By Marissa Rowe, Executive Director, Indiana Education Savings Authority

August 3, 2021


My nieces are cute. Like, crazy cute. I’m talking one with naturally curly hair and two blondes who all have more than their fair share of sass and comedic timing (hallmark traits of our family). They have potential for days, which is why I’ve started 529 education savings plans for each of them. I’m going to harness those powers for good, so that they have a little help pursuing their education goals in the next 8-10 years.

Look, I’m going to be straight with you … I still buy them stuff. Ridiculous board games that require Wi-Fi and jewelry-making supply kits whose pieces number in the thousands. This isn’t one of those “in lieu of gifts; I’m a financial genius and only invest” posts. I’m just an aunt who lives out of town with no little kids in my house. So my husband and I do both. They get some stuff and then on a fairly regular basis, we put a little money in their 529 savings plans for future education expenses.

I’m looking forward to the day when they’re talking about what’s next – one is into science, one may want to be a doctor, and one is too excited to have a cohesive idea. We’ll be able to say, “Aunt Rissa and Uncle Bill love you and believe in you. We’ve got your books covered.” Or, hopefully something more substantial. We’re starting small and hoping for big things.

Those “Best Aunt” and “Best Uncle” T-shirts exist for a reason. We’re an entire tribe of people who love kids, and can help set them up for a future of less worry and debt as they go out to make their way in the world. While it may be funny to buy them drum kits or hard plastic brick sets because we’re not the ones who have to listen to the noise or step on the pieces, let’s think bigger. Investing in their education is investing in them, and that’s a powerful way to show love.

Still, get them the loud stuff because it’s funny and will annoy their parents, but also put a little something aside in a 529 plan that will grow as they do. When high school graduation rolls around, you might just find yourself sliding into the “Favorite Aunt” or “Favorite Uncle” category. That’s not a bad gig.


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.