529 Education Plan Savings You Can Expect

The prime reason why people invest in 529 education plans is not just to pay for their children’s education when they reach college-attending age, but to get some interesting savings for their present and future lives. The primary question people ask when told about this college investment plan is what the savings will be. This is a synopsis of the various kinds of 529 education plan savings that you can look forward to:

1. The money that you put in the 529 education savings plan will grow without any federal or state income taxes, even if they are applicable.

2. The money will be all yours to pay for your kid’s education when he or she begins attending college. Money withdrawn for this purpose is called as qualified withdrawals. All qualified withdrawals are free from federal income taxes. In the majority of states, qualified withdrawals do not attract any state taxes also.

3. One of the best aspects of the 529 education plan savings is that the person who makes the investment, i.e. the accountholder will retain all control of the investments, and not the beneficiary. In case the accountholder decides at a later point of time that the money should not be used for that particular beneficiary, another name can be nominated.

4. There is no age limit at which the 529 plan can be started, and also there is no minimum investment limit as such. In some states, the 529 plans can be kept alive with investments of as low as $15. Costs on the plan can be saved by approaching the state authorities directly. The states appoint an advisor to guide people on how to make the investments.

5. At the same time, people are allowed to invest high amounts in these plans. Some states have maximum limits higher than $300,000. That makes it a very good plan of allowing other fixed assets to grow.

6. The amounts contributed into the 529 state plans can be considered as gifts. But gift tax can be avoided by some planning. In case a person makes a contribution of $60,000 (or $120,000 for a married couple filing jointly), then it can be considered as five years gifts of $12,000 each per person (or $24,000 for a married couple), and hence gift tax can be excluded. However, if further contributions are made within this period, gift tax will be applicable.

7. The assets that are kept within the 529 educational savings plans are protected even in case a person goes bankrupt.

8. Though states provide the 529 plans, one good feature is that they can be used interstate. Any accredited college within the whole of the United States will accept the assets of the 529 plan to pay for the tuition fees. In addition, the money can be used for related educational expenses such as books and computers, educational equipment, accommodation, extra tuition fees, etc.

Top Places For Stock Market Education For a Beginner

Stock market education for a beginner should begin with an understanding of where to go to for company and market research and it should constantly involve how to evaluate and monitor your stock portfolio once you have chosen stocks to invest in.

Perform Company Research to Find Valuable Companies

You can find out about a company that you’re considering investing in by looking at company profiles in your local newspaper, by going through a firm’s annual report, and via internet research. Some excellent websites for financial company research are Business Week, Wiki Invest, Market Watch, Standard and Poor’s and Yahoo Finance.

Conduct Market Research to Determine Investment Opportunities

Once you have identified companies you like, the next step is to do a thorough analysis of the stock market environment, for which you will need analytical reports such as those produced by Market Watch, Moneycentral at MSN, Reuter’s Investor Page, Zack.com and Hoovers. Carrying out company and market research is just the beginning of stock market education for a beginner investor.

Find an Online Broker

If you’re willing to learn as you go and have an appetite to analyze risk accurately, then you could set up an online broker account and manage your own stock portfolio. Obviously you cut down on brokerage fees but you add time and effort on your part to carefully select and monitor your stock portfolio. Many sites offer both free and subscription based services to help you set up an online account. Investopedia and Ameritrade offer such services.

Monitor your Stock Portfolio

Stock market education for a beginner does not end with finding the right stocks to invest in. No, a savvy investor must constantly keep abreast with the latest development with his stock investment and also stay updated on the varying factors that will affect stock price. For this purpose, he needs to monitor stock tables and stock ticker tapes such as those that can be found in the local newspapers or on TV channels such as Bloomburg or CNBC.

Stock Market Investing Essentials for Beginners

Other places that can help you in your beginner education are books, brokerage sites, financial planners and government and exchange resources. Books such as Standard and Poor’s Stock Guide and How to Pick Stocks like Warren Buffet, are well-known and offer valuable information. Magazines such as Forbes, Money magazine and the Wall Street Journal are also valid reading for a knowledgeable investor.

Brokers such as Charles Schwab, Ameritrade, Scot Trade and Merill Lynch offer various services ranging from full service brokerage to online stock management. And finally stock exchanges like the NYSE, NASDAQ, S&P500, and AMEX, as well as financial planners such as The Financial Planning Association or The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors are places to visit for background and current information on the share market.

If you’re looking to understand some basic share market terminology and abbreviations and trader-speak, then look no further than Investopedia’s financial dictionary and a website called Investor Words – both offer an easy reference for starting stock market education for a beginner.

These are just some of the places to help a beginner investor get started with learning about the stock market so he can turn it into a viable financial venture.

Education Plans

The third biggest financial goal for a family is saving for a college education. Buying a house and retirement are the first two goals. With the cost of higher education on the rise, parents are beginning to try and set aside money for education as soon as a child is born. There are two popular federal and state sponsored plans that make saving for college easy: the Coverdell and the 529 plan.

The Coverdell Education Savings Account

The Coverdell is a federally sponsored plan that helps you to set aside money for higher education expenses. These expenses include tuition, fees, books and supplies, and even room and board.

The annual contributions are not tax deductible, making the withdrawals tax-free as long as they are used to pay for eligible education costs. There are limits to the amount of annual contributions that can be made each year.

The Coverdell is established as a custodial account, set up by the parent or another adult to pay for the education expenses of a designated beneficiary. The child must be under the age of 18 to establish an account. All balances must be spent within 30 days of the child’s 30th birthday.

Any financial institution that handles IRAs can assist you in setting up a Coverdell, including banks, investment companies and brokerages. The Coverdell is like an IRA in that it is an account. You can put your account funds into any investment you want – stocks, bonds, mutual funds and certificates of deposit are just a few options.

You can establish as many Coverdell accounts as you want to for a child. For example, you could have one account at your local bank and one at a brokerage. Some plans have many fees associated with them. Make sure that the management fees for the multiple accounts don’t cancel out your overall return.

If your child decides not to go to college, he or she will lose a great deal of money. When he turns 30, he must withdraw the balance of the account within 30 days. Any money withdrawn that isn’t used for educationally eligible expenses is taxed and charged a 10 % IRS penalty.

If your child decides not to go to college, that doesn’t mean that his or her child won’t. The child can roll the full balance into another Coverdell plan for another family member, including siblings, nieces and nephews and sons and daughters.

529 College Savings Plans

These state sponsored 529 plans are named after the federal tax code section that provides for their use. All 50 states and the District of Columbia offer 529 plans. The contributions to the plan are not tax deductible, but your withdrawals are tax-free when you use the money for a qualified educational expense.

529 plans fall under two categories: prepaid tuition and savings/investment plans.

The prepaid tuition plan allows you to purchase units of tuition for any state college or university under today’s price. You are buying a semester of attendance for a child. What you buy today will be good for any future date, no matter how tuition rates rise. With private and out-of-state colleges, the child’s prepaid tuition does not include the rise in tuition costs. For example, if you buy two years of college tuition for an out-of-state tuition, you may only receive a single semester in ten years.

Either the beneficiary or the contributor must reside in the state that the 529 is formed in.

With savings plans, an account is opened and investments are chosen within the account. If you start the plan when a child is young, you can choose some aggressive investments for long term growth. As the child ages, you can move your investments into more conservative options.

The withdrawals are tax-free if they are used to pay for college expenses. These expenses can include tuition, books and room and board. An easy way to think about a 529 savings plan is as a 401(k) dedicated to educational expenses. As with a 401(k), there are many different investment choices. Many states programs are open to nonresidents, so look around for the best plans.

If your child decides not to go to college you have three options. You can hang on to the savings plan in case your child decides to attend college at a later date. The account can be transferred to another family member for college expenses. You could also cash out the account and just take the loss. Most states will charge a penalty of 10% of the earnings for any withdrawal not used for education. On top of this, a federal penalty of 10% will be charged also. There is no penalty for withdrawals due to death or disabled status.

The tax-free advantages of a college savings plan makes 529 plans beneficial, but they aren’t right for everyone. If you have a 529 prepaid tuition plan, applying for financial aid is affected by reducing your financial aid on a dollar per dollar basis. Low income families, who are often eligible for large amounts of financial aid, are advised not to participate in 529 plans.

Coverdell plans will also decrease the amount of financial aid available, but only by about 5 to 6% of the account’s value. College savings plans are great for families that will not qualify for financial aid or only qualify for loans. Many times a family doesn’t have enough money to pay for college, but has too much money to get help.

The tax-free status on 529 plans will end in 2010, but many advisors expect that Congress will extend it.