This is the busiest time of the year, as we’re all reminded at least a dozen times between Thanksgiving and the New Year. I am thankful you have taken just a few minutes to read this.

Much of the stress brought by the holiday season usually revolves around gifts. Who gets what? Does my uncle wear large or extra-large these days? Is my niece bringing her boyfriend to Christmas? It is ironic a time of such joy can bring so much stress as we try to create happiness for others.

Allow me to help with those gift-giving tasks you still have on your plate and introduce you to CollegeChoice 529, a program sponsored by the state of Indiana. It offers an alternative to the typical gifts you may give.

CollegeChoice 529 is an affordable, flexible opportunity to put money aside in dedicated college savings accounts for the special children in your life. The gift of education is not something children can outgrow, break or grow sick of before Valentine’s Day. Research suggests a child with as little as a dollar in a dedicated college savings account is up to four times more likely to attend college and graduate than one without a savings account.

A CollegeChoice 529 account also brings special benefits for account owners and gift contributors. Earnings on your investments grow tax-deferred from federal and state taxes. Withdrawals for qualified expenses like tuition, room and board, books, fees and computers are exempt from federal and state tax.

Account beneficiaries are welcome to use their savings at any higher education institution that accepts federal financial aid, not just Indiana colleges and universities. Last, Hoosiers who contribute to CollegeChoice accounts may also take advantage of the most generous state 529 tax incentive in the country: a credit equal to 20 percent of their contributions, worth up to $1,000 each and every year. That is money back in one’s pocket that could be reinvested into a CollegeChoice 529 account.

This holiday season, give a gift that won’t wear out: the gift of college. The money you set aside in a CollegeChoice 529 account today will be invested and have a chance to earn more over time. Contributing by Dec. 31 could allow you to claim a valuable tax credit in just a few short months.

2017 marks the 20th anniversary of Indiana’s CollegeChoice 529 program. As of today, Hoosiers have saved more than $4 billion in more than 330,000 accounts. In 2016 alone, CollegeChoice 529 helped pay for $294 million in qualified education expenses.

Giving the gift of college to your loved ones now can help you prepare for the same expenses and save a great deal later on. Visit www.collegechoicedirect.com to learn more and enroll today.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, from my family to yours!

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Kelly Mitchell is Indiana treasurer. The opinions are the writer's.

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