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Start college saving! It’s National 529 Day

By Christina Couch · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Posted: 10 am ET

If you have or are thinking about opening a 529 college savings plan, today is the day to do it. In support of National 529 College Savings Day, state-sponsored savings programs across the country will unroll incentives to help boost your higher education funds. Some of these include:

  • Matching contributions: Utah residents who open a new Utah Educational Savings Plan 529 account and contribute at least $25 will receive a match of up to $25 to get their college savings off the ground. The account holder and beneficiary must reside in Utah and both must be new 529 plan enrollees. Those who already have a 529 plan will receive a $10 matching contribution for any friends or family who open a new plan and contribute at least the same.
  • Baby booms: Expectant moms in Virginia who deliver on 5/29 may get more than just a newborn. Virginia529 is partnering with area hospitals to award a $529 prize to babies born closest to 5:29 p.m. today. For eligible Virginia residents, a list of participating hospitals is available at Virginia529.com/529day. Mississippi will hold a similar giveaway for the first babies born at six select Jackson metro-area hospitals closest to 5:29 a.m. and 5:29 p.m.
  • Giveaways: Don't worry, you don't need to be pregnant to take advantage of 529 Day festivities. Several states, including Virginia, Georgia and Missouri, are all hosting plan contribution giveaways of up to $5,000, $10,529 and $529 respectively.
  • Waived enrollment fees: Even if you don't win the grand prize, there are still fiscal incentives for opening new accounts. States including Florida and Washington will waive enrollment fees on new accounts. While the Florida promotion extends all the way through June 30, Washington's promotion ends today at 11:59 p.m. and only applies to accounts opened online.

"The biggest tip I can give is start (investing) early," says Betty Lochner, director of Washington state's Guaranteed Education Tuition program and vice chair of the College Savings Plans Network, which offers a comprehensive list of 529 Day incentives. "Most families don't really think about saving for college until their kids are in middle school, high school ... if you can do it when your children are small, young, you'll be so far ahead of the game. That's really what 529 Day is all about."

Before enrolling in a 529 plan, Lochner advises families to research the risks associated with their investments, investigate whether their state offers any state tax incentives for 529 investments, check out the fees associated with each plan and ask about the plan's refund policy in case students don't attend college.

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