Want to Help Your Kids Avoid College Loan Debt?
BREAKING NEWS! College is expensive.
Okay, so that’s not breaking news. Most colleges are more expensive than ever, and if you have young children, by the time they get to college age, the cost for attending four years at a university will likely be even more costly than it is today.
Hearing that might send you into stress overload. But keep calm. That stressful feeling can be avoided when it comes to saving for college, because there’s a great solution.
Wait, how much do I need for my kid’s college?
As we said, it’s costly. According to data collected and published by the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees and room and board for four years of college in 2018-19 are:
- $85,480 for in-state residents at a public college
- $149,720 for out-of-state residents at a public college
- $194,040 for a private college
Again, we knew the cost of a college education was substantial. College is expensive; that’s not breaking news. But here’s something that is breaking news for many young parents: For as little as $10, you can open a 529 college savings plan with tax benefits to help save for a college education.
Sure, there are other ways to save for your child’s higher education. One of the popular alternatives is a Roth IRA. But, for college savings, a 529 plan is a smart choice for a variety of reasons. Here are three very important ones, according to CollegeSavings.org:
- All money grows free from federal and state income tax.
- All withdrawals are exempt from federal income tax when used for qualified higher education expenses.
- Many states also exempt withdrawals from state income tax for qualified higher education expenses.
Need more reasons? Here are a few ways 529 plans differ from other savings vehicles:
- Many 529 plans come with an age-based investment option. Your preferred “risk tolerance” is something that you determine when you set up your 529 plan. For example, according to CollegeSavings.org, one of the most popular investment options is an age-based allocation strategy in which the age of the beneficiary determines the specific mix of investments. Simply put, as the child ages, the investment mix is automatically reallocated and becomes more conservative as the beneficiary approaches college.
- Anyone can contribute to your child’s 529 plan. As Forbes.com contributor Joseph Hurley writes: “A 529 plan can be a magnet for contributions from other family members. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and even your friends may choose to support the worthy cause of educating your child by making contributions to your 529 account. I have yet to hear of anyone making ‘gift’ contributions to another person’s Roth IRA.”
- In some cases, you can also get a state income tax deduction or credit if you contribute to your home state’s 529 plan. You can see each state’s allowed deduction at CollegeSavings.org.
- Contributions to a 529 College Savings Plan can be made conveniently through payroll deduction or automatic transfers from a bank account. And contributions are protected from bankruptcy, according to CollegeSavings.org.
- Unlike IRAs, there are no annual contribution limits for 529 plans. However, there are maximum lifetime amounts, which vary by plan. Your 529 plan balances cannot exceed the expected cost of your children’s (or whomever the beneficiary is) higher education expenses. On the other hand, the maximum annual direct contribution to a Roth IRA in 2018 is $6,000 unless you are age 50 or over, in which case it is $7,000, according to IRS.gov.
- 529 account owners can make a lump sum contribution of up to $75,000 annually per beneficiary or $150,000 if married filing jointly and avoid incurring a Gift Tax on this amount by electing to use five years of the annual gift tax exclusion all in one year, according to CollegeSavings.org.
- You may only contribute to a Roth IRA if you make less than a certain amount of money: $137,000 for single filers and $203,000 for married couples filing jointly, according to RothIRA.com. On the other hand, it doesn’t matter how much or how little money you make if you want to open a 529 account – people of any income level can enjoy the benefits of a 529 plan.
Remember this …
If all those numbers and financial speak left you glassy-eyed and dizzy, here’s your takeaway:
If you want to save for your child’s college education, a 529 college savings plan offers tax benefits and other advantages that make it the one of the most popular choices for parents, grandparents and anyone who wants to save for college.