What is a 529 Plan?
Updated: Aug 4
A 529 plan is a college savings plan that offers numerous financial advantages. Within a basic 529 plan, you can expect to find two distinct plans, which offer their own unique benefits. As an investor, you can either opt to use the basic college savings plan or the more unconventional prepaid tuition plans. The key thing to understand about any 529 plan, regardless of the state, is the fact that these plans build up on a tax-deferred basis.
One common misconception about 529 plans is that one can only invest in their own state’s plan. In fact, you can invest in pretty much any state’s plan. For example, if you are a resident of California, but you find that the Arizona plan fits your needs better, you can easily invest in Arizona's plan with no additional trouble. If you are wondering which states’ plan to invest in, make sure to research the independent components and differences between each plan to figure out which one you should invest in.
Typically, 529 plans are either divided into two major categories. It is up to you to decide if you would prefer to invest in a college savings plan or prepaid tuition plan.
A college savings plan allows you to invest your after-tax contributions in mutual funds or similar investments.
A prepaid tuition plan allows you to pre-pay the cost of an in-state public education. If you make a decision to attend an out-of-state or private school, your investment can be easily converted to fit your needs.
What is included in my 529 plan?
If you invest in a 529 plan, you can expect to use if for tuition, student fees, supplies, computers, and room and board (depending on the plan). On top of this, you are eligible to withdraw up to $10,000/year, tax-free.
What happens if you don’t end up using the 529 plan?
When making the decision to invest in a 529 plan, you must keep in mind that the future is highly uncertain and you may end up not even utilizing your 529 plan. If you end up not utilizing the plan, you will be asked to pay a penalty on the earnings portion of the non-qualified withdrawal. You will also pay income tax on this amount. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule, which are necessary to consider.
- You receive a tax-free scholarship from the University you choose to attend (ex. Say you decide to attend Arizona State University in the fall and receive an annual $10k scholarship for your academic merits. You can double check with ASU’s Financial Aid office to see if your obtained scholarship is tax-free. If it is, then your penalty is entirely waived.
- You decide to attend a United States Military Academy. - There are 5 Military Academies in the United States including The United States Military Academy at West Point, The United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, The United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, the United States Merchant Marine Academy in New York, and the United States Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut. Each of these schools is “free” in exchange for a commitment to the United States military.
- A disability or death occurs. If one of the two aforementioned situations unexpectedly occurs, you will not be expected to pay the penalty on your plan.
Overall, a 529 plan is undoubtedly a smart investment for potential college expenses. There are some evident benefits of opening a 529 plan account. With your own 529 plan, you can expect to boost your savings and receive some state tax incentives. Be sure to contact AZ Insurance Team in Tempe, AZ for more information on a 529 plan.