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Bright Start a great way to save for education

Published: Saturday, June 14, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I have strongly encouraged early investment in continuing education. The Bright Start Program is designed to help families save for future educational expenses, while offering tax benefits.

A benefit from participating in the Bright Start Program is that contributions are tax-deductible in Illinois, meaning your tax savings could be converted into additional educational savings, making it easier for parents to start saving early.

The initial contribution to a Bright Start account can be as little as $25, and additional contributions can be as low as $15. These investments are tax deductible for Illinois taxes, and the growth of the portfolio is not subject to state or federal income tax.

The money can be used for any accredited in-state, out-of-state, private, public, 2-year, 4-year, undergraduate, graduate or vocational school.

Another highlight is the investment flexibility the Bright Start Program offers. You can invest with a check, electronic payment, through payroll deduction, or with an automatic investment plan. Our office will work with you to roll your previous continuing education investments from another 529 program into your Bright Start account.

To date, the treasurer’s College Savings Division has more than $6.5 billion in assets and a record 362,000 accounts. Since 2011, assets in the division have grown by 75 percent, and the number of accounts has increased by 35 percent. The direct-sold Bright Start program has received the highest rating (5 out of 5) for Illinois residents from www.SavingForCollege.com, a leading 529 industry website.

I encourage you to be proactive and help your child, grandchild, or relative avoid the potential burden of student loans by opening a Bright Start account. Please take a moment to visit www.BrightStartSavings.com to learn more about investing in your child’s education.

Note to readers: Dan Rutherford is Illinois state treasurer.

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