By: Alexis Mosteter, In Her Own Words
I can’t say they didn’t warn me. This business of being a live human being —even now, after almost a half-year of actually being one myself— can be confusing, frustrating, perplexing... and not infrequently, downright humiliating.
I mean, don’t even get me started talking about diapers. But more on that later. Right now, let me begin by introducing myself. My name is Alexis. That’s not what they called me when I was still up in the Waiting Room, but I don’t exactly remember what it was then. You see, angels don’t naturally speak in words; their native tongue is music. Not exactly singing, because there really isn’t anything in there you could call “words.” But I could understand everything they said, and I could speak it too.
In fact, that’s what I’m speaking right now. But here’s the funny part: down here, in the World, as I learn what people are saying to me, when I hear a new word the angel-talk word for whatever it is just... evaporates. Like, I’m sure there was a word for “hungry,” or for “Mom” or even for “wet” up there in the Waiting Room. But darned if I can recall what they are anymore.
That’s why I’m trying to get everything down on paper right now, because the angels warned me that this progressive memory-loss thing would happen. “Just part of being human,” one of them had shrugged. “Get used to it, kid.”
Oh, and here’s a fun fact. God —the Big Guy, Numero Uno, Father of All— is, of course, fluent in angel-music-talk, just like he is with human words. But what He called His “native tongue” is... mathematics. Yep: numbers and formulas and equations and such. He used to go on and on about Fibonacci Sequences and the Divine Ratio and other cool math-things. I understood it all, then. All that was the first to go bye-bye when I was born, but He told me I could catch up later if I paid attention in something called “school.”
Huh. My guess is that’s going to come sooner rather than later, especially if my Grandpa has anything to say about it.
Who is he? you might be asking. Well, he’s this gigantic big guy with a smile the size of the Pearly Gates and a laugh kind of like a friendly thunderstorm. He holds me a lot down here, when Mom lets him, and he’s pretty warm and cuddly.
And he talks. Bunches. And extremely fast too. Usually in words, most of which I’m still trying to work out; but a lot of times in numbers, just like God talked to me. Maybe they are friends or something. Can’t say for sure.
Grandpa’s something called a “financial advisor.” I’m still not up-to-speed on what that is — but gosh! it sure seems to involve a lot of numbers. For example, just the other day he was rocking me in his lap, and he started whispering to me. Since I’m still a novice at this word-stuff, from here on I’m not going to try to tell you what he means. I’m just reporting here, folks, and maybe we can all figure out the details from just repeating what he said.
“We’re going to set you up for your future, little lady,” he told me. “You’re headed for the best schools there are!” He paused and winked. “Course, it won’t be cheap. But we’re going to make sure you have the money for it. Lemme tell you about a nifty little thing called a ‘529 Plan.”
I was, of course, fascinated. I urged him to continue, by reaching for his nose. “A 529 plan is a savings plan designed to help pay for education, with some nice tax advantages,” Grandpa said. “At first, a 529 was limited to post-secondary education costs, like college. But in 2017, the law changed to cover K–12 education... and in 2019, even apprenticeship programs. And since last year, 529s can also be used to pay off student loans and even fund a Roth IRA in some circumstances.”
Essentially, he told me, there are two major types of 529 plans. The first way is with a prepaid tuition plan, where you can lock in today’s tuition amount instead of waiting for it to get more costly in the future. “Kind of like a ‘pay now, go later’ sort of setup,” Grandpa said.
The other one —and the one most often used— is an education savings plan. Here, a savings account is opened —most commonly, by parents or grandparents, though anybody can open one— and name a beneficiary for that money. In some states, the person who funds the account may be eligible for a state tax deduction for their contributions.
Different states have different tax consequences, he said. “For instance, some states give a state tax deduction for each year. Others do it differently, so it’s wise to look around.” But in all states, the money in a 529 plan is tax-deferred until it is withdrawn. Grandpa chuckled, which made me coo and giggle back at him. “What’s more,” he said, “as long as the money is used for qualified education expenses as defined by the IRS, those withdrawals aren't subject to either state or federal taxes. And you can use withdrawals from a 529 savings plan for both college and K–12 qualified expenses, which include tuition, fees, room and board, and related costs. Nice deal, right?”
I glanced up, only partially preoccupied with a particularly delicious-looking button I was chewing, and Grandpa took it as assent.
“And if you decide you want to be a plumber, or electrician, or anything in the trades— well, don’t worry,” he assured me. “The SECURE Act of 2019 expanded tax-free 529 plan withdrawals to include registered apprenticeship program expenses. Hey: there’s even up to $10,000 in student loan debt repayment for both account beneficiaries and their siblings!”
He looked thoughtful for a moment. “And starting on Jan. 1, 2024, the government lets you roll over up to $35,000 of unspent funds in a 529 account into a Roth IRA account, as long the account is at least 15 years old. Surprisingly good, wouldn’t you say?”
I saw a big frown and look of anger every time he said the letters IRS. I’m just guessing here, but those must be the bad guys in my little story!
I felt my eyelids fall, and my features screw up into what I’m sure he took as a smile of agreement. It wasn’t —I mean, shouldn’t all potential investors take a little time to review all aspects of an idea? — just as the real, and malodorous, reason for my expression filled my diaper.
“Phew!” Grandpa said, just as Mom swooped me up into her warm and tender embrace. “Anyway, little Alexis, we’ll talk more about this later. I’m always available for advice, you know.”
His words sounded comforting, even with the embarrassing load I was now carrying. After all, the angels had warned me about that part of being human, too.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Alexis and her musings will return to these pages in future editions. But right now, she’s sleeping)