An incentive to plan ahead

Published 10:33 pm Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Not every infant in Virginia has a college savings plan. But thanks to the Virginia 529 College Savings Plan, Elliot Thomas Robins does.

Robins, who was born at 7:17 p.m. on May 29 at Sentara Obici Hospital, was one of 21 babies born at hospitals across the commonwealth on 5/29 to win a $529 savings account from the Virginia529 organization, which works to promote the special, tax-exempt college savings plans.

Elliot, at 7 pounds, 2 ounces and less than a week old, is blessedly unaware of taxes or student loans or the cost of college. But his parents, Joey and Sarah Robins of Deep Creek, know about these things intimately. His father is an assistant principal at G.A. Treakle Elementary School in Chesapeake, and his mother was a fifth-grade teacher there until she became a stay-at-home mom three years ago.

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Education is obviously important to the Robins family. They plan to supplement little Elliot’s 529 savings plan with contributions throughout his childhood, and they’ll soon be starting a similar savings account for 3-year-old daughter Emma.

Elliot was lucky, born quite literally in the right place at the right time.

But the 529 savings plans aren’t just for lucky kids. They’re a great instrument for thoughtful and forward-thinking parents and families to begin saving for college expenses that are bound to continue rising as their children get older.

Earnings on savings in 529 accounts are free from state and federal taxes when used for qualified higher education expenses. Virginia taxpayers also get a state individual income-tax deduction of up to $4,000 per account per year.

The tax incentives, alone, are reason enough for families to open the accounts for their children. But the best thing about the savings accounts might be the incentive they give families to begin thinking about and planning for the cost of higher education while their children are still young.

For more information about how to start a tax-free college savings plan for someone in your family, visit