GUEST COLUMN: Outside-the-Box Holiday Gifts

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, December 7, 2022

By Treasurer David McRae | Guest Columnist

My kids have been assembling their Christmas lists for months now — race cars, art supplies, and (I’m afraid to say) makeup for my daughter top the list.

But between grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends, I’m sure even their lengthy lists will become exhausted soon enough. So, for those looking for an off-the-list, outside-the-box holiday gift, I have a few ideas.

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One note before we get to my holiday gift list: While we all know the gratification that comes with opening a new toy or technology, any parent understands that excitement fades — quickly. That’s why I’ve assembled a list of tools that might not get the squeal of glee on Christmas morning but will keep on giving for years (and decades) to come.

Let’s start with the easiest thing to wrap: a book. Long-term financial wellness starts during childhood. So, consider buying your child or teen a book that not only acts as a Christmas-break activity but can also put them on the path to long-term growth. Consider titles like “How to Money: Your Ultimate Visual Guide to the Basics of Finance” or the “Smart Girls Guide to Money.” For teens or college students, consider “I Want More Pizza: Real World Money Skills for High School, College, and Beyond.” And for parents, look for Dave Ramsey’s “Smart Money, Smart Kids.”

If you’re looking for something more substantial than a book, consider a 529 College Savings Plan. Through your State Treasury, you can open an education-related saving account with a contribution of just $25. Encourage friends and family to contribute a little each holiday season and watch the savings grow. You might be surprised just how much those gifts add up to by the time your child pursues a college degree, apprenticeship or technical certification. For more information, visit Treasury.MS.gov/MACS.

Alternatively, you can give the gift of full tuition to a grandchild or child by investing in a Mississippi Prepaid Affordable College Tuition (MPACT) plan. This program allows you to lock in today’s tuition rates and pre-pay college altogether. Here’s an added incentive: The MPACT program works best if the recipient attends an in-state school (although it can still be applied to out-of-state tuition). Imagine how much easier it will be to get the family together during the holidays if the kids are attending Ole Miss or Mississippi State versus some out-of-state university. For more information, visit Treasury.MS.gov/MPACT.

And if you’re looking at how to pay for any of these gifts, search for unclaimed money on the Mississippi Treasury’s website. Almost everyone could use extra spending money during the holiday season and we just might have some for you! About one in 10 people have unclaimed money that is sitting with your State Treasury. Claim it this Christmas at Treasury.MS.gov/Search.

I hope you got a little inspiration from this short outside-the-box Christmas list. Whatever you decide, I wish you a safe and festive holiday.

Mississippi Treasurer David McRae is the 55th Treasurer for the State of Mississippi.