Some questions about 529 plan

I got those questions from a reader:
Why there is no national 529 plan? Looking at some states plan, it’s pretty much mutual funds like 401k, the investment return is like S&P? Why bother (consider S&P return is so low)?

I am not expert on this, I think why each state has a plan is pretty much why each employer (or most employers) has a 401k plan. The main purpose for such as plan is this: 1) Save some money for future liability (retirement or college tuition); 2) Hopefully the money can grow with the power of compound interest (snow ball effect); The tax deferral (in the case of 401k) or tax deduction (most 529 plans) are just ice on the cake.

As to why there is no national plan and federal tax deduction, I think this partially explained by college savings is still very small compared to retirement savings. Another indicator is the sales (or willingness for people to pay) my iPhone retirement savings/college savings app. Basically I gave away college savings calculator there because very few people are willing to pay 99 cents.

A side note: most people think spx (S&P index) is just boring, and some people think their retirement savings investments can grow 20% year over year. I think those people are too optimistic about their future. WSJ has an excellent article “The other midlife crisis” which explains why people expectations on income growth and retirement investment return are unrealistic.
Retirement income picture (via WSJ)

finance fun

Baby is 100 days old

She started the following new tricks recently: eat her own hands; she can raise her head for 10 to 15 seconds during tummy training; she can either smile (with or without stimulation) or giggle (with stimulation).


Better early than late: join college 529 plan

I was thinking about this for a few days, and I took the plunge today. The kicker is the referral bonus from Ohio College Advantage 529 plan, as I read from my friend theSunsFinancialDiary.

As to investment choice, I picked the Vanguard Winsor II (which I got to know from my 401k plan), because its relative out performance over S&P 500. But the investment choice probably is not as important as “start early” (snowball or compound interest effect). Similar things can be said for state tax deduction from 529 plan contribution.

In case you are interested, please use my number 2568778 as referral code when you open account at Ohio 529 Plan, that way you will get the $25 bonus, and I will also receive some bonus money (provided you open and fund at least $25 to the account, by June 30, 2010). A rare win-win situation in the financial world 😀

(Update) PBS NBR Paying for college: the 529 plan. It also suggests “open an account as soon as the baby is born”. Another interesting thing is, 529 can be used for graduate school and re-training.

(Update 2) Comparing the fund options between Missouri 529 (MOST) and Ohio College Advantage plan, it seems to me Show Me State does not have much to show on this. Here is Morningstar’s best and worst 529 plans. One thing to note is while Ohio CollegeAdvantage 529 Savings Plan is among the best, Ohio Putnam CollegeAdvantage (broker-sold) is among the worst. So keep this in mind: a state could have multiple plans. Choose the winner, not the loser.

(Update 3) I wrote the 529 plan in more detail at stlplace, and I will give additional $25 to those who use my reference code 2568778. So the total bonus for you will be $50.

(Update 4: 6-17-2010) I found this Kiplinger’s Find the Best 529 Plan to be interesting. One interesting point I noticed is the Show Me State (Missouri) offers state tax credit/deduction for any plan. In other words, we got lucky that we don’t have to enroll in the Missouri plan (which is not that good in my personal opinion), while get the same tax benefits. You can read the tax benefits of 529 plan at