On Boundless Dreams with New York’s 529 College Savings Program

College savings with kids and a piggy bank and money

Thank you NY 529 for sponsoring this post. It’s never too early to get growing! Learn more about opening an NY 529 Plan for your child today.

Thirteen whole years. My oldest kiddo (my baby!) recently became a teen and so here I am, once again, feeling like these are the sort of milestones that scream time is indeed a thief. I’m certain that it was just yesterday that my daughter was born. Then I blinked, and also just yesterday, I was buying supplies to bake a birthday cake for a milestone celebration.

That said, time is also on our side. A little bit can go a long way when it comes to things like saving for higher education. Even amidst uncertain times, long-term goals are still very much alive. As a parent, and a keeper of my children’s boundless dreams and goals, I know that turbulent times (hello 2020!) are just a moment in time – and we can’t, in any way, forget the future ahead. Times like this also remind me that solid savings vehicles are incredibly important. For college savings, both of my kids have New York’s 529 College Savings Program Direct Plan, accounts which I believe are the right fit for my family. I’ve broken down the important stuff below: 

What is a New York 529 Plan? 

The NY 529 college savings plan is a state-sponsored investment account for higher education savings. It can be used to pay for four- or two-year colleges, postsecondary vocational and trade schools, and postgraduate programs. This also includes many things that are considered a higher educational expense – including tuition, books, supplies, software, room and board, equipment (like computers, etc.), and more.

Why NY 529 vs. Traditional Savings? 

Hello, tax savings! An NY 529 plan allows earnings to grow tax-deferred, and qualified withdrawals are tax-free*. Also, most institutions only count around 6 percent of the total 529 funds as usable when determining financial aid eligibility. In comparison, approximately 20 percent or more of traditional savings custodial accounts are factored into the eligibility of financial assistance. This is just the cliff notes, learn more about the calculation at https://studentaid.gov/complete-aid-process/how-calculated.

reflection photo in a puddle

What if I lose my job or face financial hardship? How can my family possibly do this while saving for retirement, a home, etc.? 

One of the things that I appreciate most about our 529 accounts is the flexibility and investment options. There are times when I’ve had the accounts set to recurring contributions (also known as an automatic investment plan, or AIP), and there are times when contributing individually was a better fit. Even small, regular contributions today can make a difference over time. I know that staying the course and making adjustments when necessary is a crucial part of keeping our family dreams in motion.

The NY 529 plan also allows for us to make investment choices that fit our comfort for risk.  Everyone is different and there are choices of investment options to accommodate different levels of risk taking.

What if the grandparents will handle college?

Fantastic! But it’s also smart to have a set plan in place. Many people can open a 529 account with as little as $1. This includes not only parents but other relatives and friends. The account owner selects the beneficiary, investments, and how the funds will be allocated. If you’re a New York State taxpayer, you can also benefit from the state tax deduction*. If one of the kiddos scores a full ride or doesn’t choose the higher education path, the beneficiary can be transferred to another sibling, cousin, grandkid, or even yourself. There are no time limits to use a 529 account.

painting rainbows with watercolors.

Any other benefits?

Including our kids in discussions about their 529 accounts has been a vital piece of teaching financial literacy. When the kids help with my freelance work, I pay them. I give them a token amount to spend and always make a contribution to their 529 accounts in front of them. Being lucky enough to have their Abuela gift contributions for birthdays and holidays further reinforces the importance of higher education and long-term savings goals. My mom’s gifts also simultaneously cut down on all of those meaningless presents that are soon forgotten about, collect clutter, and carry zero value over time. Having extended family on board is one of the best possible gifts. Especially in a world where you blink and your firstborn (who was just a tiny preschooler) is suddenly only four-and-a-half years away from college. 

Big reminder that I am NOT a financial advisor, so please read the disclaimer below:

* Contributions of up to $10,000 are deductible annually from New York State taxable income for married couples filing jointly; single taxpayers can deduct up to $5,000 annually. New York State tax deductions may be subject to recapture in certain circumstances such as rollovers to another state’s 529 plan, federal nonqualified withdrawals, or withdrawals used to pay elementary or secondary school tuition, registered apprenticeship program expenses, or qualified education loan repayments as described in the Disclosure Booklet and Tuition Savings Agreement. State tax benefits for non-resident New York taxpayers may vary. Please consult your tax advisor about your particular situation. Earnings on federal nonqualified withdrawals may be subject to federal income tax and a 10% federal penalty tax, as well as state and local income taxes.  Tax and other benefits are contingent on meeting other requirements.  Please consult your tax advisor about your particular situation.

Investment returns are not guaranteed, and you could lose money by investing in the Direct Plan.

For more information about New York’s 529 College Savings Program Direct Plan, download a Disclosure Booklet and Tuition Savings Agreement or request one by calling 877-NYSAVES (877-697-2837). This document includes investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other information. You should read and consider them carefully before investing.

Before you invest, consider whether your or the beneficiary’s home state offers any state tax or other benefits that are only available for investments in that state’s 529 plan. Other state benefits may include financial aid, scholarship funds, and protection from creditors.

The Comptroller of the State of New York and the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation are the Program Administrators and are responsible for implementing and administering the Direct Plan.

Ascensus Broker Dealer Services, LLC, serves as Program Manager and, in connection with its affiliates, provides recordkeeping and administrative support services and is responsible for day-to-day operations of the Direct Plan. The Vanguard Group, Inc., serves as the Investment Manager. Vanguard Marketing Corporation provides marketing and distribution services to the Direct Plan.

No guarantee: None of the State of New York, its agencies, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), The Vanguard Group, Inc., Ascensus Broker Dealer Services, LLC, nor any of their applicable affiliates insures accounts or guarantees the principal deposited therein or any investment returns on any account or investment portfolio.

New York’s 529 College Savings Program currently includes two separate 529 plans. The Direct Plan is sold directly by the Program. You may also participate in the Advisor-Guided Plan, which is sold exclusively through financial advisors and has different investment options and higher fees and expenses as well as financial advisor compensation.

©2020 New York’s 529 College Savings Program

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Lovely, Personalized Stationery and Invitations to Suit Every Occasion

When I was a newly minted high school graduate, my dear next-door neighbors gifted me with an extensive set of personalized stationery as a graduation gift. I surprisingly still have some pieces from that collection – the gift that started a lifetime appreciation for customized paper products. With so many special days to look forward to like graduation season, summer weddings, bridal showers, Mother’s Day, and more – we’re happy to highlight the lovely products over at Basic Invite – the place to find perfectly customized invitations, stationery, announcements, business cards, and more. 

As one of the few invite/stationary/paper product websites providing almost unlimited color options (over 180!); beautiful typography, and instant previews online – Basic Invite allows for custom samples of actual printed products. If you happen to be indecisive on a final purchase – this custom sample option (which I indeed went for) is key. There’s nothing like having an actual card in your hands to ensure printing, paper quality, and details feel right before placing that final order. 

Among my favorite options from Basic Invite are foil cards (in gold, silver, and rose gold) in either flat or raised foil designs. Options like rounded-corners also add a beautiful touch. With over 40 different envelope colors to choose from to match school colors for graduation invitations, bridal showers, graduation thank you cards, and more – Basic Invite has something for every occasion. We’re also big fans of their peel and seal envelopes! Basic Invite’s helpful tools, including free recipient address printing, graduation invitation party templates, an address capturing service, and free wedding/party website building, help make the ordering (and party planning!) process a breeze.

Check them out and enjoy 15% off at Basic Invite with this coupon code: 15FF51

Big thank you to Basic Invite for sponsoring this post. 

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I Tried P.volve. It Made Me Reconsidering The Way I Workout

P.volve_NYC

Thank you to P.volve for sponsoring this post.

A great workout has been one of the tools in my self-help arsenal since my teen years. I feel my best with consistent visits to the gym. Functional fitness methods have been buzzing around the city for years. I’ve been curious about P.volve since seeing their adds on the subway and recently took a class at the new P.volve Soho flagship NYC studio.

P.vovle is a low-impact, functional movement fitness method that merges functional science, physical therapy, and small hip-opening movements to sculpt hard-to-reach body areas while eliminating bulk. It’s in no way a grueling workout that makes it impossible to walk down subway steps the next day. Through a series of smooth and effective small micro-movements, along with P.vovle’s proprietary fitness products (including the p.ball),hard-to-reach muscles are activated. Unlike traditional weights, the p.ball (which straps onto the top of your legs) targets the upper and inner thighs and the inner-glutes to create long, lean muscles.

P.volve’s new Soho flagship studio is bright, beautiful and thoughtfully designed to motivate. Aside from all the perks that come from working out with friends or strangers riding on collective energy, proper instruction is helpful when trying anything new. During class, I moved into a booty squat (I suppose out of habit), when P.volve’s movement was more like a subtle knee bend. No worries, because a P.vovle instructor hightailed it to my improper form, directing me into the micro-movement with her quick corrections. Inside the studio, I found myself present in closely watching the instructor’s technique since many of the movements were unlike any class I’ve taken prior. For example, rotating the hip slightly inward (in a pidgeon-toed position) is definitely not in my usual workout repertoire. The studio experience and expert instruction made me all the more comfortable with the small, smooth, controlled movements before beginning the journey of streaming workouts at home.

A P.vovle class left me energized and determined to add P.vovle to my workout rotation. It’s been a while since something made me reconsider the efficiency of time devoted to lifting (somewhat heavy), pounding the treadmill, and plowing through a spinning class. P.volve’s approach certainly changes things up.

Ready to try P.Volve? Take advantage of these great offers:

  • Register for a 15-day free trial HERE with code PVOLVEMOM (expires: 11/8) 
  • Get 15% off of 1st product purchase HERE with code PVOLVEMOM  (Code auto-populates discount in cart. Discount code expires on 11/8 ).

All images via Lauren Kara Photography. Big thank you to Brianne at Stroller In the City for event hosting.

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Enjoying Music On The Go

Thank you to our sponsor Best Buy.

Switching over to wireless headphones is game-changing. Gone are the days of tangled wires making me lose my cool at the gym or on the go. With lots of upcoming family travel plans (and tweens who like to snatch my things), JLab JBuds Air family of Headphones topped my search for top-rated true wireless headphones under the $100 price point.

JLab Headphones Ear Buds

JLab Headphones JBuds Air currently offers three new models of wireless earbuds outfitted for quality, superior sound, comfort, and convenience. The new profile from JLab Audio includes something for every lifestyle: the new sport-inspired JBuds Air Sport, the business-inspired JBuds Air Executive, and the JBuds Air Icon. Check out why we think they’re so cool and why they’re known as the number one true wireless earbud under $100:

JLab_Headphone_JBuds_Air
  • Sweat-resistant: designed to provide protection from sweat – JLab is totally workout friendly.
  • Solid battery life and rechargeable battery: starting at 24 hours of battery life – the rechargeable battery offers up to 6 hours of use on a charge.
  • Lifestyle Features: these new wireless headphones have a comfortable sport fit, dual microphones for chatting, plus an excellent in-ear design.
  • Bluetooth interface: allows for simple wireless pairing with your Bluetooth-enabled device.
  • Stereo design: delivers crisp and sharp tones to enjoy your music, podcasts, and more.
  • Dual connect (Air Icon Only): the ability to use either earbud independently or use both and experience a seamless connection.

We’re adding these to those holiday lists!

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A Look Inside a Fun Moms’ Night Out

Big thank you to our sponsors, Parents Magazine, Clorox ®, and Dove.

With school in full swing and holidays soon around the corner, joining MomTrends for a fun evening at Meredith Corporation’s NYC headquarters for some helpful family lifestyle tips and tricks was just what this overscheduled (aren’t we all?) mama needed. The annual Momtrends Moms’ Night Out presented a bunch of fun activations and info from Parents Magazine, Parents Latina, Clorox ®, and Dove.

Let’s just say that I have a moderate obsession with Clorox® Disinfecting Wipes. They save me on the daily with a quick swipe of countertops, kids’ sneakers, lunchboxes, and more. They also help to conveniently keep the kids’ creative spaces tidy, while killing 99.9% of germs. I may have been the only one who needed to reach for the Clorox ® Disinfecting Wipes at their fun snowglobe making station (yes, my mess-making left something to be desired). It was a blast gluing mini-trees, woodland creatures, and NYC-themed figurines to a snowglobe base – and then adding snow, water, glycerin, and glitter. Thank goodness for Clorox ® to quickly hide my glue mess! Also, if you haven’t tried the “micro-scrubbers” version of the wipes – do yourself a favor and stock up for eternity.

An excellent resource for all things parenting: Parents Magazine and Parents Latina shared DIY stations for moms and kids alike. Their current magazines came to life with an easy-to-replicate spooky fruit skewer station to make Halloween parties fun without all the added junk.

Not just for kids: the PARENTS team knows how to curate the DIY elements for the adults-only party too. Blending a custom scent with Alchemologie’s natural perfume station brought a super special touch to the Moms’ Night Out bash.

After the evening was over, I looked forward to dropping off a sweet little caddy that I decorated with a simple flower WikkiStix at the Baby Dove activation station to a new mom in my neighborhood. During those early newborn weeks, it’s always nice to gift helpful essentials like Baby Dove’s Tip to Toe wash since it’s free of all the stuff (no parabens, sulfates, dyes or phthalates) that you don’t want on your little one’s skin. I also love that Baby Dove is uniquely made with prebiotic moisture and 100% skin-natural nutrients to gently nourish the delicate microbiome that babies are naturally born with.

Baby-Dove-Tip-to-toe-wash

Big thank you to Momtrends and all the sponsors!

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Sustainable Travel: Celebrating Hilton’s Soap Recycling Initiative Around the World

On Global Handwashing Day, October 15th, Hilton announced a substantial expansion to its soap recycling program in 2020. Next year, more than 5,300 Hilton hotels in 70 countries will recycle soap from their properties in conjunction with NGOs like Clean the World to distribute to communities in need. Currently, soap from Hilton properties has been recycled into more than 10.2 million new bars of soap and placed in the hands of people in more than 127 countries. Thank you to Hilton for partnering with us on this post.

We live in a time where we have to be more aware of the collective impact that we have on the environment and the world around us. For my family, that means, going beyond our standard home recycling, bringing our own bags, walking when possible, and significantly reducing our use of plastics – to regularly joining in compost drop-offs, textile recycling, shopping with intention and aligning our purchases with companies and brands that are making a difference in this world. We can always do better. We can always do more. I thank my seventh-grader (who happens to attend a school rooted in sustainability) for encouraging our family to examine and implement ways in which we can improve. As parents, our children often lead the way.

Like many mothers, I hold the purchasing power in our household the majority of the time. It’s my job to learn about companies committed to reducing their environmental impact while making a substantial difference in underserved communities.

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Exploring with my babies. Antioquia, Colombia 2019

I recently learned about Hilton’s Travel With Purpose program and goals at an event at Hudson Yards in New York City on Global Handwashing Day. Hilton presented “The World’s Most Valuable Collection at the Soap Museum” to shed a bright light on the crucial role that soap plays in reducing the risk of hygiene-related illnesses and hygiene-related deaths in children under the age of five around the world. The installation displayed three-dimensional hand-carved soap sculptures of valuable items (designer shoes, bars of gold and more) illustrating the true value of soap as a life-saving resource and necessity that is often taken for granted. All of the showcased soap sculptures were crafted by carving designer, Daniele Barresi. He even provided a live soap carving at the event – a truly magnificent art to observe!

Hilton-Hotels-Soap-Recycling

In the past decade, Hilton has done so much to keep millions of pounds of soap (from their properties) out of landfills by recycling them into new soap bars for life-saving hygiene kits alongside partners like Clean the World. Hilton’s soap-recycling program (the largest in the hospitality industry) is a component of the company’s sustainability commitment – redefining sustainable travel through their Travel with Purpose program. Hilton has committed to cutting its environmental footprint in half while doubling its social impact investment by 2030.

It’s incredible to think of leftover soap in a hotel room recycled into a life-saving vehicle for communities where completely preventable hygiene-related illnesses in children can be halted by access to soap. Indeed a valuable lesson to bring home.

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