When saving for your child’s college education, one of the biggest challenges is deciding between a 529 prepaid tuition plan and a traditional 529 plan. While both plans help parents save for their children’s education, the prepaid tuition plan allows them to lock in tomorrow’s tuition at today’s rates.
We’re going to take a closer look at both types of 529 plans, so you can decide which option is better for your family — specifically:
- What is a traditional 529 plan?
- What is a 529 prepaid tuition plan?
- When does it make sense to opt for a prepaid plan?
- How should I save for college?
529 plans are offered either by the state you live in or by an educational institution. You can use 529 plans to save money for a child’s college education. You choose your investment strategy and over time, the account (hopefully) grows. With regular contributions and annual returns, you can use the 529 to fund your child’s tuition and other costs.
The government and IRS incentivize you to invest in a 529 by offering you tax advantages when you set aside money for your child’s college education.
Although contributions are not tax deductible, if the money in the 529 grows, any earnings garnered will not be subject to federal tax. And as long as the beneficiary uses them for approved education expenses (like tuition or books,) the withdrawals are not taxed. Students can even use 529 dollars to buy a new computer and software to use for school.
Anyone can set up a 529 for a student, even if you’re not the child’s parent or guardian. The only requirement is that you must be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen resident and be at least 18 years old. But there are contribution limits. These limits vary by state, but one universal rule is that the amount in the 529 cannot exceed the cost of the child’s education expenses.
A child can have multiple accounts set up in their name. If a grandparent, an aunt and a family friend all decide they want to open a 529 for the kid, they can all do so and have the child as the beneficiary of multiple accounts.
With a prepaid 529 plan, you can lock in today’s tuition prices at in-state public schools for your child, even if they won’t be attending college for 10 or 15 more years. With a prepaid plan, the state guarantees the value.
For example, let’s say you purchase a semester for a public college in Florida. Today, a semester for in-state students at the University of Florida costs $6,380. In 15 years, when your child is ready to go to school, a semester at the same university could cost triple what it does today.
But because you already paid for the semester with a prepaid 529, you locked in the original price of $6,380, potentially saving thousands of dollars per semester.
Prepaid 529 plans are simpler than traditional plans and offer peace of mind, as there’s no risk of losing your principal investment. However, your child’s options are more limited. Depending on where you live, you might only get a small return on the original investment if your child decides to go to a private school or out-of-state institution.
However, if your child decides to attend another school or not attend college at all, you might be able to transfer the prepaid 529 to their sibling.
Whenever you invest, there is always a measure of risk. With a traditional 529 plan, your money will ebb and flow with the stock market. As your child gets closer to needing the money to pay for school, watching the stock market’s rise and fall can get increasingly stressful and cause you to become more conservative with your investing.
A prepaid 529 can be a safer option, though it does have some risk, too. It can be a good option if you are reasonably certain your child will be comfortable attending an in-state public university. If that’s the case, a prepaid 529 can be a great investment option, helping you buy tuition at today’s prices and hedge off future tuition increases.
With a prepaid 529, your investment is secure. It is not part of the stock market, so your principal investment is not affected by any market changes. As long as your child attends a college within the state, you can use your money as you intended.
Saving for college can be challenging, but you can do so successfully if you start early and contribute regularly. By doing your research ahead of time and choosing your investment vehicles wisely, you can rest easy about your child’s education.
For more information on how to help with your children’s education, learn how to pay for college without ruining your own finances.
Rebecca Safier contributed to this article.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2021!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|1.89% – 5.99%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 5.64%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 6.84%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.91% – 5.25%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.25% – 6.53%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.17% – 4.47%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
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1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount.
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of Feburary 1, 2021.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of October 26, 2020, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 10/26/2020. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2020 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 02/17/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.91% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
6 Important Disclosures for PenFed.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.99%-5.15% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.17%-4.47% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.