Super-Funding College Saving Plans

We all know that college is expensive. It can cost upwards of $41,000 a year for private four-year college and $18,500 for a state college. Because of the high cost of college many wealthy clients are taking advantage of 529 college saving plans and the special rule that allows contributors to front-load five years of savings in one year.

The 529 college saving plan are a great way to save for college. The plan allows a parent, grandparent, etc. to establish a college fund for each child. This fund can be used to pay for college, but does not have a timetable on which the money has to be spent or withdrawn. It is a great way to save for college and can be included in estate planning.

There is currently a special rule that governs how contributions can be made. This rule allows contributors to front-load five years of savings in one year. So for clients, that means they can set aside 14,000 at the end of one year (in December) and then in January they can contribute another $70,000 for each would-be scholar. This is a grand total of $84,000 per child.

This strategy allows wealthy clients to take substantial amounts of money out of there estate without facing penalties from the IRS. If the money or part of the money is not used then the account can be transferred to another child, or the funds can be withdrawn. If the funds are withdrawn then there is a 10% penalty and taxes on the earnings.

There is one drawback. If the account is owned by the college student or their parents this counts as an asset and reduces the need-based aid by a maximum of 5.64% of the asset’s value. If the plan is in the name of the grandparents it will not affect the federal financial aid application, but the withdrawals made on the account do count against the aid needs and have a large consequence.

While this plan is good, very few can afford to do contribute that much at a time, but contributions can be made in December and then again in the spring with tax refunds. It just matters that you do something then wait until it is too late.

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