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Financial Planning > College Planning > 529 Plans

All 529s Are Not Alike

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Fees and expenses can have a significant impact on a college-savings fund, determining to some degree how much money goes into the investor’s pocket. Recent research explored the fees attached to 529 plans nationwide, resulting in a list of the lower- and higher-cost plans. The 529 Fee Comparison Study, examined direct-sold 529 college-savings plans from 49 states and the District of Columbia. According to the study, the least-expensive 529 plans available are offered by Utah, Oregon, Ohio, Illinois, and North Carolina, while the most expensive plans are offered by Montana, Nebraska, and the District of Columbia. The comparisons are based on the 10-year projected costs of a $10,000 investment, as reported by each 529 plan in its official program offering materials. Plans sold through advisors were not included in the study due to their more complicated fee structures. The report also identifies states where residents are subjected to even lower costs in their home-state 529 plan due to the waiver of annual account fees for state residents.

“There’s been a huge effort on the part of the states and outside vendors to bring down investor costs in 529 plans,” said Joseph Hurley, founder of Bankrate-owned, in a statement. “Our study identifies the plans that have been most successful in achieving that goal,” he added. However, Hurley warns that fees are not the only factor in selecting a particular 529 plan. “The more important figure is the net performance of your 529 account after all costs,” he says. “State tax and other benefits are also important factors.”


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