PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Pennsylvania Treasury gives $100 in a savings account to every baby born or adopted in the state.

But only about 10 percent of families are taking advantage of it. It started across Pennsylvania about a year-and-a-half year ago, and officials are hoping more people will learn about the program, sign onto their account, and start saving.

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Since KDKA reported in January of 2020 that babies born in Pennsylvania get a free $100 in a savings account, about 31,000 families have started saving for their kids. But whether it’s information overload or sleep deprivation, 90 percent of families in Pennsylvania are not taking advantage of the money, which is designed to get parents saving early for their kids’ education.

Financial Advisor Rob Wilson with Wilson Insight says, “It’s really important to start thinking about saving early because saving is sort of like planting a tree. The best time to do it was 20 years ago. The second best time to do it is today. And so with investing, the longer you have your money making money for you, the better off you are.”

Of those families that do sign into their Keystone Scholars account, 20 percent have opened and linked to PA529 accounts, saving almost $11 million for post-secondary education.

Shannon McKee of Washington County is one of them. Her father encouraged her to open the account for her son, Rowan, when he was born in June 2019, and she’s been putting in a little every month, along with gifts from family and friends.

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“People for birthdays, Christmas, all different presents, people always ask, ‘So what can I get Rowan?’ And I say, ‘He doesn’t really care,’ and I mention the 529 account, and they will put money in there as a present, and he’s going to be so thankful for that later on,” said the mother.

It’s a gift that keeps on giving thanks to compound interest. Saving just $25 per month from birth can add up to $10,000 by high school graduation.

In addition to the gift of money, it’s a great teaching tool for kids to learn about saving.

Wilson says, “If you start this early and you’re able to show them how it grows and how it can benefit them by not having to take out loans so they can start living the type of life that they want to live sooner, I think that’s possibly one of the best lessons that you could ever give them.”

And children in the WIC program can get an extra $525 in certain counties.

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Click here for more on the program.

Kristine Sorensen