February 09, 2016


College investment accounts, like 529 Plans, conjure up images of hard-working adults squirreling away money for their children or grandchildren - Gradually constructed nest eggs that’ll someday turn today’s spaghetti-covered toddlers into Ivy Leaguers.

It’s a heart-warming thought if you’ve got offspring. But what if it’s your spaghetti-covered-self that needs a college degree, like soon, and there’s no inheritance waiting in the wings?

First, wipe off that Ragu. And then think about opening a 529 Plan for yourself. What many don’t know about 529 Plans is that you can open and invest in an account in your own name, letting your earnings grow tax-deferred. And since 529 Plans don’t have an age limit, the money can go toward your education at most schools across the country – even grad schools.

What if you don’t end up going back to school? Then you can always gift it to someone else. Most plans let you change the beneficiary at any time, for any reason. Some do require that the person be in your immediate family, like a spouse, child or grandchild.

Or, if you need that cash for something else, you can always withdraw it. You’ll get taxed on the earnings if you don’t use it for school, plus you’ll get hit with a 10 percent penalty. So you should seriously consider using it for someone’s education, even if it’s not your own.

Here’s the rare chance to do your financial homework before any actual homework is assigned. See the top seven benefits of 529 plans here, and talk to one of our admissions counselors about putting it to good use toward one of our undergraduate or graduate degree programs.