Commentary

Doing what’s best for our Idaho kids means saving early for higher education

One thing we’ve learned is that every little bit saved helps, especially considering the program’s state tax benefit, writes guest columnist Misty Swanson.

December 21, 2022 4:10 am
High School Classroom

One of the tax benefits associated with IDeal – Idaho’s 529 College Savings Program – allows for a $6,000 Idaho state tax deduction per individual – or $12,000 for a couple filing jointly, for contributions, writes guest columnist Misty Swanson. (Getty Images)

As parents, it goes without saying that one of our primary objectives is to do what’s best for our children. We strive to protect their health and well-being. We encourage participation in sports, the arts, or other activities to give their lives balance, joy and the opportunity to connect with peers. 

It’s no different when it comes to their education. We assist with their homework or school projects. We play an active role with teachers to help our sons or daughters achieve academically, grow and ultimately to begin thinking about their lives after high school – in other words, what they want to be when they grow up. 

For my husband and I, doing what’s best for our children has included saving for their postsecondary education. Our thinking behind this was to give them some financial footing, some security that would allow them to pursue their higher education dreams while avoiding the burdensome student debt impacting so many graduates these days. 

As a parent, it’s gratifying to see how saving early has paid dividends in the life of my 21-year-old stepdaughter, Ashley, who is on pace to earn her undergraduate degree at the University of Idaho in May. Ashley worked hard to earn scholarships to help pay for school. But like tens of thousands of parents in Idaho, my husband and I also committed to saving for her future education dreams. 

Before Ashley even learned to walk, my husband, Alan, engaged with IDeal – Idaho’s 529 College Savings Program. He opened an account in her name and took advantage of the direct deposit option provided by his employer to sock money away each month. 

We have also set up an IDeal account for our seven-year-old daughter, Danica, and are actively saving for her to pursue her education dreams after high school. 

One thing we’ve learned along the way is that every little bit saved helps, especially considering the state tax benefit included in the program. One of the tax benefits associated with IDeal allows for a $6,000 Idaho state tax deduction per individual – or $12,000 for a couple filing jointly, for contributions. As we near the end of the calendar year, now is a perfect time to max out on your IDeal 529 contributions to take full advantage of the tax benefit. 

We also appreciate the flexibility IDeal provides. For example, we know there will be unused funds in Ashley’s account. She is free to use the money for graduate work, but if she decides not to continue her education, the balance in her IDeal account can be rolled over into her sister’s account. 

In addition, funds in an IDeal account can be used nationwide at eligible two and four-year colleges, universities, vocational schools as well as registered apprenticeships. 

Another perk to the IDeal program is the gifting option. This time of year is perfect for grandparents, aunts and uncles and other relatives to gift to an IDeal account. It’s a two-for-one gift as those contributions are also eligible for the Idaho state tax deduction. 

As someone professionally involved in education in Idaho, someone who understands the benefits of post-secondary education and the impact on our state’s economy, I encourage Idahoans to consider the impact of a program like IDeal. Every little bit we can do to save now makes a difference over time as those resources are invested and managed in the marketplace. Opening an IDeal 529 account is simple and requires just a $25 initial deposit. To learn more about IDeal 529, visit: https://www.idsaves.org/.

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Misty Swanson
Misty Swanson

Misty Swanson is the executive director of the Idaho School Boards Association. Her promotion to the post in 2021 followed more than 16 years with the organization. A native of Grand View, she received her degree in business administration from Northwest Nazarene University and lives in Boise.

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