As the cost of college continues to rise, families are looking to a variety of strategies to help them save. Twenty-right percent of parents saving for college report that they plan to ask friends and family to consider contributing to their child’s college savings fund this year. To help make it easier, Fidelity Investments has launched a new 529 Online Gifting Service which lets owners of Fidelity retail 529 college savings accounts use social media to encourage friends and family to help them save for college.
Developed by Fidelity Labs, the firm’s in-house center for innovation, with input with Fidelity’s state 529 sponsors including the state of New Hampshire, the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority, the state of Delaware and the Arizona Commission for Post-Secondary Education, the new service is managed wholly by Fidelity, is free to use, secure and easily shared online and socially.
Available now, families with a Fidelity-managed retail 529 college savings account, which includes the UNIQUE College Investing Plan, the U.Fund College Investing Plan, the Delaware College Investment Plan and the Fidelity Arizona College Savings Plan, can sign up for the 529 Online Gifting Service and create a customized online gifting page and profile for their child or beneficiary of the account.
With options to add photos and personalize messages about the child’s dream job or college plans, Fidelity is the first 529 plan-manager to allow 529 account owners to personalize their beneficiary’s online gifting page and share with loved ones through social media. A direct link to the gifting page can be posted to personal accounts like Twitter or Facebook – or shared more traditionally via email – inviting friends and family to make a gift toward college savings, similar to how many fundraise for a charitable event or crowdfund to support a social cause or personal goal.
Just one click, friends and family can visit the gifting page, and if they choose to make a contribution, they can do so easily and securely via electronic check. The electronic check transfers money directly from the giftor’s bank account to the Fidelity-managed 529 account – no paper check, no mail needed. Parents can use the gift page dashboard to track who is gifting and how contributions are helping towards their overall college savings goals.
While other third-party gifting services may offer similar features, they often require a fee to send contributions through an intermediary who then forwards the funds to the intended 529 account. Fidelity’s online gifting tool has no fees and provides the peace of mind that you are dealing directly with Fidelity, the company managing the college savings account.
“Parents are trying to save for college for a generation of children that grew up online, so it’s only fitting that their college savings efforts embrace the social behaviors of sharing, connecting and encouraging community engagement,” said Keith Bernhardt, vice president of college planning at Fidelity. “Fidelity’s new 529 Online Gifting Service meets our customers where they are already spending time – online – and with just a few clicks, provides them with a convenient and secure way to ask their network of friends and family to gift to their children’s college education, with no hidden fees.”
“Millions of people use social media everyday as an integral part of their lives, and that includes learning how to invest and save for the future,” said Sean Belka, senior vice president and director of Fidelity Labs. “As we’ve seen with crowdfunding, social media has proven to be a very effective way for people to tap into their social networks to raise funds. Now our customers can also harness that power to meet college savings goals.”