May 29 (aka 5/29) is National 529 College Savings Plan Day, shining a spotlight on an account that allows families to save after-tax dollars, have them grow tax-free and then use the money to pay for qualified education expenses—such as tuition, fees and books—on a tax-free basis. If you have not been saving or still have years left until the need to fund an education, you may want to think about starting to set some money aside.

Without a doubt, the cost of education continues to rise. The average student loan debt in 2019 was $35,397 and Americans owe more than $1.54 trillion in private and federal student loans—keep in mind that doesn’t include borrowing money from family and friends. To put that in perspective, that’s more than $500 billion more than the amount Americans owe in credit card debt.

Now, another school year is coming to a close and your child is one step closer to their next journey. It’s a wonderful time of year to talk with your personal financial planner about education planning and savings. And, depending on your child’s path, keep in mind that the plans are not just for college. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act allows families to tap 529 accounts for up to $10,000 to cover private K-12 tuition. The Secure Act also permits families to withdraw up to $10,000 to repay student loans.

While 529 plans are named after section 529 of the federal tax code, they are operated by the states and some higher education institutions. However, not all state 529 education savings plans are alike, and you are not limited to your state-sponsored plan. A 529 plan may even reduce your state taxes today. More than 30 states and the District of Columbia offer some form of tax reduction for the plans. Contributions are made with after-tax money, however, so they won’t earn you any federal tax deduction.

Despite the virtues of 529 plans, many people are still unfamiliar with the accounts. In fact, only 29% of Americans know that 529 plans are an education savings tool, according to a survey. With the confusion around the ins and outs of these plans (such as, what is a “qualified expense”?), it’s a good idea to work with a financial planner to help make the most of your 529 savings plan.

 

Prior to investing in a 529 Plan, investors should consider whether the investor’s or designated beneficiary’s home state offers any state tax or other state benefits such as financial aid, scholarship funds, and protection from creditors that are only available for investments in such state’s qualified tuition program. Withdrawals used for qualified expenses are federally tax free. Tax treatment at the state level may vary. Please consult with your tax advisor before investing.

Bret S. Kaye

Bret S. Kaye

Senior Vice President, Financial Advisor

CFP®, AIF®, Life & Health Insurance License A second generation financial advisor, Bret learned early in life the importance of balancing a budget, setting financial goals and managing risk through the lessons taught by his father around the breakfast table. Bret applies these lessons and values when working closely with clients to develop and implement detailed plans that, through deep, holistic planning and actionable advice, help clients reach their financial goals and...Read More