- With student debt a recurring topic among the Democratic presidential candidates, a coalition of state 529 college savings plans has released a "Roadmap for their Future" to help families prepare children for the costs of higher education.
- A preschooler activity, for example, involves a grocery store game in which children learn how to make spending choices. “This teaches your child about the value of money and the cost of everyday items. It can also be a valuable lesson regarding the cost of food, and how important it is to not be wasteful,” write the roadmap’s authors, seven parents (or grandparents) who work in the 529 industry.
- For students in K-12, the grade-by-grade resource includes suggestions such as college tours, finding career-focused camps, and encouraging students to be involved in school fundraising efforts. The roadmap can “easily be used by educators to introduce financial literacy activities around the costs of college, and why you should financially plan ahead,” said Betty Lochner, a liaison coordinator with the National 529 Campaign. “While written with parents in mind, they are rich with ideas and activities for educators.”
Preparing students for the costs of college is one reason more states have moved to require financial literacy courses and curriculum. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, lawmakers in 40 states and the District of Columbia considered bills this year focusing on financial literacy.
A new law in Arizona, for example, makes an economics course on financial literacy and personal financial management a high school graduation requirement. And in Louisiana, student loans, including the topics of repayment and default, will be a specific focus of a new personal financial management course required by a law passed in June.
With many schools offering college savings workshops for families, the new roadmap can also be a useful tool for interacting with parents and students. Even though efforts increase to make at least the first two years of college free — and families can now withdraw up to $10,000 per year from their 529 plans to pay for K-12 expenses — experts say these accounts are still a wise investment strategy for covering college expenses.