In introducing Morningstar Inc.’s 529 Advisor program this October, the company’s advisor-business president Chris Boruff noted that in spite of the colossal growth of 529 college savings plans, “independent information on these plans is scarce” and financial advisors have found it “challenging to provide solid, complete advice.” The 529 Advisor product is designed to take the hassle out of tracking down, compiling, and comparing available 529-plan data (there are well over 60 plans nationwide) by enabling advisors to, as Boruff puts it, more easily “evaluate and choose a 529 plan that best fits their client’s college-savings portfolio.”
This is accomplished through an online suite of research tools that allows the advisor to review overall 529-plan features, portfolio offerings, and underlying fund information. These tools, says Boruff, will enable the advisor to quantify the tax benefit of in-state plans; determine which out-of-state plans are worth considering; make accurate comparisons among plans; evaluate the underlying funds; and calculate the likelihood that a particular plan will meet a client’s needs.
The cost? An annual subscription to 529 Advisor is $495. (To subscribe, or see a demonstration and sample reports, advisors may go to www.morningstaradvisor.com/529t or call 800-735-0700.) The program is available on MorningstarAdvisor.com, the company’s Web site for financial advisors, which Morningstar says has more than 90,000 registered users. To date about 300 advisors have signed-up for 529 Advisor.
According to Morningstar Senior Product Manager Tricia Rothschild, 529 Advisor’s benefits include: