Reaching a milestone

my529 celebrates 25 years of helping families save for education

A Hollywood beginning

my529’s origin story is the stuff of movies, involving a kid with a vision for something better and the courage to see it through.

Thirty years ago, when Doug Peterson was a junior at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, he wrote a paper for one of his classes proposing a solution for the financial difficulties that he and his peers were facing while attending college. 

“[I was] struggling to manage school, a job and worrying about paying for all the education I wanted. I also saw my classmates either struggling with balancing work and classwork, or building up debt,” Peterson said.

At that time, Peterson was a student member of the Weber State Board of Trustees. He said that projections on the rising costs of education left him concerned for future students.

A year later as a student member of the State Board of Regents, Peterson presented his idea to higher education officials. Together, they drafted a concept for a college savings program.

While a 25-year-old college senior, Peterson was elected to the Utah House of Representatives. In 1994, he introduced a bill for the savings plan. Other state leaders joined the cause, and the Utah Educational Savings Plan (UESP) was founded in 1996. Congress laid the groundwork for 529 plans that same year.

“I firmly felt that creating the right opportunity to save and invest was a key part of the solution,” Peterson said.

Forging a path in a new industry, UESP started with one investment option, the Public Treasurers’ Investment Fund, managed by the Utah State Treasurer’s Office. The plan finished the first year with 157 accounts and $154,000 in assets under management.

Planning for the future

What Peterson dreamed of for a school assignment has made a difference for thousands of families, and is now making a difference for his own.

Peterson’s five children all have my529 accounts, and his three college-age children are now using their my529 funds to pay for higher education.

His eldest, Dallin, is completing his fifth semester at Weber State University as a Business/Entrepreneurship major. Peterson said that Dallin’s my529 account has covered all of his expenses for tuition, fees and books.

Jessica, who had out-of-state athletic scholarship offers, is staying in Utah and has begun her studies at Weber State. She plans to pursue a medical career.

Katie has also enrolled at Weber State on an academic scholarship, but before that, she used her my529 funds at the Ogden-Weber Technology College to earn a Certified Nursing Assistant certification.

“There was never a time that I didn’t think I would go to college, and that has changed the way I think about my future,” Dallin told my529 in 2016. “Dad would convince me to do homework by telling me that success in college and afterward would be the result of how I invest my time today. He said he would take care of the investing money part.”

Three decades after that fateful paper, Peterson himself is back in school to complete an MBA. He credits his children as inspiration.

“It is much easier for me to manage my tuition knowing that all of my children’s college accounts have been taken care of,” Peterson said.

my529 at 25

Twenty-five years—and one name change—later, the Utah plan that started with 157 accounts is now at the top of the industry. A college kid’s dream is respected nationwide.

  • Fees among the lowest in the industry.
  • Investment options feature funds by highly regarded managers Vanguard, Dimensional, as well as a PIMCO stable value fund and FDIC-insured accounts at Sallie Mae Bank and U.S. Bank.