How an early NEST 529 account set Piper Rasmussen up to graduate college debt-free
A native of Fremont, Nebraska, Piper Rasmussen always knew she wanted to continue her education after high school. Piper fulfilled her dream and graduated from college with an accounting degree. Because of some pre-planning and goal setting, Piper was able to graduate debt-free thanks to scholarships and a NEST 529 Education Savings Plan account that had been set up by her grandparents.
When Piper was only three months old, her grandparents, Jack and Delores, told Piper’s mom, Jennie Rasmussen, about their interest in setting up a NEST Advisor College Savings Plan.
“I remember my mom and dad sat down with me and said, ‘hey, we need Piper’s social security number,’” Jennie said. “’We’re getting a college savings plan established — we want to help her.’”
Having opened accounts for their two older grandchildren, the process to open one for Piper was familiar and simple. Jack and Delores were ahead of the game, allowing new mother Jennie to stay present and focus on her newborn, rather than trying to plan for 18 years down the road.
“They already had all the paperwork filled out — boom, the ball was rolling,” Jennie said.
Jack and Delores grew up in rural Nebraska on row crop and dairy farms, and didn’t have the option to pursue post-secondary education. After a lifetime of hard work and raising a family, the couple wanted to give their kids and grandkids the opportunity they did not have: going to college. Jack and Delores have since passed, but the impact of starting and regularly contributing to a NEST 529 account lives on.
Having grown up down the street, Piper had a close bond with her grandparents.
“They were probably the coolest people you would ever meet,” Piper said. “My grandpa was my best friend, especially after my grandma passed away. My grandpa and I hung out a lot and traveled all the time due to his auctioneer business.”
She continued, “They took opportunities when they were given and then turned around and gave opportunities to other people, which I feel like in today’s day and age is really hard to find. They took the bull by the horns and did everything they could to help out people before they helped themselves.”
After deciding to pursue a business degree at Midland University in Fremont, Piper developed a keen interest in agriculture and business administration. With that in mind, whenever Grandpa Jack went into the financial advising office to make his NEST 529 account contributions, he always brought Piper along for the ride. Together with the advisor, they would discuss the account and evaluate it from all angles.
“I never really fully understood what the account was until I was receiving distributions from it in college,” Piper said. “In high school, I knew it was something that would help me pay for college and maybe graduate with less debt, but that was extent of what I understood.”
After Grandpa Jack passed, transitioning the NEST 529 account holder to Piper’s mother was simple. With the help of their advisor, they completed the paperwork in mere minutes.
With her freshman year expenses almost completely financed by scholarships, Piper’s heartfelt appreciation for her NEST account wasn’t fully realized until her sophomore year of college. When tuition and bills were due the remaining three years, Jennie called the financial advisor’s office and let them know the amount needed, which took less than five minutes to complete. Within a week, Piper had a check to cover the bill.
Even after graduation, Piper recognizes the impact of her NEST 529 account.
“It’s been a relief at this point in my life,” Piper said. “I just relocated to Omaha and I’m starting a new job. A lot of jobs offer tuition assistance or student loan refinancing, and those are benefits I didn’t even have to think about when I was looking for a job. It’s really given me a lot of opportunities to pursue things I probably wouldn’t have otherwise had, and I am just so grateful.”
Looking back on the experience, both Piper and Jennie feel the love and support of Jack and Delores, and encourage others to invest early in their loved ones’ lives.
“Whether it’s nieces or nephews, a godchild, or my own children, I will definitely be opening and contributing to a NEST 529 Education Savings Plan,” Piper said. “Even if I can only contribute a couple hundred dollars to them, that’s a couple hundred more than they would have had.”
Jennie added, “Every penny counts. Whether they have several thousands in a NEST 529 account or just a few hundred dollars, it’ll pay for some books.”
In addition to preparing them financially, Jennie recommends encouraging your loved one to apply themselves in every way — on the court, at the contest and in the classroom.
“The sooner you can start strategizing, planning and pushing kids to have some direction, the better,” Jennie said. “It doesn’t matter what they do in life, just have an idea of what your child wants at the end of the road and aim for it. It’s important to have goals. I can’t stress that enough.”