By Debbie Placke, Vice President, Manager, Financial Planning Marketing and Tools

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Tired of holiday shopping? Give the gift of education! If you have children or grandchildren in your life the gift of a college education will go a long way. College costs are rising rapidly and without a savings plan in place many students will graduate with the burden of a heavy load of debt as they struggle to start a new career and new stage in life.

The contributions that you make to a 529 plan can count as part of your annual gift exclusion up to $14,000 per beneficiary and can offer tax advantages and potentially other incentives to make it easier to save for college or other qualified post-secondary training for a designated beneficiary.

According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2015-2016 school year was $9,410 for state residents at public colleges, and $23,893 for out-of-state residents attending public universities. Multiply that by four years, adjust for inflation and that cost can be astronomical! For a five-year-old attending an out-of-state university in 13 years that cost could escalate to $222,939 assuming an inflation rate of 6%. In order to cover this bill you would have to begin saving $9,163 per year in a taxable account vs. $8,370 per year in a 529 account assuming an average 5.7% annual return.

Give the gift that will keep on giving this holiday. Start a 529 plan for your loved ones today! For more information on getting a plan started, or making contributions to a plan that is already in place, contact your Benjamin F. Edwards & Co. financial advisor.

Please remember, Benjamin F. Edwards & Co. does not provide legal or tax advice, therefore it is also important to consult with your legal and tax professionals for additional guidance tailored to your specific situation.