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529 Alternatives

Have you found pregnancy positive? How does it feel like the moment you get to know that you will be responsible for the entire life of the cute little being in another few months. As a responsible parent the first thing that comes to our mind is 529 plan for your kids education. 529 alternatives does not necessarily rule out the 529 investment opportunity. The goal of this post is to talk about pros and cons of many different investment options that parents have at their disposal if they are hesitant to consider 529 as investment option for kids future education savings option as this is a mutual fund option same as 401K retirement option that comes with market risk exposure. Check out to see what works best in your budget, thoughts on your kids future etc. Lets start with 529 plan and discuss the alternatives one by one
529 Plan Details – This is a traditional plan that came into existence around late 1980s. As per IRS a 529 plan is a plan that can be set aside for beneficiary. It can be child, grand child. The amount that goes as a contribution towards 529 plan can be used for qualified educational expenses. This amount can be used for college and post-secondary education expense.
Who does operate the 529 plan?
529 plan is operated by state, educational institution
Are 529 plans tax deductible?
Nope. 529 plans are offered on post-tax basis. Main tax advantage come into existence when the distribution earnings are used for qualified educational expenses that can be one of the following:
Tuition
Books
Fees
Board Rooms
Starting 2010 following items are eligible educational related expenses under 529 plan:
PC Computer
Computer related peripheral equipment – This includes keyboard, mouse
Computer software
Peripheral equipment like printer
Internet access
These earnings are 100% federal tax free as well as 100% state tax free
Some exceptions to this include states like NYC offering upto $10000 state tax deduction if married and filing jointly , $5000 as single. Check with your state to see if you qualify for state tax deduction. With changing rules the maximum deduction on state can be $10000 and see if availing this option can be beneficial. For NYC criteria is that account holder should be NYC state tax payer. If you work at NYC and lie in states like CT, NJ you still qualify for this
Is there a maximum contribution limit on 529 plan?
If the contribution and any other gifts to a particular beneficiary exceed $14000 there comes gift tax consequence. However, there is no limitation on number of 529 plans one can setup
Why should I think about 529 plan alternative?
In a real-time scenario say your kid becomes entrepreneur and does not end up going to college. In this scenario you end up paying 10% penalty, state tax, federal taxes. Henceforth, it would be appropriate to look at alternatives before zeroing down on 529 plan
529 plan alternatives:
Custodial Account – Also called the uniform gifts to minor act UGMA account/UTMA account this account offers minors to own securities without the need of trust to be governed by an attorney. The major difference between UTMA account and 529 is that there is no stipulation on how the amount in this account is to be spent as opposed to 529
Rental Apartments – This is an out of the box thinking. I’ve come across lots of blogposts and financial advisors talking about cash on cash return of more than 22% with real estate investments. As a matter of fact, I stumbled on a financial advice recently. according to him the wealthy community think about 18% to 22% return on an average in their investments every year. According to them warren buffet does consistent 20% return each and every year on his billion dollar net worth. If you choose to invest in rental units now, except for the down payment the rest is taken care of by your tenants
Pros of owning rental in my view:
Your child will have financial freedom from day 1 of his life, career and will not have to think about his abode investment to start with
Your child will inherit all your property without any issues
You will enjoy tax depreciation on rental, can deduct all expenses in taxes that you can count on during the big rainy days
Cons of owning rental in my own view:
If the apartment is empty you will end up paying money from your pocket
The association fee in case of condo, townhouse which is preferred rental investment in most cases does come with fees. Also, property taxes should be taken into consideration. If you do quick math all these would add up to meet 1% rule. Henceforth, it would be extremely difficult to save more than $100 per month after all the rental expenses in expensive towns. It depends on how you finalize your deal, interest rate etc
Non-payment of rent will be additional stress and you will end up in eviction process which is a legal procedure involving attorney fees etc. This is another worst case scenario every landlord should keep in mind
You expect property and rentals to appreciate in your locality. This depends on luck, how well economy performs etc
I spoke to a realtor about rental investment. Based on his information I happened to learn that in case of rental we are expected to make more down payment. It is about 30% to 40% of property value as opposed to 20%. Also, your mortgage rates are going to be atleast 1% more than normal rates. So, take to mortgage broker, shop around before you calculate rental deal and net profits
Saving Bonds from government
I’ve recently come across an information that talks about Series EE savings bond whose interest earned is tax exempt both federal and state tax exempt if being used for higher education. I did some research on this and found that these bonds are reliable, low-risk, government backed financial products whose interest rates happen to be fixed interest rate for about 30 years. Interest rate of new EE bonds is announced by US treasury every May 1st, november 1st. As of November 1st 2016 the interest rates on bond happens to be 0.10% which is taxable if not used for education purpose. Instead we can choose to invest in online banks like allybank, barclays, everbank that yield 1% APY per year, that happens to be more than this. Series I bond again yield less than the banks. So, I’d not recommend any of these bonds at current interest rate. You can choose based on your needs and preference. I’m not endorsing any of these banks and express my views that are 100% personal
Roth IRA For Educational expenses:
Typically Roth IRA contributions are after tax and the earnings are tax-free when withdrawn after 591/2 years of age. However, for qualified educational expenses they can be withdrawn tax free. One limitation is that you should have contributed over past five years to make use of this for educational expenses. IF you dont use it for education, this can be used for your retirement