Author: Andrew Wingender, Regional Sales Director, 529 College Savings Plans, First National Bank of Omaha

Preparing for higher education takes a lot of work, whether you’re a student making an academic commitment or a family member making a financial one. And just as teachers and counselors guide students in their academic preparations, at NEST 529 we work tirelessly to provide Account Owners with the resources and support they need to succeed in the college savings journey.

In today’s blog, we outline four strategies that Account Owners can implement to get the most out of their savings, so the whole family can feel confident and prepared for higher education.

1. Set Goals

When families first commit to saving for higher education, the journey ahead might appear overwhelming. But there is one tried and true method to build confidence when it comes to savings, and that’s setting a calculated and realistic goal.

The NEST Direct College Savings Calculator is made to help Account Owners define and meet their goals. The Calculator factors into account your child’s age, the type of college they might attend and the amount you are currently saving in order to summarize the total projected education costs in your time frame, and estimate the monthly savings needed to get there. With this information, you hold the key to saving systematically and efficiently over time.

Additionally, setting incremental goals is an effective tool to stay motivated and engaged with college savings over time. The Calculator can help determine milestones within your larger goal to help make the process more approachable. For example, families with young children can focus on a goal amount by elementary school graduation, followed by a goal for middle school graduation or a sweet 16. Before you know it, you will have worked through all the smaller milestones and will be many steps closer to achieving your overarching goal.

2. Make a Plan

Once your goal is in place, as a NEST 529 Account Owner you have a number of savings options available to help you make the perfect plan to meet it. If you prefer a hands-on investment approach, you can make these moves yourself through your choice of Static or Individual Investment Options. You have the power to switch investment options twice per year per beneficiary.

If you’d rather leave your portfolio to the investment experts, you can take advantage of the NEST 529 Age-Based Investment Options, where your investment risk is automatically adjusted and reduced over time as your child becomes closer to enrollment age. With this method, your account will be placed in a portfolio based on your child’s age and will automatically move from more aggressive to more conservative over time.

Once you have determined your investment strategy, lock it into place with the Automatic Investment Plan (AIP) and Payroll Direct Deposit. AIP allows you to contribute to your NEST 529 account automatically and directly from your personal checking or bank savings account, and Payroll Direct Deposit allows you to contribute after-tax dollars straight from your paycheck. These automatic tools ensure you never miss a contribution or an increase, and make it easy to stick to your savings plan for the long term.

3. Assemble a Team

The college savings journey is not one that you have to travel alone. NEST 529 makes it easy to work with a team of family and friends who are committed to helping your child to pursue his or her academic dreams. 

Anyone can contribute to your NEST 529 account. Through Ugift, your account is assigned a unique code that close friends and extended family can use to quickly and easily make contributions using a check or electronic transfer. Unlike many other gifting programs, gift givers don't have to join, register or pay a service fee, and they don’t need any additional information about your account.

Loved ones can also pitch in with a gift certificate contribution. Simply fill out and mail a contribution coupon to NEST 529, and download and print a card to celebrate the occasion.

With easy gifting any day of the year, NEST 529 Account Owners can share preparations for higher education with their community, setting them up for long term progress and support. 

4. Stay Involved

Life gets busy, especially with kids, and it can be tempting to forget about long-term goals to focus on everyday tasks. One of the most important strategies for success in saving for higher education is to make sure that your savings remain a priority over time. 

Simple steps, such as incorporating budget changes into your regular contributions, adjusting investment options if circumstances change and sharing your progress and goals with friends and family will help ensure that you get the most out of your account year after year. 

Staying up to date with NEST 529 news is another tactic for success. Through NEST 529 scholarship programs that run throughout the year, there are numerous opportunities for you and your family to engage with the fun side of college savings, and enter for the chance to win a big contribution boost. Make sure to ‘Like’ and ‘Follow’ NEST 529 on Facebook to be among the first to hear of new scholarships and giveaways. 

Throughout your college savings journey, remember: you’ve chosen a plan that works tirelessly to help optimize and boost your savings. With all of these benefits through NEST 529, all you need to do is take advantage!