It’s an awe-inspiring experience to watch our children grow and transform before our eyes from fragile little newborns into strong, confident and talented young adults. Throughout their development, it’s important to take the time to celebrate all of life’s “firsts,” from their first steps all the way to their first day of college. All the while, it’s just as important to be planning ahead to set them up with the best chance of achieving these milestones.
One of the most important considerations for families to pay attention to as they prepare their children for the journey towards adulthood is that of the educational opportunities that will be available to them.
While there is not much debate about the importance of having access to a quality education, a significant blind spot for many parents is saving for future higher education expenses when their kids are still young. This is a story that Jackie Ferrado, the community relations manager for Washington’s Guaranteed Education Tuition Program (GET) is all too familiar with. “As I travel throughout the state meeting with families, I often hear parents saying ‘I kept meaning to start their college savings, but just never got around to it,’ or ‘Our child is starting to look at colleges and all we can think is how are we going to afford this?’” Parents clearly know the value of saving for this major expense, but it can be difficult to connect intent with action, especially when college can seem so far away for a young child.
Delaying college savings efforts is an easy trap to fall into, but fortunately there are options for families, such as Washington’s GET Program, that take the pain out of getting started. As a 529 prepaid tuition plan, savings in a GET account grow tax-free and remain tax-free when withdrawn for qualified higher education expenses. Further, the program is unique in that the value of a GET account is guaranteed by the state of Washington to keep pace with rising tuition costs in our state.
Since GET accounts are not subject to the ups and downs of the stock market, you have peace of mind knowing your money will be there when you need it. It’s also comforting to know that no matter whether your child decides to go to school, GET accounts can be used at nearly any public or private college, university or technical school in the country. Plus, if something unexpected comes up such as your child receiving a scholarship or deciding not to attend college, you can transfer the savings to another family member or even request a refund.
It’s easy to get started with the program and to continue building your college savings over time with flexible payment options, from pay-as-you-go lump sum deposits to custom monthly payment plans. And remember – when it comes to saving for college, you’re not alone. It’s becoming increasingly popular for grandparents and other family and friends to add to a child’s college savings. The gift of education is perfect for any occasion.
By starting college savings when your kids are young, you’re making a commitment to their future dreams and ambitions, and making the journey a bit easier by giving yourself plenty of time to add to your account. To learn more about GET and enroll online, visit www.get.wa.gov. GET’s annual enrollment period ends May 31, so now is the ideal time to take that first step and begin saving for your children’s future education.