For 20 years, we’ve given the gift of higher education through this Idaho program. Here’s how.

The IDeal 529 College Savings Program offers tax benefits tied to your contributions and could help fund college for your kids or grandkids, writes guest columnist Norm Beckert.

December 22, 2021 3:52 am
university students in a classroom

Parents and grandparents should consider starting a 529 college savings account to help prepare students for the financial costs of college, writes guest columnist Norm Becker. (Getty Images

My wife, Patricia, and I have nine grandkids sprinkled across the country from Houston to Pittsburgh to Chicago and to Portland. Four of them are college graduates, including a granddaughter with a graduate degree, and three others are enrolled in college thanks to a gift they received from us initiated more than 20 years ago. 

Every year, we give each of our grandkids a contribution toward a financially stable future with the help of IDeal. Idaho began the IDeal 529 College Savings Program more than 20 years ago, and we wasted no time in starting seven accounts to help fund our grandkids’ future education. When the two youngest grandchildren joined the family, we opened accounts for them, too. In our eyes, there’s no better gift that we could give to our grandkids than an investment in their education and career dreams. 

Patricia and I like that the IDeal Program has always been straightforward and easy to understand; we can invest as much money as we feel comfortable with and it’s invested to help meet our grandkids’ future education expenses. We also recognized that the IDeal program was a smart investment strategy thanks to the tax benefits tied to our contributions. 

Our first four grandchildren have already graduated college and started their careers. They minimized the amount of student loans in that they used the savings in their IDeal accounts to augment their college expenses. All four have already paid off their student loan debt. Kaitlyn, our oldest grandchild, was also able to go on to graduate school and recently paid off her remaining student loan debt using the remaining funds in her IDeal account. 

Our kids and their spouses bore the major financial responsibility for their children’s educational expenses. The decision to open and invest in the 529 accounts also contributed to improving the household financial stability of our kids and their spouses. Simply stated the 529 accounts eased the financial burden of the parents and the grandkids. We frequently encourage our grandkids to make responsible financial decisions, and when the time is right, we will urge each of them to open 529s for their own kids one day.

Being smart with money, saving and investing is an important lesson in our family. In fact, one Christmas, we bought “Smart Money” books for each of our grandchildren to help them absorb the risks and pitfalls of borrowing money. We really wanted them to understand the need to consider various alternatives for saving for the future. 

My wife and I figured all the grandkids were going to go to college and IDeal was a way that we could contribute to that end and help offset some of the costs. We don’t worry that our grandchildren will be hindered from chasing their dreams due to mountains of debt and unpaid bills. IDeal was the best gift we could have ever given our grandchildren and it shows them that their grandparents believe in their future. 

If you need one more reason to invest with IDeal, our grandkids must have appreciated our contributions to their accounts because they do call to check-in and visit when they can! 

You can check some gifts off your list by starting an account now at

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Norm Beckert
Norm Beckert

C. Norm Beckert and his wife, Patricia, have four married children and nine grandkids throughout the country. He has over 40 years of business, engineering and supply chain management experience, including 26 years at Boise Cascade. Norm has served as an adjust professor at the Boise State University College of Business and Economics, and he continues to provide guidance to local entrepreneurs through the Service Corps of Executives program.