By Jenn Dyck, Washington Education Savings Plans (Estimated reading time: 4 minutes)
Most of us are familiar with the term “it takes a village to raise a child.” Lately, I have been reflecting on how thankful I am for our “village.” Friends, family members, teachers, and neighbors helped us influence and raise our young adult children to be hard-working, smart, kind, and witty humans with good financial sense. As my husband and I watch our young adults navigate their lives and make wise decisions along the way, we couldn’t be prouder. But we also know we can’t take all the credit.
We worked hard to teach our children life lessons focusing on the value of education and the importance of living within your means and saving for the future. We encouraged them to consider their options wisely, seek advice from people they admire, and enjoy the journey while working towards their goals. Over the years we made a point to regularly talk about our children’s hopes, dreams, and goals with them. We discussed how their education played a role in their futures; and more importantly, how higher education will play a more significant role in their ability to achieve their dreams.
I am thankful that we can send our children to college by accessing more than one financial resource. We did not have the means to save much, but we saved what we could when we could for their future education. We also taught our kids to save alongside us, with a “spend half and save half” rule for their cash earnings and gifts. With the help of our “village,” their savings accounts grew over the years. Just like many other families, scholarships, parent contributions, student loans (financial aid), gift money, and college savings all played an important role in funding the cost of our kids’ college educations.
Even though we were not able to save a lot, what we did save made a huge difference in our children’s ability to continue their education after high school. I am confident that having savings accounts dedicated to higher education influenced their decisions to go to college. Those conversations we had about their dreams and goals played a part too. Of course, we can’t take all the credit. Many people in our “village” contributed to the conversation, encouraged their dreams, and helped build their savings.
It‘s a joy to see our adult children apply these important early life lessons to their daily lives. It is also fulfilling as parents to see how our choices led to minimal student loan debt that was paid off quickly by our first college grad. With our second child in his second year of college, his financial path appears to be heading in the same direction. We are thankful for the steps we took to teach our kids the importance of saving for higher education and for everything that fell into place as a result.
It’s never too late or too early to engage kids in meaningful conversations about their futures. A lot of kids start talking about what they want to be when they grow up at an early age. Many change their minds a hundred times, while others are still unsure as they approach high school graduation. Encouraging kids to think about what they enjoy can help their dreams take shape.
Starting April 1, Washington Education Savings Plans (WA529) is launching the second annual What is your dream job? Art Contest for students enrolled in Washington schools (grades K-12). The theme is meant to inspire students to think about and create art that portrays a dream job or a career that has caught their attention and may even become part of their future. We’re hoping to encourage students, and their “villages,” to think about the future, explore higher education pathways, and consider 529 savings options.
Whether paint, pencils, clay, or the computer screen is your child’s artistic medium of choice, pull out the art supplies and encourage them to be creative and enter to win an iPad Air or Surface Go. Just like saving with a GET or DreamAhead account from Washington College Savings Plans, there’s never a better time than right now to get your kids thinking about their future. Visit 529.wa.gov/art-contest for important details, rules, and the entry form.
WA529 offers two 529 savings plans that allow families to save money tax-free for future higher education expenses like tuition, fees, room and board, books, and supplies. Visit 529.wa.gov to start your family’s higher education savings journey and make WA529 part of your “village.”
Washington’s 529 College Savings Plans (WA529) help families save for higher education expenses. With tax benefits, flexible contribution options and nationwide choice of colleges, it’s easy to start saving today. To learn more, visit the site or call 1.800.955.2318 with questions on GET or 1.844.529.5845 with questions on DreamAhead.