College Saving Options

| January 4, 2016

Family Business

Greg Bright, Valdosta Today Financial Contributor

BrightIt is important for parents to start putting money aside for college as early as possible. But where should you put your money? There are many possibilities, each with varied features. For example, some options offer tax advantages, some are more costly to establish, some charge management fees, some require parental income to be below a certain level, and some impose penalties if the money is not used for college.

Investors should consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses associated with 529 plans before investing. More information about specific 529 plans is available in each issuer’s official statement, which should be read carefully before investing. Also, before investing, consider whether your state offers a 529 plan that provides residents with favorable state tax benefits. As with other investments, there are generally fees and expenses associated with participation in a 529 savings plan. There is also the risk that the investments may lose money or not perform well enough to cover college costs as anticipated.

Factors That May Affect College Savings Decisions

When investing for college, there are several factors to consider.

Tax Advantages

Money saved for college goes a lot further when it’s allowed to accumulate tax free or tax deferred. To come out ahead in the college savings game, it’s wise to consider tax-advantaged strategies.

Kiddie Tax

Many parents believe they can shift assets to their child in order to avoid high income taxes. This strategy works best if the child is generally age 24 or older. If the child is under age 24, the kiddie tax rules apply.

Time Frame

Time frame is a very important consideration. Is the child in preschool or a freshman in high school? Obviously, most college savings strategies work best when the child is many years away from college. With a longer time horizon, parents can be more aggressive in their investments and have more years to take advantage of compounding.

Amount of Money Available to Invest

The amount of money parents have to invest at a particular time might affect their savings strategies. For example, if parents have only a small amount of money to invest, trusts probably aren’t the best option because they are typically more costly to establish and maintain than other college saving options. In this case, a 529 plan may be more appropriate.

For many parents, especially those who started families in their 30s and 40s, the problem of saving for college and retirement at the same time is a nagging reality. Most financial planning professionals recommend saving for both at the same time. The reason is that parents typically can’t afford to delay saving for their retirement until the college years are over, because doing so would mean missing out on years of tax-deferred growth and, possibly, employer-matching 401(k) plan contributions.

The key to saving for both is for parents to tailor their monthly investment to the particular investment goal–college or retirement. Parents will then need to determine their time frames and liquidity needs for each goal, which may require the assistance of a financial planning professional.


Greg Bright is one of the three advisors with the Bush Wealth team and he leads our investment selection committee. Greg is responsible for providing comprehensive solutions during the planning process. His primary expertise is helping clients set and achieve goals before and after they retire. Greg lives in Valdosta with his wife Amanda and their son Greyson. You can submit questions about this article to gregory.bright@lpl.com.

Securities and advisory services offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment advisor, member FINRA/SIPC. The opinion voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

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