilled into my daughter, niece, and nephews. There is also positive reinforcement with my sister and brother-in-law having the same talks, especially since they have two children only a year apart.

Although parents have been leading the charge with setting aside college funds for their child(ren), a recent survey of high school students showed 86 percent of students are also planning to save toward their own higher education.

Here are a few questions to ask the future students in your life to help them consider the costs associated with their aspirations and get them engaged in the savings process:

  • What is your major going to be in college?
  • Have you thought about which college or trade school you would like to attend?
  • How much do you think it will cost to attend?
  • I have a savings account started for you. Do you think you can start investing in your future too?

My young, independent nephew feels vested in his future. His savings shrewdness has rubbed off on his younger sister, and the trend continues. Incremental investments add up. Encourage the teen in your life to think about these questions and the value of investing in oneself. Remember, it is never too early or late to save.


About the Author

Regina has been a professional in the 529 industry for over 9 years. She is responsible for marketing, sales and managing the relationships with select state partners.

The 2018 How Youth Plan to Fund College survey conduct by the College Savings Foundation reached over 500 high school sophomores, juniors and seniors across the country.