Washington State Department of Financial Institutions

Consumer Alert

Investors Must Do Their Homework Before Investing in 529 College Savings Plans

December 22, 2005

As the year draws to a close, many investors are making decisions for their long-term financial goals, including saving for college through Section 529 College Savings plans. With increasing numbers of investors turning to these plans to help finance higher education costs, it is important that consumers to get all the facts before making investment decisions.

The most recent statistics from the College Savings Plan Network, an affiliate of the National Association of State Treasurers, show that state-sponsored 529 College Savings Plans have attracted more than $72.4 billion in assets. These tax-advantaged savings plans are designed to encourage saving for future higher education costs by allowing contributions to grow tax-free. The money investors take out later from the plans is free from federal taxes as long as it is used to pay for qualified higher education expenses. The tax-free withdrawal provisions are scheduled to lapse in 2010 unless renewed by Congress.

Every state and the District of Columbia offer at least one 529 College Savings Plan. Although these plans can be purchased directly from the plan administrator, industry estimates show that as many as three out of four investors purchase their plan with the help of an investment professional, such as a financial adviser or broker. Read More...

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