Skip To Content
Blog Get a Quote

How to ask for 529 contribution gifts without offending your family

Four easy steps to ask for 529 contributions instead of gifts this holiday season. What you need to know to get people to listen, without offending them.

A dad plays with his daughter and son

As the holidays approach, one thing is certain. Neither of my kids needs any more toys to add to their overflowing playroom. But a contribution to their college funds would be appreciated.

It turns out, I’m not alone in this opinion. In fact, 87% of parents would prefer college contributions in lieu of presents from friends and family.

Unfortunately, asking family or friends for money, as opposed to traditional gifts, is a tricky game. Many people act like you’re Ebenezer Scrooge robbing your children of their childhood. Others might worry that the $5 to $10 they usually spend on a gift for a child would be embarrassing to donate to something like a 529.

Want to know how to ask for 529 plan contributions without offending people, and potentially create an opportunity for a larger conversation about financial priorities with the people in your life? Here’s how you can get started.

1. Stick to your inner circle

Your second cousin that you only see once a year around the holidays probably won’t take well to being hit up for your child’s college education. So, responding to your family’s holiday email chain with, “Our children don’t need any more toys. Please consider contributing to their 529 plans instead of other gifts,” before anyone has asked what your kids want, is usually a bad idea. Even if you mean it kindly, it can come off as crass.

Instead, direct this ask to close family and friends – grandparents, siblings, godparents, and close friends. Particularly those who ask you directly what they can get for your child this year.

Grandparents, most notably, tend to be open to the idea of this kind of financial gift. 72% of grandparents believe it is important to help pay for their grandchild’s college education and 90% would be open to 529 contributions over gifts if their children asked.

You know your family best, but for those who love you and your children, they may be more open to the idea than you might expect. Especially if you frame it properly.

Haven Life: Life insurance that’s actually simple

Get our newsletter

There’s more great content where this came from.

2. Frame the conversation around your child’s future

Many parents’ knee-jerk reaction is to start conversations on this topic with, “our children have more than enough.” And in many cases, that is 100% true. But people who hear that might think you’re just no fun. They give gifts to your child for the here and now. That’s why gift giving is fun.

Instead, frame the conversation around your child’s future. How you’re saving for their education to help them avoid the burdens of student loans. The rising costs of education. How even small contributions add up significantly over time.

It is also a good time to explain to your family what you are teaching your kids about money and consumption. That you want them to grow up to be financially responsible. That you’re instilling the lesson that saving has long-term benefits.

Driving the discussion this way has numerous benefits. It lets your loved ones know that you are working to save for your child’s college too, not just depending on others. Grandparents and family members get to feel like they are helping to encourage lifelong smart financial planning. And they get the sense that your child will appreciate the gift because you’ve taught them the benefits of saving and investing.

3. Have a small traditional gift idea to offer as well

While we all want our gifts to have meaning and long-term value, money isn’t something our society typically views as a meaningful gift. In fact, it often feels impersonal. Part of the joy of gift giving is finding something a person will love, that shows you know and appreciate them.

Think of the stuffed animal a child loves and carries around for years. Or a book that becomes their absolute favorite and is read many times over.

Most people will still want to give something, however small, to your child even if they contribute to a 529. Especially if the child is young and may not understand the future value of their gift.

When a friend or family member asks what they can get your child, have something specific to your child’s interests that would be appreciated.

We like to keep these asks to under $10 since you’re asking these people to also make a college contribution. But make sure that instead of a $5 item that will lose your child’s interest in minutes, pick something they will truly appreciate. For instance, my toddler loves the Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems. He reads them over and over. So, we suggest a book in the collection he doesn’t already have.

Having a tangible gift idea to offer as opposed to or in addition to a 529 contribution lets those in your life still experience the traditional joy of gift giving. And you might also be able to reduce the number of obnoxious toys that enter your house.

Life insurance needs aren't one-size-fits-all.

Calculate your needs

4. Use services that allow direct contributions

Removing the middleman – such as giving people a direct link where they can contribute to your child’s 529 – may make them more likely to contribute.

In the past, those who wanted to donate to a child’s 529 had to print out a form, know the account number, and mail a check directly to the provider. It was a complicated process that resulted in most people just giving cash or check directly to the parents, with instructions to deposit it.

Now, many 529 plans have services built in to allow contributions from individuals besides the account owner. This can be a personalized link found within your account or an area of the plan manager’s website. These tools make the process easy and provide comfort to contributors who like to know for certain where the money is going.

Gratefully accept traditional gifts

Following the suggestions above will likely increase the number of people who are willing to opt for college contributions over gifts. But you won’t convince everyone.

The push to provide presents today is strong. For many people, a monetary contribution will never feel like a real gift. They want to see your child tear off the wrapping paper and hold a tangible thing that brings delight and a smile.

Gift giving is a generous act, and those in your life are going to spend their money how they want. So, instead of feeling disappointed by the people who don’t hear your message, celebrate every dollar that is sent to your child’s college funds and every other act of kindness you experience this holiday season. Thank those who love your kids enough to send any type of gift. And keep your message consistent so more people might adopt your preference over time.

It’s not just easier life insurance, it’s an easier life.

Learn about the perks that come with being a Haven Term policyholder.

Explore Haven Life Plus

Chelsea Brennan is the founder of Smart Money Mamas, a personal finance blog that focuses on family finance, investing, and reducing money stress. Chelsea is an ex-hedge fund investor whose work has appeared in a wide array of publications, including Forbes, Business Insider, and more.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own. Haven Life Insurance Agency offers this as educational information only. Haven Life does not endorse [the companies] or offer the [companies], products, services and/or strategies discussed here.

Default author headshot

About Adam Weinberg

Adam Weinberg is the Brand Director for Haven Life, where he’s working hard to make life insurance easy. Adam is a creative problem solver who uses unique brand moments to create meaningful customer experiences.  Adam has more than a decade of diverse editorial, marketing, and branding experience, including work on several award-winning campaigns for various digital media companies.

Read more by Adam Weinberg

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

Our disclosures

Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.

Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit:

You might also like

Get our most-read stories, twice a month

.newsletter-msg-success, .newsletter-msg-error { display: none; }

What our customers are saying

Sign up for our newsletter

Get our most-read stories, twice a month

Thanks for signing up. See you in your inbox soon.