Op-Ed: Still looking for the perfect gift? Consider the gift of education.

Somehow, it’s December already and Christmas is mere days away.

If you are still looking for gift ideas for any of the children in your life, don’t forget the gift of education and contribute to their MOST 529 Education account. Sure, it isn’t a Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time, but studies show that children with 529 accounts are more likely to pursue higher education.

Named for the section of the tax code that governs them, 529 plans are tax-advantaged savings and investment accounts for education expenses. As State Treasurer, I oversee MOST, Missouri’s 529 Education Plan.

Money in MOST 529 accounts grows tax-deferred (and can be withdrawn tax-free when used for qualified expenses). Additionally, Missouri offers generous state income tax deductions for contributions—up to $16,000 if married and filing jointly. As the person making the contribution, you are eligible for the deduction.

Versatile qualified expenses make the plan a valuable tool for Missourians with any education goal. These include K-12 tuition, and trade, college, apprenticeships, and graduate school tuition and expenses (like books, computers, and some room and board). Additionally, up to $10,000 may be used for student loan repayment.

If you are a parent, UGift makes it easier to encourage gift givers in your life to forgo giving toys, clothes, or other traditional gifts that your child will outgrow in lieu of something that can make a lasting impression. Ugift is an easy, free-to-use service that lets family and friends make contributions directly into your child’s MOST 529 account. You can even get the READYSAVE™ 529 app to share your code with a few clicks by downloading it from Google Play or the App Store.

Similar to MOST 529, MO ABLE accounts offer similar financial benefits when saving for individuals with disabilities. Launched in 2017, MO ABLE allows individuals with disabilities and their families to save up to $15,000 per year, tax-free, without losing federal benefits like Medicaid and SSI (up to $100,000). Money in MO ABLE accounts can be used for a variety of expenses including housing, food, transportation, medical expenses, and education.

In Missouri, MOST 529 and MO ABLE participants have more than $4 billion saved for the future. We work hard to make MOST 529 and MO ABLE strong and cost effective plans for Missourians—and in October, MOST 529 was again rated one of the best plans in the country by investment research company Morningstar.

This holiday season, while you’re dreaming of a White Christmas, add a little green to a child’s education account.

If you’d like to learn more about either program, visit www.missourimost.org or www.moable.com.

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