Treasurer Michael Frerichs

SPRINGFIELD - With the arrival of May 29, also known as 529 Day and National College Savings Day, State Treasurer Michael Frerichs is reminding families it’s always a good time to open or add to an Illinois 529 college savings plan.

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Frerichs’ office has been partnering with Illinois children’s museums to create special opportunities for families to learn more about college savings plans while taking advantage of a free or discounted admission.

“If a child knows he or she has a college savings plan, that child is three times more likely to attend college. When an adult opens and contributes to a child’s savings account, it is a way of saying, ‘I believe in you.’ This is an especially powerful message to send to young people,” Frerichs said. “529 Day is a fun designation meant to help families learn about the crucial role that a 529 account can play in children’s future success.”

The Treasurer’s Office recently has sponsored free and discounted admission days at other children’s museums throughout Illinois, including in Oak Park, Naperville, Peoria and Edwardsville. A Springfield event is scheduled for June. Families have picked up information about Bright Start 529 College Savings and asked State Treasurer’s staff questions about the program.

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Several years ago, Illinois lawmakers approved designating May 29 as 529 College Savings Day “to help raise awareness about the escalating costs of higher education and the importance of saving for college with the help of 529 college savings plans.”

Earlier this month, state lawmakers adopted a resolution encouraging “all Illinoisans to explore the benefits that 529 college savings plans offer families.” The resolution pointed out that college savings plans such as Bright Start and Bright Directions help families reduce or eliminate future student loan debt and that the “contributions families make today pay off in the form of an increased earning potential for their children in the future.”

In Illinois, 529 college savings plans are tax-advantaged investment vehicles to help save for college. Individuals ages 18 and over, with a Social Security Number or Tax Identification Number, and a U.S. address can open an account. Families have the option to open a Bright Start College Savings account directly online or, for those who prefer to work with a financial advisor, Treasurer Frerichs also administers the Bright Directions Advisor-Guided 529 College Savings plan. During Treasurer Frerichs’ administration, the combined 529 plans have more than doubled in assets to $19 billion and have grown to more than 890,000 accounts. Additionally, Frerichs has worked with program manager Union Bank & Trust to reduce fees to ensure more investment dollars go directly to college savings.

The Illinois Treasurer’s Office’s 529 plans offer a variety of investment options and flexibilities for families. Anyone can contribute to an account, and there are no enrollment fees, minimum contributions or minimum balance requirements to open or maintain one. There are tax benefits, too. Earnings are free from federal and state taxes if used for qualified education expenses, and up to $10,000 per year in contributions ($20,000 per year for married couples filing jointly) to an account are eligible for an Illinois income tax deduction.

For more information, visit BrightStart.com or call 877.432.7444.

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