“My College Graduate is Debt-Free All Thanks to Bright Start 529”

By investing in Bright Start, the Chakrabortys have been able to save smarter without taking on any debt.

Debashis and Shabnam Chakraborty always told their daughters that a college education was something to aspire to. While the Naperville, Illinois family was sure their children would go to college, figuring out how to pay for it all was a little less certain — until they found Bright Start. By opening Bright Start 529 College Savings Accounts for both of their daughters, the girls have been able to pursue their dreams without amassing any debt.

Today, Sanam, 24, has her business management degree from Purdue University and is working in product development for Dish Network, or as her mother likes to say, “her dream job.” Sonia, 19, is a sophomore at New York’s Rochester Institute of Technology, studying management information systems.

You don’t need a finance degree to finance your child’s education

When Sanam was born, the Chakrabortys started saving for her education in a traditional savings account. A family friend later suggested they start saving with a 529 college savings plan because the accounts offer a simple, tax-advantaged way to save for higher education. After their second daughter was born, the Chakrabortys opened Bright Start accounts for both of their daughters. The Chakrabortys admit investing can seem difficult; but Bright Start made it easy for them. The plan offers several investment options to meet the needs of any family, including age-based, target, and individual fund portfolios — and the Chakrabortys felt they didn’t need a finance degree to understand it.

“The investment options in Bright Start are very good,” Shabnam said. “The fact that it’s age-based interested us. The older the child gets, the more conservative the investment portfolio becomes. This was something easy that we could understand. It’s a very well thought out program and it helped me so much.”

In-state or out-of-state, Bright Start has you covered

At a young age, Shabnam realized Sanam excelled with numbers. She was confident her daughter would follow that passion, even if it took her out-of-state for college. In 2013, Sanam decided to attend Purdue University in Indiana; but Shabnam never had concerns about if her Bright Start savings would be accepted at the school.

Funds in a Bright Start account can be used at a wide variety of institutions, including colleges, universities, vocational schools, or other post-secondary educational programs eligible to participate in student aid opportunities administered by the U.S. Department of Education. There are even schools outside the U.S. that are qualified to accept Bright Start funds.

“Other college savings programs can be a little restrictive in where the money can be used,” Shabnam said. “Whereas with Bright Start, the fact that my daughters could go to school almost anywhere in the country was a big benefit.”

Saving for education while learning best savings practices

Every quarter, Shabnam showed her daughters their Bright Start statements and reviewed their account balances. She talked to them about how to save smarter to reach their goals. “It definitely taught them that saving early on is something they should be emulating as they get older,” Shabnam said. “I see my daughter is already putting money aside for her MBA, and I think she learned that due to the Bright Start account that she had.”

The Chakrabortys believe their college savings experience was simple and convenient because they saved with Bright Start. Shabnam encourages parents to start saving as soon as possible. She said her only regret was not opening the account sooner.

“Whatever you can put aside, whether it’s $10, or $100, or $400, start setting it aside,” Shabnam said. “Do it as soon as your child is born. Don’t hesitate. Because when they’re 18 and leaving for school, all they have to worry about is focusing on their academics. That’s such a relief and peace of mind.”