What is a 529 plan, and how can it help your child achieve the best educational opportunities? Here is the skinny on what you need to know about a 529 college savings plan, including the best states in which to fund your 529 college savings plans.
What is a 529 College Savings Plan?
A 529 college savings plan is a special state-based college savings incentives program that helps you save money for your child’s college education. Not all states have a 529 college savings program that off the same kinds of benefits. Here are some things you should consider when you are choosing a 529 college savings plan.
Things to Consider When Choosing a 529 College Savings Plan
There are many important factors to consider when you are choosing a 529 college savings plan. First, you should consider the amount of time that your money will be invested.
You should consider your family’s tax bracket, how many (if any) fees and sale charges are associated with the plan, what kind of fees are involved, how much you will be investing, and what kind of state income tax deductions are allowed when you contribute. Pay close attention especially to fees. Even the slightest difference in percentage points will eventually add up.
Consider the State Tax Benefits
When choosing your 529 college savings plan, take into consideration your own state tax benefits. What kind of special tax benefits, if any, does your states 529 plan offer you? Does your state let you deduct all or part of your contribution on your state income tax form? This is something to consider.
What Kind of Costs are Associated with the Plan?
There are some plans that come loaded with high fees that will inevitably begin to eat into your returns. However, there are other plans with lower costs. Some analysts point to the plans managed by Vanguard and TIAA-CREF as those that have lower fees and costs.
Make sure you know exactly how much you will be paying in fees, including administrative costs, fund loads, management fees, and sales’ charges, both front-end and back-end. Ask for a list of all possible costs associated with the plan.
Consider the Different Investment Options
What kind of investment options are you looking for? Most state 529 plans offer different types of investment options. Decide what kind of investment style and performance you are comfortable with before you invest.
Who Has the Best 529 College Savings Plan?
Most analysts agree that it is a good idea to compare closely your own state’s 529 plans with the plans of at least two other states. Here are some things you should definitely consider when you are comparing different 529 college savings plans. First, consider what kind of state tax incentives will be available to you.
Does one state’s 529 plan offer tax-free withdrawals or special deductions? Is the plan generally affordable for you? What kind of investment performance has the plan shown in the past? Is the plan flexible enough for your needs? Does the plan offer low costs? These are all things to consider when you are finding the 529 state college savings plans that work best for your family.
Ranking the Best 529 College Savings Plans
Many analysts have ranked the best 529 college savings plans. In general, most analysts agree that the following states have some of the most desirable feature: Pennsylvania, Texas, South Dakota, Iowa, Virginia, Arkansas, Maryland, New Jersey, Nebraska, Florida, Utah, Hawaii, Illinois, and Louisiana.
Most analysts agree that most TIAA-CREF plans offer all-around desirable features. States with TIAA-CREF managed plans include New York, Idaho, Kentucky, Tennessee, California, Vermont, Georgia, Michigan, Connecticut, and Michigan.
Take a look to Florida for a sunny view on 529 college plan options. The Florida College Investment Plan (which is managed by the State of Florida) offers five great investment options. You can choose one or any combination of the investment options.
Once in a calendar year, you can transfer the money that you have already invested from one option into another. Plus, you can change the allocation of new monies as often as you please.
For a moderate risk option you should look into the first option, which is a Fixed Income Investment. This option is invested mainly into things like mortgaged backed securities, U.S. Treasury Bonds and corporate bonds.
The second option for your 529 is a little riskier. It’s the U.S. Equity Investment Option, which makes equal allocations of your monies among an S&P 500 index portfolio, a large capitalization growth portfolio and a large capitalization value portfolio.
The next option is my favorite, an Age Based Option. This allows you the flexibility to choose how conservative, moderate and high risk you wish for your 529 investments to be. It’s based on the age of your child. You would have more monies invested in equities the younger your child is. As your child gets closer to college age, there would be an increase in the amount invested in fixed income investments.
The fourth of Florida’s 529 college options is a Balanced Investment Option. What this means for you is that your monies are equally distributed between the U.S. Equity Investment Option and the Fixed Income Investment Option.
The goal of the Balanced Investment is to create long-term growth but with less risk than by investing alone in the U.S. Equity Investment Option. This portfolio is reviewed occasionally to keep a 50/50 allotment of monies to the U.S. Equity Investment Option and the Fixed Income Investment Option.
And last but not least is the 529 Money Market Fund Investment Option. This fund has a portfolio of short-term fixed income securities, money market and cash securities. The goal of this fund is to keep your main investment and obtain high liquidity through short-term securities.
The great thing about these 5 options for Florida’s 529 plan is that you can pick just one or a combination. Do whatever fits your financial goals best.
The fees for these accounts are minimal. Expect a $50 enrollment fee, and an asset management fee of 0.75%. Unlike a lot of other 529 plans, the Florida College Investment Plan charges no commissions or sales tax. You do not have to be a resident of Florida to participate so it’s a great plan for grandparents to invest for their grand children who live out of state.
The minimum opening amount is $250 and your account has a maximum funding amount of $341,000. Once the total value of the accounts for the each child reaches $341,000 you cannot add any more monies. But the market value can continue to grow and you can have accounts of $341,000 for more than one child. There are no age restrictions either, so you can even open an account for an adult.
Imagine $341,000 stowed away for college that is growing tax deferred. And when your child is ready for college, qualified expenses are exempt from federal income tax. Plus, the great state of Florida has no income tax and the plan assets are exempt from Florida Intangible tax. There is a sunny view on Florida’s 529 plan options. Florida is a great place to have a 529 plan for your child.