529 Plans

529 Plans

May and June is the time of year where kids are graduating from high school and college.  If you are like me, this gets you thinking about saving for college education.

There are a lot of ways to fund college, but I want to talk about 529 plans. The plans are not for everyone, but they are a great solution for a lot of people. I am a fan of them when they are used in the right circumstances. These plans are a great way to save for education. It does impact financial aid later on, though, so be aware of the differences between a grandparent setting a plan up for the child and a parent.  Depending on the person setting up the plan, there can be an impact in future financial aid. Overall, however, 529 plans are a great option.

What happens if your child/grandchild goes out of state to college?

These plans can be found in every state, but you do not need to live in that state in order to have that plan. If you live in Colorado, for example, you can have a Utah plan.   You can set up any plan no matter where you live and no matter where your child chooses to go to college.  I happen to live in Utah, and the Utah plan, which is called my529, is consistently ranked as one of the top plans in the country.  Anyone in the country can set up for Utah’s plan so, do your research and see which state plan will fit your beneficiary (child receiving the funds) best. Again, they the child does not need to go to college in the state where you set up the plan.

What is the basis of the 529 plan?

The basis of a 529 is basically that the beneficiary is one owner.  This does not mean that the owner is the only one that can contribute. Anybody can contribute to the plan, which makes this a great gifting option.  For example, if you set up a 529 plan for your child, you can take the opportunity at birthdays, Christmas, and other holidays to remind family members that they can contribute.   Most plans, especially the Utah plan, make it really easy to send grandparents a link to go online and be able to contribute funds.

What if my child/grandchild chooses not to go to a traditional college?

If your child chooses not to go to a traditional four-year college, they have other options. The funds can be used for a community college, technical school, or a vocational program.   They can also be used for graduate school later down the road. Starting in 2018, private funds up to $10,000 per year in K-12 were approved. This means that 529 money can be used for private education in grades K-12 (up to $10,000 per year). This is actually a really big opportunity, especially if there are funds in 529 plans that are not being used.

What if my child decides to opt out of education altogether after high school?

There is an option to move the money to another beneficiary, which is a qualified family member of the beneficiary. The list of qualified family members is huge – it could include siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, or parents. If the child is older, the funds could also be moved to their spouse or children.

There is an option to pull out the funds.  If the funds are withdrawn, however, there would be a ten percent penalty plus the income taxes would be taken from the total amount.

Questions? Reach out!

Check out www.my529.org to see more details about Utah’s 529 plans. Also, feel free to reach out to me and I would be happy to help.  Sometimes, just exploring options with a financial advisor is the best way to plan for children’s future.

In the Beginning Interview: Living Life With Lark Galley

In the Beginning Interview: Living Life With Lark Galley

In the Beginning Interview with Lark Galley, owner of family trucking company and independent business consultant and coach.

In the Beginning Series: Interviews with women entrepreneurs and their journey with starting their own business.

Excerpts of the interview (full interview here):

Please share a little bit about your eclectic business background

I have been running a trucking company I inherited from my father for over five years now.  When I got the company, it was in a bit of a mess, but I have streamlined it and now my workload is about one hour a week.  Once I got that figured out, I started consulting others on streamlining their business, from the experiences I learned. I have done consulting for over a year now.

What were some of the biggest business lessons you were able to learn from the trucking industry?

First, I learned that if you are going to have a partnership, make sure it is a good fit for all.  Know who you are working with and what expectations they have. Be very specific and define your roles clearly and how you intend to work together.  I would recommend limiting as much as you can in creating a legal entity together. Get a really good CPA and accountant. Be sure to interview them and make sure their philosophies match up to yours.  Be careful in creating business partners, especially in working with family and friends. It’s not worth a relationship to lose your whole company, so be wise.

Next, create a clear vision for your business.  Don’t get distracted by other’s visions, however appealing they may be.  I’ve had to learn the hard way. If I’m saying “yes” to everyone else’s visions, I can’t fulfill what I need to do.  I have really had to rein in and learn to say “no” when it doesn’t fit my own vision.

When you transitioned and started your own venture as a consultant and a coach, what was the biggest challenge?

It was a matter of getting out in the community again.  I was thinking I could just build it online. It doesn’t work that way, but I had to actually get out networking again face–to-face and build up all these groups that I had let lapse.

Did you have a hurdle funding your consulting business even though you had the trucking business?

Somewhat. I sold some things on commission, so I was using that to pay for my business. I had to force myself into doing this, so I started doing contract work for another company (business strategy and training), which gave me more experience and allowed me to be credible in getting my own clients.

What have been the biggest resources as you have been on this journey?

I think as you are out connecting with people, you find out how they are conducting their businesses. I think it’s about being open to what other people are doing and seeing if that will benefit you. Others might have answers to help streamline your business. Be clear on what you need and find the right people to help you get there. However, we often want to abdicate our role as the leader of our business and we can’t do that.

What are your biggest tips for someone on this journey?

I try and automate everything.  For example, I have all my business expenses on one card and I do all my finances on Friday.  I make it so I get fewer invoices. I label and file everything immediately so there are fewer touches. Anything someone else can do for you that costs you less, that is when you outsource.

In the Beginning Interview: Marla Dee

In the Beginning Interview: Marla Dee

Lori Hildebrand interview with the founder of Clean & Simple

In the Beginning Series: Interviews with women entrepreneurs and their journey with starting their own business.

Excerpts from interview (full interview here):

What do you do?

I take the stress and the struggle out of clutter clearing and getting organized. I make it fun and easy using systems and teaching people the skills.

What prompted you to start your business?

I didn’t find my business – it found me. At the time, professional organizing was still a new industry. Nobody else in the state of Utah was doing this. I didn’t even know there was a National Association of Professional Organizers. The universe put it in my lap when I went to an Artist’s Way group. The group helped me to see that I love to create by stepping into absolute clutter and chaos and creating order and organization. This just makes me happy.

Two weeks after that awareness came – and this is how the universe works – a woman called me up and said “I have a home office. Somebody gave me your name and number. Can you come help me?” I told her that I would love to. I was so excited to do that. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. She asked how much I charged. I told her $35 an hour. We scheduled the appointment, got off the phone, and I freaked out. I created a business card and went to work. Within a year, it had grown to a full time business because there was so much need. I did not plan it.

When you started this business, how did you fund it? How did you get that initial boost?

For whatever reasons, I made a conscious decision that if this business was supposed to happen, I was going to be supported. I never went into debt to fund my business. I always used the money that came my way to fund what was next. If it was time to make a product, that meant I needed to come up with ways to get the funding, create the product, get it sold, and then take it to the next level. When I started training organizers, I didn’t have the funding to launch that whole aspect of my business. I had to decide what that first level was and how I was to create those funds.

Did you have other sources of income that were helping to support you?

Yes. In my first year of business, I didn’t just dive in. I had two other jobs. I was building this on the side. It was only when it was ready to be a full time business that I let go of those other sources of income. I’ve trained a lot of organizers and I tell them all the time that you do not want to live on the edge because you will not thrive. You will not create. Make sure that your needs are met and then build your business.

How long did it take you to take that big leap?

A year to a year and a half, then it was my full time income. It was 1999 when I started. I got divorced in 2003 and I didn’t take alimony. I really thought through that. I made the decision to take the business to the next level. That’s when I added the organizer training. I think it was a real powerful piece for me in training organizers all these years, that I could look them in the eye and say, “My business was my sole source of income for x number of years.” It still is. I didn’t have other things to draw from. When it is your sole source of income, you will do things that other women will not do. There are a lot of women in this industry where it is a sideline or a hobby. They don’t need to make money. They don’t treat it the same way that I do. I’ve always told women that you’ve got to pay yourself first. Until you pay yourself first, it’s not a business.

What are some of your biggest rewards over the years?

My business is my soul’s purpose on this planet – helping people get free of clutter to create a home and office where they love to be and where they thrive. That’s what I came to this earth to do. I knew that after working with my very first client. The biggest reward for me is that I get to see who I am with the gifts that I was given and it really change somebody else’s life. That’s huge. I love that I have supported myself. I love that I can say I didn’t take alimony. I absolutely gave my all to my business. My daughter was three when I started, so she grew up thinking that every woman gets to do this!

I would say another reward is the creative freedom – to really create from my heart, my soul, and my strengths. I don’t know any job that would give me this kind of freedom and power. Your business grows as you grow. When you change, your business is going to change. You get to re-brand. You get to really evolve through your business.

Looking back at the beginning, what are some of the mistakes that you made? What are some of the things you did that others can learn from?

I’m a bit of a workaholic. Being a business owner and a woman really feeds into being a workaholic. The challenge is that you’re playing all of the roles. The painful things have been when I tried to do too much for too long or too much, too fast. Trust the creative cycle. Trust that things take time in order to be created. Don’t push the river.

I’ve gone through business partnerships leaving and ending. That’s a divorce. Here is what I would teach, preach and share with you – everything goes into writing. So many of the painful things I could have avoided if I had known differently. Now I adhere to it with every agreement, vendor, partnership and alliance. Everything is in writing. Treat your business like a business. When you really need the professional, pay for the professional. When you really need to outsource, pay for the professional that you need.

How have you created boundaries that work for you?

The most important boundary that I set for myself is taking an admin day every single week. Monday is my admin day. It’s such an important boundary – giving myself that day for phone calls, emails, financials, and all the catch up stuff. Then, I enter the week in a really grounded state. I’m prepared. I see a lot of women that expect that they are going to get that done on the side. It doesn’t happen. This was a really important lesson that another female entrepreneur taught me that has been invaluable. I save time, energy, and money by doing this. It’s a really clean boundary.

Have boundaries that are absolute. For me, I don’t work on the weekends. Whatever it is for you, choose one or two boundaries that are absolute. By honoring those, you will make sure that you have your personal time. Mine is an hour every morning of “me” time. Meditation, journaling, planning – these things happen no matter what.

In the Beginning Interview: Amber Griffiths

In the Beginning Interview: Amber Griffiths

Lori Hildebrand interview with founder of Your Brand by Design.

In the Beginning Series: Interviews with women entrepreneurs and their journey with starting their own business.

Excerpts from the interview (full interview found here):

Tell us a little bit about who you are, what your business is, and what you do?

Your Brand by Design is an intentional creation of the experience you want with your ideal client. I do coaching and speaking and am a two-time best-selling author (one of the books I co-authored with you, The Profitable Woman’s Playbook).

You were a rock star at one point in your life.  Can you tell us a little about that time in and how that came into your current business?

It came about by my willingness to say, “yes!” I got a call to play the keyboard with Erasure (Andy Bell). I was open to something that really mattered to me and made it happen. I realized that this was a part of me and that this time of life was my time to live out loud and say, “yes” to 100% of everything that I am. By accepting all of me and learning to say yes, my business shifted and opened so many doors that weren’t open before.

When you switched from that experience and got this renewed energy and new momentum, what lessons do you feel like really applied as you started launching the new version of your business?

I stopped listening to all the, “I’m not enough” stuff in my head and was willing to get out on stage. I stopped trying to hide who I was from people and offered my true self. When it is something important to you and you opt in, you will feel like you are home. If it’s something you have to offer, then be willing to offer 100% of yourself. Even if you feel that you don’t have it all together, know that no one has it all together.

When you have that reel running through your mind of, “who am I to do this” or, “I’m not perfect, and I’m not this or I’m not that”, what advice would you give women to overcome this and get out there?

Just jump! Get in touch with the solution you are providing. You’re not presenting yourself as the expert of the entire world, just at that one thing you know really well. Put yourself in your clients shoes and realize that not only do you have something amazing to help them, but you are uniquely qualified to solve their concern. If you don’t know it, they won’t buy it. Just put it out there, acknowledge it.

Tell that little “who am I” voice to take a nap.  Tell it, “I have to go be amazing for a minute”! Your clients will be able to learn from your imperfection as much as from anything else you offer. If we see everyone struggles, that can help us, too.

When you started, how did you fund this business venture?

I was a VP of marketing in a real estate company, so I had a built-in network. I was lucky, I wasn’t the sole breadwinner. I relied on what I saw others doing and then did it my own way. I set boundaries at the very beginning to set myself up, so that my life still worked outside of my business.

What about your calendar? Do you time block? How do you set your time up?

I set aside certain days of the week and turn everything else off to get stuff done. If I focus on one thing at a time, I am so much more productive. I have my accountability coach and I set up my three non-negotiable things to focus on each day.

What would be your biggest tip either in business in general or from a branding perspective that you feel women really need to know?  What’s something that is missing out there that women just overlook?

Don’t market to your ego: trying to be everything for everyone. Find your ideal client and serve who you are really meant to serve. If you market with your brand and focus on what you are meant to do and the people you are meant to serve, you will be ahead of the game.