Author: Joanna Swanson, Head of Direct Sales, Savings Plans, First National Bank

As the classic adage goes: “Kids…they grow up so fast.” As a parent, I can tell you this sentiment definitely rings true for me! Where do the years go? Although college may seem a distant expense for new parents, it is never too early to start saving for higher education—and in fact, the sooner you begin, the better.

As a mother myself, I know just how hectic it can be to balance parenting, work and a mile-long to-do list! Even the most organized of parents can use a little help when it comes to planning for their young child’s academic future. That’s why the NEST team has compiled this checklist for preparing during your child’s early years:

  • First things first: Open a NEST 529 College Savings Plan as early as possible. Start with what you can afford.
  • Decide how you want to save: There are several convenient ways to save through AIP or payroll deductions. Research what is easiest for your financials.
  • Spread the word: Share with friends and family that you are saving for your child’s future, and encourage them to give birthday and holiday gifts in the form of 529 contributions.
  • Seek out scholarships: Apply for applicable NEST 529 scholarships on our website. New scholarships are added throughout the year.
  • Increase Contributions at Milestones: Childhood milestones can be a great reminder to bump up your NEST contributions. For example, once your child starts Kindergarten (goodbye high daycare or preschool costs), increase your contribution by a few extra dollars.  A little bump goes a long way when you factor in compounded growth.
  • Engage: Participating in your child’s school events—like science fairs—can be a great opportunity to spend time together as a family, foster an academic dialogue, and emphasize the importance of education from a young age. Beyond academics, attending college sports events as a family can expose your child to the fun extracurricular side of higher education, and provide memories they will look back on fondly when they are thinking about applying to a higher education institution.
  • Encourage: Aside from the financial standpoint, it is also important to simply talk to your kids about college, highlighting the value of higher education and how it can set them up for a successful life down the road. Instilling an appreciation for college and learning during these early years will ensure your child is not only prepared for the future, but excited about it too.

For more information on saving with the NEST 529 College Savings Plan, please visit https://www.nest529direct.com/.