By Michael Parker
Executive Director, Oregon 529 College Savings Network

Ghosts and ghouls may scare you when they come knocking at your door for Halloween treats. But college savings isn’t as scary as some people think. One of the common pieces of feedback that 529 plans hear is that “I’m too late,” or “I don’t want to bother, because I won’t save enough.” That is scary.

The fact is, college can be expensive. And many families and students do take on loans and other aid to help pay for education. But a 529 plan can make things a lot less scary and help defray some of the costs. A few reasons that saving for college isn’t scary:

Low $ To Start A Plan/Flexible Contributions

In some states, you can start for as little as $25. This might not seem like much, but that $25 can grow as you continue to contribute over time. There is tremendous flexibility and that low barrier to entry can kickstart savings.

Automatic Adjustments

Most states have an age-based investment option, which allows investors to simply “set it and forget it.” These portfolios change over time as children age. When they’re younger, the portfolio may be more aggressive. When the kids are older, or it’s time to start taking money out, the portfolios automatically shift and become less aggressive.

Taking A Bite Out Of College Expenses

The great thing about 529 plans is that the funds can be used for a wide range of college-related expenses. The money can be used for everything from tuition and fees to room and board expenses. It’s one less thing to worry about when figuring out how to pay for it all.

Options, Options And More Options

You’ll find that all states that have 529 plans offer a wide range of options. From principal-protected options to more aggressive growth portfolios, you will most likely be able to find a plan that meets your needs and investment objective. Additionally, as your needs change, you have even more options at your disposal.

Good Research Tools And Helpful Staff

Most 529 plans have a tremendous amount to research available to help you walk through all of your options. Additionally, 529 plan staff are always willing to take the time to answer the questions you have — and take it all very seriously. We all know that this is important stuff, so it’s great that 529 staff can help take away some of that anxiety.

About the Author
Michael Parker is the Executive Director of the Oregon 529 College Savings Network, which offers two 529 college savings plans, a direct-sold plan and an advisor-sold plan. In 2001, Michael coordinated the launch of the state’s first 529 college savings plan and is currently responsible for all aspects of the state’s 529 operations, including investment oversight, portfolio construction, marketing, and plan design. As of June, 30, 2013, the Oregon 529 College Savings Network had more than $1.8 billion in assets under management in nearly 140,000 active accounts.