Over 30 years ago, Meredith Westheimer’s single mom had the foresight to sign up for a new college savings plan, Florida Prepaid. Now, as a mom of two, Meredith shares how this decision shaped her life.
By: Meredith Westheimer
I grew up in Boca. When I tell people that, they assume things. Like I got a Benz when I turned 16 or had some all-expenses-paid high school graduation trip. But that was not our reality. I had a single mom I relied on for everything, and she worked hard.
Fast forward, as a full-time working mom of two, I can attest that raising kids is still hard, even with a partner in this journey to balance the budget and share the parenting responsibilities. But luckily, some things between our two generations of family aren’t that different.
Over 30 years ago, my single mom had the foresight to sign up for a new college savings program – Florida Prepaid. It was launched in 1987 and promised an easy path for Florida families to save for college. Signing up meant that she locked in the future costs of college. As long as she paid the monthly fee for a set schedule of payments, college tuition coverage was a guarantee. My mom signed up for the 4-year University Plan, plus a one-year dormitory plan. And even when times were tough, this single mom with two master’s degrees prioritized paying that monthly bill.
Because of this, I knew I was going to college from the time I was small. Exactly four years after high school, I graduated from the University of Central Florida completely debt-free – a gift that set me up for the rest of my adult life. Studies have shown that saving for college makes children more than twice as likely to attend college, even if the savings are small.
Consider that student loan debt is second only to mortgages in this country. It is estimated that more than 42 million Americans have federal student loans, with a total of more than $1.76 trillion in outstanding debt – that’s a lot of money.
When we examine the figures more granularly, it has been reported that the average undergraduate borrower owes nearly $40,000 in student loans (and if you decide to be a doctor or a lawyer, it is a much larger and more horrific number).
But luckily for Florida families, Florida Prepaid is still around – and thriving. More than 612,000 students have already attended college using Prepaid Plans. Over 1.2 million plans have been bought.
Prepaid Plans offer certainty in an uncertain world. They are guaranteed, inflation-proof, risk-free, flexible, and affordable. As a mom, there isn’t much more I can ask for.
There are five options, including my favorite, the 1-Year University Plan, which can be stacked, and make great gifts from grandparents! Plans this year start as low as $45 a month for a newborn.
You can always retain the value of your plan, and it can be applied to various schools, including in-state or out, and at public, private, trade, and technical schools nationwide. Your child has 10 years to use their plan, it can be transferred to another child, or you can always get your money back. They even work well alongside scholarships. For example, I also had Bright Futures, so I received unused money back each semester and used it for books, meals, and housing.
I’d like to think of myself as a first-generation Prepaid kid. I feel lucky because I don’t know if my mom would have saved for college had it not been so easy and guaranteed. But she did. And because she did, I was able to dive right into some of the most expensive experiences of my life, like buying my first home and starting a family. I wasn’t saddled by large monthly student loan payments, and I want that same experience for my children, which is why we have already signed up for Florida Prepaid for both boys.
While I don’t know what the future holds for our kids or the economy, I know it is important to be prepared. I implore every Florida family to visit www.myfloridaprepaid.com and take advantage of the uniquely Florida benefits.
Meredith Westheimer grew up in South Florida, where she still lives with her husband, Michael, and two young boys, Grayson and Steele.
Have questions? We have answers! Explore our Frequently Asked Questions to learn more about these plans, and click here to start your savings now!