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Get your savings in full swing this spring

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I always welcome the start of baseball season, as it’s a great reminder that good things are in store for the months ahead. It’s a chance for renewed optimism as we cheer on the home team (Go Mariners!) and hope that maybe ‘this’ will finally be their year. And accordingly, Mother Nature is showing signs of bright life: the sun starts showing itself again, flowers are in bloom and everything is turning green again! But what do baseball and the change in seasons have to do with college savings?

Just as start of the season involves a steep learning curve for a team, getting your college savings started is not always easy right out of the gate. You’ll experience some growing pains and it will take time to get a consistent game plan established. Despite these early road bumps, remember that this time of year is also the perfect opportunity for a fresh start and to try out a new approach. If you stay committed and keep working hard, it will continue to come more naturally, and your college savings plan will begin to blossom.

A hang up for many parents looking to start their college planning is where to start. When I’m out in the community sharing information about our program, I often hear “What should we be doing?” “How much do we need to be saving?” “Tell me what I need to do!” This line of questioning is understandable, as it can feel overwhelming to be looking ahead when you’re busy trying to raise kids and triage their day-to-day needs. While I’m able to provide these harried parents with resources and tools, the reality is that there is no single magic formula that works for everyone. Every family’s situation is unique and their goals for their children are equally varied. But the good news is that often parents just need to have these early conversations, and once in the right mindset, they’re ready to find their own way.

Although there is no one right way, there are some best practices that families can look to so they can ensure long-term savings success. First, start as early as possible when kids are still young so there is more time to add to your savings and watch them grow. It’s easy to compare different options on the CSPN website to see which plan or mix of plans will work best for your family. Just as importantly, don’t set it and forget it – keep adding as your kids grow and get family and friends involved. Finally, let your kids know what you’re doing to plan for their future and reinforce that college will be part of their future.

However you choose to save for college, remember that practice and routine are the keys to success. In the words of legendary Dodgers team manager, Tommy Lasorda: “There are three types of baseball players: those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happens.”

Written by Lucas Minor

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GET to Celebrate National 529 College Savings Day

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529 day w logo

Annually, May 29 is recognized as National 529 College Savings Day. The goal of observing this special day is to celebrate 529 college savings and prepaid tuition plans, and to remind families of the importance of planning ahead for college expenses. With tuition prices in our state more than double what they were ten years ago, and national student loan debt at an all-time high (on average, students are now graduating college with over $30,000 in loan debt), it’s never been more important for families to start saving when their kids are young. Our team here at GET recognizes the importance of reaching as many Washington families as possible with this message. 529 Day ProclamationWe’re excited to again be participating in College Savings Day by offering a special promotion and hosting fun community events! We are also pleased to have Governor Jay Inslee’s Proclamation naming May 29th as the state’s College Savings Day. Here’s a snapshot of what we have in store for this special day:

We’re waiving enrollment fees!
In an effort to make it easier for families to get their savings started, we will be waiving the $50 enrollment fee for all new Custom Monthly Plan Accounts set online up between May 27, 2014 and May 31, 2014. To take advantage of this special offer, customers simply need to visit and click the “Enroll Now” button on the upper right hand side of the screen. Then, complete the quick enrollment application. The enrollment fee waiver will automatically be applied.

We’d like you to join us for some fun!
We will also be hosting fun family events at three locations throughout the state on Thursday, May 29 in Olympia, Everett and Spokane. In Olympia we’ll be broadcasting live from the Hand’s on Children’s Museum (414 Jefferson St NE) on 94.5 FM ROXY radio from 4pm and 6pm. In Everett you can come see us at the Imagine Children’s Museum (1502 Wall St) and listen for us on 1520 AM KXA Classic Country from 3pm and 5pm. And in Spokane, we’ll be at the Central Spokane YMCA (1126 N. Monroe St.), broadcasting on BIG 99.9 Coyote Country from 4pm to 6pm. If you live in any of these areas, we encourage you to tune in to these stations and stop by our booth with the kids. We’ll have fun activities, free giveaways and snacks, and helpful information from our team of college savings professionals.

We’d like to encourage you to check out what else is going on nationwide to celebrate!
Also be sure to check out what’s going on throughout the country for 529 College Savings Day by visiting the College Savings Plans Network’s (CSPN) Facebook page and website. On their Facebook page, you can enter a sweepstakes for your chance to win one of ten awards of $529 to go towards a new or existing 529 plan. Then on their website you can check out their interactive event map to see what every participating state is doing to commemorate 529 College Savings Day.

We hope that you can join us for one of these exciting events! We also hope that if you still need an extra push to get your college savings started, that you’ll take advantage of our special enrollment fee waiver offer. For more information on the GET Program and for 529 day event and promotion details, visit However you decide to celebrate 529 Day, we encourage you to spread the word to friends, family, and anyone you know that can benefit from getting their college savings started!

Written by Lucas Minor

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Tales from the Road – Part 1

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Jackie Outreach

One of the greatest benefits of my job is meeting new people and making a difference in how they understand the GET Program. My work takes me to parent meetings, children and family events, school activities and conferences from Olympia to Spokane, Seattle to Vancouver and even Tonasket to the TriCities. In every community I have the pleasure of spending time with parents and grandparents who are beginning to explore ways to save for their children’s future college expenses. A few weeks ago at a PTA meeting in Olympia one Mom said “if I don’t start now, I’m sure I never will.” I told her that getting started is typically the hardest part, but once you make some time to jot down your savings goals and gather some resources you’re nearly half way there. “That’s the problem,” she exclaimed, “I don’t know what to look for or even how to choose.” To which I replied “That’s what I’m here for!”

That’s my job with the GET Program – as the Community Relations Manager I get to meet people one-on-one and help them maneuver through information, clear up misconceptions, talk about their savings goals and provide resources to help them get started. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, because parents can expect to pay 2/3 of their children’s college costs through a combination of savings, income and loans, it is imperative that they start saving as early and regularly as possible. One of the first things I tell a parent is that they aren’t alone. With work, children, and life in general, sorting through all of the information in a Google search about the best ways to save for college is painful and time consuming. So here are a few tips to get you started:

Make time: Schedule a time to sit down alone or with your spouse and jot down your initial thoughts on what you want to accomplish with your savings plan. Believe me; this will save you countless hours and headaches in the long run by getting your goals, fears, and perceived barriers to savings out of your head and in writing. You might have to change things around later and that’s okay. Just start brainstorming and create a specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-related (SMART) plan.

outreach womens showKnow your budget:      Know what you can afford today. There are so many things vying for your attention and your pocket book so know your boundaries. Live in the ‘here and now’ but develop a plan for how to align your savings over a period of time. Start with something, and add more to your budget later when you are no longer paying for things like diapers and daycare.

Have a goal: When I started saving for my children I ‘wanted’ to have four years of expenses saved by the time they graduated from high school, but my reality dictated that improbability, so I adjusted my goal. I focused on saving what I could, when I could.

Keep an open mind: There’s a lot of information out there about the best ways to save, but realistically there isn’t simply one way. The College Savings Plans Network (CSPN) advises to consider a 529 plan as one of your savings methods and include other ways of saving along the way. Just like retirement, a solid college savings portfolio is diversified.

Read: It would be easy to just let someone tell you what to do, but you have to read the fine print. Always make the time to read through the information on the savings plan you select. They were written for a reason.

Ask questions: I often hear people say ‘I’ve always wondered about______,’ which I’ve assumed meant they never asked the question in order to get the answer. Please ask…. that’s the only way to learn. Don’t end up in the same sticky situation as the parents whose daughter said to them on the day of her graduation, “Today I graduated from high school, where’s my GET money?”
Well, I’m off on another trip, this time to the Family Fun Fair in Spokane. If you’re there, stop by and meet me. I’d love to hear your story and be a resource for you.

Written by Jacquelyne Ferrado

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Believe it or Not, Your Kids are Paying Attention & Your Savings Efforts Make a Big Difference

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3 little piggy banksSince I was a young boy I was told by my parents that college would be a part of my future. It was an opportunity my parents never had and they knew how important a college education was to my future success as a person and as a professional. At an early age, my parents began saving for my higher education and they told me about the funds that were set aside to help with tuition, books and other costs. In high school I got a part time job and the dollars I earned were also set aside to help pay for school.

Looking back as an adult and now as a professional in the college savings field, I can see the accuracy of a recent study from the Center of Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis. The study concluded that children with a college savings account are six times more likely to attend a four-year college, compared to children with no dedicated account. I guess it goes back to that old adage, “actions speak louder than words.” As a kid I can vividly remember never once questioning whether or not college was going to be a part of my future, because I knew that resources had been set aside for my education.

In 1998, I was the first person in my family to graduate from college and looking into my parents eyes on commencement day, I knew that diploma I was holding was just as much theirs as it was mine. It was not an easy accomplishment; I worked throughout school, earned a few scholarships along the way and most importantly had the great fortune of having the financial and emotional support of my parents. It was because of this powerful experience that one of the first things my wife and I did when both my daughter and son were born was to open a 529 Prepaid Tuition Plan through Washington’s Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program. Little did I know at the time I opened the accounts that six years later I would begin working for the GET program.

What my wife and I loved about the prepaid tuition plan, was the guarantee that no matter how much tuition increased over the next 18 years of our children’s lives, we knew that our savings would increase at the same rate as tuition in our state. This was very reassuring after reading headlines in our local paper about year-after-year double digit tuition hikes at our state’s public universities.

IMG_0349GET’s prepaid tuition plan also provides a host of other benefits that made this savings option attractive to us. First, funds can be used nationwide at universities, community colleges and technical schools. Second, dollars in prepaid plans grow tax free and withdrawals are tax free for qualified education expenses like tuition, room and board, books and lab fees. With our GET accounts we were also able to set up custom monthly payment plans that make saving affordable and attainable. Even better, we have encouraged family and friends to contribute to our children’s accounts for holidays and birthdays.

Since there are so many different ways to save for your children’s education, it can become overwhelming trying to absorb all the information related to the various plans that are out in the marketplace. A good resource for wading through all the details is the College Savings Plan Network (CSPN) and their website

The most important thing to remember is that some savings is better than no savings, and the sooner you can start saving the better off you will be in the long-run because your money has more time to grow. Last and most importantly, even though it may not seem like it at times, your children are listening and looking up to you. It’s critical that you know your actions in saving for their future education will be instrumental in shaping their future.

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Financial Literacy & Consumer Focused Legislation Keys to Success for the Future of College Savings

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USCapitolBuildingThere are two things I really enjoy in life. One is visiting our nation’s capital. The other is watching Saturday Night Live. For years, I have been a lucky person because it seems like these two things always seem to find each other in funny satire political skits. Whether it’s Will Ferrell impersonating President George W. Bush or Jay Pharoah taking on the persona of President Barack Obama, you never have to look too hard to find humor in American politics. As easy as it is to poke fun at our country’s leaders, a trip to D.C. reminds one what a tough and big job our federal leaders have. From the economy to education and foreign policy to the environment; each day brings a new set of challenges for our elected officials. They are consistently pressed for their time and attention, just like many of us with our own jobs. The key to their success –like our own — is having an understanding of a variety of topics, issues and subject matters, while not losing sight of the big picture and remembering what’s most important. Two weeks ago I returned to my office after spending a productive week in D.C. at the National Association of State Treasurers (NAST) Legislative Conference where financial literacy was an overarching theme. Given treasurers’ responsibilities of managing the finances of their states, they are very interested in the financial literacy of their citizens. This made me think about my own job in helping families save for their children’s college education and how we have an incredible opportunity to help young parents understand the basics of financial planning and budgeting. In addition to financial literacy, several state 529 program directors met with legislative staff to educate and gain support for H.R. 4333 and to also identify co-sponsors for the technical bill, which was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives late last week. This legislation will make 529 plans more flexible and remove some of the barriers participants may have to saving, including:

  • Making computers an eligible expense;
  • Allowing for investment changes up to four times a year (right now it is limited to once a year);
  • Allowing the redeposit of funds for certain circumstances (e.g. a student gets sick at the beginning of the term) (Right now you can’t redeposit funds to an account once they are disbursed);
  • Allowing leftover funds from a 529 to roll over to a Roth IRA under certain circumstances (e.g. a student gets a scholarship their last year, or graduates early).

While all of this technical work is important; it’s critical to remember why we are doing it. Our goal is to help improve the lives of families and children through education and smart financial planning. As student loan debt surpasses $1 trillion, it’s now more important than ever to ensure families have accessible and affordable ways to save for education and avoid being saddled with more student loan debt. We thank Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI) for their leadership and effort to help American families as they strive to save for college. We look toward a swift action by Congress to ensure these measures are passed.

Written by Betty Lochner, GET Director and CSPN National Chair

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