Changes to 529 plans as proposed by the Obama administration

I was asked by a friend to objectively explain the changes to 529 plans proposed by the Obama administration. If you’re interested, here’s what I told him.

There is no removal of the 529 plan being proposed by the administration. But the administration changes would affect both types of plans.

Today, 529 accounts, many of which are run by the states, allow people to make contributions that grow tax-free. The money can be withdrawn without the paying of capital gains taxes as long as the proceeds are used for education expenses. Many states provide state income tax deductions for contributions as well.

The administration is proposing to go back to the previous tax rules, revised by the Bush tax cuts of 2001. The administration wants to defer taxes until you start drawing from the account, counting as ordinary income on the student’s taxes. This functions essentially as a type of traditional IRA. The consequence of this change may cause the student to disqualify for certain student aid as they will have income to report on their taxes.

The reason the administration is proposing the change is that 529 plans and Coverdell ESAs (another saving option) disproportionately help families earning over $150,000 a year and had median assets of $413,000, according to the GAO. The College Savings Foundation said the 2012 GAO study is outdated and does not reflect the reality of who invests in the plan these days.

Some states provide 529 benefits which would not be affected by the administration’s plan. These are typically the pre-purchase tuition programs for qualified state schools.

There is little chance this will pass in a Republican-controlled Congress, however.


Type and trig: Understanding how to scale text for automobile design (with bonus calculator!)

I had a wonderful time talking at the AIGA Seattle’s monthly design meetup last week about user experience in automobiles and how we can effectively balance UI design and driver safety. (You can view the static slides of my presentation or slides with videos to see everything I talked about.) One of the big points I hit on with the attendees was making text elements and graphics too small in the UI. I started the section with a pop quiz.

Pop Quiz! Question: What is the optimal size for text displayed in the car? Answer: 20 arcminutes

And, as expected, I got the collective, “Whaaaa?” But seriously… 20 arcminutes. What the heck does that mean?

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On August 1, I was 187 with the goal in 2 months to get to 200, stretch goal of 207. Today finishes two months and I finished at 206. Not the best at taking progress pics, but you get the idea. Ignore where my hand is at in that first picture.

The second image is for my friends at Facebook to not have a shirtless me on their news feeds. You’re welcome, everyone.





How I write back every Amazon recruiter

I get about one email from an Amazon recruiter a week. This is my new form response back.

Hi {recruiter name}. Seeing that I have had not made it past two phone screens at Amazon, my guess is they are looking for some other type of designer that I will never be (or, more precisely, never want to be). Thanks for the consideration.

Bitchy? Yeah, I guess so.

Tres and I make the paper

Tres and I made The Seattle Times in a variety of capacities after our marriage at Seattle City Hall on Sunday. First, we were on their video of the event. Watch around 1:10 or so to see some fantastic novelty shirt b-roll.

Next, we made the digital and physical versions of the paper. You can see a The Seattle Times front page PDF or take a look at some camera shots below.

A view of the front page of The Seattle Times, showing our picture in the lower right

A closeup of Tres and me in the paper