College Savings Success: How one family saved early to celebrate later
Tony Graham first learned about Florida Prepaid College Plans in 1994, shortly after he and his wife Paula returned with toddler daughter Tonette to their native Tallahassee, where he was working at a bank.
“I worked with investments, sold mutual funds and annuities, and so I had an opportunity to go to investment school with the bank and see different options,” he recalled. The idea of a guaranteed, tax-free college savings plan resonated with both parents, who graduated from Florida A&M University.
“We wanted the assurance that there was a safe investment and a guaranteed investment. What impressed me most was locking in today’s college price for future use,” said Graham, now a Program Specialist for the Florida Department of Education. “You cannot beat that. To me, that’s even better than investing in real estate.”
Tonette was 4 when her parents started investing in her future education with a 4-Year University Plan. Five years later, she had her college tuition paid for and an awareness about the importance of saving for something important.
“It was a teachable moment for her. We let her know what we are doing all along. We told her, ‘We are sacrificing some things now so that when it’s time for you to college, you have what you need.’” – Tony Graham, father to Florida Prepaid beneficiary Tonette
“We tried to instill in her a growth mindset – the idea that we all start from something, and we can grow something significant,” said Tony.
Tonette had other scholarships including Bright Futures when she enrolled at FAMU to pursue her bachelor’s degree. So she used some of her Prepaid savings toward graduate school at FAMU, where she received a master’s degree in public administration. Along the way, Tonette was elected chair of the Florida Student Association, the first black woman to lead the organization that represents the State University System’s 300,000 students.
Today, Tonette continues to grow her resume. She is now special assistant to the governmental liaison in the FAMU President‘s Office.
All these years of education later, Tony Graham is a proud father — and a forever Florida Prepaid fan. Even today, he tells parents to consider buying a plan.
“There is no better, safer and easier to understand and operate plan than a Florida Prepaid College Plan. When your child walks across that high school stage, you have the assurance of knowing their tuition is paid for. That’s a big relief, especially knowing there will be other expenses.”
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