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Family Money

If you're like me, as soon as your children were born you started worrying about how they were going to pay for college. Fortunately www.savingforcollege.com details a step-by-step process of setting up a 529 plan to get our savings on the right track.

Getting started – Find a 529 in your state. Since I am a resident of Virginia, I chose a VA529 plan. However, if you are a military family and your primary residence is in a state without income tax — Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington or Wyoming — you may want to enroll in another state's 529 plan since you won't be getting a state income tax deduction.

Research Plans – visit http://www.virginia529.com/ to learn more about Virginia529 plans. In brief and pulled from www.savingforcollege.com:

• Virginia529 inVEST* is a state-administered 529 savings program that features a mix of different mutual funds and separately-managed accounts in its age-based and static portfolio options.

• Virginia's CollegeAmerica* is an advisor-sold 529 plan that makes available a line-up of 27 individual funds, six multi-fund portfolios, and seven target date fund portfolios from American Funds through Class 529-A, 529-C, 529-E and 529-F-1 shares.

• Virginia's CollegeWealth* bank product allows account owners to save in traditional FDIC- or NCUA-insured deposit accounts at participating banks or financial institutions and benefit from Section 529 tax advantages.

• Virginia also offers a prepaid tuition program open only to Virginia residents. (Virginia529 prePAID offers a variety of tuition packages to Virginia families.)

Choose a Plan Right for Your Family – We chose Virginia529 inVEST because we couldn't afford the $5,000 a year for the prepaid tuition program and we didn't have a financial advisor. The Virginia529 inVEST allows us to save what we can each month. Essentially it is a savings vehicle that can be used at any university, not just those in Virginia. For ease of enrolling, watch a 5-minute inVEST tutorial at bit.ly/inVestPlan.

May 29th is celebrated nationwide as 529 College Savings Day, in an effort to raise awareness about the importance of saving for higher education and the tax advantages of 529 plans.

* All three VA529 plans are available to residents of any state.


Nikki Ducas is a Fredericksburg mom of two young sons and is financially vested in their future.

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