Monday, June 16, 2008

529 update

Hmm, my blog comments have been going into my spam folder. How irksome.

I did use the UPromise 529 plans for the kids – I’ve been using their program for a while and had some reward cash just sitting there. Looking into the assorted plans, I decided I liked the Vanguard portfolios they had available and jumped on in. Hopefully, I won’t get a bunch of water up my nose on the deal…(I’m not a huge lover of mutual funds. I prefer to hand-pick my money-leeches companies.)

I’ve also gotten the cash-back card offered through Citibank (giving up my other one, which makes me sad…I just bought a 27 cubic foot refrigerator for $300 of cash-as-such and $1800 in gift cards I got from my old card…) (you should have seen the expression on the cashier’s face, though, when I produced a stack of Sears gift cards the size of three or four decks of cards to pay for the fridge…PRICELESS!).

But the more I got to thinking about it, the actual cash-value of my points on the other card was about 1%, sometimes less. The UPromise card gives 1% back on all purchases, with bonus amounts for certain products and services. It may not be as emotionally satisfying (or laughter inducing) as having a wallet thick with gift cards for wants-not-needs buying fun, but I’m getting more and more concerned that we just aren’t doing enough for those college futures. I keep hearing about folks coming out of basic college with tens of thousands of dollars in student loans to pay off, and it just gives me the heebie-jeebies.

“OK! So! You’re starting your new career now, and even as a newbie you’ll be making $5,000 more a year than this other guy without a degree! However, your student loans will be costing you $10,000 a year in payments…” Ouch.

I’m checking into the Freshman Fund college savings registry Jeff mentioned in his comment. I’m a little concerned about the part where “any logged in user” can access the kids’ pages…they’re not seeing account information or physical address, but still. Call me neurotic. (“You’re neurotic!!” “WHO SAID THAT?!?!” {tears office apart looking for hidden cameras…})

But it does seem like a cool idea, especially for those of us with far-flung friends and relatives who tend to mail checks for birthdays and such. Instead of mailing a check (which I then have to deposit into my account and remember to write an equal check into their accounts) (remembering, is the key word here…), they could log into the site and make their donation on the web. I’ll give it a trial run for a Denizen or two and see how it works out, and let y’all know what happens.

Specifically, I’ll be checking out how easy it is to use, whether or not my email gets spammed like crazy after I sign up, what fees (if any) are involved and how long it takes for a contribution to go from Point A to Point B. And of course, I’ll be making sure the money goes where it’s supposed to go – and no extra money vanishes. Call me neurotic, but…oh wait, we already went over that…

Interestingly, one of their other founders was also the founder of CDNow – does anybody else remember CDNow, before it was swallowed whole by Amazon?!

Ah, yes. The good old days, when the Internet was a Wild, Wild West and if you said, “Internet Startup!” venture capitalists said, “Here’s my pocketbook!” I’m not dissing CDNow, by the way…I really am just having a warm-fuzzy flashback to the Internet boom days…and trying to forget that part where it went “BOOM!!!” and people who came late to the party got their fingers blown off and stuff.

That part kinda sucked. Like the folks next door, who bought their house at $485K at the end of the housing boom in order to flip it, couldn’t sell it at $435K and have now walked away leaving it sad and alone and vacant…LET’S TALK ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE…

I also looked at Jeff’s blog, and I have to say I heartily agree with one of his recurring themes: The plastic crap we ladle over our children at every birthday and holiday is so pointless. We spend thousands on toys they don’t really play with, on goods that pack up our landfills and clutter our homes. I’m not saying that kids should have no toys, ever, or that we should limit their playthings to only three hand-carved wooden toys of native birch or anything like that.

But I do think that if we cut the volume of them way, way down and put the money aside for their futures instead…they would thank us for it, in the sweet by-and-by.

Right now, they may be pissed. This is why we are called “parents” instead of “best buddies” – parenting sometimes means that you will do things of which the children do not approve. Like putting spears of broccoli on their plates or limiting their TV time, saying “no, you may not watch Shaun of the Dead with us”. It’s part of the gig. I don’t like it either, but oh well. Someday, they will thank me for all the fiber and character-building and call me to complain that their six year old wants to watch Shaun of the Dead and oh my gawd, it’s horrible the way he cries and pouted and stomps when we say ‘no’!

And I shall laugh. Oh yes. I shall laugh…

Anyway, back to birthdays today: Getting them just one small thing for instant gratification and putting $25 into their college fund would definitely be a better deal, for them and the planet. Less trash from wrapping and packaging, and the inevitable throwing away of the toys they didn’t really like so they decided to drown them in the toilet or throw them off the balcony or leave them in the backyard to bake.

Along with sixteen pairs of shoes and my good colander.

Right-O. Putting the soapbox away now.

Also, a 529 for myself! I hadn’t thought of that…I already have a BS [shut up!], but honestly I’d love to get a master’s someday…tax-advantaged growth on my savings toward that Lofty Goal would not suck, not even a little bit…! And think: if my kids decline to go to college or by some miracle have cash left over when they’re through (stop laughing!), I could roll it into a 529 for myself and go back to college for a degree in something incredibly valuable, like Celtic Studies.

Cead Mille Failte, y’all…


Lydee said...

good stuff to think about, thanks for the brain food :-)

Anonymous said...

Do you by any chance hire out as a personal finance consultant? 'Cause dang, we could use you! Hubby and I are NOT GOOD at the whole LBYM, thinking of the future, etc. stuff, and we really need to get a grip. You seem to have a good handle on how to do that.

Christi said...

Thanks for the inspiration. We need to start a 529 or something for the Burrito. He does have a savings account already, with a triple-digit balance. Every time his grandmother (my Mom) pays us for something she doesn't need to (like his birthday cake), we put that in his account. She won't listen when we tell her not to give us money, and if we insist, we'll find it hidden somewhere after they leave.

By the way, the link to the Freshman Fund isn't working - it's got the denofchaos URL tacked onto the front.