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The Best 529 Plans to Jumpstart College Savings

College tuition can be an uphill battle to pay for. However, 529 plans can help alleviate some of these worries. This plan is a US tax-advantage investment vehicle that helps those save for a beneficiary’s higher education.

Read more here to find out which plan would be best suited for you. 

Quicklook: The Best 529 Plans

Table of Contents:

5 Best 529 College Savings Plans

Here we recommend some of the best 529 plans to find which one is the best suited option for you!

Fidelity: The UNIQUE College Investing Plan

The UNIQUE College Investing Plan is best for those who wish to have a high contribution limit. For this particular plan, the beneficiary’s maximum contribution limit is $542,000. In addition, you have the option between age-based investment strategies or a customized plan.

Standout Features

  • $542,000 contribution limit
  • Age-based or custom investment strategies
  • No annual maintenance fee
  • Can be opened prior to the beneficiary’s birth
  • No income restrictions

Fees: These fees vary depending on what investment strategy you choose. The current options are:

  • .5% to .99% for Fidelity Funds 
  • .11% to .15% for Fidelity Index Funds 
  • .4% to .6% for Fidelity Blend 
  • .05% to .5% for Bank Deposit Portfolio  

In-State Tax Advantages: If you or the beneficiary are residents of New Hampshire, all earnings are income tax-deferred. In addition, any qualified withdrawals are exempt from both federal income tax and New Hampshire’s interest or dividend taxes. 

Min/Max Contributions:

  • No minimum initial contribution
  • Maximum contribution of $542,000 per beneficiary

Eligibility: Residents of the State of New Hampshire and non-residents 

Benefits:

  • Comes with two different investment options: age-based and custom. Age-based is a strategy that is managed either aggressively or conservatively according to the beneficiary’s birth year. The custom strategy has four separate strategies such as static, individual funds, age-based, or bank deposit portfolios. These options allow you to have flexibility in choosing your investment strategy.
  • Additionally, it comes with no annual account maintenance fees or income restrictions. 

Disadvantages: Fees vary depending on how aggressively you want your funds managed and how hands-on you wish to be.

New York’s 529 College Savings Program

This option is best suited for those who wish to have a plethora of investing options. This plan is a direct plan which offers benefits like tax-free withdrawals for the beneficiary’s educational expenses. Even though this is mainly for New York residents, the plan is also an attractive investment for those who reside outside the state.

Standout Features:

  • No additional fees for non-New York residents
  • Only pay $1.30 in fees per year for every $1,000 invested
  • Choose from three investment options

Fees: $1.30 for every $1,000 contributed

In-State Tax Advantages: New York families can deduct up to $10,000 from their state tax income. Only contributions by the account owner or their spouse are considered deductible. 

Min/Max Contributions:

  • There is no minimum contribution
  • Maximum contribution of $5,000 per individual
  • Additionally if a couple is jointly contributing, the maximum contribution is $10,000 per year

Eligibility: US Citizen

Benefits:

  • Inexpensive plan that provides options such as stock portfolios, balanced portfolios, or bond/short-term reserve portfolios; giving the account owner the decision to find the option best suited for them.
  • This is the most inclusive plan for Americans across the country

Disadvantages: Could be too low of a limit for those who wish to invest more aggressively in their 529 Plans. 

Edvest: Wisconsin’s College Savings Plan 

This option is best for Wisconsin residents and non-residents who seek out a 529 plan that has low fees. Additionally, it has a high maximum balance similar to the Unique College Savings Plan of $516,000 and good tax benefits. 

Standout Features:

  • Taxable income maximum is around $3,380 per contributor
  • Less than .07% manager fee
  • 0% state administrative fee

Fees:

  • Depending on the investment portfolio the fees may increase or decrease
  • Overall the plan manager fee is .07% and the state administrator fee is 0%
  • However the estimated expenses of an investment portfolio’s underlying investments fluctuates around .09% to .28%
  • Total annual asset-based fees are .13% to .35% depending on the strategy or investment portfolio

In-State Tax Advantages:

  • Single filers or married couples can reduce their taxable income by the maximum amount of $3,380
  • Divorced parents or married couples filing separately may have the maximum deduction of $1,690 each. 

Min/Max Contributions: Minimum contribution is $25 and the maximum amount per year is $10,000 

Eligibility: Wisconsin residents and non-residents that are US citizens or taxpayers 

Benefits:

  • Low costs
  • Has high average returns on aggressive investment strategies
  • Tax benefits

Disadvantages: Those who are out-of-state may have to plan on paying additional fees

Invest529 

This 529 plan is best for those who wish to have some flexibility in comparison to other states where there may be some restrictions on what the plan can pay for. This 529 plan covers a plethora of options in addition to overseas education expenses.

Standout Features:

  • Can cover expenses beyond just tuition such as room and board costs, computers, and textbooks
  • Six different portfolio options to choose from.

Fees: No online application fee, annual fee, or withdrawal fee. The fees are dependent on the portfolio type:

  • Target enrollment (.21% to .51%)
  • Index (.11% to .19%)
  • Target Risk (.13% to .51%)
  • Principal Protected (0% to .13%)
  • Specialty (.46% to .61%)

In-State Tax Advantages:

  • Gifts up to $15,000 single and $30,000 married are gifted tax free
  • Virginia taxpayers may deduct $4,000 per account per year from their state income tax

Min/Max Contributions:

  • Minimum initial investment is $10 and maximum of $50,000 per year
  • The total contribution limit is $500,000 for a single beneficiary

Eligibility:

  • Virginia residents
  • US taxpayers
  • US citizens

Benefits:

  • Use up to $10,000 per year for beneficiary’s private or religious K-12 school tuition
  • Lots of investment options
  • More flexibility for what qualifies as 529 educational expenses

Disadvantages: This plan could potentially affect those who are eligible for financial aid

My529 

This option is best suited for those who wish to have a hands-on plan. This 529 plan allows account owners to really take part in the investment process and within the investment options. 

Standout Features: Choose from 24 different investment options (12 enrollment date options, 10 static options, and 2 customized options)

Fees:

  • Administrative asset fees for enrollment date and static investments range from .1% to .12%
  • For the customized plan, the plan fee is .15%
  • Fund manager expenses go from 0% to .39%

In-State Tax Advantages:

  • Withdrawals are exempt from federal and Utah state income taxes
  • Single tax files can get a tax credit of $2,070
  • Joint filings can receive $4,140 in tax credit

Min/Max Contributions:

  • Maximum contribution limit of $15,000 per year
  • Minimum contribution of $25

Eligibility: Anyone with a valid US social security or taxpayer identification number 

Benefits:

  • Have various different investment options
  • You can interact with the plan and customize your investments

Disadvantages: You may be looking for a plan with higher tax advantages.

What Is a 529 Plan?

A 529 plan is essentially an investment account that is designated to help aid the beneficiary’s educational expenses. By investing in these plans, it comes with tax benefits such as potentially getting state income tax deductions.

In addition, these contributions are tax free when used for educational purposes. This includes the beneficiary’s k-12, college, or student loan repayments.

What to Consider When Choosing a 529 Plan

There are various factors that dictate whether a 529 plan is right for you. Prior to deciding on a 529 plan one needs to look at the investment options available, costs, minimum contributions, and tax savings. 

Carefully considering these variables will ensure you are choosing the best 529 plan for your current situation.

Investment Options Available

When looking at 529 plans, you need to look into the plan’s investment strategy. You need to ask yourself questions like: How aggressively do I want the investment strategy to be? Am I risk-tolerant or risk-adverse?

It is important to note, you can only reallocate your investment strategy twice per year without incurring any federal taxes. So compare different investment options offered, prior to making a final decision. 

Costs and Fees 

529 plans differ in costs on a number of factors. For example, one of the biggest differentiators is what state you live in.

In Florida plans span from $25 to $957 monthly contributions whereas in South Dakota, plans span from $530 to $1,443. Additionally, the cost of the plan can depend on how much you wish to invest.

For example, it is recommended that for those wishing to enroll in public in-state school, you contribute around $125. Whereas for those wishing to attend a public out of state university, a $260 contribution is recommended. Those wishing to attend a private university are advised to contribute $325.

Minimum Contribution Requirements and Limits

For certain states, there is no minimum initial contribution amount. On the contrary, this is not the case for every state; although some states allow very inexpensive plans to go as low as $1 contributions. 

There is no limited amount of contributions to a 529 plan. However, it is important to note that 529 plans fall under the “gift” category of taxes. This means that when one exceeds a state’s threshold of “gift-giving” you are subject to gift taxes.

Advisor Sold Plans vs. Directly Sold 529 Plans 

A directly sold plan is when the investor is directly in charge with selecting the plan’s asset allocation and investment strategy. In this plan you can opt in for a passive, hands-on, or blended investment style.

In comparison, the advisor sold plan has a financial advisor managing the 529 plan funds and finding the best investment strategy for you. Typically, because of this, the advisor sold plans tend to be higher in price on top of your monthly contributions. 

What Are the Best Performing 529 Plans?

Opening a 529 plan is a great step to start saving for educational expenses one may occur over their lifetime. It is always better to be over than under prepared for the future.

This is why a 529 is a great investment option to look into. After reading this article, if you are still unsure of what plan is best for you, a financial advisor can guide you through the process as well as catering to your personalized needs and investment goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Is a 529 a Bad Idea?

A 529 Plan may not be a good investment if the beneficiary is unsure on pursuing a higher education. In addition, some plans have high fees. 

Which 529 is Best for Me?

That is dependent on the state you reside in and what investment strategy you wish to have. 

What If You Have a 529 Plan and Don’t Go to College?

You won’t lose your money but, if the 529 plan money is not used for educational purposes you are susceptible to a 10% penalty on any withdrawals.

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