529 Savings Plan — The Best Way to Pay for College

There are numerous benefits to a 529 plan for college, such as tax-free earnings and gift exclusions. The downside? It will take some time before that money can be spent on anything other than education expenses.

529 Savings Plan is a tax-advantaged college savings account that allows parents to save for their children’s future education. The plan is available for all U.S. residents, including those who are not yet born, and offers a range of investment options and flexible withdrawal methods.

Man putting coin in a safe and baby in swing looking at him.

Should parents contribute to the cost of their children’s college education? People have varying and strong views on the subject, but if you want to pay for all or part of your children’s tuition and costs, you should start planning for that future expenditure as soon as possible.

Paying for college is one of the most significant costs in one’s life, often even surpassing the cost of a home. So, practically from the moment a kid is born, figuring out how to save that money becomes a nagging worry on almost every parent’s mind. With tuition expenses soaring, the notion of saving becomes even more difficult.

Is there a good method to go about it?

Fortunately for you, the majority of financial professionals believe that there is: the 529 college savings plan. Let’s start with a summary of when you should start saving, what your individual objectives can be, and how much you need to save.

Begin immediately!

One of the most common errors parents make when it comes to investing for their children’s higher education is not getting started early enough. You may not consider it until a child reaches the age of ten, but by then you’ve missed out on a decade of saving (and investment/interest accrual).

You should really begin as soon as you get a child in your arms. Yes, you have no idea who they are or what their schooling will entail, but it is much preferable to start saving early and not need the money than to need the money and not have it. When you have a new kid, it’s really extremely simple to start saving since you’ll be reorganizing your financial life anyhow between daycare fees (if necessary) and other child-related charges – of which there are many. You’ll be scrutinizing your finances, so why not set aside a tiny monthly sum for your child’s future?

You may be wondering whether you may begin saving before your kid is born or conceived. Yes, you can, but it’s riskier since children’s plans don’t always go according to plan. You’ll need a social security number and a beneficiary to start a 529. However, you could always name yourself the beneficiary and then transfer it to your kid when they arrive. There’s no harm in beginning to save early, but it’s usually a better idea to wait until there’s a real kid on the way.

What are your objectives? What is the nature of your situation?

When it comes to saving for your children’s education, the first thing to consider is what your personal objectives are. You don’t want to worry about your kids’ objectives since you’re beginning them too young. That is just the truth.


You must first evaluate the practical aspects of the situation. It’s unrealistic to expect you and/or your wife to save the whole cost of an excellent private school education if you don’t earn a lot of money. You should also consider how the number of children you have (or desire) will affect the amount of money you can save. Even if you earn a lot of money, if you have five children, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to pay for five private school tuitions.

Second, as previously said, you must consider your own parenting principles. Do you want to be able to offer your children with four years of higher education? Or do you want to contribute half and leave the rest to your kids to figure out for the purpose of financial literacy and independence?

There is no right or wrong way to do things, and people have quite varied perspectives on the subject. There are both successful and failed persons who have had their educations paid for and who have had to labor and borrow money. It all boils down to your preferences as a parent.

How much money do you need to put aside?

In the middle of this discussion, it’s important to remember that you should not go into debt to pay for your children’s college education. One of the other major blunders that every financial expert notices is this (besides not starting early enough). It just isn’t worth it. There are alternative options for funding an education, such as scholarships, loans, and student labor programs. Debt is too much of a weight to bear, particularly as you become older.

There are several recommendations on how much to save. Fidelity Investments recommends that each youngster save $2000 each year. That works out to around $166 every month, and if you save for 18 years, you’ll have $36,000 in your pocket before investment gains. However, that is a completely arbitrary number. There are a plethora of college cost calculators available that will predict the cost of your child’s education depending on the kind of schooling (public in-state, public out-of-state, private) and the average yearly rise of 5%. For example, an in-state public school now costs about $20,000 per year. According to a variety of calculations, the value will be between $40,000 and $50,000 per year in 18 years. You may be looking at six figures each year for private education. To be honest, it’s mind-numbing.  

However, estimating how much you’ll need is difficult in general. There’s talk of a college tuition “bubble,” akin to the housing bubble that burst in 2008; student loans are being handed out like candy, with over 10% of those loans defaulting (that number is expected to rise dramatically and could hit 40 percent by 2023). Things might alter dramatically if that bubble bursts. As platforms like Coursera and edX and college-specific programs gain traction, the development of online courses and the convenience of technology may revolutionize the accessibility of a college education; maybe it will be more cheap for everyone.


These are, however, complete unknowns. This implies that, even if you want and anticipate things to improve, if you’re a saving parent, you’ll have to work within the existing context.

Use your objectives (saving for public school tuition, for example) and the different calculators to come up with a general estimate of how much you’d want to have saved by the time your children reach college age.

Why the 529 Plan Is the Best Option

Most families save for college by putting money into ultra-safe, low-return choices like savings and checking accounts, according to a 2015 Sallie Mae research. Your interest return will be low – often less than 1%.

This approach is definitely safe, but it will not go you very far. College expenditures are increasing at a rate of roughly 3% to 5% per year, exceeding inflation and even cost-of-living increases that are normal in many sectors. You have more time to play things somewhat more dangerous if you start saving while your children are little.

That’s where the 529 plan comes in, which, as I said in the opening, is my (and pretty much everyone else’s) advice for saving for your child’s school.

What exactly is a 529 plan? It’s a mutual fund-based tax-deferred investment account provided by states themselves. (This implies that the contribution restrictions, tax advantages, and other aspects of each state’s plan vary.)

They’re for the exclusive purpose of paying for your children’s education, and the gains and distributions/withdrawals are never taxed (as long as they’re for a qualifying item like tuition, books, housing and board, etc.). Furthermore, 34 states provide state income tax benefits for 529 contributions. The investment grows at a rate of around 4% per year on average (though each state has different funds, remember), which is lower than some other investment accounts but still outpaces the increase in college tuition expenses in many years. You may and should adopt an age-based plan that transfers risk as the kid grows older, becoming more conservative as college approaches, to account for market losses.

A single beneficiary is always named in a 529 plan (though this beneficiary can easily be changed). This means you’ll have to create the account in someone else’s name, usually your child’s (though as mentioned above you could open it in yours). After you have more than one child, you may either keep your money in a single account and simply change the beneficiary when the first one graduates from high school (if your child spacing allows for it), or you must create multiple accounts. The good news is that money may be shifted between plans based on the requirements of the children, or you can simply change the beneficiary (say, one doesn’t go to college or just attends a 2-year college; perhaps one receives a full scholarship and doesn’t want the money saved).


You may take the money out, but there is a 10% penalty on top of the fact that the profits are now taxed. There is a risk with this type of account in that if your child dies, becomes incapacitated, or simply decides not to pursue higher education at all, you can transfer the funds to another child or even a grandchild; however, if you don’t use the funds for an education-related purpose and instead use them for something else, you will lose money. If you’re more risk averse and less optimistic about your child’s prospects of attending college, you may put your money in a conventional index fund instead; but, you won’t enjoy the tax advantages of a 529.

Finally, the 529 plan is flexible enough to handle almost any life situation, and it provides much more education-specific advantages than any other savings/investment option. It’s the way to go for saving for your child’s post-secondary education if you see college in their child’s future and intend on paying for all or part of it.

How do you start an account if you feel that this is the best way for your family to save for college? You may look for “[your state] 529 plan” on Google or go to savingforcollege.com for further information and enrollment links (all around, that site is a great resource for more details on this topic). It’s worth noting that some states provide two distinct plans; you’ll have to read the tiny print to figure out which is best for you.

Can other individuals make donations to your children’s accounts? I recognize there are a few additional aspects I didn’t address here. Are there any donation minimums or maximums? — however, as always, each state is unique, so you’ll have to conduct your own research. A financial adviser can help you join a plan, but the cost is usually more than going via the state. Even if you believe you are financially illiterate, most states make it quite simple to open an account and get started.



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The “fidelity 529 plan” is a savings plan that allows users to save for college. It is the best way to pay for college because it offers low fees, tax-free growth and no minimum balance requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is a 529 plan a bad idea?

A: A 529 plan is a type of tax-advantaged college savings account that allows you to invest in stocks and mutual funds. However, many people have found out the hard way after investing their money into this type of investment vehicle when it turned out not to be such a good idea.

Why are 529 plans a good option to pay for college costs?

A: 529 plans are designed with future college costs in mind. You dont have to pay back the money you put into a plan until your child is out of high school, and by then he or she will be able to take care of any remaining debt from his or her education.

What is the best way to use a 529 plan?

A: 529 plans are designed to help you save for your college education. They allow access to tax-advantaged money and offer a variety of investment options from which the saver can choose his or her own strategy.

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