By Stacey Belford, American Century Investments/Kansas Learning Quest 529 College Saving Plan
May 4, 2017
Despite what you sometimes read in the press, there is still tremendous value in higher education, in terms of employment and income opportunities. I grew up in a family where my parents were the first in their own families to attend college. My mom became a teacher and education was important to us. In turn, I want my daughters to recognize the value in education and be able to attend the college of their choice, within reason.
We all know the cost of college continues to rise exponentially. While I may not be able to cover everything when the time comes, I can save through our 529 plan to set aside money and offset college costs without digging into our retirement savings or my daughters incurring significant student loans.
Here’s how we keep our family’s eyes on the prize:
1. Open a 529 plan early
I opened my oldest daughter’s 529 account before she was even born. I was the beneficiary, then transferred the account to her name when she was born. I knew there would be so much to do with a newborn; I wanted it checked off my list so I wouldn’t forget. The younger your child is when you open the account, the more time your money has to grow and work for you.
2. Contribute often
I set up a recurring contribution so the money automatically comes of out my paycheck. We never see the funds, so it’s never missed. It ensures we contribute regularly to our girls’ college savings, and that can make a substantial difference. We also take advantage of my employer’s company match to our college savings. It all adds up!
3. Take advantage of tax benefits
Unlike other investments, the funds in your college savings account grow tax-deferred and qualified 529 withdrawals are tax-free. That means more money in your pocket. With a 529 plan, you can also take advantage of several tax benefits at the federal and state level.
4. Evaluate periodically
You don’t need to be a financial expert to monitor your account. Set a goal that feels right to you (perhaps it’s quarterly or twice a year) to see how much savings you have and if your investments are on track. Don’t be afraid to make changes or ask a financial planner for advice, if needed.
5. Share giving opportunities with family and friends
Others can easily contribute to our daughters’ 529 accounts via Ugift (easy, free online service). For instance, my girls’ grandparents often prefer to give the gift of education at Christmas or birthdays instead of toys.
• A 529 plan is one of the best ways to save for college. In addition to the tax benefits, I can control the account to make sure it’s used how I want it. I can change the investments, the beneficiary and how much I choose to invest. There are no age or income limits. Perhaps, most importantly, it’s flexible. Funds from your 529 plan can be used at any accredited 2- or 4-year college, vocational or technical school, or graduate school anywhere in the United States. Quite simply, it’s the smart way to save. Good luck!
The opinions expressed are those of American Century Investments (or the fund manager) and are no guarantee of the future performance of any American Century Investments fund. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as investment advice.
The availability of tax or other benefits may be conditioned on meeting certain requirements, such as residency, purpose for or timing of distributions, or other factors.
The earnings portion of non-qualified withdrawals is subject to federal and state income taxes and a 10% federal penalty.
About the author:
Stacey Belford is Vice President, National Accounts for American Century Investments. Her responsibilities include relationship management and oversight of product development, distribution, marketing strategy and service & operations for the Kansas Learning Quest 529 College Saving Plan. Stacey holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri at Columbia. She holds her series 6, 63, 26 and 51 securities registrations.