Three Clever Ways to Contribute to the College Funds

By Tiffany Williams, Managing Executive, FineMark National Bank & Trust office at Shell Point Retirement Community

Helping finance a grandchild’s college education can bring great personal satisfaction. When done correctly, supporting their future education can also minimize potential gift and estate taxes. Here are some common strategies:

  1. Outright Cash Gifts. One way to contribute is to make an outright gift of cash. To minimize any potential gift tax implications, you’ll want to keep your gift under the annual federal gift tax exclusion amount of $13,000 for individual gifts or $26,000 for joint gifts made by both grandparents. A larger gift may be subject to federal gift tax.
  2. Pay Tuition Directly to the College. Another option is to bypass your grandchild and pay the college directly. Under federal law, tuition payments made directly to a college are not considered taxable gifts, no matter how large the payment. However, only tuition qualifies for this federal gift tax exemption.
  3. 529 College Savings Plan. A 529 college savings plan is a tax-advantaged savings vehicle that can be a smart way for grandparents to contribute to their grandchild’s college education while paring down their own estate. Contributions to your account grow tax deferred and earnings are tax-free if the money is used to pay the beneficiary’s qualified education expenses. Funds can be used at any accredited college in the United States or abroad.

Before you make any decisions on giving, it’s important to do your homework and consult with your trusted financial advisor. Additionally, Finemark National Bank & Trust has an office on The Island at Shell Point Retirement Community. If you have questions about this article, contact us by phone at (239) 461-5999.