Stacey Belford

Stacey Belford of Overland Park, Kan., shares her story:

When did you start saving?
My oldest daughter was due in January 2008, and I opened her account initially with me as the beneficiary in December of 2007. I opened the account before she was born so I wouldn’t forget and to be able to take advantage of the state tax deduction.

What do you like best about Learning Quest?
I like that it's money we’re specifically setting aside for our girls' educations. My girls know education is important, and it keeps the eyes on the prize, so to speak.

In my opinion, a 529 plan is the most flexible way to save for college. In addition to the tax benefits, I can control the account to make sure it’s used how I want it. I can change the investments, the beneficiary and how much I choose to invest. There are no age or income limits. It's a great tool.

How does it make a difference?
Our Learning Quest accounts give us peace of mind that we’ll be able to cover at least some of the cost of college without digging into our retirement savings or incurring significant student loan payments.

Why is saving for college important to you?
My mom was a teacher, and both my parents were the first in their families to attend college. I was raised to be responsible with money and continue to have an aversion to paying more for things than what I believe they should cost. Interest on loans falling into that category for sure.

Despite what you sometimes read in the press, there is still tremendous value in higher education, in terms of employment and income opportunities. Most jobs require some type of education or training beyond high school. College costs continue to increase, and while we'll certainly make responsible choices when it comes to how much we spend, it's important to me to have money set aside to offset some of the cost.