529 Selection Checklist

Researching & Selecting a 529 Plan

When choosing a 529 plan, investigate your home state plan first as your state may offer state tax or other benefits to residents. Before investing in a 529 plan, make sure to read the official program offering materials. Following are some additional items to consider in selecting a 529 college savings plan.

Plan Benefits

  • What, if any, special benefits does my state plan offer that I would not receive with an out-of-state plan (e.g. state income tax deductions, credits and exemptions, scholarship programs, matching contributions)?
  • Does the plan offer rewards programs or other financial incentives regardless of residency?

Enrollment Information

  • Do I enroll directly with the plan (generally lower fees & expenses) or through a financial advisor (provides guidance through process and help with selections; generally higher fees & expenses)?
  • Who are the program managers?
  • Are there any residency, time or age requirements or restrictions associated with the plan?
  • Does the plan impose any minimum contribution requirements?
  • Does the plan meet my needs for minimum contribution requirements (either with initial lump-sum, subsequent or automatic contributions)?

Investment Options

  • Who are the investment managers for the plan?
  • What investment options are offered by the plan?
  • Does the plan offer one or more investment options that meet my needs and my risk tolerance?
  • Does the plan offer an age-based or enrollment-year based investment option (investment that automatically changes to a more secure or conservative asset mix as the child gets closer to college age)?
  • Does the plan offer static investment options that do not automatically adjust over time?
  • Does the plan offer investment options from a single fund family or blend of fund families?
  • Does the plan offer a principal-protected option or FDIC-insured options?
  • Does the plan offer an adequate range of investment options, in the event I want to change my investment selections in the future?

Fees & Expenses

  • What are the total annual asset-based fees (expense ratios) for the investment options in the plan?
  • How much is the enrollment fee? Do I qualify for a waiver?
  • How much is the annual maintenance fee? Do I qualify for a waiver?
  • How does this plans fees compare to fees of other 529 plans offering the types of investment options that I prefer.
  • Does the plan impose any penalties for withdrawals from the account or impose any account termination fees?

Check out our 529 Comparison Tool