COO & Author

Patricia Roberts is Financial Educator & Writer / Go-To Education & Disability Savings Champion and COO of Gift of College. But we’re not here to talk about 529 plans. In this episode, Patricia shares her journey of becoming an expert in this subject and her experience taking ownership of that expertise and leading with it. Patricia is the author of Route 529: A Parent's Guide to Saving for College and Career Training with 529 Plans which quickly became a top new release in Fall 2020. You’ll learn something here about how to create more financial security in your future and about what it means to claim an expertise and leading with it.

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Patricia Roberts is a Financial Educator and Writer / Go-To Education & Disability Savings Champion known for her expertise in 529 plans and her role as COO at Gift of College. She has written a book, "Route 529: A Parent's Guide to Saving for College and Career Training with 529 Plans", which was a top new release in Fall 2020. 

In this episode, Patricia shares her journey of becoming an expert in this subject and her experience taking ownership of that expertise and leading with it. She provides insights on how to create more financial security in your future and what it means to claim an expertise and lead with it.

Get Patricia's book.

See the book page.

Follow Patricia HERE.

Check out all things Dia Bondi.

Dia Bondi  00:19

Hi everyone, this is Lead With Who You Are. I'm Dia Bondi. And on this show, we explore and discover what it truly means to lead with who you are. And we're doing it with people who do that every day. Today we're talking with Patricia Roberts. But before we do, if you'll notice as a little 20 in here is because I'm in a brand-new space. I've moved offices at the front of this year 2023. And it's we haven't quite optimized this space yet for this podcast. So be patient, we're going to come at you with an even more luxurious sound soon. So in this episode, we're talking with Patricia Roberts about her journey becoming the expert on 529 plans. What are those college savings accounts, you'll learn more about them in this episode, and in this episode, you'll get a chance to understand just how impactful even a small college savings account can be on a child in your life. Plus, you'll get a chance to hear Patricia's story on how she established herself as a national expert on financial wellness and what it means to her to lead with who she is. Let's go. Hey, just a quick reminder, you can subscribe to this show on your podcast platform of choice. We're live nearly everywhere. And you can always listen to the show at If there's a leader or innovator in your life, who is it their shiniest when they lead with who they truly are, please share the show with them. And rate subscribe and leave us a review makes a huge difference in the reach that the show has when you let everyone else know what you love about the show. Thanks so much. Patricia Roberts has helped 1000s of families avoid millions of dollars in student loan debt over the past 20 plus years. She's done that by sharing her expertise about planning ahead for higher education expenses with 529 plans super exciting. She's author of route 529, a parent's guide to saving for college and career training with 529 plans. And she is the go to source for the media and others wanting to learn about ways to save for higher education and avoid or minimize student loan debt. She's currently Chief Operating Officer at Gift of College Inc., where she helps employers reduce employee stress associated with the high cost of higher education by offering education related financial wellness benefits. She's a proud mom of a recent debt free college graduate and is on a mission to help others achieve their higher education dreams with as little debt and regret as possible. Thanks for being here, Patricia. Patricia, I'm so happy to have you with us today. Thank you so much for being on the show.


Patricia Roberts  03:15

Oh, thank you for having me today, Dia, It's great to be with you.


Dia Bondi  03:18

I love how we met. So this and I'll talk about that in just a second. So this show is called Lead with who you are. And when we first met because we're both activators in formerly CEO, but now correlates network. It really stood out to me when you share your story with me about how and these are my words how I remember it, because it's been a couple of months. But you your story hit me as sort of like becoming an accidental expert in something that is really important to the world, but also just recognizing your expertise. Like, like all of a sudden, I became this expert, which I thought was such a cool and interesting challenge actually inside of there was just so like, what does it mean for us to recognize our expertise, claim it, you know, name it and claim it and then run with it in our lives and in our careers. And I'm having you on the show today to talk about your expertise, being an expert and your journey taking on that maybe even as you know a component of your identity. And to talk about of course, your book, route 529 A Parent's Guide to saving for college and career training with 529 plans which I can geek out about because I am like I am a 529 mom, so I'm into that. So thank you so much for being with us today. Certainly. I want to start by asking you the question we always ask which is who are you Patricia?


Patricia Roberts  04:35

Oh boy. Exciting question. So who am I? As you know, I'm an education savings champion and also a Disability Savings Champion and I hope we'll have a chance to talk about that. I'm an expert as you know on 529 college savings plans. I am a published author and a motivational speaker with a focus on financial wellbeing. I'm a loving mom. I'm a devoted sister, and caregiver to a brother with developmental disabilities. I'm a mentor, I'm an activator with you and other radically generous women, as you know, having invested in women lead and non non binary ventures. I'm a lifetime learner, Chief Operating Officer at Gift of College. And as you've been observing, I am a trusted go to resource for the media, and others wanting to learn about 529 college savings, and these Disability Savings Plans. And beyond that I'm all in I'm a racer of awareness and empower of others and really just hoping to make a big difference in this complicated world of ours.


Dia Bondi  05:53

And I think you are so for folks who are listening, whether their parents or caregivers are or savers for a an up and coming, kiddo who may need a higher education soon, or maybe not so soon, but in the future can talk a little bit about what a 529 plan is, and what your expertise is around it both including the plans that are set for everyone. And the ones that are specifically have are built for and accommodating of folks, kids with disabilities.


Patricia Roberts  06:28

Sure, so 529 college savings plans are named after section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code. And these are special types of savings and investing vehicles through which individuals can earmark or designate funds for a particular purpose. And what that purpose is, with respect to the college savings plans is higher education. What's special about these accounts is that when they grow in value, the earnings on the account are not taxed.


Dia Bondi  07:03

We love that part! We love that part.


Patricia Roberts  07:06

And in fact, when the funds are withdrawn to pay for a wide range of higher education experiences, not just college, this is trade and technical school, two year, community college, all sorts of graduate professional, traditional four year college, all sorts of forms of education across the country and across the world. When those monies come out for those approved purposes, they the earnings are never taxed. So they were growing tax free, and they're tax free upon withdrawal. And what can you pay for with these funds, you can pay for tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies, even computers, other forms of equipment that you may need as a result of the course of study you are pursuing. And it gets even better. So we talked about the federal tax free growth, the tax free withdrawals. Now more than I believe 35 states and the District of Columbia have a state tax deduction or credit annually to encourage residents to invest in these plans, you can also get a really valuable state tax benefit for putting your money in a 529 college savings plan. These plans have been expanded over the years to cover other types of expenses, they now cover even K to 12 to Wishon tuition only. But primarily people think of them as a an efficient way to fund the future cost of higher education.


Dia Bondi  08:48

Great. So when we first met, you talked a little bit about how folks with disabilities might use 520 nines. Can you share a little bit about what's going on in that space right now?


Patricia Roberts  08:58

Absolutely. And I'm glad you asked this question. So about eight years ago, section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code was expanded so that individuals with disabilities can also save for the future, but can save for much more than higher education. So what happens with 529 APR plans and APR stands for achieving a better life experience. Those plans can be set up for individuals who developed a disability before the age of 26. Now that's getting raised to the age of 46. Somewhere down the line. There's just been approved legislation. But for the purpose of this interview, an individual who began with a disability the onset was before the age of 26. an ABLE account can be established for that individual. And what's great about it is as I said the funds can be used to Certainly for higher education, but for many forms of assistance that that individual may need, maybe it's assistive technology, maybe it's a personal assistant, maybe it's some financial counseling, maybe it's housing. But what's great about these April plans is for the first time ever, individuals with disability can save money in their name without risking the potential loss of needs based benefits, such as Medicaid and SSI. So not all disabled individuals rely on SSI and Medicaid and other forms of assistance that is based on needs, but many do. And until eight years ago, these individuals could not have more than $2,000 in their own name, without potentially jeopardizing the benefits they were receiving. That changed with the onset of April plans. This is a path to financial freedom. My brother, who I spoke of just a bit ago, when you asked me who I am, and I said, I'm a devoted Sister, he was saving money in a small cardboard box most of his life, he was afraid to have it in the bank afraid that it would be seen as too much money that he couldn't, then he could lose, imagine losing your medical assistance, or other forms of assistance, he now has an ABLE account. He's in the state of Pennsylvania as an ABLE account, he has his first ever debit card, he has money in his name, that he is saving that others of us in the family are saving on his behalf. And he has a sense of entitlement freedom, empowerment, but I've never seen before. And this is what's great about these APR plans.


Dia Bondi  11:47

So I love hearing about sort of the intersection of your expertise and 529 plans and your disability advocacy coming together sort of in that same format. Can you talk a little bit and then I want to talk about you and your journey. Can you talk a little bit about the book that you wrote, I think you wrote it over the pandemic, route five 520, route 529 A Parent's Guide to saving for college and career training with 529 plans? What had you write this book on? What will it help parents and caregivers do?


Patricia Roberts  12:14

Sure. So during the pandemic, as many others probably experienced, I had some extra time on my hands. I was no longer traveling on business. I was not commuting, I wasn't doing much of anything other than being in my home. And I kept hearing on the television, in addition to the really bad news about this pandemic, and everything that was seeming to go quite wrong with respect to it kept hearing about student loan debt, and people worrying about being able to repay their student loans as they've lost their job, or they're no longer in school because the school closed because of the pandemic. And I started to think, gee, you know, not many people seem to know about 529 plans, I saw a study around that time that indicated that two thirds of Americans couldn't identify what a 529 plan was. They've been around just about 24 years at that time. And I'm thinking, Oh, no. So I decided I thought, If not now, when, let me share what I know from both a personal perspective and a professional perspective, in a really easy to understand way about these 529 college savings plans. I know a lot about them, I've worked with them for over 25 years now I was an attorney launching some of the earliest of these plans, I have helped to design them, market them, improve them. And I utilize them for the purpose of saving for my own son's higher education. And at that time, during the pandemic, my son was in his junior year about to enter his senior year of college. And I knew how good I felt in being able to pay those tuition bills when they came in. And I knew how good I felt in knowing that not too far down the line, he would be graduating debt free, which was very unlike the circumstance I found myself in at his age,


Dia Bondi  14:11

I can say that, like you know, so I have a 15 year old and a 12 year old and we're just starting to look at colleges now with my 15 year old and it is it is crazy that we're in a position now where paying for college is so much less intimidating because we in our household, I learned about 529 I don't remember where but we opened our 529 for both of our kids before when I was pregnant with each of them before they were born. And then we as soon as they had a social security number, you know, we assigned it to them and you know, had them be the beneficiaries of them. And at the beginning, I just want to admit that like, in the beginning, it was literally $10 a month, um, he we set up a mechanism to do automatic contributions at such the tiniest, tiniest level. I mean, I was we were counting dollars and cents in our household in a way that you know We don't have to do any more. But I've been married 22 years, like early days, but it made a difference having it set up. And for those contributions to automatically start early on and feel normal. And the amount of freedom that it gives my husband and I heading into the second half of our careers is wild. And I will say that me and my husband graduating debt free from college was a single one of the single most powerful tools we had in creating financial and economic security for ourselves. And thanks to both college being less expensive during the time that we were, you know, in higher education, but also that we, we were able to and had help from our families to make it possible for us to graduate debt free. So huge impact that your expertise is really your expertise is getting put to work in ways that I think is, is more accessible to more families at lots of income levels. Right now.


Patricia Roberts  15:54

That's right. And I'm so proud to be doing this work. I'm so glad that I was motivated enough during the pandemic, to put pen to paper and to get this book done. And I am so pleased with the feedback that I hear from people all the time, about how understandable I made the subject that seemed really quite complex.


Dia Bondi  16:16

So I want to talk about your journey just a little bit. So you are, you're a full on expert in this space. And I know you started your career in law. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to recognizing that? Oh, I think I'm actually the expert in this space? And what got you there?


Patricia Roberts  16:40

Sure. And I'm wondering, do you mind if we step back a bit, because it's a bit further in my past when this expertise began to develop. And quite honestly, I have a very close personal connection to financial wellness topics about which now I'm an expert. So by way of background, because of the fragile state of my extremely low income family of five headed by an amazing single mom. And because of costs. So because of the fragile state of the family and cost, I almost missed the opportunity to pursue higher education. So I want to say my expertise begins back then as that person who almost missed the opportunity. And in fact, even though I was editor in chief of by newspaper, commencement speaker had all sorts of leadership roles. My high school guidance counselor strongly suggested that I stick with my waitressing job, instead of pursuing higher education, because she knew how fragile my family was. And my mom said, no, she insisted that I go. So I wound up working multiple jobs and finding a way to send money home, so versus the roommate that was getting the check in the mail, I was doing the reverse, but I made it work. And I did acquire an undergraduate degree, working multiple jobs and a graduate degree a law degree while working full time I made it happen, but it almost didn't happen. So I want you to know, part of my expertise is in this lived experience. So the challenges of getting my degree, regardless of them, I want you to know that I feel the attainment of higher education is v capital T H E reason I was able to lift myself and my family out of that situation in which I grew up, I could not have done it otherwise. So I have the highest regard for higher education, and that's at the foundation of everything I do is a reminder to myself that I wouldn't be where I was at, had I not been able to pursue it and I know how close I was to not. So then comes my professional expertise. We talked a little bit about the personal connection. So I was an attorney at Citi Group in the late 1990s. And section 529 had come to the forefront and investment firms like Citi were interested in getting into the business to manage the assets that families would be saving, they wanted to become a Program Manager for one of the state or multiple state 529 plans, they needed a lawyer to learn about best and develop some expertise. That was me. And what was great about that particular time was I was pregnant with my son when that request came in. And together with my husband, I was over $100,000 in student loan debt with no idea how we were going to be able to afford even a bigger apartment to accommodate this child soon to be or a babysitter or all the costs associated with it. So this was like real time context for me in terms of developing an expertise and something that I was quickly learning could help families not be in the situation. I was in it was interesting.


Dia Bondi  20:01

Let me just jump in here when the request came in. Did you say that? Or were you like, I guess it'll be me and realize later that you were developed that that it was really timely for you, if interested means you remember,


Patricia Roberts  20:14

I remember being extremely interested in the topic right away. I mean, financial services topics, you know, vary in levels of interest. This interested me because it was relevant. So, I was always someone to say yes, and to raise my hand for opportunities. I know, I was all in with the request. But I don't know if I knew that second. But I quickly realized, wow, this is a good fit for me. And it was just, I don't know serendipitous that I was able to get an assignment like this. And I could develop this expertise and learn about I don't know how you learned about You don't remember 529. But with like 65% of Americans today, saying they don't know about it must have been a much higher percentage then. But I had shown the ability to learn so from so from designing and launching some of those earliest plans to then giving birth to my child and coming back from maternity leave and right away saying I'm doing payroll deduction to this plan out, I don't know how we're going to do it, I don't know what it's going to look like that this child is not going to grow up with the level of stress that we have had have had an experienced students in the past, we're going to save for him. And I think dia was $25 at a time at a time and my husband did the same. But it feels really good to have done that. So I've come full circle, designing and launching then utilizing for this child of mine. And then really then withdrawing the funds to pay for his higher education. And knowing exactly how good that felt.


Dia Bondi  21:56

So when you, At what point did you take, Did you recognize your expertise and take it on and say, like, take it on, in a way that I don't know that like, powered your next level in your career? Do you do remember a moment when you recognize like, oh, that's me, I'm actually I'm an expert here. It's not that I just had a job or I just understand it or understood it, or I have some advice. But like, I'm actually going to put the cape on that says, expert.


Patricia Roberts  22:32

You know, I don't know that I can remember an exact point in time. But I know that I quickly became a leader in nearly every aspect of the 529 College Savings arena. I wasn't passively sitting back and watching. I was involved in legislative initiatives, regulatory initiatives, program management, product design, marketing, and sales, all sorts of things relating even if it didn't relate precisely to the role I had, at the time, I had moved from Citigroup to Merrill Lynch, onto the business side of the 520 nines after a number of years, and then on to Alliance versus Bernstein, also on the business side, but I know that I quickly became a leader. And I think I did feel like an expert, I knew I was playing a significant role, I knew that my perspective mattered and that I was adding value. I do think that certainly once I wrote this book, you know, no doubt, you know, that expert title, the cape came on the cape was already there. But maybe it got labeled in some way a little, little bit. But definitely once I wrote that book, and you mentioned that you've seen me interviewed a lot, the I think I had appeared in over 60 print or digital interviews last year. Now that's not counting TV, interviews, podcasts, radio, Lunch and Learns within corporations. I mean, part of my role is to go into employer settings, and encourage employers to consider 529 as a really valuable, voluntary benefit for employees and to consider matching to those accounts.


Dia Bondi  24:19

So I think there's something really powerful about moments in our careers when we we decide to actually take something on and and then run with it. And it can be the difference, I think sometimes in staying hidden or being out front. And it's not that anything's really even materially changed about what you're bringing to the table or what you're doing. But just naming and claiming that title that lets us advocate for ourselves a little differently, that lets us you know, raise our hand a little bit differently. You know, when you recognize when you've read ignited your own expertise and even embrace and you've embraced that as a, you know, as a title, kind of a weird way to say it. What does that done for you in your career? And how did you? How did you kind of answer that call?


Patricia Roberts  25:15

When I truly recognize that, and again, I'm not quite sure exactly where that was along the way. But it really made me recognize the potential impact of my work. And it created a heightened sense of responsibility in May, almost so much though, the idea that I can't stay on the sidelines, I can't hide aspects of my past that could help other people. If I really felt the sense that I was called to do this and need it to do it, and I need to do it, I take just a pill every reporter call or request that I get, because I feel there's not enough people familiar, and they need to know in very clear terms, how this works. And I also felt that I was afforded the opportunity to contribute my voice and influence outcomes of something I cared so passionately about. I feel very responsible and being a trusted source of information that comes with tremendous responsibilities, and to share from my unique vantage point, so I don't know it all of that came to mind for me when you said, you know, what did it mean to realize you're an expert.


Dia Bondi  26:36

And so there's, I hear, like, sort of the drive and reward, you know, you get, and maybe even the thrill you can get from seeing the impact and having an impact and holding the mic, you know, around this space. But our lives are like our work lives are so full of garbage and low level bullshit, and things that can feel like career house cleaning, instead of, you know, those sort of peak moments where you're in a big conversation in front of a large audience. Building something, you know, will directly impact people like those sort of peak experiences where you're in flow with the expertise, you're doing what you know, the the impact of your work at its highest and best sort of format and use. Do you have frustrations between sort of the low level everydayness of our work lives, and the peak moments where you get to be in and really speak your expertise. And what's that, like, as you toggle between two of those two?


Patricia Roberts  27:40

I occasionally do have frustrations, because as you said, there's a lot to get done that is not so exciting with respect to you know, promoting these plans and encouraging people to utilize them and learn about them. The frustrations are much less so in a smaller organization, I work at a small organization, and my perspective is really valued. And we're all hands on deck. And there is a lot of mundane tasks, there are a lot of mundane tasks that need to be taken care of from time to time. But I feel that I keep that ye in mind, in really serving others that but for getting through whatever it is, that seems a little bit frustrating, I won't be able to serve in the way that I really need to. And I think I justify it in my mind that way. Certainly, there's frustration in making sure even when I am out that people understand what these plans are, there's still so many myths about them. That I try to bust all the time. And and even when people do understand there's a really long timeframe, often between people, gaining the awareness and then taking action with respect to it. And that can be frustrating. And I'd love nothing more than to shorten that timeframe between the knowing and the doing. But I feel that, you know, keeping the end result in mind of you know why I'm doing this what education meant for me what I know it can mean for others really helps me to push through those moments when things are a bit tedious, less exciting than they would otherwise be. And I and I'm fully capable of doing it. I happen to be a person who can see the big picture clear as a bell, but it can also see the smallest of details that sometimes others miss. And sometimes those details frustrate people, but I'm very attentive to them and I sort of enjoy working them through. So I guess that's a long way of saying yes, there are frustrations, but I keep my objective in mind. And a part of who I am sort of has to be well suited to push through minutia and downtime.


Dia Bondi  30:08

So as you think about, you know, folks maybe who are listening who are earlier in their careers, they haven't been like, Ah, this, you know, quite yet. What would your advice be for them?


Patricia Roberts  30:20

My advice? Well, my prediction would be, later in your career, you're gonna look back, and you will be able to connect the dots of exactly how you got to where you really felt most comfortable. I believe that in most instances, I believe that will happen. And I believe every experience you're now having, whether it's terribly satisfying or not, is going to be part of the journey that gets you to where you need to be, I believe, individuals really need to take a close look at themselves, and to figure out what they value, what lights them up, what's what's non negotiable in terms of a career, what are the things that really make you excited to discuss, to surround yourself with and look into yourself first and foremost, and I believe that you will find some form of career that can speak to who you are, I mean, I feel so fortunate in having found that myself, but I know others have in so many different ways. By just being open, there may be things coming your way that you could not even possibly have envisioned in your wildest dreams. And keeping yourself open would be a really good tip that I have, and not so committed to one particular outcome because that one particular outcome may not be the best one for you, anyway, there may be something else in store, and I bet there is that you're going to come upon, that's going to be just the right fit. But you've got to start by knowing yourself, and knowing what's important to you.


Dia Bondi  32:11

I love that I am right now in the process in my business of developing a new program. And in my early conversation today, with somebody I'm collaborating with, I was like recognizing how tightly I was holding on to what it needs to be. And we had a little shift around, recognizing that I know what kind of impact I want to have with this new program. I know what the underpinning sort of ideas are, but how it actually shows up, if I hold it a little bit more loosely. There are more possibilities. So there's this always I feel like this dance between, you know, holding high the goals we have in the impact we have, but then holding also very loosely how that might show up. I love what you point to around to the idea of like connecting the dots, because there might be something worth naming and claiming that you're just not seeing yet. But that connecting some dots will help you see, you know, to look back, even if you're just a handful of years into your career to look back and go, What have I learned so far? And what does that sum up to? And is that something I want more of? Or do I need to continue to find dots that can be part of the connection? As we go forward?


Patricia Roberts  33:28

Yeah, that's right. That's right. And I'd say do an assessment on yourself. Look back at your life, it doesn't even have to be during your career. What were the things that made you happiest? What were the things that you accomplished? That meant so much to you? What did you enjoy the most, you're going to start seeing themes throughout that when I look back at my life, I can just see it's sort of all along the same lines. I didn't know it at the time. But you may just see that and survey those who know you well ask them if they were CEO of an organization? What's the first thing they think to have you do in that organization? Or where do they see your blind spots? Or what are your strengths? What did they see that unique to you. Because when we talk about leading with who you are, you know, there are aspects of you that no one else has, and sometimes you can't see them yourself. So taking a look back at things you've accomplished and enjoyed and then also asking others I think can be a really valuable exercise to get you along your way closer to what may be a little bit more satisfying.


Dia Bondi  34:38

So you've established yourself as an expert in this space even before you wrote this book, incredibly accomplished having massive amounts of impact. You're you know, walking the walk while you do all the talking. And I I'm just really curious, what is you know, where do you go next with all of this. What is the level up look like for you?


Patricia Roberts  35:02

Where I go next, I think is where I am. But more impactfully. I am in the workplace right now. And I hope some of your listeners are individuals who are also in the workplace and may have a perspective on this. I feel so strongly that employers should be providing support around financial wellness to employees, they've done it for years around retirement many have, I think it is critical that they bring into the workplace education on these 529 plans, education on these April plans for those in the workplace who have future students in their life who are adult learners themselves, who may be disabled themselves, who may like me have a loved one who's disabled, bringing information to people that they don't have, and supporting them with respect to it. Ideally, matching contributions, even a one time match a year into our 529 college savings account, or an APR account, can really go a long way in helping employees to feel cared about and to feel you're invested in them, and what's important to them. And I think that I'm really looking forward to an even greater impact in the workplace, I get invited in all the time to give presentations on this topic. That's a wonderful start. I sometimes have employers adopting our payroll deduction platform where you can contribute employees can contribute to any 529 college savings or ABLE plan. And sometimes I have employers taking the gift cards that my company offers, which can be a contribution to any 529 account. And they give them to every employee who expands the size of their family through birth adoption, or otherwise, they give a copy of my book, and an initial contribution to a 529 plan. I love that. And I want to see more of all of this. And why do I want to say it. I think this is wonderfully supportive of diversity, equity and inclusion. It is certainly with the disability inclusion as an important part of that and educating on issues around disability I think is essential. And then you may or may not know dia but it is women who hold two thirds of the student loan debt. It is women, blacks and members of the LGBTQ+ community who have the hardest time repaying student loan debt. And I think you know, you talked about the value of coming out of college without debt, you know, you were able to start taking some adult steps that were important, maybe you were able to start saving for retirement and maybe purchasing a home someday, people who are so encumbered by this debt can't get to the next level. And then they're creating intergenerational not wealth debt, because if they haven't had their own debt paid off, they're not saving for retirement, they're not saving for their own children. So I want to make certain that I make an even greater impact with employers, because I think it's the greatest opportunity. It's one to many, certainly my book is direct to consumer. And a lot of the news articles that I do and other ways that I'm featured can get to people one by one, but I feel through the workplace. It's one to many, and you can get to many different types of people. And I think that is really impactful. And I hope the work I've done in New York City, I helped design and launch a program through which every public school Kinnaird gardener is getting seed money for a 529 account. I hope I see that's happening. I think there's 65,000 kindergarteners now 97% participation rate, I hope that some of that work that I've done in the past, not only in New York City, but elsewhere will be replicated in other parts of the country. I think that's a great way. Because students, children in low income households are three times more likely to go to college four times more likely to complete that education, when they learn that someone is saving for them to pursue higher education. It doesn't even matter the amount the research and I can share it with you later is five $500 or less, even $500 or less when a child learns that someone believes in them and as saving for their future. They start envisioning themselves on that path. And I think that's incredibly impactful. So I'd love to do even more work around that as well.


Dia Bondi  39:30

How would you answer this for you? What does it mean to lead with who you are?


Patricia Roberts  39:34

It means that I start with an understanding of who I am and an acceptance of who I am and that I show up in a vulnerable and very true state. And what it means is I share elements of my past that may or may not be as comfortable to share my background with poverty and things like that to Help people relate to me see my authenticity and be able to perhaps be inspired by it. And I feel doing that gives others courage to do the same.


Dia Bondi  40:15

Beautiful. Where can people find you? And what can they do with you, Patricia?


Patricia Roberts  40:20

Well, if you're in an employment setting you can have me in to talk to your employees about 529 plans and to encourage you as an employer to help them in that regard and with the ABLE plans as well. Where can people find me? I'm Patricia at, Patricia at If they wanted to send an email, I'm extremely active on LinkedIn as is Dia Bondi. You can find me there Patricia, Gift of College. My book is on Amazon, Route 529. And I'm also on Instagram and Facebook @Route529Mom. That's where I can be found and I'd be delighted to connect with anyone on any of these subjects. I think they are so important and I so appreciate your highlighting them via by having me on today.


Dia Bondi  41:08

Thank you so much, Patricia. It was a blast hearing your story. Thank you. Lead With Who You Are is a production of Dia Bondi Communications scored, mixed and produced by Arthur Leon Adams, the third and Executive Produced by Mandy Miranda. You can reach out to us at Or leave us a voicemail at 341-333-2997 you can like rate, share and subscribe at Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your favorite podcasts. Go to For show notes and to learn about all it is that we do to help you speak powerfully and lead with who you are.

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