Make Your Initial Investments Wisely

This post is sponsored by the Florida Prepaid College Board, through my role as a Believer Blogger. All thoughts are my own.

Monograms: They are enormously popular here in North Florida.

I see monograms on ANYTHING that will fit three letters these days: dresses, athletic tanks, headbands, thermal mugs, boots, umbrellas, Yeti coolers, pacifier holders, burp cloths, blankets, license plates, windshield decals, iPhone home buttons (?), Chuck Taylors … the list is infinite.

Back in the year 2000, when Tenley was 3, monogramming was quite popular among other moms (and kids) but not to the extent it is now. Still, I spent a disproportionately large amount of money on a monogrammed dress for her. The company, which did shows in people’s homes, had compelling arguments: it was well made (true), stylish (true), individual to her because of the personalization (true), and had a deep enough hem that I could continue letting it out as she grew.

The only thing I have left of that dress is a picture.

College Financing

Although some families are flush enough income-wise to spend liberally on children’s clothing and invest in a future beyond preschool, we really weren’t able to do both at the time. It would have been wiser to put that money toward her college education instead and eliminate the need for our family and Tenley to incur student loan debt as we are doing now..

(Note: if you’ve been reading my Believer Blogger posts for a while, you know my parents were more farsighted than I was and bought my kids prepaid plans when they were newborns (thanks, parents!) but if they had not done that, it would have been on my husband and me. I also believe I should have invested in 529 plans to pay for expenses beyond tuition such as books, fees, and housing.)

If you are still on the fence about investing in the Florida Prepaid Plan for your child or a child you care about, consider this before Open Enrollment ends on February 28.

Calculating the Cost of College

I used the Florida Prepaid Cost of Waiting College Savings Calculator to see what parents of a 3 year old today should anticipate regarding college savings:

College Financing

According to the “results” chart below:

  • Based on these inputs, the cost of waiting just one year to start saving for your college goal is estimated to be $79 per month
  • Every year you delay, it costs you more to save the same amount of money for college
  • Four years of college could cost you over $206,000 fifteen years from now. You could save 100% of the projected cost by putting aside $774 a month, if you earn a 5% annual return for fourteen years.
  • If you wait just one year to start saving, the monthly cost goes up to $853 to save the same amount of money over 15 years.

College Financing

All Those Facts and Figures. What is the Bottom Line?

The bottom line is this: the things you think matter so much now may be a lot less important down the road.

The Florida Prepaid College program, with more options than ever including a one-year Florida university plan, a 2+2 Florida plan taking advantage of our fabulous community college system, and a dormitory plan, is something to think about now. Even putting it off until next year could be costly.

Take it from me; what I should have had monogrammed was a bank, not a dress.

College Financing

A Head Start

With the code BLOG1617, you can save 50% off of the $50 application fee!

College Financing

For More Information

Visit the Florida Prepaid College Plan by clicking here for information. If you prefer to speak with someone by phone, please call 800-552-GRAD (4723).

College Financing

Florida Prepaid Plans: Enrollment is Open!

This post is sponsored by the Florida Prepaid College Board, through my role as a Believer Blogger. All thoughts are my own.

I was sitting on my daughter, Tenley’s, bed last night chatting, when my eyes fell on this pillow which all the grandchildren in our family had been given for Christmas many years ago.

College Financing

I mentioned how sentimental the pillow made me, since we had just spent the evening at a co-ed shower for my niece, Jessica, who is getting married next month. Between Jessica’s birth in 1989 and my daughter’s birth in 1996, five girls were born to my sisters-in-law Mary and Ann, and I had Tenley. The result was years of girl togetherness, baby dolls, gymnastics meets, dance recitals, fashion discoveries, makeup sessions, sparkles, and smiles. As I stood in various clumps of people last night, each of the girls talked about her 2016 life. They are now a pharmacist, two nurses, a nursing student, and two juniors in college. Each one is remarkable.

Planning Ahead Matters

What is remarkable for my family is that my parents had the foresight to look at the facts when I was still “in the weeds” of the day-to-day costs of having an infant and to purchase a Florida Prepaid College plan for Tenley when she was a newborn (they did the same for my son, Wayne, when he was born in 1999).

Enrollment Is Open!

The Florida Prepaid College Board has launched the 2016-17 Open Enrollment period. This is important: you can only enroll between now and February 28, 2017. After that, you will have to wait until the next enrollment period.

So Many Options!

One thing I love about Florida Prepaid plans is how they are responsive to the evolving needs of today’s families. There are more affordable options now than ever before, and more plan designs that reflect the education financing needs of today’s college-bound students. Here they are:

The 1-Year Florida University Plan (the newest offering)

With this plan, you can purchase one year, or 30 credit hours, at a time according to your budget and timeline, without feeling the pressure of having to buy all four years at once.

The 1-Year Florida University Plan also allows multiple purchasers to buy a plan for the same child (hello grandparents, aunts, uncles, and caring friends!). A child can have up to four 1-Year Florida University Plans.

The 2-Year Florida College Plan

This plan is perfect to set children up with a practical, affordable path to entering their chosen career with an associate’s degree or trade certification.

Every cent of the value of this plan can be applied at any university or college nationwide and is guaranteed by the state of Florida. Purchasers cannot lose the money they put in.

The 4-Year Florida College Plan

There are 28 Florida colleges (such as the one near my home town, Florida Gateway College, which I visited numerous times in my Union County high school career when it was still Lake City Community College) They’ve expanded their capabilities far beyond two-year programs. Most now offer four-year bachelor’s degree programs in growth industries like nursing and teaching, and continue to grow their degree programs year after year.

Since the 28 Florida colleges are typically less expensive than a university education, the 4-year college plan provides a practical, affordable path to a bachelor’s degree.

Every cent of the value of this plan is guaranteed by the state of Florida (this is true for Florida Prepaid plans).

The 2+2 Florida College Plan

By starting your child off at one of Florida’s 28 colleges, you’ll save money on lower-level courses before they transfer to a state university to finish off their degree.

Students with this plan are guaranteed admission to a state university once they’re earned their associate’s degree at a Florida college.

The 4-Year Florida University Plan

The plan starts your child off at one of Florida’s 12 state universities.

If your child decides to start at a college (typically less expensive), the unused funds from this plan can be applied to a post-secondary degree or you can get the remaining money back.

Like all Florida Prepaid plans, use isn’t restricted to Florida schools; the amount covered by your Prepaid Plan can be used at schools nationwide. (Tenley is using hers at Valdosta State University in Georgia, for example.) There are dormitory plan options also.

What Is The Investment?

Here’s some incredible news. The Florida Prepaid Board has worked extremely hard to keep prices near historic lows, and they have succeeded! That’s great for Florida families.

As you can see above, there are more plans than ever, and they are structured in a way that acknowledges the budgeting challenges families face. Plans start at less than $47 a month!

College Financing

For less than $47 a month, a parent or other caring adult can demonstrate their belief in the future by starting a Florida Prepaid Plan. Look at all the potential of the kids in this video, and the hope shared by the adults who want their children’s dreams to soar:

Don’t Let the Application Fee Stand in Your Way!

If you’re like me, you can see the smaller details of life as bigger stumbling blocks than they are. Yes, there is an application fee of $50. But with this code, BLOG1617, you can save 50% off of that fee!

College Financing

Remember the Scholarship Contest?

You read every word I publish, right? Just in case you’re in the minority who do not (wink wink) or you are a new reader, I wrote recently about the opportunity to win one of 10 2-Year Florida College Plans through the Florida Prepaid College Foundation!

There is less than one week left to enter to win! Here are the details:

When: Register between now and October 23

Where: Click here to enter (remember you can enter daily)

What You Can Win: In addition to registering to win one of the ten 2-year plans, when you click on the entry link, you can earn extra entries by answering questions, learning more about saving for college, and sharing on social media. There will also be chances to win a weekly prize.

Eligibility: Open to legal residents in the state of Florida with children or grandchildren between the ages of newborn through 8th grade.

College Financing

About Florida Prepaid

As you think through your family’s options for Florida Prepaid, visit the Florida Prepaid College Plan by clicking here for information. If you prefer to speak with someone by phone, please call 800-552-GRAD (4723).

Little Girls Grow Up

Yes, I got lost in the “overwhelm” of the responsibilities, logistical and financial, of having a newborn (but my parents saw longer term, fortunately). As you can see below, the little girls from the picture on the pillow grew up faster than their family can comprehend. Remember how quickly the time flies, and look into Florida Prepaid as an option for your child or a child you love during this open enrollment period.

College Financing

Tenley and my nieces, December 2015.

 

Ten Florida Families to Win College Scholarships

Prepaid College TuitionNever will another Florida State University student spend their freshman year where I did: coping with the thrills, disappointments and sheer journey into the unknown brought on by spending the year in Kellum Hall. Kellum Hall has been razed. A patch of gravel (pictured above) is all that is left on the footprint of a place where many of my friends and I experienced that critical freshman year.

The ten winners of the Florida Prepaid Scholarship Giveaway will have to start freshman year somewhere rather than Kellum, but the good news is they will start freshman year knowing they have the financial jump-start of a 2-year Florida College Plan, valued at more than $8,000, courtesy of the Florida Prepaid College Board.

Prepaid College Tuition

I’ll share the details of how to enter (it’s simple!), but if the idea of the Florida Prepaid Program is new to you, a brief comment about why it’s so incredible.

About Saving for College and Why College Matters

According to the How America Saves for College 2016 report, only 2 out of 5 families have a plan to pay for college — even though a postsecondary degree is more necessary than ever for career success. According to state projections, 59 percent of all jobs in Florida will require postsecondary education by 2018.

If you are not as prepared to fund your child’s education as you hoped to be, this does not reflect a lack of love for your child or children. Instead, it puts you in the majority, among the 3 out of 5 families without a plan to pay for college.

Prepaid College Tuition

To celebrate National College Savings Month, why not enter this contest for a chance to give your child a powerful head start?

It worked out well for this family, who won a scholarship from last year’s contest:

How to Enter

When: Register between now and October 23

Where: Click here to enter (remember you can enter daily)

What You Can Win: In addition to registering to win one of the ten 2-year plans, when you click on the entry link, you can earn extra entries by answering questions, learning more about saving for college, and sharing on social media. There will also be chances to win a total of 50 weekly prizes.

Eligibility: Open to legal residents in the state of Florida with children or grandchildren between the ages of newborn through 8th grade.

Beyond the contest period, prepaid plans will be available for purchase throughout open enrollment, which begins October 15, 2016, and ends February 28, 2017.

Prepaid College Tuition

This post is sponsored by the Florida Prepaid College Board, through my role as a Believer Blogger. All thoughts are my own.

Florida 529 Savings Plans are Big!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the Florida Prepaid College Board, through my role as a Believer Blogger. All thoughts are my own.

Eight dollars and ninety-seven cents. 

Florida 529 Savings Plans

I am not proud of the fact that this is the balance of my college sophomore’s Florida 529 Savings Plan.

Years ago, I opened a Florida 529 Savings Plan for her at a time when my employer was offering to match my contributions. When our family experienced several financial challenges (too much debt compounded by job loss), I stopped making contributions to the account and withdrew most of what had accumulated, since we were in survival mode.

529 Savings Plans Fill Gaps

To be clear, we were ahead of the college finance game compared to many Florida families. We were extremely fortunate that my parents had generously purchased Florida Prepaid contracts for our children when they were infants (more on that here and here).

Two years into my daughter’s college experience at Valdosta State University, though, and just over a year before my youngest child graduates from high school, I think often of the additional “breathing room” I would have if I had kept up my Florida 529 Savings Plan contributions (and unlocked my employer’s matching contributions). We could have avoided the student loan debt we have incurred.

By “breathing room,” I mean expenses like:

  • tuition
  • mandatory fees
  • room and board
  • textbooks and supplies
  • computers
  • other equipment that is required for enrollment

One small hurdle when I opened my children’s Florida 529 Savings Plan accounts was the minimum required contribution. The Florida Prepaid College Board has removed the minimum contribution requirement. You could start with, for example, $8.97.

How is a Florida 529 Savings Plan Different from a Prepaid Plan?

  • Unlike Prepaid Plans, the Florida 529 Savings Plan does not have a set payment amount or schedule.
  • A family can contribute as much or as often as desired, and accounts can be opened at any time. There is no minimum contribution to open a Florida 529 Savings account, and there are no application fees.
  • The biggest difference between the two is that the Florida 529 Savings Plan is subject to fluctuations in the financial markets, while the Prepaid Plan are is guaranteed by the State of Florida.
  • There are 11 investment strategy options, including an age-based option that gets more conservative as the beneficiary gets closer to college age.

To learn more about Florida 529 Savings Plans and the Prepaid Plan, please click here.

Opening a Florida 529 Savings Plan is Simple

If you don’t have a Florida 529 Savings Plan already, click here to start!

You Could Win a $529 Scholarship!

The Florida 529 Savings Plan Scholarship Program is new! In conjunction with 529 College Savings Day (observed on May 29!), it will award 10 winners a $529 Scholarship deposited into a Florida 529 Savings Plan account. Families can enter to win between May 1 and May 29, 2016 via this link!

Only legal residents of the state of Florida who are currently over the age of 18 are eligible to enter. Winners will be selected from among all eligible entries via a random drawing to be conducted on June 1, 2016, at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

A Lesson Learned

I wish the balance on my daughter’s 529 Savings Plan was $897, $8097, or more instead of $8.97, but it is not. If you are at an earlier stage of planning for your child’s college expenses, I simply urge you to consider the role a 529 Savings Plan can have for you.

If nothing else, go for the scholarship!

Florida 529 Savings Plans

 

Motivation-Monday