A Heartfelt #StartingIsBelieving Conversation

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

Prepaid Tuition Programs

Oh, Valentine’s Day. ALL the fun of candy, love in the air, and did I mention candy?

On the way to becoming the treats we all know, love, and share on Valentine’s Day, fave candies like Conversation Hearts undergo quite the interesting transformation before becoming sweet messengers.

In this slideshow, Necco explains the process of creating conversation hearts. It takes six steps. Similarly, the process of preparing to fund our children’s higher education costs takes more than one step. Let’s take a look at those steps as the deadline to enroll in a Florida Prepaid plan approaches.

Conversation Hearts, College Funding: Six Steps

Assembling Individual Ingredients

For conversation hearts, the manufacturer begins with sugar, color, corn syrup, cornstarch, flavors, and gums (maybe I just won’t think too hard about those gums!).

When our children are born, they have all the individual ingredients that will eventually serve them in college. Intellect, energy, motivation.

Creating The Blob

Looking at the second step in the conversation heart process, you would never know all that amorphous blobby mound is going to turn into something so adorable and tempting.

Prepaid Tuition Programs

From the NECCO website

For me at least, there have been so many times as my son worked his way through grades K-12 that I wondered “is there hope of this kid making it to higher education?” It doesn’t bode well when games win out over homework 85% of the time.

Sheeting

In the third step, machines press the dough until it’s flat.

We need to be that pressing machine for our children’s futures: forcing ourselves to make a plan for their college education. This involves making hard choices, perhaps giving up some discretionary income that could lead to immediate family fun.

Cutting and Stamping

This must be where the fun begins. The dough is cut into hearts, and the messages are applied!

Those of us who care for children in Florida have an opportunity to shape them and share messages that will impact their futures. 

The Drying Tunnel

After being cut and shaped, the conversation hearts remain in a drying tunnel for 30 minutes.

As I have written before, I am SO fortunate my parents bought my children Florida Prepaid plans when they were infants. A (relatively) modest expenditure almost 20 years ago has given my kids an opportunity to get college educations with the tuition paid for. Like the conversation hearts in the drying tunnel, the money had to sit there, doing nothing, in order to turn into something powerful later on.

Blending the Flavors

Once the hearts are pressed, cut, and dried, it’s time to combine all the colors for a spectrum of deliciousness.

I can’t say we are out of the woods yet with my high school senior, but the same kid who “forgot about history fair” for literally MONTHS between the start of school in August until the night before the due date in January early in his high school career *may* have found his groove and the realization that higher education can make a difference in his future. All those raw ingredients may indeed be coming together into a multi-dimensional kid with a plan (yay).

Packing

Finally, the conversation hearts are packaged into those iconic little boxes (among other packaging options) and transported to stores where they are sold and find their way into Valentine’s celebrations nationwide.

The thirteen years between the day we send our babies off to kindergarten and the day they cross that stage to accept their high school diplomas sure don’t seem that long. Before we know it, they are off to convey their own messages in their own way.

But About That College Funding

Yes, it’s fun to talk about turning a blob of sugar, cornstarch (and yes, gums) into conversation  hearts … but my goal is to draw a parallel between that process and the process of getting our kids to college, especially how to pay to get our kids to college.

A Florida Prepaid College Plan is an ultra-affordable way to give your child (and yourself) the security of knowing a college education with no debt (or at least less debt) is in their future.

Open Enrollment Ends February 28!

The 2016-17 open enrollment period ends on February 28, so time is short to invest in a Florida Prepaid Plan.

Some reminders of why Florida Prepaid is such a great choice:

  • Every Prepaid Plan is guaranteed by the State of Florida, so you will never lose your investment.
  • Prepaid Plans work nationwide. Even if your child attends an out-of-state or private college, the plan will pay the same amount as it would pay at a public college or university in Florida. Our daughter uses her Florida Prepaid at Valdosta State University.
  • If your child earns a scholarship, you have options regarding your plan. You can get a refund for the same amount as the plan would pay a public college or university in Florida.
  • Plans are flexible time-wise. Your child has up to 10 years after his or her year of projected enrollment to use the plan.

Are you the kind of person who tells your loved one you’ll celebrate on the day after a holiday so you can get the goodies 50% off? Well, with prepaid, you have to enroll by February 28 but the good news is you can save the 50% off now! Use the code BLOG1617 and save 50% off the $50 application fee.

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About 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).

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

Don’t Be Poky About College Tuition Planning

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

Don't Be Poky About College Tuition Planning

A friend of mine has a new baby daughter, and friends throughout the nation are donating books to the library at his town’s elementary school in her honor. When I went to buy the books I am donating, I went to our Barnes and Noble here in Tallahassee because they are participating in a statewide book fair benefiting the Florida Prepaid College Foundation.

I chose a Poky Little Puppy book because that little puppy always pulled at my heartstrings. I chose Flat Stanley because I loved doing Flat Stanley with my kids. And I chose Who Was Anne Frank? because it was The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank that first opened my eyes to the lessons of the Holocaust and instilled my drive to become a woman who believed, like Anne, “In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

My friend’s daughter will, in a blink, find herself moving on from the Poky Little Puppy to these books as she prepares for college:

Don't Be Poky About College Tuition Planning

As I wrote in my first Blogger Believer post, because my parents bought a Florida Prepaid plan for my daughter when she was a newborn, our family had the security of knowing that her tuition would be paid for when she enrolled at Valdosta State University.

As the February 28 deadline to purchase a Florida Prepaid College plan approaches, please take a minute to consider these two action steps if you are a Florida resident with a child in your life who plans to go to college.

Enter The Florida Prepaid Scholarship Giveaway by February 18!

The Florida Prepaid College Foundation is having a scholarship giveaway!  Ten winners will each receive a 1-Year Florida University Plan. You can enter the giveaway daily via this link. Don’t be poky like the little puppy; enter by February 18!

Enroll in the Florida Prepaid College Plan by February 28!

Open enrollment closes on February 28, 2015. Prices are currently the lowest they have been since 2007. There are five plans from which to choose, including a new 1-Year Florida University Plan costing as little as $43 a month for a newborn.

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

Now that Tenley is a freshman in college and Wayne is a sophomore in high school, I miss the days of the Poky Little Puppy, learning about the world through Flat Stanley, and helping my kids navigate those first forays into history. As a family, we have turned the page on that time of our lives.

If your child’s education plan has unwritten chapters, consider a Florida Prepaid Plan for a happy ending.

Don't Be Poky About College Tuition Planning

We Can’t All Be Santa

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

Cropped Santa Mail

I don’t remember exactly what Wayne put on his Santa list in 2005, when he was in first grade. I am sure the general theme was “transportation” as in toy trains, remote-controlled cars, and anything else that had wheels, made noise, or (ideally) moved while making noise. All items on the list were meant to be enjoyed “RIGHT NOW.”

First Graders Aren’t Worried About College

First graders aren’t worried about the distant realities of college tuition, how they will pay for their residence hall when they are 18, or the advantage of “current plan pricing.”

First graders don’t know:

  • Individuals with bachelor’s degrees earn an average of $23,700 a year more than those without, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
  • A recent Georgetown University study estimates that a student with a bachelor’s degree can earn $1.6 million more in their lifetime than a student with only a high school diploma
  • It’s projected by a study from Georgetown University that by 2018, 59 percent of jobs in Florida will require post-secondary education
  • In 2013, the unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree holders was 4 percent. For those with only a high school diploma, it was 7.5 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics

I don’t know Santa’s academic credentials, and good for him that he’s got his gig pretty locked down (and oh the cookie benefits!). But he’s certainly the exception to this general truth:

Graph

The Gift of a College Education

Purchasing a Florida Prepaid College Plan for your child now is a gift that will long outlast the stuff that kids beg to see from Santa. As I wrote in my last post about Florida Prepaid, my parents bought Florida Prepaid College Plans for my children with lump sum payments of around $7,000 when they were infants. That investment will result in approximately $32,000 worth of college education for each of them.

I know it’s a hectic time of year for all of us. I know that part of the fun of sharing the holidays with our children is indulging in some of their favorite “gotta have it now” treats. I’ll tell you what ….. there’s a way to secure your children’s educational future and free up some cash for a treat.

Enrollment Fee Waived!

Sign up for your Florida prepaid plan before December 31 and the $50 enrollment fee will be waived*. It’s almost like found money! (Your prepaid payments won’t begin until April 2015.)

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

education gift

*The Open Enrollment period closes on February 28, 2015, but the enrollment fee waiver ends December 31, 2014.

The Gift of Security

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

prepaid college

Photo Credit: Sarah Stephens Photography

At 18 months, my daughter Tenley had the security of a favorite stuffed animal. At 17 years, she was poised to enroll as a freshman at Valdosta State University, with her tuition already taken care of through the Florida Prepaid College Plan.

My parents bought the Florida Prepaid College Plan for Tenley with a lump sum payment of around $7,000 when she was an infant. That investment will result in approximately $32,000 worth of college education. The ultimate security.  

A Grandparent’s Gift

When I asked him about his choice to purchase Florida Prepaid College Plans for my children when they were infants, my dad said, “I am not a financial genius; however, I was fortunate enough to have the money to invest in our grandchildren’s future.”

Maybe it isn’t genius level to make such a stellar and long-lasting investment, but it is certainly smart if you ask me!

More About Florida Prepaid

The Florida Prepaid College Plan kicked off Open Enrollment on October 15. The Open Enrollment period closes on February 28, 2015. There are two incredible new changes this year:

  • Prices are at their lowest point since 2007 (as much as 50% lower)!
  • There is a NEW 1-Year Florida University Plan with a monthly payment of $43.30 for newborns.

In addition, the $50 application fee for newly opened plans will be waived through December 31, 2014!

Although my parents chose the lump sum option and started when Tenley and Wayne were infants, there are a variety of payment plans for children of all ages. (And payments don’t begin until April 2015.)

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

I am a Blogger Believer because a Florida Prepaid College Plan has been one of the primary factors in securing my children’s future.

What are your dreams for your child’s future?

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