Wealth Podcast Post

How to Pay for College with Mary Morris

George Grombacher March 25, 2022

share close

How to Pay for College with Mary Morris

LifeBlood: We talked about how to pay for college, the value of 529 plans, how opening a dialogue with kids about money goes a lot farther than simple understanding, and the many benefits that come from open conversation about money, with Mary Morris, CEO of Virginia529. 

Listen to learn why you should make funding education a community effort

You can learn more about Mary at Virginia529.com, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Thanks, as always for listening!  If you got some value and enjoyed the show, please leave us a review wherever you listen and subscribe as well. 

You can learn more about us at LifeBlood.Live, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook or you’d like to be a guest on the show, contact us at contact@LifeBlood.Live.

Invest in yourself. Bring it All Together.

Work with a coach to unlock personal and professional potential.

Our Guests

George Grombacher

Mary Morris

Mary Morris

Episode Transcript

Come on

george grombacher 0:12
blood for this is George G. And the time is right. welcome today’s guest strong and powerful Mary Morris, Mary, are you ready to do this? I am ready.

Mary Morris 0:21
Let’s go I am, I am great. Mary is a CEO of Virginia, five to nine, they are the largest tax advantage education savings program in the country. She’s a JD with a Master’s of law and taxation. Mary, tell us a little about your personal life’s more about your work and why you do what you do?

Unknown Speaker 0:40
Well, as you said, I’m a lawyer by training, I have not practiced law for a very long time. But when I did, it was tax and securities law. A lot of corporate work, when I moved into the public sector, many years ago, first in the Attorney General’s Office, you know, still as a lawyer, I found to think what I love to do, which is the public sector work and you know, a sense of mission, a sense of maybe helping and not worrying about billable hours, but just worrying about doing the job. And that was as a lawyer, and then was able to move in, I was state treasurer for a term, you know, I’ve done a lot of different things back in the private sector. And then about 15 years ago, back to Virginia, five to nine, where I started as a lawyer. So I have a very long history with this organization. And it really brought the intersection of what I love, which is public policy, and that intersection of education and finance. So I’ve taught at the college level I’ve taught actually, I’ve taught everything, during your from school and everything else, from pre K, through law school for a little bit of time sometimes. So I love teaching, like education, I know the importance in the value of education. But I’ve also learned as I’ve gotten older, that there are all different kinds of education, and it comes at different times and in different ways for people. And that’s a big part of what we do. So, you know, my job, what I do, what I love about it is teaching. And it’s helping people learn about things. And I’ve learned a lot myself along the way. So

Unknown Speaker 2:13
nice. I appreciate that. So when people say, what do you do? What do you tell them?

Unknown Speaker 2:21
I help we help people plan for their the most important financial journeys of their lives. You know, most people will tell you the two things they worry about most adults, what do you worry about? What do you worry about for the future retirement in educating my kids, any survey I’ve ever seen, doesn’t matter what it is, those are the two top priorities. We have been working for over 25 years to help families with that second part with the education piece. I’ll tell you we have broadened in recent years, we run Disability Savings Programs now, so called Able programs. I’m not going to talk about those much today. But we do that we are building a an employer based private retirement program. So we’ll help with that piece of it. And again, we find the intersections on education savings, and retirement savings. And there’s some innovations and some things that we work on, you know, through legislative activity that we hope will come to fruition in the next few years. But for education savings, as with most savings, it’s about planning and doing setting goals and preparing for the future. And so we try to help families figure out that way to talk about to think about to plan for their future educational needs, and then provide, we think, excellent, inexpensive vehicles for doing that, with all the tax advantages that come with a five to nine program. So, you know, we help the pocketbooks just with those tax savings with inexpensive programs and a real, you know, sort of a guided way of thinking about how to plan for the future. Thanks. I appreciate that. So biggest concerns we have we’re worried about our retirement and wanting to help kids with education. Is Is that a concern? Because it’s so potentially expensive? Is it a concern because we want to be able to help but don’t know how to go about it is because it all these things? All of the above? Yeah. You know, I think, I don’t know. I am uh, most people I think are terrible planners. You know, we don’t I tease my kids about it all the time. I have adult children. And I’ll ask them, what’s the plan, I like to plan

Unknown Speaker 4:30
some kind of plan and you need to have a plan B for when life happens. And if people don’t like to plan.

Unknown Speaker 4:37
You know, one of the things that I spend a lot of time, you know, talking to folks like you about is just encouraging families to talk more about everything about their hopes and their dreams. You know, talk to your kids about your educational journey, your financial journey. And I will tell you, I was not very smart on personal finances for many years. You know, I

Unknown Speaker 5:00
sort of worked in an area where I could do corporate taxes. And I could do a lot of you know, I knew a lot of things, but didn’t maybe bring it personal and didn’t think, you know, I didn’t talk about it with my family. When I was growing up. My father was a successful businessman. We were very fortunate. But I didn’t get many lessons. And I’m afraid I didn’t pass them on early to my children, we didn’t sit around and talk about, you know, saving and budgeting and things that I really wish I had. So part of what I do now in my life is trying to encourage other families to do that sooner. And particularly again, in that intersection of education and finance, talk about your finances, talk about what’s realistic, you know, talk about what the future is going to bring, you know, delayed gratification, how you know, how you set goals, and you have to, to plan for them. And you may have to give up something in the short term, to have those goals in the long term. So we work with organizations like Junior Achievement, and the Jumpstart is in other parts of the country bigger probably. But, you know, organizations, we work with the Virginia Council on Economic Education, which helps educators in Virginia from K through 12, work with students on personal finance and economics, entrepreneurship, economics, generally, you know, all of those things, budgeting and Junior Achievement, I just love because we get to work with kids sometimes there too. And again, that’s a part of that journey, starting early in Junior Achievement. When you work with kindergarteners and first graders, it says basic concepts of needs versus wants. And, and figuring out the difference between the two, you know, just because you want something doesn’t mean you need it, and resources and resources being limited, and community. And then it builds on that. And I think we’ve been not done a great job in this country of delivering those messages consistently over a long period of time, because everything to sink in, requires repetition. And so that’s a lot of what we’re about, we’re trying to capture people’s attention early, provide lessons that are interesting that that hit people at the right time in their lives when they’re ready to hear a particular lesson. And, you know, so a lot of the programs we work with a lot of the things that we do, a lot of our messaging is about helping people get started. Because that’s the main part. Procrastination is just a killer. It is for me, and I am not unique in the world. So it’s just getting started, it’s saying, I’m going to, I’m going to go to the website, I’m going to open the account

Unknown Speaker 7:28
with five to nine programs across the country, including Virginia five to nine.

Unknown Speaker 7:33
For some, you can get started with $0, almost every state has an option where you can get started for as little as $25 deposited into the account to get it started. To just do that, you know, once you have it, you will start getting the messages, you’ll start getting encouragement, you might get promotions, where if you set it up for automatic contributions, we’ll put some money into your account, you know, you’ll get 50 bucks free from and we’ve done that promotion, as have other states, if you just say we’re going to set it, because we know that once you set it for automatic contributions, you’re not probably going to turn it off. So there’s a little bit of behavioral economics in what we do all the time. But it’s helping people form those good habits and keep them going. You know, which works for finances, it works for losing weight, it works for lots of things. It’s just what are some of the good, common sense things, things that most people know, but you just need to hear it. And sometimes you need to hear it multiple times, and then get a little bit of a boost to get started. And that continued boost to keep it going. Right, you can’t just open the account, let it sit there, you have to do something with it. And so again, a lot of our messaging, a lot of what we do is is aimed at helping people do that, and then see the benefits of it, you get a tax deduction. Most most states that have an income tax, you get a tax deduction for your contributions to a five to nine account. They grow tax free state and federal tax free. So you have that leveraging effect of you know the value of what you’re putting in, it grows faster when you don’t have to pay taxes on it. And for five to nine accounts, you never pay tax on the earnings as long as you use it for qualified higher education expenses. And that’s a very broad category. And that’s been growing in recent years. You know, so it’s just really tough to be you can’t find those types of tax advantages anywhere. Those should be incentives to actually do something to get started. And you don’t have to save a bajillion dollars. You know, it’s not about that. It’s about everything you do. Even if you don’t have a lot of resources, every dollar you save as $1 You’re not going to have to borrow or figure out some other way to come up with when you decide on what your personal educational journey is going to look like. Whether you do that at age 18 or 25 or 65. You can go back to school at any time. Education, I think is fun and important and it doesn’t even have to lead to a job. Just do it because it’s something you’re interested in.

Unknown Speaker 10:00
Can you can use a five to nine account to help you at any juncture in your life. So they’re not just for kids love a lot of really, really powerful stuff there. And all that I certainly agree with, particularly the one where you talk about how it takes a long time to sink into our heads sometimes because I know anyway, but the the, the fact that a kid can go to Junior Achievement and learn the difference between unwanted and need, I can almost guarantee that that’s going to stick with them for their entire life. And odds are, they’re going to transfer that information that they learned when they were five years old, to their kids and their grandkids. And so just getting started with this stuff, and opening, opening up a five to nine account and putting in $25, you are now all of a sudden investing in somebody’s educational future. And you can bring that up, say, well, actually, Mary, we set up a 529 account for you and your brother, when you were this age, and now it’s grown this much. And it’s just an opportunity to be

Unknown Speaker 11:01
I don’t know, if normalizing is is is is the term but helping people to take those actions and, and and potentially change everything

Unknown Speaker 11:11
will change is it is life changing. And I believe that education is life changing, you know, in any number of studies would tell you that in different ways. It’s better for your health better for your pocketbook. And I’m not one that thinks that education is only to see about how much money you can make. I have children who are artists and in the humanities, and so it’s not all about, oh, let’s find the pathway that makes the most money. That’s nice, but you know, also do what interests you. And we need all kinds of people in all kinds of different positions. But you’re absolutely right in terms of that, that starting the conversation. You know, our industry uses a lot of statistic that’s Research shows that children, families with a child that has a five to nine account is x times different studies show you but just much more likely to go to college. And I always think that that’s not necessarily causational there’s a correlation there, though, for sure. And correlation is that that’s a family that prioritizes goal setting, education, saving, you know, planning and budgeting and probably talks to their kids about it, right. So you use that account, to teach financial lessons to encourage the kids as they get older, and they work summer jobs to say you’re gonna put a couple of bucks of what you’ve made into your five to nine account, you know, so you can talk about budgeting, you can talk about goal setting, as you go along. For family with more means they can set you know, we have we’re privileged, we’ve been saving in a five to nine account, we have some resources, you can go anywhere you want, or you’re particularly lucky, you’re smart, you’re going to get a scholarship, you know, whatever it might be, but you can also to have that conversation with you can get a great education, starting at the community college level, getting your first two years under your belt, get this sort of get courses out of the way, keep it inexpensive, maybe live at home, maybe keep working part time, so that you can go to your dream school for the last two years, you know, we can save enough to do that. You can do a certificate program for kids. It’s just not really that into classroom and working or they don’t want to work in an office forever. They just don’t know what they want to do when they’re 18. Well, okay, you know, maybe you wait for a while but we’ve got this account and it’s waiting for you and we’re gonna keep putting money in and when you decide that you want to do something different, maybe your employer has is going to help you with it has a tuition reimbursement program. We talked to employers a lot and our industry is trying to work with employers to encourage them to help their employees to contribute to five to nine accounts. So maybe we do that and Virginia five to nine we have a match. We will match $529 in a five to nine account for our employees and that can be an account for them for their kids, for their nieces and nephews for whoever they want. Because as you said you can save for anybody, grandparents, maybe 15% of our accounts are owned by grandparents with their grandkids because you can get started maybe you have a little you know little bit of money that you could put aside while your adult children are trying to figure out how to buy the diapers and pay for the soccer equipment and you know just deal with life and a mortgage and paying off their student debt that maybe you you know left them with because you didn’t save in a five to nine. Now for your grandchildren. We’re going to give you that Jumpstart. And when the parents can start contributing, they can gifting we think is great. Most 5g knights now have gifting platforms, we try to make it very easy,

Unknown Speaker 14:41
perfect birthday gift. You know, we encourage folks when you have a birthday party, there are gift cards, you can do all kinds of things to help families on that, you know, personal journey and we find that millennials and younger savers in particular one are better about talking about their finances, you know they’ll share their goals on in

Unknown Speaker 15:00
Instagram, you know, wherever. I don’t say Facebook, but that’s tends to skew older now I know. You know, whatever it is tick tock but but but they share it, they put it out into the universe and say I want to do this help me, you know, there’s GoFundMe and all those different things, five t nines are no different. You can say, hey, I want my kid to have choices, whatever they happen to be in the future, or I want to say for myself, I want to go back to school, you want to give me a gift, at some point, put in my five to nine account. So again, those are some of those lessons that we try to give to people, you don’t have enough money to put in yourself. Make it a community effort, ask friends and family to help you with that, with reaching that goal, put it out to the universe, this is my goal. This is what we’re working on as a family, you can help us

Unknown Speaker 15:47
I love it. I think that’s so, so much powerful stuff. They’re here, people were just thinking we were going to talk about five to nine accounts, when in fact we’re really talking about this is a tool or a mechanism for teaching your kids about budgeting time value of money, school selection, making decisions about just debt and all that potentially. And think that I’ve got a five and a two year old, and I know that they’ve got too many toys, so why wouldn’t? Why wouldn’t I have a five to nine account open and say, Hey, instead of giving my kid a $20 toy, but $20 into their account, or talk to my family, my grandparents and everybody else? What a huge difference that could make? Yep, it’s the perfect baby gift. You know, someone has a newborn, you don’t know what to get them don’t know how big they are, I just give them a contribution to a five to nine account. You know, I think back when my kids were little, you know, usually I was running out to guess I was always a working mom and not very good and like to shop and be Saturday morning and the birthday party was that afternoon was like, Oh man, I gotta run out to target and get a gift card. And you know, maybe a Barbie or whatever the kid want it to go along with that gift card. Now, I would absolutely do a contribution to a five to nine account. And you can get physical cards, if you like that you can do it electronically. And yeah, the small tangible gifts, and then and give that gift to the five to nine account and they just add up. And that’s a great lesson for kids too, just to see how your $10 here and 25 here and you get a bonus at the end of the year, you put some of that in, you know, we encourage we did took action in Virginia and a number of states do this, you can have a part of your federal tax refund, it’s tax filing time coming up now. So in Virginia, at least you can have direct deposit into your five to nine account. So just don’t ever see if you’re going to get a $300 refund in taxes. If you don’t need it, put it all into your five to nine account but more realistically for me is put 100 into the five to nine account, take the 200 for general savings for you know, splurge, whatever it happens to be, again, you make the choices that work for your family, there are lots of ways to go. There’s no one right answer for anybody. And that’s a big part of what I when I talk I don’t pretend to know anybody else’s situation. I don’t pretend to have all the answers. Like I said, I I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life, you can’t beat yourself up about it. You just keep moving on and you make the best choices you can wherever you are in life. And you know, just do what you can. And don’t beat yourself up about it along the way. If you got off course get back on, you know, just just trying to get if you have a five to nine account and you haven’t thought about it for the last two years. I hope if you’re listening today, just go check it out. Just look and see what it’s doing. Set it up for recurring contribution. That is the best way even if it’s 10 bucks a month, just put it in there before you ever see it. Have payroll deduction. Again, most five to nine programs, you can work with your employer to have it automatically deposited through payroll deduction. You can set it up yourself or monthly recurring contribution. Best way. Best way to save for any kind of savings. Well, sir, love it. Well, Mary, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you and Virginia, five to nine?

Unknown Speaker 19:21
At Virginia, five to nine.com. We try to make it as easy as possible. And again, tons of information. We’ve added some tools to help people think about well, which which account, what do I want to save then we haven’t even talked about the investment options. There are a number. We have target enrollment funds, just like in retirement, you tend to have target, you know, target date funds, but there are a lot of options and we’ve tried to provide helpful information we can’t advise we’re not financial advisors. If you’re not comfortable with you know with your choices or all this feels overwhelming. Talk to friends, talk to family, maybe talk to a trusted financial advisor to get

Unknown Speaker 20:00
Get some assistance. Read, go on onto websites, like I said Virginia five to nine.com. In other states, your state has a five to nine program. Think about it first

Unknown Speaker 20:10
is saving for college.com college savings.org. Both are really geared towards education savings. There are so many good financial resources, new training materials, games for kids, lots of ways to learn, just educate yourself. Education is important about everything. You do a little bit of reading and Virginia five to nine.com will get you started. Love it. Well, if you enjoyed the switches, I did share your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas, go to Virginia, five to nine.com Check out all the great resources that we’ve been talking about today. And for goodness sakes, stop thinking about it and just just just just start doing it and then automate it, automate those contributions. Thanks. Good, Mary. Thank you so much. It’s nice talking to you. Nice talking with you. And until next time, keep fighting the good fight. We’re all in this together.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Thanks, as always for listening! If you got some value and enjoyed the show, please leave us a review wherever you listen and we’d be grateful if you’d subscribe as well.

You can learn more about us at LifeBlood.Live, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Facebook.

Our Manifesto

We’re here to help others get better so they can live freely without regret
Believing we’ve each got one life, it’s better to live it well and the time to start is now If you’re someone who believes change begins with you, you’re one of us We’re working to inspire action, enable completion, knowing that, as Thoreau so perfectly put it “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” Let us help you invest in yourself and bring it all together.

Feed your life-long learner by enrolling in one of our courses.

Invest in yourself and bring it all together by working with one of our coaches.

If you’d like to be a guest on the show, or you’d like to become a Certified LifeBlood Coach or Course provider, contact us at Contact@LifeBlood.Live.

Please note- The Money Savage podcast is now the LifeBlood Podcast. Curious why? Check out this episode and read this blog post!

We have numerous formats to welcome a diverse range of potential guests!

  • Be Well- for guests focused on overall wellness
  • Book Club-for authors
  • Brand-for guests focused on marketing
  • Complete-for guests focused on spirituality
  • Compete-for competitors, sports, gaming, betting, fantasy football
  • Create-for entrepreneurs
  • DeFi-for guests focused on crypto, blockchain and other emerging technologies
  • Engage-for guests focused on personal development/success and leadership
  • Express-for journalists/writers/bloggers
  • General-for guests focused on finance/money topics
  • Lifestyle-for guests focused on improving lifestyle
  • Maximize-for guests focused on the workplace
  • Numbers-for accounting and tax professionals
  • Nurture-for guests focused on parenting
  • REI-for guests focused on real estate

Feed your Life-Long Learner

Get what you need to get where you want to go

Rate it
Previous post