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Sorting Through The Choices

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Credit: Robert Farrington for Forbes.com

A recent survey by Discover Student Loans uncovered some startling trends among parents who have teenagers careening toward their college years. According to the study, 38 percent of parents with college-bound students ages 16 to 18 believe their child will pay for more than half of their tuition and fees, which is up from 31 percent in 2018. Meanwhile, 28 percent of parents plan to cover the entire cost this year, which is down from 34 percent of parents who agreed in 2018.

Of course, the majority of parents are worried either way. The report shows that 65 percent of parents are stressed over having enough money to help, which is a 10 percent increase from last year. Crazy enough, 70 percent of parents say they’re still not limiting their child’s college choice based on price.

If you want to help your college student get through school without crushing student loan debt, there are plenty of ways to do just that without wrecking your own financial goals. The first step is starting early and planning ahead. With time and compound interest on your side, you could build up a sizable savings of invested funds to help cover college tuition, fees, and room and board.

In most cases, it’s smart to look into College 529 plans that can help parents pay for college in a tax-advantaged way. Some states like Indiana even offer a tax credit on contributions up to certain limits each year. Either way, money saved in a qualified 529 plan can be invested and given time to grow tax-free. Once you’re ready, you can withdraw the funds without tax if you use the money for qualified college expenses.

In addition to saving early, don’t let anyone tell you the school your child attends doesn’t matter. The reality is, your school of choice will have a marked effect on how much you or your child have to borrow or pay in cash. Plus, the difference in college tuition and fees can be strikingly drastic from school to school and place to place.

Consider this: College Board figures show that average tuition and fees at public, in-state schools worked out to $21,370 per year including room and board for the 2018-19 school year. Attending a private four-year college, on the other hand, cost students $48,510 per year.

If you leave student aid out of the equation, you’re choosing between paying $85,480 or $194,040 for a four-year degree. With numbers like these, the college your child attends could matter more than you think.

If you’d like more information about WA529 accounts visit www.wastate529.wa.gov or for info on scholarship opportunities visit www.thewashboard.org

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September is College Savings Month! Here’s how you could win $100 in educational toys!

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September is College Savings Month and GET Newborn Enrollment is available now. Help us celebrate by joining us in our “Easiest baby photo contest ever!”  WA529 encourages you to enter the contest to win a $100 gift card from Learning Express Toys. To enter simply post a photo of your newborn child, grandchild, niece, nephew or family friend in the comments of any WA529 post promoting the contest. Multiple entries will be permitted, maximum 1 per day.  Every entry will go into a drawing after September 30 to randomly select the winner of the gift card.

 

OFFICIAL RULES:

NO PURCHASE IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A PURCHASE DOES NOT INCREASE THE CHANCES OF WINNING.

  1. Eligibility: This Campaign is open to all legal residents of the United States who are 18 years of age as of the date of entry. The Campaign is void where prohibited by law. Employees of Washington Student Achievement Council, its affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, and suppliers, (collectively the “Employees”), and immediate family members and/or those living in the same household of Employees are not eligible to participate in the Campaign. The Campaign is subject to all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations. Void where prohibited.
  2. Agreement to Rules: By participating, the Contestant (“You”) agree to be fully unconditionally bound by these Rules, and You represent and warrant that you meet the eligibility requirements. In addition, you agree to accept the decisions of Washington Student Achievement Council as final and binding as it relates to the content of this Campaign.
  3. Campaign Period: Entries will be accepted online starting at 5:00 pm Pacific Daylight time on August 30, 2019 and ending at 5:00 pm Pacific Daylight Time on September 30, 2019. All online entries must be received by 5:00 pm Pacific Daylight Time on September 30, 2019.
  4. How to Enter: The Campaign must be entered by posting a photo of a baby to WA529’s Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter accounts. Alternate means of entry: send a postcard with your name, address, phone number and email address to Washington Student Achievement Council, PO Box 43450, Olympia, WA 98504-3450.  The entry must fulfill all Campaign requirements, as specified, to be eligible to win a prize. You may enter a maximum of one time per day. Multiple entries in one calendar day will not be counted. You must provide the information requested. You may not enter more times than indicated by using multiple email addresses, identities, or devices in an attempt to circumvent the rules. If You use fraudulent methods or otherwise attempt to circumvent the rules, your submission may be removed from eligibility at the sole discretion of Washington Student Achievement Council.
  5. Prizes: The Winner(s) of the Campaign (the “Winner”) will receive one gift card from Learning Express Toys valued at $100. Actual/appraised value may differ at time of prize award. The specifics of the prize shall be solely determined by Washington Student Achievement Council. No cash or other prize substitution shall be permitted except at Washington Student Achievement Council’s discretion. The prize is nontransferable. Any and all prize-related expenses, including without limitation any and all federal, state, and/or local taxes, shall be the sole responsibility of Winner. No substitution of prize or transfer/assignment of prize to others or request for the cash equivalent by Winner is permitted. Acceptance of prize constitutes permission for Washington Student Achievement Council to use Winner’s name, likeness, and entry for purposes of advertising and trade without further compensation, unless prohibited by law.
  6. Odds: The odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received.
  7. Winner Selection and Notification: Winner will be selected by random drawing under the supervision of Washington Student Achievement Council. Winner will be notified by Facebook, Twitter or Instagram private message within five (5) days following selection of Winner. Washington Student Achievement Council shall have no liability for Winner’s failure to receive notices due to spam, junk e-mail or other security settings or for Winner’s provision of incorrect or otherwise non-functioning contact information. If Winner cannot be contacted, is ineligible, fails to claim the prize within 30 days from the time award notification was sent, or fails to timely return a completed and executed declaration and release as required, the prize may be forfeited and an alternate Winner selected. Receipt by Winner of the prize offered in this Campaign is conditioned upon compliance with any and all federal, state, and local laws and regulations. ANY VIOLATION OF THESE OFFICIAL RULES BY WINNER (AT WASHINGTON STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT COUNCIL’S SOLE DISCRETION) WILL RESULT IN WINNER’S DISQUALIFICATION AS WINNER OF THE CAMPAIGN, AND ALL PRIVILEGES AS WINNER WILL BE IMMEDIATELY TERMINATED.
  8. Rights Granted by You: By entering this content (e.g., photo, video, text, etc.), You understand and agree that Washington Student Achievement Council, anyone acting on behalf of Washington Student Achievement Council, and Washington Student Achievement Council’s licensees, successors, and assigns, shall have the right, where permitted by law, to print, publish, broadcast, distribute, and use in any media now known or hereafter developed, in perpetuity and throughout the World, without limitation, your entry, name, portrait, picture, voice, likeness, image, statements about the Campaign, and biographical information for news, publicity, information, trade, advertising, public relations, and promotional purposes. without any further compensation, notice, review, or consent. Optional verbiage for Contests: By entering this content, You represent and warrant that your entry is an original work of authorship, and does not violate any third party’s proprietary or intellectual property rights. If your entry infringes upon the intellectual property right of another, You will be disqualified at the sole discretion of Washington Student Achievement Council, If the content of your entry is claimed to constitute infringement of any proprietary or intellectual proprietary rights of any third party, You shall, at your sole expense, defend or settle against such claims. You shall indemnify, defend, and hold harmless Washington Student Achievement Council from and against any suit, proceeding, claims, liability, loss, damage, costs or expense, which Washington Student Achievement Council may incur, suffer, or be required to pay arising out of such infringement or suspected infringement of any third party’s right.
  9. Terms & Conditions: Washington Student Achievement Council reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Campaign should virus, bug, non-authorized human intervention, fraud, or other cause beyond Washington Student Achievement Council’s control corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, or proper conduct of the Campaign. In such case,Washington Student Achievement Council may select the Winner from all eligible entries received prior to and/or after (if appropriate) the action taken by Washington Student Achievement Council. Washington Student Achievement Council reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to disqualify any individual who tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operation of the Campaign or website or violates these Terms & Conditions. Washington Student Achievement Council has the right, in its sole discretion, to maintain the integrity of the Campaign, to void votes for any reason, including, but not limited to: multiple entries from the same user from different IP addresses; multiple entries from the same computer in excess of that allowed by Campaign rules; or the use of bots, macros, scripts, or other technical means for entering. Any attempt by an entrant to deliberately damage any website or undermine the legitimate operation of the Campaign may be a violation of criminal and civil laws. Should such attempt be made, Washington Student Achievement Council reserves the right to seek damages to the fullest extent permitted by law.
  10. Limitation of Liability: By entering, You agree to release and hold harmless Washington Student Achievement Council and its subsidiaries, affiliates, advertising and promotion agencies, partners, representatives, agents, successors, assigns, employees, officers, and directors from any liability, illness, injury, death, loss, litigation, claim, or damage that may occur, directly or indirectly, whether caused by negligence or not, from: (i) such entrant’s participation in the Campaign and/or his/her acceptance, possession, use, or misuse of any prize or any portion thereof; (ii) technical failures of any kind, including but not limited to the malfunction of any computer, cable, network, hardware, or software, or other mechanical equipment; (iii) the unavailability or inaccessibility of any transmissions, telephone, or Internet service; (iv) unauthorized human intervention in any part of the entry process or the Promotion; (v) electronic or human error in the administration of the Promotion or the processing of entries.
  11. Disputes: THIS Campaign IS GOVERNED BY THE LAWS OF THE UNITED STATES AND THE STATE OF WASHINGTON, WITHOUT RESPECT TO CONFLICT OF LAW DOCTRINES. As a condition of participating in this Campaign, participant agrees that any and all disputes that cannot be resolved between the parties, and causes of action arising out of or connected with this Campaign, shall be resolved individually, without resort to any form of class action, exclusively before a court located in Washington state having jurisdiction. Further, in any such dispute, under no circumstances shall participant be permitted to obtain awards for, and hereby waives all rights to, punitive, incidental, or consequential damages, including reasonable attorney’s fees, other than participant’s actual out-of-pocket expenses (i.e. costs associated with entering this Campaign). Participant further waives all rights to have damages multiplied or increased.
  12. Privacy Policy: Information submitted with an entry is subject to the Privacy Policy stated on the Washington Student Achievement Council website. To read the Privacy Policy, visit https://www.get.wa.gov/privacy.
  13. Winners List: To obtain a copy of the Winner’s name or a copy of these Official Rules, mail your request along with a stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Washington Student Achievement Council, PO Box 43450, Olympia, WA 98504-3450. Requests must be received no later than September 30, 2019, at 5:00 pm Pacific Daylight Time.
  14. Sponsor: The Sponsor of the Campaign is Washington Student Achievement Council PO Box 43450, Olympia, WA 98504-3450.
  15. Facebook: The Campaign hosted by Washington Student Achievement Council is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with Facebook.

 

 

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4 tips for making qualified withdrawals on your 529

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Credit: James Royal at Bankrate.com

A 529 college savings plan is one of the best ways to set aside money for your children’s college education. The plan offers a host of features that make it an attractive option for savers, including sizable tax breaks and deductions just for doing something that’s already valuable for a future college student.

529 plans have a lot of flexibility built into them. Part of the beauty of the plan is that anyone can establish and contribute to one. That allows parents, grandparents, other relatives and even friends to pitch in. As part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, a 529 plan can also be used to pay for private school tuition for kindergarten through high school, too.

Here are 4 tips before you start making qualified withdrawals

 

  1. Follow the withdrawal rules scrupulously

The 529 plan explicitly states that earnings can be withdrawn from the account tax-free “when used for qualified education expenses of the designated beneficiary, such as tuition, fees, books, as well as room and board at an eligible education institution,” according to the IRS.

Besides such qualified expenses as tuition, fees, books and room and board, the IRS also allows a few other expenses, such as computer and software used by the student.

And while some expenses are associated with going to school, that doesn’t make them qualified expenses for a 529 plan.

“You cannot use a 529 plan to repay loans, transportation costs or extracurricular activity fees,” says Michael Foguth, president at Foguth Financial Group.

  1. Save those receipts

You may feel like trashing those receipts once you’ve submitted a form to be reimbursed, but experts suggest that you hang onto them.

After you know what expenses are qualified, “the next step to think about is to save your receipts,” says Logan Allec, CPA and owner of personal finance site Money Done Right. “By saving your receipts, you can now prove that you spent what you claimed.”

Allec explains that keeping these receipts will help you minimize the pain at tax time, because you’ll have the documentation you need to justify your claims.

“You don’t need to submit your receipts with your tax return, but you will need them if you ever get audited, and they are helpful to you when preparing your return,” says Allec

  1. Have the college paid directly

When you’re ready to withdraw money for a qualified expense, you could send it to the student, who could then pay the amount to the school, or you could also have the 529 plan transfer the money to the college directly. Sending it directly is an easy way to avoid a potential misstep.

“When preparing to make withdrawals, I would strongly encourage parents to arrange whatever payments possible to go directly from the 529 to the institution,” says Urban Adams, business development director at Dynamic Wealth Advisors.

This approach cuts out the possibility of any middle person getting in the way of the distribution, and it clears the lines of communication between the administrators of the 529 plan – who have done this countless times – and the institution being paid.

  1. Spend the money in the same tax year as it was withdrawn

With a fall semester and a spring semester, a school year spans two calendar years. Meanwhile, a tax year occurs only within one calendar year. That mismatch can cause a tax headache inadvertently.

“If you withdraw money from a 529, then you need to spend the distributed money on qualified expenses that year,” says Allec.

One way to run afoul of 529 rules here is by withdrawing a full year’s tuition at the start of the school year but only paying the fall tuition. While you may have every intention of having the money ready to pay spring tuition, it won’t look that way to tax authorities. They’ll see an unqualified withdrawal and will be ready to hit you with penalties for not using the money in the same tax year as it was taken out.

“Make sure to keep a log of exactly how much you took out of the plan and how much you’ve spent,” says Allec. “This way you can make sure all money is spent within the year.”

Bottom line

If you run afoul of the rules, it could cost you in taxes and penalties, money that could otherwise go to something valuable.

So while it’s tempting to jump right in, try to take a measured approach and understand the best course for adding money to the account, as well as how to access the account when it comes time to use the money.

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From Diapers to Diplomas

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It is that time again! Vacations are over, cooler days are ahead and the beginning of the new school year is here. Kids across the country are getting ready to head back into the classroom to embark on an exciting new year.

For some kids, going back to school can be intimidating. Starting something new can be scary. Children will wonder things like, “Will I like my new teacher(s)? Will any of my friends be in my new class? Do we still get recess?” Meanwhile, parents ponder things such as, “Did we purchase enough supplies?” or “Are lunches figured out for the week?”

Not being prepared is the fear that runs through every parent’s mind. Parents and students alike share “What’s next?” questions. While many of these concerns are out of your control, one worry you can help solve is “What will we do about the high costs of higher education?” According to the College Savings Plan Network, Did you know that children are six times more likely to attend higher education if they know they have a college savings account waiting for them? A 529 plan is a great way to let your student know that they have options in the future, regardless of how uncertain that future may be.

WA529 offers parents and grandparents two plans to help plan for their student’s future. The DreamAhead College Investment Plan allows you to choose your own stock market-based investments, which gives you full control over how your funds are allocated. The Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) Plan guarantees your funds will match the most expensive public university tuition rates in Washington State, no matter how much they go up. The funds from both plans can be used at any school in the country that accepts federal financial aid, and can be used for tuition, room and board, books and supplies, as well as a number of other expenses. In addition, all of the growth on a 529 account accumulates tax-free if it’s used for qualified higher education expenses.

Instead of a new school year, maybe you are awaiting the birth of a new child. You can even start a GET or DreamAhead account for newborns. Before the first diaper change, you can open an account and begin to dream of a brighter future for your child.

Starting something new can be scary. “Saving enough” can be an uncertain goal.  The first step is to start saving now, regardless of how old your child is. Saving even a little now can mean a lot later on.

Perhaps the best advice is to simply do what you ask of your kids: do your best.

 

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Focus on what you can control

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Credit: CNBC

Student debt likely will be a key issue in the 2020 presidential race.

Many of the major contenders for the Democratic nomination, including Sens. Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden, have supported free college and student debt-relief plans.

For example, Sanders’ plan would make two- and four-year public colleges and universities tuition- and debt-free. Warren has proposed eliminating the cost of tuition and fees at every public two-year and four-year college and Harris has said she would make community college free and four-year public college debt-free.

A college education is now the second-largest expense an individual is likely to make in a lifetime — right after purchasing a home. Today, the average college graduate leaves school $30,000 in the red, up from $10,000 in the 1990s.

As the cost of higher education takes center stage in the political debate, families are also rethinking how best to save for this daunting expense.

“We have this conversation with our clients daily,” said Amin Dabit, a certified financial planner and vice president of advisory services for Personal Capital in Denver. “Since we don’t know what D.C. will come up with, focus on what you can control.”

When it comes to saving for college, “529 plans are the best vehicle out there,” Dabit said.

These state-sponsored savings accounts allow post-tax contributions to grow and be withdrawn tax-free as long as the money is used to pay for qualified education expenses, such as tuition and room and board.

As it stands, “529 plans are the best option for saving for college,” said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher and vice president of research at SavingforCollege.com, echoing Dabit.

Even if every state had a free college program, that would just cover tuition and fees, Kantrowitz said. “It doesn’t cover textbooks or room and board.”

“Certainly, you can still use that money,” he added. (Money left over in a 529 plan can also be used for graduate school, transferred to a sibling or even saved for a grandchild.)

These days only about 10% of families pay for the entire cost of college out of pocket, while everyone else is either borrowing or using a combination of resources, according to Marie O’Malley, senior director of consumer research at Sallie Mae.

In fact, less than half of the cost is covered by income and savings on average, according to Sallie Mae’s 12th annual “How America Pays for College” report.

At the same time, participation in 529 plans is growing. The Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 expanded the use of these plans to cover K-12 private school expenses but limited those withdrawals to $10,000 a year per child (there are no limits on withdrawals for college expenses).

The total number of 529 accounts continued to increase from there, reaching 13.6 million in 2018, according to the College Savings Plans Network. This jump occurred as the population under 18 remained fairly flat, according to Pew Charitable Trusts.

In 2018, the average account size also hit an all-time high of $24,153, and total investments in state-sponsored plans reached a record $328.9 billion — an 87% increase from 2010.

Meanwhile, lawmakers have been trying to further expand the uses of 529 plans. Last September, the House Ways and Means Committee passed the Family Savings Act, which would allow college graduates to use 529 plans to cover student debt, but the bill was never passed by the Senate.

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Investing in 529 now heads off student debt later

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Little boy watering plants

The 529s allow families to invest savings tax-free, earn interest and use those funds for college.

By Betty Lochner

For The Herald

All $1.6 trillion of Americans’ student loan debt would be forgiven in six months: That’s how Bernie Sanders summed up his Senate proposal recently.

As with anything a presidential contender says these days, reaction to the news was mixed. Some cheered. Some rolled their eyes. Some patiently awaited a tweet from the @berniethoughts parody account.

I have no idea whether you “feel the Bern,” if you’re more of an Elizabeth Warren fan or if you prefer the more moderate approaches of Joe Biden. Perhaps you voted for President Trump and you’d like his contract renewed. Regardless, I hope we can agree on one thing: The student debt situation has gotten out of hand.

Americans of all political stripes are living under the weight of this $1.6 trillion problem. Forty-four million people have student debt that eats away at paychecks, limits opportunities and leads them to put off buying homes and having children. That includes the young adults who were told a college degree was their golden ticket to the American dream. It includes moms and dads who took out Parent PLUS Loans. Oh, and we can’t forget the people who went back to school after bearing the brunt of the recession.

What to do about the problem is where Americans disagree; and usually along party lines. That’s not always the case, though. The state of Washington is part of a bipartisan, 28-state campaign that is taking on the issue of student debt. The aim of this movement is to limit college debt for future generations by sharing an existing solution unfamiliar to 68 percent of Americans.

The tool is a 529 college savings plan. Parents who know about 529s are more likely to be saving for their son or daughter’s future. Even more compelling, children who know they have a 529 in their name are six times more likely to go to college, according to a Washington University study.

How do 529s work? You can make money by saving money, thanks to compound interest and tax incentives many states provide. The money you invest in a 529 grows tax-free and can be used at any accredited higher education institution. That includes four-year universities, community colleges, and technical and vocational schools. The 529 plans make saving for college doable for families of various means. Investing $10 a week in a 529 over 18 years can add up to around $15,000.

It’s safe to say Sanders’ plan is going to grab a few more headlines. It may give him a bump in the polls, too. Until it passes both houses of Congress and receives a presidential signature, however, it’s just an idea. An idea that, for now, has zero impact on you and the future college student in your life.

The 529 solution is real. Parents and grandparents can take matters into their own hands today to lessen what a child has to borrow tomorrow. It’s a solution that doesn’t depend upon 2020.

Regardless of who you’re voting for, that’s good news.

Betty Lochner is a liaison for the National 529 Campaign and former director of Washington 529 Plans.

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529 Day – Win tickets to one of Washington’s museums!

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Win Tickets and inspire lifelong learning

PROMOTION INFORMATION

At WA529 we believe that learning doesn’t begin or end in the classroom. It starts with the first question and draws on the world around us for inspiration. To celebrate 529 day WA529 is offering a weeklong chance to win tickets to one of Washington’s many fantastic science centers or museums in hopes that a visit may fan the flames of curiosity in your little learner. “Follow” us on Facebook and use our “Tell-a-Friend” feature to share information about Washington College Savings Plans before 11:59 pm PST on May 29 and you and the recipient of the referral will be entered into a drawing to win one of the following prize packages! Winners will select tickets to a museum/science center* of their choice from the following list:

Group A

  • Pacific Science Center – Seattle
  • Seattle Art Museum – Seattle
  • Museum of Flight – Seattle

Group B

  • Hands on Children’s Museum – Olympia
  • Mobius Science Center – Spokane
  • Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture – Spokane
  • Washington History Museum – Tacoma
  • Children’s Museum of Tacoma – Donation only
  • Imagine Children’s Museum – Everett
  • The Reach Museum – Richland
  • Children’s Museum of Skagit County – Burlington
  • Whatcom Museum – Bellingham

* The named museums/science centers do not support or endorse this promotion or WA529.

 

The prize packages are as follows:

First Prize – $104 value (15 winners)

Choose 1

  • 4 tickets to a Group A venue; or
  • 8 tickets to a Group B venue

Second Prize – $78 value (20 winners)

Choose 1

  • 3 tickets to a Group A venue; or
  • 6 tickets to a Group B venue

Third Prize – $52 value (25 winners)

Choose 1

  • 2 tickets to a Group A venue; or
  • 4 tickets to a Group B venue

Dates

This promotion will run Wednesday, May 22, 2019 – Wednesday, May 29, 2019, at 11:59 pm PST.

 

DISCLAIMER INFORMATION

WA529’s Inspired Learning promotion will take place from Wednesday, May 22, 2019 – Wednesday, May 29, 2019. There will be a total of sixty (60) prizes awarded (fifteen First Prizes, twenty Second Prizes, and twenty-five Third Prizes. See above for prize package descriptions). Prizes will be awarded at the end of the promotion by a process of random selection from a pool of all individuals who “Follow” the WA529 Facebook page and “Tell-a-Friend” about WA529 using our Tell-a-Friend feature. The order of the prize drawing will be from the least to the most valuable prize package, with the “First Prize” awarded last. Individuals who “Follow” WA529’s Facebook page AND use our Tell-a-Friend feature before 11:59 pm PST on May 29, 2019, will receive a maximum of one entry into the final prize drawing. The prize drawing will be held on the afternoon of Thursday, May 30, 2019.

Selected winners will be notified via Facebook direct message and will have seven (7) days to claim their prize and if they do not, WA529 program staff will hold additional drawings until a selected winner claims his or her prize. Individuals can only win one prize package during the course of the entire promotion. Washington Student Achievement Council employees and their families are not eligible for this promotion. The named museums/science centers do not support or endorse this promotion or Washington College Savings Plans.

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Is Saving for College a Taxing Thought?

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Tax season can often add a level of stress to an already full to-do list. It’s seems that there are never enough hours in the day, so how in the world are you going to add ‘File My Taxes’ to the list? Just thinking about compiling all of the necessary paperwork by April 15 seems daunting enough. As a parent, the list is always long, and will probably never end. There are items like purchasing diapers, bringing cupcakes to the school bake sale, fixing the broken bicycle. But there are also mental notes you’ve most likely made that may include signing them up for piano lessons, getting them involved in a team sport, and starting to save for college (they may be young, but the sooner the better, right?).

Yes, all of these things are important, and some may not have to be done right now (though you probably shouldn’t wait too long on the diapers). However, waiting to cross something off the list means the list doesn’t get shorter and you will continue to have things looming over you.

Though so much is happening in the ‘now’ of life, so much of what we do is for our child’s future. We want them to be happy and healthy, so we plan while they dream. And part of that planning should include saving for their future. Washington’s College Savings Plans (WA529) offers flexible savings options to families. Opening and contributing to a 529 college savings account while your child is young can provide peace of mind for you when they’re ready to start their higher education journey. You can also encourage friends and family members to contribute to your account. “It takes a village” is certainly true, right!?

WA529 administers two 529 plans. The DreamAhead College Investment Plan allows you to choose your own stock market-based investments, which gives you full control over how your funds are allocated. The Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) Plan guarantees your funds will match public university tuition rates in Washington. The funds from both plans can be used at any accredited school in the country, and can be used for tuition, room and board, books and supplies, and a number of other expenses. And speaking of tax season, all of the growth on a 529 account grows tax free if it’s used for qualified higher education expenses.

Tax season can be stressful, but can also be rewarding. Today is a great day to open an account and start investing. We do our best to give our children every opportunity to learn and grow. Investing in their future today is the gift that keeps on giving. Learn more about saving for college at www.wastate529.wa.gov

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National 529 Awareness Campaign

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On March fourth, 27 states started their march forth to address the student debt crisis. This diverse group of states will work together to set the next generation on a better path by increasing awareness of 529 plans, which help families save for higher education and lessen reliance on student loans.

Because we are inspired by Fred Rogers Productions’ mission to instill a lifelong passion for learning, we have teamed up with Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood to amplify our message. This series is one of the highest co-viewed children’s shows between parents and young children and is based on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Anyone watching Daniel Tiger will see information about 529 plans before and after each episode. We will also be coordinating other awareness efforts with Fred Rogers Productions that will involve Daniel Tiger.

Seventy-one percent of Americans don’t know this option exists. By setting up a 529 account, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, and friends can lessen a child’s reliance on student loans, and the stress that comes with paying them off.

  • It doesn’t take much money to get started. You can open a 529 with as little as $10.
  • It’s easy to set up a 529. It takes about 10 minutes to go online and start your account.
  • Though plans vary, saving $10 a week over 18 years can add up to around $21,000.

Which state has the best 529 plan?

You can participate in almost any 529 plan across the country, but your home state’s plan is a great place to start.

A 529 College Savings Plan can be used for any education-related expense at any accredited college in the country. That means tuition, room and board, books and other required supplies are covered.

Student debt facts:

  • The total amount of student debt is now at $1.5 trillion – surpassing America’s credit card and car loan bills and making it the second highest debt category behind mortgages.
  • Fewer young people are buying homes and college graduates are leaving rural areas because of their student debt, according to the Federal Reserve.
  • Federal student debt is growing at 17 percent – more than seven times the current rate of inflation.
  • One recent poll showed 20 percent of millennials expect to die before paying off their debt.

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Inspire a Child with the Gift of College Savings

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Becoming a parent is a special experience. It’s truly inspiring to watch your kids’ eyes light up and their minds open wide when you ask them what they dream of becoming when they grow up. There’s magic in the moment when they believe they can be anyone and do anything; and with the right encouragement, they can.

One of the best ways to support their dreams is to help them save for college, and it’s never too early. College is expensive. It’s increasingly difficult for students to pay their way through school without the need for costly student loans, yet having a college degree is becoming necessary to stay competitive in the job market. It’s essential for students to have family support to ensure college is truly a reality and not just a dream.

Every family is different, and no single approach is a perfect fit. That’s why Washington College Savings Plans (WA529) provides families with a diverse set of options to build a college savings strategy that works for them. With WA529, families can choose between the Guaranteed Education Tuition Program (GET), and the DreamAhead College Investment Plan.

As a prepaid tuition plan, GET guarantees that if you buy 100 units today, those units will always be worth one year of tuition and state-mandated fees at Washington’s most expensive public university, regardless of how much tuition changes. You don’t have to worry about the ups and downs of the stock market. You are assured that the money you save in GET will be there when your student is ready for college.

The DreamAhead College Investment Plan complements the GET program and provides additional savings options for Washington families. DreamAhead is a market based 529 plan, so its investment returns are tied to financial market performance. Families have multiple investment choices with varied degrees of customization and risk. DreamAhead’s investment options range from funds that automatically adjust as your student approaches college age, to others that give account owners greater control.

As 529 plans, all earnings and withdrawals from GET and DreamAhead are tax-free when used for qualified higher education expenses. Your student can use them to attend colleges, universities and technical schools anywhere in the country, and even abroad.

Preparing for the costs of higher education can be daunting, but you’re not alone. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and even friends can contribute to your student’s 529 plan. To learn more about Washington College Savings Plans and to find out how you can give the gift of education, visit www.wastate529.wa.gov or call 1.800.955.2318. The GET program’s annual enrollment period ends May 31, and DreamAhead is open to enrollment year-round.

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