As a 34-year-old single dad to an amazing and sometimes challenging 6-year old little girl, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my daughter’s future and ensuring she is set-up for success in life. To me, being set-up for success means giving her a well-rounded education and the financial as well as emotional support to continue that education wherever her dreams may take her. As any parent knows, there is a lot to balance when raising children between work, school, sports (in our case, basketball, and soccer), piano lessons, family time… the list goes on and on. Admittedly, my focus as a parent early in my daughter’s life was on giving her a well-rounded childhood and not enough on how she would be able to continue her education after high school.
I blame part of my failure to plan on the fact that no one ever saved for my college, and so I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t give saving for her education much thought. With no money saved for college, I had been fortunate to have earned a full scholarship for my undergraduate degree to the Air Force Academy. I had hoped that my daughter would someday follow in my footsteps, and the Air Force would pick up the tab.
While sitting at the doctor’s office for her 5-year-old check-up, I came to learn that while my daughter and I look almost identical, we have very different eyes. Her poor vision would almost certainly preclude her from someday attending the Air Force Academy. This realization served as a wakeup call for me to begin investigating college savings and learning more about the best vehicles to save and invest for her college. It was not good enough to be a great dad for her now; I had to plan on how I was going to take care of my daughter in the future.
As I researched, I realized that the longer I prolonged acting, the more it would inevitably hurt my daughter’s chances of pursuing her dreams due to the threat of student debt. I understood the burden of student debt because I did have to take out over $100k+ in loans while earning my master’s degree. It almost killed me, but I was able to work diligently and pay off that debt thanks to the success of a consulting business I founded after leaving the Air Force.
Having worked in consulting, I reached out to a friend who was a financial services guru to hear his thoughts on saving for college. He recommended I investigate UNest, a mobile app that allowed parents to set up a 5-star rated 529 college savings plan. I had read a bit about 529 Plans and the tax advantages they offered parents for not only college but trade school and other education-related expenses. Taking his advice I decided to download the app and check it out.
Initially, I was skeptical, primarily because UNest seemed to good to be true. I had learned how lengthy the process of setting up a 529 plan is. For those parents who did not want the hassle of navigating mountains of paperwork and dozens of plans by themselves, there were financial advisors will to help. Unfortunately, those advisors charged parents ridiculously high fees for establishing 529 Plans. As I researched, I began to appreciate what the UNest team had built. As a busy parent, my biggest concerns were ease of use, not wasting money on high management fees, and the ability to contribute automatically.
UNest had solved for my core concerns with their easy to use interface that allowed me to download the app and set up an account in under 5-minutes. I was able to play with their planning tool and see the monthly contribution I would need to make so my daughter would have enough money for college upon her high school graduation. It also made me happy that an active advisor was monitoring the plan. I wanted to be in an age-based plan that balanced risk over time, becoming less exposed as my daughter got closer to the date she would need the money.
One of the things I had been most shocked by was the high fees advisors charged for setting up plans. While these did not look significant early over time, they added up to thousands of dollars. UNest’s solved this problem with a flat $3 monthly fee, which I felt was fair given the value of their service.
Ever the skeptic, I did not dive into becoming a UNest client immediately. I downloaded the app and read the reviews. I talked with more friends and even had the chance to meet the founder of UNest through my friend. I learned about her background and saw she truly cared about her clients and saw the need for UNest while at a large financial institution that had been charging far too much to parents. She wanted to democratize college savings and ensure anyone could set up an account quickly and efficiently.
At this point, I was convinced and began funding my account. Still cautious, I started with smaller contributions that have grown over time. Since investing my first dollars, I’ve received paperwork confirming my plan, and I’ve had no problems with my deposits going through every month. I’ve even gotten to know the UNest team very well and am a proud supporter which I why I am sharing my story with you today.
Full disclosure, I loved the UNest app so much I even invested in the company and am now a proud account holder and shareholder in UNest. I know that there are lots of other parents out there like me who have postponed saving for college for their children because it seems like too much of a daunting task. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be, and the team at UNest is happy to help you just like they helped me. Together we can all make our kid’s futures brighter by removing the burden of student debt.