Someday, "Back to School" Will Mean Off to College

By Evan Mayhew - August 7, 2018

Back-to-school season can stir up many emotions. As you rush to get the supplies your kids need for the new school year, it can be a stark reminder that you'll send them off to college one day. Yikes! You may not be prepared—emotionally or financially. Let's explore how a 529 plan can help, at least with the finances.

Send Them Off to College with a Plan

College savings is an important step for any parent, grandparent or guardian. A 529 plan can help make it easier. More important, it may help minimize the need to rely on debt, which is the biggest college concern  for both parents and students.

Having a plan can also make you a better saver. Parents with a college savings plan have saved double  the amount of those who are saving without a plan.

Save for College, Save on Taxes

In addition to the ability to put money away for higher education, 529s have tax advantages* for today and when you need the money:

  • Earnings in the account grow tax-deferred
  • Many states offer income tax deductions on your contributions
  • Qualified withdrawals are tax-free

If you think a qualified withdrawal just means for tuition, you may be surprised to learn that money from a 529 can be used to also cover mandatory fees, computers, required books, supplies and qualified room and board expenses.

Support Their College Choice

Since 529 plans are sponsored by states, many people think they must invest in the plan from their state of residence. Or, they believe they must send their student to college in the state where the 529 is sponsored.

Neither is true. However, there may be some tax advantages in your state of residence to consider. Some states offer tax advantages no matter where your 529 plan is sponsored.

Your student is not limited to attending college in your state, either. Money saved in a 529 can be used for qualified education expenses at two- or four-year public or private colleges and universities, as well as at graduate and vocational/technical schools. More recently, many states  allow the same tax deductions for K-12 tuition expenses.

Start Small, Save Big

Opening a 529 account doesn't have to bust your budget. Many plans let you open an account with as little as $25 and build from there. Even if you start small, you'll want to save regularly to keep it growing. An easy way to do that is to set automatic investments from your bank account or your paycheck.

In addition, with 529s, you don't have to be the sole saver. Many plans offer matching grant programs, rewards programs or gifting services that allow others to contribute to your child's education. That includes family members and friends.

Someday Will Be Here Before You Know It

Whether your child is two years old or 12 years old, it's not too late to start putting money away for their college dreams. Don't let time go by without starting a savings plan for their future education.

The sooner you start, the more time your investment will have to compound over time. That's why the best time to begin investing for higher education is now.

Evan Mayhew
Evan Mayhew

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      * The availability of tax or other benefits may be conditioned on meeting certain requirements.

      You could lose money by investing in a mutual fund, even if through your employer's plan or an IRA. An investment in a mutual fund is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency.

      The opinions expressed are those of American Century Investments (or the portfolio manager) and are no guarantee of the future performance of any American Century Investments' portfolio. This material has been prepared for educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, investment, accounting, legal or tax advice.

      As with any investment, withdrawal value may be more or less than your original investment.

      The earnings portion of non-qualified withdrawals is subject to federal and state income taxes and a 10% federal penalty.