Chris Goodwin, from Kansas City, MO, shares his story:
When did you start saving?
Believe it or not, I opened college saving accounts for my kids when my wife was pregnant. Initially the accounts were in my name, then I simply changed the beneficiary to each child when they were born. I’m an investment consultant, so it’s in my blood that the earlier you start saving, the more you’ll have down the road.
I still remember sitting in junior high and seeing a chart showing the snowball effect of compounding interest. It struck me then and there—it’s not necessarily about how much you save, but when you save, and EARLY wins every time. Basically, it’s putting your money to work for you. Honestly, you don’t have to save as much if you start saving when your children are young.
What do you like most about your 529 college savings plan?
There are so many advantages to my 529 plan—easy online bill pay, flexibility, tax breaks and the fact that you’re in control. For instance, if you have funds left over in an account, you can easily roll the money into another child’s account. Or, if your child receives a scholarship, you get your money back.
Your children can attend any accredited college anywhere. It doesn’t have to be an in-state institution. There are also numerous non-traditional higher education options like culinary or cosmetology school. My point is there’s lots of flexibility and lots of options. The 529 plans have evolved, and it’s a win-win for families.
Why is it important to you?
Quite simply, I want all my children to have the opportunity to go to college and graduate with as little debt as possible. My older son, Cody, attends the University of Missouri. My wife, Jamie, and I have been saving for our younger children—Berkley, Brinley and Channing—since the day they were born.
Every kid deserves the chance of getting a higher education, but it takes smart planning. That’s why I give all my friends and family with newborns a check to start a 529 account as a gift to kick start their college savings accounts. The biggest hurdle is starting an account, but it’s actually simple, and this gift gets that “hurdle” out of the way. My small contribution alone won’t pay for college, but it may jump start something amazing!
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