COLLEGE SAVINGS 101

Savingforcollege.com

529 plans reach out in eye-catching ways
http://www.savingforcollege.com/articles/20100604-529-plans-reach-out-in-eye-catching-ways

Posted: 2010-06-04 - Lori Johnston is a freelance writer in Georgia.

by Lori Johnston

If you're headed to an NBA game, state fair, NASCAR race or high school debate tournament, don't be surprised to see a 529 plan representative there.

Representatives of some state 529 plans are popping up at activities where crowds are gathered to educate parents, grandparents and others about the benefits of saving for college, no matter the child's age.

The marketing efforts include scholarship drawings to kick start families' savings and partnering with children's museums and restaurants on special promotions.

Meeting parents where they are having fun and seeing their children excel helps to make 529 plans stand above the volume of personal finance pitches. When it comes to saving for college alone, more than 100 different plans are offered by the 50 states and other entities, says Jackie Williams, director of the College Savings Initiative at the New America Foundation, a nonprofit public policy institute in Washington, D.C.

"There are a lot of different benefits and ways you can save for anything," says Mary Morris, CEO of the Virginia College Savings Plan. "Most folks aren't focused on that day in and day out. They're just trying to get by and raise their kids."

Attracting attention for college savings

The Virginia 529 College Savings Plan made news last year when it put its name on the Virginia 529 College Savings 250, a NASCAR Nationwide Series race that runs in September at Richmond International Raceway. It continues as the race's official sponsor this year, with plans to roll out an initiative to help low- and middle-income families, Morris says. It also has planned a presence at May's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the speedway.

People from several states, including Florida, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and Pennsylvania, stopped by the Virginia 529 tent during the NASCAR race, allowing representatives to share plan details and benefits, Morris says.

"It was a really good way to talk about 529s generally for those folks," she says. "To some, we said, 'Take a look at your state. Yes, you can register to win our account. And, if you want to keep it here, that's fine. Or, if you want to put it in your (state's plan), just roll it over.'"

Morris says she's seen new account growth in the savings plan's Virginia Education Savings Trust, or VEST, program, part of which she attributes to its outreach efforts.

The NASCAR races and events like the Colonial Athletic Association's Men's Basketball Championship, where the Virginia 529 College Savings Plan logo on the floor was seen during ESPN coverage, provides exposure to various groups looking to invest in college savings accounts.

Getting popular sports figures to endorse the plan is a frequent approach, too, says Joe Hurley, CPA and founder of Savingforcollege.com.

"I think it is effective because it's just a way for the state to communicate the savings plan to people who might otherwise not know about it," Hurley says.

Georgia's Path2College 529 Plan has worked with the Atlanta Falcons, the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech to offer scholarship drawings, sweepstakes to meet players and VIP game packages.

College Illinois! 529 Prepaid Tuition Program is connected to minor league teams like the Chicago Wolves, an American Hockey League franchise.

Cleveland Cavaliers players Anthony Parker and Jawad Williams are among those involved in Read to Achieve, a campaign by CollegeAdvantage (Ohio's 529 plan), Outback Steakhouse and Time Warner Cable that encourages kids to read and adults to read with their children.

Taking advantage of a 529 plan promotion

If you're at an event and see a tent or booth with 529 plan representatives providing information about a plan, Williams suggests taking a few minutes to talk about the potential benefits by asking:

  • Are there any particular benefits that are exclusive to state residents?

Some of them include tax benefits and matching funds when you open a 529 account or make subsequent contributions, she says. Some states have set up legal guidelines that exclude 529 assets from state scholarships. "That might be a very relevant aspect of a plan that's important to know," she says.

Even if there's a tax-free benefit, she advises that the value of the benefit still might not overcome a high fee for a specific 529 plan.

Williams says improvements have been made to the process, significantly shortening the enrollment process and making it easy to ask questions using online contacts. "Don't make the process any more difficult than it needs to be," she says.

  • Can you name two other 529 plans that you would consider to be your toughest competition?

The 529 plan representatives may be reluctant to do it, but Williams says if they will, it will give you an idea of other places to look when doing your research about saving for college.

What to do from there

If attending an event where a plan representative is present has spurred your desire to invest, Williams recommends taking two weeks to compare 529 plans and decide on one. This isn't a lifetime decision; you can move funds into other plans.

"Start now. Even $25 a month will make a difference in the end," she says.

Posted June 4, 2010

If you're headed to an NBA game, state fair, NASCAR race or high school debate tournament, don't be surprised to see a 529 plan representative there.

Representatives of some state 529 plans are popping up at activities where crowds are gathered to educate parents, grandparents and others about the benefits of saving for college, no matter the child's age.

The marketing efforts include scholarship drawings to kick start families' savings and partnering with children's museums and restaurants on special promotions.

Meeting parents where they are having fun and seeing their children excel helps to make 529 plans stand above the volume of personal finance pitches. When it comes to saving for college alone, more than 100 different plans are offered by the 50 states and other entities, says Jackie Williams, director of the College Savings Initiative at the New America Foundation, a nonprofit public policy institute in Washington, D.C.

"There are a lot of different benefits and ways you can save for anything," says Mary Morris, CEO of the Virginia College Savings Plan. "Most folks aren't focused on that day in and day out. They're just trying to get by and raise their kids."

Attracting attention for college savings

The Virginia 529 College Savings Plan made news last year when it put its name on the Virginia 529 College Savings 250, a NASCAR Nationwide Series race that runs in September at Richmond International Raceway. It continues as the race's official sponsor this year, with plans to roll out an initiative to help low- and middle-income families, Morris says. It also has planned a presence at May's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the speedway.

People from several states, including Florida, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and Pennsylvania, stopped by the Virginia 529 tent during the NASCAR race, allowing representatives to share plan details and benefits, Morris says.

"It was a really good way to talk about 529s generally for those folks," she says. "To some, we said, 'Take a look at your state. Yes, you can register to win our account. And, if you want to keep it here, that's fine. Or, if you want to put it in your (state's plan), just roll it over.'"

Morris says she's seen new account growth in the savings plan's Virginia Education Savings Trust, or VEST, program, part of which she attributes to its outreach efforts.

The NASCAR races and events like the Colonial Athletic Association's Men's Basketball Championship, where the Virginia 529 College Savings Plan logo on the floor was seen during ESPN coverage, provides exposure to various groups looking to invest in college savings accounts.

Getting popular sports figures to endorse the plan is a frequent approach, too, says Joe Hurley, CPA and founder of Savingforcollege.com.

"I think it is effective because it's just a way for the state to communicate the savings plan to people who might otherwise not know about it," Hurley says.

Georgia's Path2College 529 Plan has worked with the Atlanta Falcons, the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech to offer scholarship drawings, sweepstakes to meet players and VIP game packages.

College Illinois! 529 Prepaid Tuition Program is connected to minor league teams like the Chicago Wolves, an American Hockey League franchise.

Cleveland Cavaliers players Anthony Parker and Jawad Williams are among those involved in Read to Achieve, a campaign by CollegeAdvantage (Ohio's 529 plan), Outback Steakhouse and Time Warner Cable that encourages kids to read and adults to read with their children.

Taking advantage of a 529 plan promotion

If you're at an event and see a tent or booth with 529 plan representatives providing information about a plan, Williams suggests taking a few minutes to talk about the potential benefits by asking:

  • Are there any particular benefits that are exclusive to state residents?

Some of them include tax benefits and matching funds when you open a 529 account or make subsequent contributions, she says. Some states have set up legal guidelines that exclude 529 assets from state scholarships. "That might be a very relevant aspect of a plan that's important to know," she says.

Even if there's a tax-free benefit, she advises that the value of the benefit still might not overcome a high fee for a specific 529 plan.

Williams says improvements have been made to the process, significantly shortening the enrollment process and making it easy to ask questions using online contacts. "Don't make the process any more difficult than it needs to be," she says.

  • Can you name two other 529 plans that you would consider to be your toughest competition?

The 529 plan representatives may be reluctant to do it, but Williams says if they will, it will give you an idea of other places to look when doing your research about saving for college.

What to do from there

If attending an event where a plan representative is present has spurred your desire to invest, Williams recommends taking two weeks to compare 529 plans and decide on one. This isn't a lifetime decision; you can move funds into other plans.

"Start now. Even $25 a month will make a difference in the end," she says.

Posted June 4, 2010

 

Reset email successfully sent.
Please check your inbox.

Close
page loadtime mark

Advertisement


close