I Could’ve Been A Contender…Or Why I Wish My Family Knew About 529 College Savings

My entire life I was sold one thing, and one thing only: Work hard to get a scholarship to go to college. There was no talk of any other options, when I started looking at colleges my sophomore year of High School, my eyes bulged at the cost of my dream schools (which were all private, out of state universities). But I was determined, figuring somehow it would all work out… that I would get that magic scholarship that my family had pounded into my brain.

Junior year, I met with my college advisor at school. We got to the financial discussion: how much money would my family have for me. I think I gave the blankest stare imaginable cause she asked again “How much has your family saved for your education Yolanda?” I blinked and said, “um, I don’t think they have.” She sighed, looked at me and said, “I’m going to include some community college catalogs for you to look at. Talk to your parents and see what would be financially feasible for you.”

“But what about scholarships?” I asked. She looked at me, turned, and handed me a stack of papers. “Fill these out, and they will get back to you in a few months if you qualify.” I grabbed my pile, stuck it in my backpack and felt…well, like my whole future was gone.

I went home, and read all the applications…not a single one would even cover a semester at my coveted schools, and one would barely cover the cost of a year’s tuition at UCLA. That was IF I qualified. I talked to my mom later that evening and asked how much money there was for me to go to college. Her answer was the same as it had always been, “we’re not rich Yoli, you should get a scholarship!”

There was no money for school, the chances of a scholarship to cover even a small cost were slim, and while my family was definitely not rich, the income was “too much” to determine need. So what happened? I gave up.

I did eventually go to college, well into my 20’s and now I have over $50,000 in debt…and all I could think is, if only my family had known then, what I know now… I may have less debt and have had the career I had been dreaming of. But when I graduated in 97, my family newly American family did not know about saving for college, nor did they know how. They built my future on the dream of a scholarship…and they weren’t alone. According to this graphic, courtesy of ScholarShare.com, 50% of Latino families expected scholarships to cover their college costs. 2_12_13_ScholarShare Infograph 1-page-001

This was in 2012… I can only imagine what it was like in 1997. So I am doing something for my daughter I wish my family knew about, and did for me. I am starting a 529 college savings plan with Scholar Share.

I was invited to attend a dinner with the people of Scholar Share last week, and what I learned was really mind blowing. Here is a quick run down:

  • The new ScholarShare plan significantly reduces fees, expands the investment lineup, and offers online and mobile tools to make California’s 529 plan more accessible and easier to manage.
  • The minimum initial contribution to open an account is now only $25, down from $50 a year ago.
  • Under the revamped plan, fees will be reduced by approximately 30 percent, making ScholarShare one of the lowest cost 529 plans in the country.
  • The 529 plan is tax deferred AND the earnings are Tax free. That means, you invest $1,000 and it grows to $5,000… you only pay tax on the $1k not the growth!
  • You don’t have to live in California to have a Scholar Share 529 Savings plan, you don’t even have to live in the country to contribute money to the plan. So anyone can contribute to the plan. Think of all the birthday gifts from family and friends near and far that could easily be college investments!

I shared my story because I hear parents say “it’ll mean more if they work for it” or “we can’t afford it, we’re stressing scholarships” ALL THE TIME. While my story may not be standard, I want it to serve as a cautionary tale. Don’t leave your child’s future to chance. All it takes is $25 to start a ScholarShare 529 account…and your money will not be lost. Even if it’s just to help with books, or a semester or two… or even have money for bus fare, every little bit counts. Don’t wait…and don’t let your kids drown in debt like I am now.

For more info, check out ScholarShare via their website, Twitter or Facebook.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post from One2One Network and Scholarshare. All opinions stated are my own.


  1. says

    This is a wonderful thing you’re doing for your daughter! We started saving for my son as soon as we found out we were pregnant. Every little bit helps!

    I hope your story inspires others to do the same!

  2. says

    I hope that even a few people hear your story. I also had parents who never saved – and actually they were plenty poor, but they never even stressed GOING to college, let alone thought about how to help me get there. I started RESPs for each of my boys right after they were born. It won’t cover everything, but it will cover a fair bit and I plan to help during the college years as much as I can because I do stress to each of my kids that going to college is important!

  3. says

    I went to this dinner when they held it in San Diego and I learned soooo much! I am definitely getting started with my kids and I think every parent should as well. Getting a scholarship would be great, however it’s not guaranteed. Think the worst and you’ll be prepared for any situation :)

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