A college education is one of the best investments you can make
for your child's future. But the high cost of college may alarm you
- especially if you've waited too long to begin saving. For
example, an Education IRA, with its annual contribution limit of
$2,000 beginning in 2002, won't offer much help if your child is
already in high school. And pre-paid tuition plans are attractive,
but only if your child is willing to attend a school that
participates in the plan.
Fortunately, there's another option for your college savings
plan. Created in 1996, state-sponsored college savings plans (or
section 529 plans, after the IRS code that created them) allow
flexibility in choosing a school and the opportunity for late
starters to make sizable investments while reaping tax breaks.
How the Plans Work
Section 529 plans allow individuals to invest in a predetermined
pool of stock and bond investments. Most plans allow you to divide
your investment according to a given asset allocation determined by
your child's age. In general, the asset allocation will be more
aggressive for younger children and less aggressive for children
nearing college age.
Lifetime contribution limits to Section 529 plans vary from
state to state, but often exceed $100,000, and offer some
flexibility when you can contribute.
In June 2001, President Bush signed a new tax law that makes
saving for college through Section 529 savings plans even more
beneficial. Effective January 1, 2002, qualified higher-education
expense withdrawals will not be subject to federal income tax*,
although state tax may apply. However, if you live in the
state where the plan is administered, you also may be eligible for
state tax savings.
Flexibility in contributions and college choice are the biggest
advantages of Section 529 plans over other college savings
vehicles. Even though these plans are state-sponsored, you do not
need to be a resident of the state to participate, although you may
lose out-of-state tax benefits if participating in an out-of-state
Choosing the Plan That's Best for Your
Section 529 plans are just one of the options you have for college
savings. They offer a great deal of flexibility in exchange for a
higher level of investment risk. If you're getting a late start or
if your child is unsure of which college he or she wishes to
attend, a Section 529 plan may be your best choice.
As with any wealth management decision, the choice that's best
for you will depend on your unique situation, including your risk
tolerance and the number of years until your child begins college.
Make an appointment with your Financial Consultant to find the
plans that best suit your needs.
* Unless extended by Congress, the new law expires on
January 1, 2011, and the law will revert to what it is