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  • Writer's pictureKevin Shuller, CFA, CFP

Free money for college! (maybe)

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

I love free money. It’s one of my favorite kinds of money. The best kind of free money is the kind you get for something you should do anyway. Getting free money for doing the right thing. That's like having calm children eat all of their dinner – a rare, beautiful thing that must be savored and not overanalyzed.

The most common example of getting free money for doing the right thing is the 401(k) match. You save for retirement like the responsible adult you are. Your employer says “Hey, great job! Here’s another 3% of your salary to use 30 years from now.” Thanks, boss!

Some states are introducing programs that give parents free money to start saving for college.

I live in Colorado. Colorado First Step will contribute $100 to your child’s CO 529 if they were born after 1/1/2020. All you need is the 529 and the child. On top of that, the program will match the first $1,000 you contribute to your child’s 529 plan each of the first five years if you are under an income threshold. You put in $1,000, they put in $1,000. That’s a free $5,000 of college savings at an early age when the money has the most time to compound prior to college.

It’s great bang for the buck. That goes double when half the bucks are free.

If you live in Colorado, I encourage you to check out Colorado First Step. If you live elsewhere, your state might have a similar program. reports that 15 states have similar grant or matching programs.

If you haven’t started thinking about saving for college yet or don’t know what a 529 plan is, many financial planners would love to walk you through the basics. For some, like Cedar Peak, that initial discussion is free.

Kevin Shuller is the Founder/CIO of Cedar Peak Wealth Advisors. This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as financial advice.

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