One way to save for a college education is to invest in a special college savings plan. These plans are known as 529 plans. They are plans “in which contributions are invested, and grow based on their investment performance.” This plan is named for Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code. These college savings plans come with their share of tax benefits. As well they are offered by all 50 states in the U.S. Lets take a closer look at the 529 plan.
A 529 plan is made available by a state or educational institution that is geared towards education savings. It is offered by an educational institution or a state. The plan was created to assist families in setting aside the money necessary for their kids to attend university or college in the future. These types of plans came into existence in the year 1996.
The money saved and invested in a 529 plan can be used to cover tuition and other educational related costs at state colleges as well as ones that are out of state. In other words, if you live in Iowa and want to attend a college in Utah then your college savings plan can be used for that. In most cases where you choose to go to school is not affected by the college savings plan in your home state.
All states throughout the country have come on board with the college savings plans and make at least one 529 plan available to their residents. Each state can design their plans however they choose to. For example, they can offer more than one type if they wish. They can also determine the conditions for it. To put this another way, the benefits and features of each state plan can differ. That is why it is important for you to research the college savings plan in your state before you start to invest in it for your children.
There are tax benefits to these plans as long as they fulfill some very basic requirements. Research online to find out what these benefits are before you invest in it. The more you know in this regard the better informed you will be.
The 529 plans are broken down into prepaid plans and savings plans. The prepaid plans permit you to pay all or a portion of the costs connected to an in-state public college or university. There are cases where you can convert the plan to use the savings for a private post secondary institution or an out-of-state one.
A savings plan on the other hand is similar to an IRA or a 401K. As the plan participant you are offered a variety of investment options to choose from, such as mutual funds. The money saved will then fluctuate according to the performance of the investment vehicle you have chosen.
Finding The College Savings Plan That Is Right For You
When trying to decide if you should invest in a college savings plan (otherwise known as a 529 plan) the first thing you must decide upon is whether you should buy the plan directly (as in on your own) or through a financial adviser or broker. Once you have identified which one is right for you it then becomes time to focus in on the 529 plan offered in your state. Find out all of the details surrounding your state’s plan, including if it offers tax deductions or credits to residents or if it will match contributions in any manner.
If the state you live in does not offer any tax benefits or will not do any contribution matching when your child decides to attend school in another state then it will become necessary to search the 529 plans in other states to locate the one that offers the greatest number of features.
All of the college savings plans you research must be researched in great detail. To be as savvy as possible with where you invest your money you need to compare and contrast the features of every plan. Remember that all plans have many different features so you must take as much time as you require in finding out everything you can about each one.
In order to do this first you must identify what features of every plan are “must have” features that are ones you cannot be without. For example you may wish for a plan that makes it possible for other members of the family to contribute to it. You may also look for one that has a minimum contribution level that you are able to meet.
You also need to identify which 529 plans can offer you the best investments that fall within your risk parameters. This is very similar to choosing an investment option such as mutual funds for your 401k or your IRA. Ask yourself whether you are a conservative investor or a more aggressive one who is willing to take a greater chance with your money? Do you want a multi-managed program that combines mutual funds from different companies or would you prefer mutual funds from only one company? Be aware that the vetting process for 529 plans is not simple and they are not always certain. Some have investment histories that are short, while others have ones that are much longer.
Figure out what specific features matter to you as well as which state programs offer them and which do not. The fees and expenses are examples of this. Still others are whether or not a state program has online account access and whether or not the customer service is outstanding or borders on mediocre. Do your research and then once you know all you need to know then you can choose the 529 plan that is right for you