January 27, 2015
Saving for your college education early is essential in the quest to actually affording it. And if you're lucky enough to have your guardians and relatives willing to help with college costs, the 529 tuition savings plan was the surest route to take. If you aren't familiar, the 529 tuition savings plan was designed to help parents begin saving for college by providing an investment option that allows them to withdraw funds for qualified educational expenses tax-free...or at least that was the case.
According to the Wall Street Journal, President Obama has proposed "rolling back" tax benefits of 529 college savings plans and "repeal tax incentives going forward" for Coverdell Education Savings Accounts. For now, both plans allow parents, grandparents or anyone looking to help fund a kid's education to contribute after-tax dollars into accounts that grow tax-free; when money is withdrawn for educational expenses, there’d be no tax either. President Obama has suggested changing the law so that withdrawals would be taxed as ordinary income. Yikes. Why the change? The administration has labeled the plans “inefficient” and complained that the benefit accrues too heavily toward higher-income Americans. (For more on this story, click here.)
With the plans as popular as they are – more than 12 million children from 7 million households are currently benefitting – what negative affects could the proposed changes have? Would they affect you personally? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
February 3, 2015
After widespread criticism from both parties, the Obama administration decided to scrap its proposal to raise taxes on college savings accounts. Just last week, we blogged about President Obama's proposal to "roll back" tax benefits of 529 college savings plans and "repeal tax incentives going forward" for Coverdell Education Savings Accounts. Luckily, that's no longer the case.
The New York Times, the decision came just hours after Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio demanded the proposal be withdrawn from the president's budget, "for the sake of middle-class families." Interestingly enough, top Democrats, including Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader, pressed for the repeal. Administration officials initially defended the plan as an attempt to redirect tax benefits that they said largely benefit wealthy families toward tax credits that help poorer families. The administration will keep its plan to expand other higher education tax breaks, a White House official told The Times. (For more on this story, click here.)
What are your thoughts on the administration scrapping its proposal? Are you relieved? Share your thoughts in the comments section. And don’t forget to try and fund your education with as much free money as possible – a great place to start is by creating a free profile on Scholarships.com, where you’ll get matched with financial aid that is unique to you!
March 6, 2009
Continuing our theme from yesterday, today's blog post centers on more options for saving for college. Yesterday, we discussed 529 plans, popular college savings vehicles that have been battered by recent financial troubles. If you're considering saving for college but are not sold on a 529 plan, the most common alternatives are discussed below.
Coverdell ESA. Coverdell Education Savings Accounts are similar to 529 plans in most respects, but do have their own benefits and drawbacks. Rather than being sold by a state, they are sold by banks and brokerages, which can charge their own management fees. Because there aren't any state ties, there aren't any residency limitations, though there also aren't any state tax breaks for enrolling in a Coverdell ESA.
Coverdell accounts allow more flexible investment options and unlimited changes to investments. They can also be used to pay for high school and elementary school expenses, in addition to college costs. Otherwise, the expenses Coverdell and 529 plans can be used for are roughly the same: tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board if over half-time, and other qualified educational expenses.
One major limitation to the Coverdell ESA is the $2,000 annual contribution cap. This is the limit per account holder, not per contributor. Additionally, individuals must have an adjusted gross income of $110,000 or below to contribute, and $95,000 or below to contribute the full $2,000. Coverdell accounts are held in the beneficiary's name, so they can hurt the student on the FAFSA. They also must be used or cashed out by the time the beneficiary turns 30, and they go to the beneficiary no matter what, while 529 plans can be given back to the parent in charge of the account if the student chooses not to go to college.
Roth IRA. The Roth IRA, typically used as a retirement account, can also be used to save for school. As long as you're withdrawing contributions, rather than earnings, there is no penalty if you are using the money from your IRA for educational expenses. However, a college savings plan might be the better way to go if you're setting up an account specifically for your student (especially since contributions to a Roth IRA must come from income the beneficiary earned from working), and dipping into your retirement funds to pay for college is widely regarded as a less than ideal choice by financial experts. But if you choose to take it, the option is there.
UTMA. The Uniform Transfer to Minors Act allows assets to be given as gifts to minors without the establishment of a trust. While the options explored up to this point have been savings accounts or investments, UTMA covers everything, including property. An adult manages these assets in a custodial account until the owner reaches the age of 18 or 21, depending on the state. In the meantime, the funds in the account can be used to benefit the child, including taking care of educational expenses. Once the owner reaches the age of majority, the assets are theirs to use as they please. This can mean paying for school, or it can mean making less desirable financial choices. Since these assets belong to the student, they would count against them for student financial aid.
Government Bonds. While typically regarded as the province of grandparents, government savings bonds (Series EE is the most common) are also an option for paying for college. Bonds can be purchased online or at banks, and redeemed later for cash. As opposed to stock market-based savings plans which can lose big during crashes, government bonds are going to continue to grow as long as there's a government to honor them. And if there's no longer a United States government, well, you might have more to worry about than paying for college.
Also, since no rules state that a savings bond must be redeemed for college costs, the money can be used towards paying off student loans, covering college living expenses...or partying it up during spring break in Mexico.
While EE Savings Bonds grow at a steady rate, they do grow very slowly. You're also limited to a purchase of $5,000 per calendar year. Since they're such a safe bet, they can be great gifts for high school students, but a market-based option might be a better way to grow savings and maximize returns for younger children.
May 29, 2009
Today is May 29, also known as "529 College Savings Day," named after 529 plans, which are popular state-sponsored college savings plans. Today has been designated as a day to raise awareness of the importance of saving for college, as well as ways to do so. While 529 plans suffered along with everything else in the stock market, they are still being emphasized as a valuable tool for saving money for college.
According to a poll conducted by Gallup and Sallie Mae, 62 percent of families with college-bound children are already saving for college in some capacity, with the majority planning to contribute at least half of a child's tuition. About half of families that are saving already regularly contribute to college funds, and around a third use state 529 plans. The Chronicle of Higher Education has more information on the survey, as well as a link to the results.
If you're curious about college savings plans, we have some resources to help you get started. A few months ago, we did a couple blog posts on saving for college, featuring a discussion of 529 plans, as well as other savings options. While the focus of today is on saving for college, it's also a good time to look into college scholarships, especially for students still in high school. Read up on college savings accounts today, then do a free college scholarship search to find more options for paying for school.
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