Waiting Room Reward

Brenna DeLaine knew her daughter and son had a lot in common but would eventually pursue their own choices for college. Thankfully, Brenna positioned her 529 savings to cover both kids — and where they both ended up. With her children now in postgraduate studies, Brenna reflects on the small choices that led to big results.

What does a magazine in a doctor’s office have to do with saving for college? For Brenna DeLaine, a physician herself, it saved thousands of dollars on her children’s college tuition.

It was about 16 years ago when Brenna came across an article on saving for college. She already had state 529 prepaid accounts for her two children, Jai and Matthew, who were 10 and 7 at the time. “College costs were exploding, so the idea of starting early with a prepayment plan was appealing to me,” said Brenna.


‘But when I found out how much college costs were rising […] I became concerned and panicked a little bit—more like a lot!’


Bound for college

For Brenna, it wasn’t a question. Her children were going to attend college. And they were aware that their mom was already saving.

“I set up the initial 529 plans because I wanted them to have the privilege of going to a four-year college and to stay on campus. The experience of college matters,” said Brenna.

“When I was growing up, my brothers and I understood we were going to college. Both of my parents were college grads. My grandparents on one side were college grads. So, it was firmly established that we were going to college.

“My brothers and I had to work during college. My children were also required to work during college. I am responsible for necessities, and my children have to work for spending money. But when I found out how much college costs were rising and began reading articles about people that were in heavy debt, I became concerned and panicked a little bit—more like a lot!”

That’s why a magazine article piqued Brenna’s interest.


Two plans are better than one

“I was sitting in the doctor’s office reading an article by Suze Orman about saving for college with 529 plans,” said Brenna. “The article mentioned Private College 529 Plan, which lets you prepay private college tuition at today’s rates. That opened more choices.”

Private College 529 is the only prepaid plan run by hundreds of colleges, opposed to state-owned. These colleges guarantee your tuition—no matter what. That intrigued Brenna, who had recently changed jobs. She had a very small retirement plan from her previous employer, so she decided to invest in Private College 529 in addition to her state’s prepaid plan.

“I took that small retirement savings combined with other savings and opened the Private College 529 plan for my daughter. Because she once mentioned that she wanted to go to Spelman College in Atlanta,” she said. Brenna herself graduated from Spelman College before earning her M.D. at Meharry Medical College in Nashvile. Her aim was to save two years of tuition.

Matthew had showed an interest in state colleges, so Brenna opened a state 529 savings account for him to go along with his prepaid plan. “I was using all the 529 options I could because of my worry about rising costs,” said Brenna.


For Brenna and her family, their 529 plans were certainly success stories.


Future doctor and lawyer

Jai, now 26, did follow in her mom’s footsteps by attending Spelman College. After graduation, she moved on to medical school at University of South Carolina School of Medicine in Greenville.

Matthew, now 23, graduated from Wofford College, a private institution in Spartanburg, SC. He is a second-year graduate student at Penn State with plans to attend law school.

“Thanks to their 529s, they’re both out of undergrad debt-free. So, for graduate school, I just pay their rent from the state 529 plan,” said Brenna.

For Brenna and her family, their 529 plans were certainly success stories. In addition to tax incentives, one of the best parts about the plans for Brenna was the flexibility. She liked the ability to transfer any funds left over from Jai’s account to Matthew.

“And I really liked being able to call the 529 people whenever I had a question,” said Brenna. “It was easy to talk to real people and get the right answers.”

Family originally shared their story in August 2020

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