by Mary Harris, CFP®


When a gift is needed on short notice, do you find yourself scurrying around and wondering what to give? What gifts come to mind on occasions when:

A baby is coming?
Your niece is graduating from 5th grade and moving into middle school?
Your child is invited to 3 birthday parties in May?
You want to give a meaningful holiday gift to a loved one?

Think education! The gift of education is enduring and will be remembered long after the Lego set or Barbie doll are outgrown and packed away for the next Goodwill delivery.

You can start the gift of education for a child (born or unborn), grandchild, other family member, a friend, or even yourself. With as little as $25, you can open or add to a 529 College Plan. One good choice for Californians is our plan called Scholarshare. Go online to Print the application, make your check payable to the selected plan, roll it up diploma-style with a fluffy bow and deliver to the lucky recipient. The parents do the heavy lifting on the application with their signatures, investment options and then simply mailing the application to Scholarshare to establish the account.

Future birthdays and other celebrations will be a breeze for you, as you will simply make a contribution to the ever-growing education account.

Why a 529 Plan?

In a word, taxes. Over time, without the annual erosion of income taxes, the funds receive a huge boost. The funds are invested within the 529 Plan, and grow without tax and can then be withdrawn at college time without tax, when used for appropriate expenses.

Many 529 plans offer age-based portfolios that automatically rebalance and change their asset mix based on the child’s age. At birth this may mean 100% in stocks for growth, then at age 18 the portfolio is weighted more in bonds for security and income. This is a no-brainer!

The student can use the funds as needed for tuition, room and board, fees, books and other expenses of colleges, universities and trade/technical schools.

So, don’t add to the pile of old Lego sets and Barbie dolls. Think education and give the gift that will never be outgrown.


*Image courtesy of sattva at