Forming Strong Habits is Key to Building a Bright Future

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On Sunday, May 31, we will be closing out our 17th enrollment year here at GET. This time of year is always so encouraging, as we see thousands of families making the decision to take action and get started, saving their way to a bright future for their children. If you’ve been thinking about starting your child’s college savings, but just haven’t been able to get to it yet, now is a great opportunity to take the plunge.

The good news is that once you take that first step and get started, the rest becomes easier. The key is to make the act of putting money away for college a habit. I recently read a book called The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, that I found to be quite powerful (no pun intended). As Duhigg puts it: “Most of the choices we make each day may feel like the products of well-considered decision making, but they’re not. They’re habits.” The three main elements of a habit are: a cue that triggers action, a routine response to that cue, and a reward for that particular course of action. It’s a cyclical process that feeds itself, which is why, for good or bad, habits are very difficult to break.

Now let’s have a look at how we can apply this framework to college savings specifically. The cue could be anything from seeing the rising cost of college, or talking with your kids about what they want to be when they grow up. The reward can be immediate: seeing your college savings account grow; or far out into the future: imagining your children’s long term success and happiness, or knowing they won’t be saddled with mountains of student loan debt. Of course, the hardest part to get going is all that work in the middle – the routine. For maximum success, many families find it helpful to make regularly scheduled contributions to their accounts. This can be in the form of monthly payment plans, or making bigger deposits at the same milestones each year (birthdays, holidays, the end of a school year, etc.). Of course, every family has a different routine that works for them, but the key is to find a routine that is predictable so that it becomes second nature.

Duhigg’s concepts are simple, yet profound. If we take the time to understand what drives us and fully commit ourselves to creating new habits that will help us reach our goals, we can make big impacts. College savings is no exception. It’s not an easy undertaking, but once you start, establish a routine, and keep your rewards in sight, your college savings plan will be a force to be reckoned with. So, with this year’s enrollment deadline around the corner, we encourage you to heed Smashmouth’s advice from the song, Walking on the Sun: “Don’t delay, act now!” But don’t worry, supplies are not running out – there’s plenty of GET to go around. It’s easy to enroll online at www.get.wa.gov.

Written by Lucas Minor

Get your savings in full swing this spring

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I always welcome the start of baseball season, as it’s a great reminder that good things are in store for the months ahead. It’s a chance for renewed optimism as we cheer on the home team (Go Mariners!) and hope that maybe ‘this’ will finally be their year. And accordingly, Mother Nature is showing signs of bright life: the sun starts showing itself again, flowers are in bloom and everything is turning green again! But what do baseball and the change in seasons have to do with college savings?

Just as start of the season involves a steep learning curve for a team, getting your college savings started is not always easy right out of the gate. You’ll experience some growing pains and it will take time to get a consistent game plan established. Despite these early road bumps, remember that this time of year is also the perfect opportunity for a fresh start and to try out a new approach. If you stay committed and keep working hard, it will continue to come more naturally, and your college savings plan will begin to blossom.

A hang up for many parents looking to start their college planning is where to start. When I’m out in the community sharing information about our program, I often hear “What should we be doing?” “How much do we need to be saving?” “Tell me what I need to do!” This line of questioning is understandable, as it can feel overwhelming to be looking ahead when you’re busy trying to raise kids and triage their day-to-day needs. While I’m able to provide these harried parents with resources and tools, the reality is that there is no single magic formula that works for everyone. Every family’s situation is unique and their goals for their children are equally varied. But the good news is that often parents just need to have these early conversations, and once in the right mindset, they’re ready to find their own way.

Although there is no one right way, there are some best practices that families can look to so they can ensure long-term savings success. First, start as early as possible when kids are still young so there is more time to add to your savings and watch them grow. It’s easy to compare different options on the CSPN website to see which plan or mix of plans will work best for your family. Just as importantly, don’t set it and forget it – keep adding as your kids grow and get family and friends involved. Finally, let your kids know what you’re doing to plan for their future and reinforce that college will be part of their future.

However you choose to save for college, remember that practice and routine are the keys to success. In the words of legendary Dodgers team manager, Tommy Lasorda: “There are three types of baseball players: those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happens.”

Written by Lucas Minor

Win $529, Mariners tickets and more when you tell a friend about GET

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On Friday, May 29, 2015, GET will be celebrating GET College Savings Night at Safeco Field, where we will be cheering on the Mariners as they take on the Cleveland Indians at 7:10pm. In anticipation of this event, GET is offering a special promotion.

From April 20 – May 15, when you tell a friend about the GET program, you will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win one of six prize packages.* The prize packages are as follows:

  • Grand Prize: $529 Visa Gift Card, 6 Tickets to the Mariner’s Game on May 29 with 6 Souvenir T-Shirts, and a once-in-a-lifetime pregame on-field experience with the opportunity to meet Mariner players and coaches
  • First Prize:  Four Mariner Cool Base Jerseys, Four Mariner Hats, and 6 Tickets to the Mariner’s Game on May 29 with 6 Souvenir T-Shirts.
  • Second Prize: Four Mariner Cool Base Jerseys and 4 Tickets to the Mariner’s Game on May 29 with 4 Souvenir T-Shirts.
  • Third Prize: Four Mariner Hats and 4 Tickets to the Mariner’s Game on May 29 with 4 Souvenir T-Shirts.
  • Fourth Prize (2 Packages): Four tickets to the Mariner’s Game on May 29 with 4 Souvenir T-Shirts.

To enter the prize drawing, please follow the link to our Tell-a-Friend page, complete the form and we’ll gladly send your family member or friend a link to our website, along with your personal message from you. Please take extra care to ensure the email address you list for yourself and for your friend are correct, as this will be our only means of contacting prize winners. We sincerely appreciate your help in spreading the good word about GET.

Disclaimer and Promotion Rules

Bright Futures Start with Being a Champion for Others’ Success

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We have all heard the term “kids today.” It is usually followed up by a statement like: “they sure have it easy,” or “they just don’t have the work ethic of our generation.” What we must remember is that kids are just a reflection of us in the mirror of life. As adult mentors we must hold high expectations for student success and students must have hope and be academically and financially prepared beginning at an early age.

This philosophy was the premise for creating our GET Bright Futures program in partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Washington State. This program plants the seeds of hope in youth and provides an avenue for the champions (parents, teachers, coaches, friends, other relatives) in their lives to respond and support their dreams and aspirations. Only a holistic approach to creating a college-going culture will increase the number of students achieving certification or a degree beyond high school.

This past week I traveled the I-5 corridor from Olympia to Bellingham visiting more than a dozen Boys & Girls Clubs during spring break in order to share our GET Bright Futures Program with more than 500 kindergarten through third grade students. During our presentations with the kids at the Clubs we asked them a few basic questions and then facilitated a rich conversation. Our questions included: “What’s a goal and how do you accomplish your dreams? What do you want to be when you grow up and why?” And lastly we asked “who are the champions in your life and how can these people help you achieve your goals and support you when you face challenges or opportunities?”

It makes me wonder, as adults, do we ask these questions of ourselves enough and do we look for ways to support the people in our lives to the best of our abilities? The way I see it, kids have not changed over time. They are still innocent, curious, and creative sponges that just want to be happy, loved and to know they are working towards something meaningful in their lives. These are the same things we continue to search for as grownups; however, too often we let our egos, gadgets, and bitterness get in the way. What I learned from my week with these amazing kids is don’t let the world stop you from being your best.

We must remember we are born into this world with no preconceived ideas; everything that makes us who we are is truly a result of the people and the environments which surround us. The world is changed when we choose positive behaviors and thoughts and when we decide to be champions for those we love and care about. Our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for the person we become.

When talking about his “Moral Bucket List” in a recent editorial in the New York Times, David Brooks said, “It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. We all know that the eulogy virtues are more important than the résumé ones and I came to the conclusion that wonderful people are made, not born — that the people I admired had achieved an unfakeable inner virtue, built slowly from specific moral and spiritual accomplishments.”

In my opinion, Mr. Brooks hit the nail on the head with this statement because as I went from one Boys & Girls Club to the next I saw the same genuine light, optimism, and hope in the eyes of the children we met with that I had at such a young age. It was the champions in my life, the people focused on their eulogy virtues, that made the most impact on my upbringing and my path to and now through adulthood. If I can be that champion for family, friends and colleagues in my life, I will consider my journey a success.

When we asked one kindergartner to describe college he said it was “an opportunity to become your best self!” And when I asked a second grader what a path is she said, “It is just your journey through life and that it has ups, it has downs and it has lots of turns. It really is not about getting someplace, it is just about becoming a better person by never giving up and remembering the people you love and how they have helped you along the way.” Amazing insight from two kids I now consider champions in my life!

By Ryan Betz, Associate Director of GET Marketing & Communications

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GET’s Response to Proposed Senate Budget to Lower Tuition

Yesterday (March 31, 2015), the Washington State Senate announced its proposed budget for the 2015-17 biennium and in its plan the Senate calls for reducing tuition at Washington’s institutions of higher education.

It is important that our customers know that we have been working closely with the State Actuary, legislators and their staff and our agency policy team for several months now to discuss the possibility of zero tuition growth or even the possibility of lower tuition as proposed by the Senate budget.

Our first and foremost priority is the best interests of our customers. We want to ensure that our customers maintain the current dollar value of their accounts and that they have the opportunity for their investment to continue to grow over time. With that said, we also need to ensure that any changes we make to the program are fiscally responsible and keep the funded status or solvency of the program strong and viable.

In the case of the proposed Senate budget, we are currently looking at what the impacts would be if we lowered our price and provided additional units to our customers based on a number of potential formulas.

Since legislation and the budgets are still undergoing discussions and negotiations at this point, it is really difficult to provide specifics. Our goal over the next several weeks is to work with the legislature, the GET Committee and the State Actuary to develop financially sound models to evaluate so that the best possible solution can be implemented in a timely manner once a budget proposal and tuition setting policy is agreed upon by our state leaders.

In both of the higher education budget scenarios that have been proposed, we realize our business model may need to be adjusted; however, our mission of making college more affordable and accessible for Washington families does not change and we are fully committed to that goal. As more information and details become available we will be sure to share them with you.

Win Tickets to Opening Day at Safeco to Watch the Seattle Mariners Beat the Los Angeles Angels!

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Our biggest inspiration here at GET is when we hear our customers’ stories about how their college savings efforts have made an impact in their families’ lives. We would love to hear your story, and in exchange, we want to offer you a chance to win your spot at the Mariners’ Opening Day game! To take advantage of this opportunity, submit in 100 words or less, as a comment on our Facebook post, how GET has made a positive impact in your life. A winner will be selected at random to receive two 100-level tickets on the first base side to watch the Mariners beat the Angels on Opening Day, April 6! Be sure to submit your entry by 5:00 PM, Monday March 30.

 *Disclaimer: GET’s “Opening Day with the Mariners,” promotion will take place from Thursday, March 26, 2015, through Monday, March 30, 2015. The prize will be awarded in the form of two 100 level tickets on the first base side to opening day at Safeco Field, to watch the Mariners play the Angels. To be eligible to win the tickets, comment on the original Facebook post submitting in 100 words or less, how GET has made a positive impact in your life, by 5:00 PM on Monday, March 30, 2015. Entries will be collected and a winner will be selected by a random number generator. GET reserves the right to use submitted entries in testimonials and promotional materials.

 The selected winner will be notified by GET via Facebook and will have 24 hours to claim their prize by replying to the message. If they do not reply to the GET program within 24 hours, a new winner will be selected. Tickets will be mailed when GET receives confirmation and a valid mailing address from the winner. When prizes are sent, there will be an enclosed form confirming receipt of the tickets. Prize winners will be required to complete this form and return to the program no later than Wednesday, April 8, 2015. Employees and family members of employees of the GET program and its parent agency, the Washington Student Achievement Council are not eligible to participate in this promotion. Neither Facebook, nor the Seattle Mariners are affiliated with, and do not otherwise support or endorse this promotion or the GET program.

Reaching your dreams takes a lot more than a little bit ‘o luck

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity

Many symbols associated with St. Patrick’s Day signify luck. Shamrocks, horseshoes and the color green are often revered as tokens that promise bounties of good fortune. However, while there definitely are times where the cards seem to be more in our favor than usual, good fortune typically takes more than luck alone. In fact, the things we attribute to luck are usually direct results of the efforts we make. As Thomas Jefferson is credited with saying, “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

This is all too true when it comes to planning for our children’s future success. If we simply cross our fingers and hope our child wants to become a doctor, gets into the most prestigious medical school, and secures the scholarships to pay for it, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. There’s nothing wrong with these lofty goals – we SHOULD dream big for our kids, and inspire them to do the same. But when these dreams aren’t supported with sweat equity, the chances of our desires coming to fruition can be slim. So how do we bring our hopes for our children’s success from simple wishes to tangible realities?

It starts by fostering a sense of wonder and instilling a thirst for life-long learning in our kids. This starts from birth and goes all the way through their development. Children enter this world as books with blank pages, waiting to be filled with the story that will be their lives. It’s both awesome and frightening to know that we play one of the most influential roles in helping them craft this story.

As the story develops, it may start feeling like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel, where nail-biting parents are faced with a series of choices, whose selected courses of action can yield drastically different story lines and plot twists. This analogy is also important, as it illustrates the reality that there is no parenting blueprint. Every child has unique needs, interests, emotions and strengths. The key is to think about the big picture – how can we proactively take steps today that support our children in striving towards what they want to become?

If you’re struggling to answer this question, DON’T PANIC! As the young mother of a newborn shared at an event I recently attended, the biggest piece of guidance she received from parents who started the journey before her is: “You’ll figure it out.” This advice may not seem all that profound or reassuring, but despite her worst fears and apprehensions, the advice was spot on, and she DID figure it out. If we can accept that there is no one right way, and instead commit to a holistically-minded decision making approach and encourage our children to do the same, perhaps Lady Luck will smile upon us.

Written by Lucas Minor