We finally opened a 529 plan for Lucy, who is nine months old. It took about 45 minutes, all told. Got less than an hour for your child’s future? Skip this post if you are super savvy like reader Pauline, who sent her son to college on a dime.
So how did I chose a 529 plan?
I took the advice of financial guru Clark Howard. Hey, I never claimed to be an expert in high finance. In fact, high finance bores me to shreds. And I figured, why do all the research when someone I respect already has? Here are Clark Howard’s top 529 plan recommendations.
Opening a 529 plan for your child, grandchild, niece, or nephew is easy.
Here’s what you need:
- 45 minutes of uninterrupted time
- The recipient’s social security number
- A blank check or bank account to transfer money electronically
Here’s what you do NOT need:
- Tons of money (you can open a plan with lessthan a hundred dollars)
- Research on how to invest the money (the plan I picked makes age-appropriate investments: more aggressive at a young age, growing more conservative as the recipient approaches the time when he or she will need the money)
- A child that is 100% sure he or she will go to college (you can transfer the money to another sibling or use it for grad school)
We invested $6,000 in Lucy’s 529 plan to start. A lot of that money came from financial gifts from our families when she was born. We are extremely grateful. We still need to set up an automatic monthly contribution to continue growing her 529 plan.
How much do you need to save in a 529 plan?
Bobbi recites these college costs: in 18 years two years of community college and two years of private college will cost $205,700. Four years of private college is significantly more – $355,900 in 2029!
I used the ridiculously simple college savings calculator at SavingForCollege.com to find out how much we need to save. It took into account our initial $6,000 deposit. Based on Lucy’s age, it says we need to save $577 EACH MONTH to cover 100 percent of her college costs. That assumes the cost of college increases six percent each year and that our investments average a seven percent return.
$577 each month is a sobering amount of money to save. We already save $458 per month for each of us to max out our Roth IRAs. I guess we need to think of Lucy’s 529 plan as her own mini-IRA. Sigh.
Do you have a 529 plan?