Using Social Media, New Tool Helps Engage Friends and Family in Gifting for College
June 18, 2014- BOSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–As the cost of college continues to rise, families are looking to a variety of strategies to help them save. Twenty-eight percent of parents saving for college report that they plan to ask friends and family to consider contributing to their child’s college savings fund this year. To help make it easier, Fidelity Investments® has launched a new 529 Online Gifting Service which lets owners of Fidelity’s retail529 college savings accounts1 use social media to encourage friends and family to help them save for college.
Developed by Fidelity Labs, the firm’s in-house center for innovation, with input from Fidelity’s state 529 sponsors including the state of New Hampshire, the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority, the state of Delaware and the Arizona Commission for Post-Secondary Education, the new service is managed wholly by Fidelity, is free to use, secure and easily shared online and socially.
College Gifting Made Easy: How it Works
Available now, families with a Fidelity-managed retail 529 college savings account, which includes the UNIQUE College Investing Plan, the U.Fund® College Investing Plan, the Delaware College Investment Plan and the Fidelity Arizona College Savings Plan, can sign up for the 529 Online Gifting Service at Fidelity.com/collegegift and create a customized online gifting page and profile for their child or beneficiary of the account.
With options to add photos and personalized messages about the child’s dream job or college plans, Fidelity is the first 529 plan-manager to allow 529 account owners to personalize their beneficiary’s online gifting page and share with loved ones through social media. A direct link to the gifting page can be posted to personal accounts like Twitter or Facebook – or shared more traditionally via email – inviting friends and family to make a gift toward college savings, similar to how many fundraise for a charitable event or crowdfund to support a social cause or personal goal.
With just one click, friends and family can visit the gifting page, and if they choose to make a contribution, they can do so easily and securely via electronic check. The electronic check transfers money directly from the giftor’s bank account to the Fidelity-managed 529 account – no paper check, no mail needed. Parents can use the gift page dashboard to track who is gifting and how contributions are helping towards their overall college savings goals.
While other third-party gifting services may offer similar features, they often require a fee to send contributions through an intermediary who then forwards the funds to the intended 529 account. Fidelity’s online gifting tool has no fees and provides the peace of mind that you are dealing directly with Fidelity, the company managing the college savings account.
“Parents are trying to save for college for a generation of children that grew up online, so it’s only fitting that their college savings efforts embrace the social behaviors of sharing, connecting and encouraging community engagement,” said Keith Bernhardt, vice president of college planning at Fidelity. “Fidelity’s new 529 Online Gifting Service meets our customers where they are already spending time – online – and with just a few clicks, provides them with a convenient and secure way to ask their network of friends and family to gift to their children’s college education, with no hidden fees.”
“Millions of people use social media everyday as an integral part of their lives, and that includes learning how to invest and save for the future,” said Sean Belka, senior vice president and director of Fidelity Labs. “As we’ve seen with crowdfunding, social media has proven to be a very effective way for people to tap into their social networks to raise funds. Now our customers can also harness that power to meet college savings goals.”
Keeping it Simple: No Fees, No Hassle
- Free to set up and to use. There are no transaction fees to set up a gifting page or make contributions to a 529 account. No third-party intermediaries, paper checks, stamps or trips to post office necessary.
- Safe and secure. There’s no need to give out a personal account number. And for both account owners and potential giftors, the peace of mind that they are dealing directly with the company managing the 529 account.
- Anyone can contribute. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, other family and friends – and they don’t have to be Fidelity customers.
- Easy to share. Families can invite others to contribute to their child’s 529 college savings account by sharing a link via email, posting on personal social media accounts.
- Makes a great gift idea. Parents can include as part of party invitations as a gift idea to celebrate birthdays, baby showers, graduations, holidays or other special occasions.
Grandparents Willing to Give: Just Ask (via social media!)
According to Fidelity’s recent Grandparents and College Savings Study2 72 percent of grandparents think it is important to help pay for their grandchildren’s college education. While only about a third (36 percent) report they are currently saving, an astounding 90 percent of grandparents say that if asked, they would be likely to make a contribution to their grandchild’s college savings fund in place of traditional gifts.
This generous generation is also increasingly social, and perhaps primed for an online gift request. Industry reports show that Facebook participation of those age 55 and older has grown by 80 percent over the past three years3, and 55-64 year olds were Twitter’s fastest growing user group last year, their numbers increasing by 79 percent in 20134. According to Fidelity, of grandparents active on social media, 68 percent say they interact with their children or grandchildren via social accounts at least once a month5.
Get Started with 529 Online Gifting: There’s No Better Time than Now
To see the new 529 Online Gifting tool in action, watch this “How To” video from Fidelity Labs. Current Fidelity-managed 529 account owners can create their customized gifting page at www.fidelity.com/collegegift. For those who don’t have a Fidelity-managed 529 college saving plan, an account can be opened with just an initial deposit of just $50. To learn more, see Fidelity’s Viewpoints article “The ABCs of 529 college savings plans.” To open a new Fidelity-managed 529 College Savings account, visit Fidelity’s College Savings Resource Center or call 1-800-544-1914 to speak directly with a college savings specialist.
About Fidelity Labs
Fidelity Labs was established in 2005 to work in coordination with the Fidelity Center for Applied Technology (est. 1999), Fidelity’s center for innovation, to explore emerging technologies and evaluate new innovative concepts to learn how they may benefit investors. Fidelity Labs works with a number of Fidelity business units and also launches its own products. Examples of current Fidelity offerings that began as experimental offerings in Fidelity Labs include Fidelity’s presence on Facebook and Twitter, and many of Fidelity Investments’ mobile apps among others. For more information on Fidelity Labs, visit www.fidelitylabs.com.
About Fidelity Investments
Fidelity Investments is one of the world’s largest providers of financial services, with assets under administration of $4.8 trillion, including managed assets of $2.0 trillion, as of May 31, 2014. Founded in 1946, the firm is a leading provider of investment management, retirement planning, portfolio guidance, brokerage, benefits outsourcing and many other financial products and services to more than 20 million individuals and institutions, as well as through 5,000 financial intermediary firms. For more information about Fidelity Investments, visit www.fidelity.com.