By Jesse B. Jurgenson, certified financial counselor
The Village Family Service Center
I can pretty much pinpoint the time when my default internal voice went from “oohhh shiny object” to “responsible adult.” My niece and nephew were having their first birthday and I was standing in a toy aisle trying to pick out a gift for them. As I looked up and down the shelves at all of the inanimate objects, I realized I had no idea if they had any of them already. At my niece’s and nephew’s house, like most homes with young children, toys are strewn about the rooms and begin to all look the same.
That is when it dawned on me. As their favorite uncle (undoubtedly), I wanted to truly make an impact on their lives. Would a light-up Elmo doll do that? When I say I want to make an impact on their lives, I don’t mean the next two weeks of their lives which is as long as their enjoyment of that toy would last. I mean for their entire lives. This brought me to my answer. I wanted my name to be associated with their college savings.
Some due-diligence brought me to what, in my opinion, is the BEST bang-for-your-buck college savings option out there today. It’s called a 529 College Savings Plan. The plans are state specific. North Dakota’s can be found at http://www.collegesave4u.com and is administered through the Bank of North Dakota. A few of the greatest selling points and advantages for this plan are:
- North Dakota residents can deduct up to $10,000 if married, filing jointly ($5,000 if single) from their state taxable income for qualified contributions.
- Qualified withdrawals are federal income tax free.
- A potentially matching grant (free money!!) from the state of North Dakota.
- The minimum initial contribution for a College SAVE account is only $25, so it’s easy to get started saving for college.
- Anyone – including friends, grandparents, and other family members – can contribute to the account.
I highly suggest everyone thinking about starting such an account. You can check out the Frequently Asked Questions section at https://collegesave4u.s.upromise.com/content/faq.html to consider if this is the right choice for you. I opened two plans and couldn’t be happier with the process and ease of use. The best part is that you can make contributions either manually or through automatic deductions from a bank account.
You CAN save for a child’s education. It IS possible. Although the reality is that most middle-income households will not be able to fully fund the experience, you don’t need to. A more realistic goal is that the child uses a combination of scholarships, grants, work-study, financial aid, student loans and savings that you set up. That is a sturdy six-legged stool. Every little bit helps and may reduce the amount the child has to pay back post-college. Even if the amount you save them is only 1 monthly student loan payment, trust me, they will be grateful. As someone who is currently paying off his student loans, I certainly wish someone had set up a college fund for me.
For help setting and meeting your savings goals, contact a financial counselor at The Village Family Service Center. Financial counseling appointments are available in person, by phone and online–www.HelpWithMoney.org or 1-800-450-4019.