college savings

Timing the Market + 529 Plans and College Savings

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Buying a home can seem like a daunting task, especially when you're doing it in a city like New York, where prices always seem to go up and never down. That's how we kicked off the show this week with Chris, a recent transplant from Chicago looking to find a new home in the Big Apple. 

Next up was Jeff from Georgia who has the bright idea of timing the market. You know, buying low and selling high, and knowing exactly when it's going to happen! 

Hour two was a deep dive into 529 plans and college savings in general with one of the foremost authorities on 529 plans, Andrea Feirstein, founder and Managing Director at AKF Consulting Group, a leading strategic advisor to public administrators of state investment programs.

Andrea was extremely knowledgeable and we touched on several topics, including:

What is a 529? A tax-advantaged savings plan designed to encourage saving for future education costs. 529 plans are sponsored by states, state agencies, or educational institutions and are authorized by Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code.

What’s the tax benefit of a 529 plan? Withdrawals for qualified higher education expenses and earnings in the account are not subject to federal income tax and, in most cases, state income tax. Additionally, some states offer residents of the state specific incentives, like the ability to deduct contributions from state income tax or a matching grant.

What does a 529 plan cost? Fees and expenses vary widely from plan to plan and can include start-up fees, maintenance fees, or sales charges. In general, advisor-sold plans cost more than direct-sold plans. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has developed a tool to help you compare how these fees and expenses can reduce returns.

What happens if my kid doesn’t go to college? Most states allow you to tap the accounts for other children in the family or even for the parents. Those withdrawals that are not used for qualified higher education expenses will be subject to state and federal income taxes and an additional 10 percent federal tax penalty on earnings.

What has changed with the 2018 tax law? Americans can now withdraw funds tax-free from 529 plans to pay for K-12 tuition and other eligible expenses at private and religious schools, up to $10,000 per year. But there’s a caveat: Not all states will conform to the new federal rules. That means before you pull money, be sure to double check with your state.

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Radio Show #125: Student loans, early retirement


Congress finally acted to fix the student loan fiasco, by linking the interest rate to the 10-year Treasury yield. Just because you can borrow money for college, doesn't necessarily mean that you should...

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We fielded a bunch of questions about college loans and the best ways to save for education, starting with Aaron from MN, who is getting an early start with a three-month old! Also weighing in was Dwight from KY, who found a kindred spirit in being anti-debt and David from TX and Brittany from Boston, both of whom are juggling college and retirement savings.

Early retirement seems like such a 1990’s concept, but it seems to have emerged during this show. Victor was helping his dad figure out whether he can call it quits at 60, while Vicki, Diane and Helen are trying to manage their money more effectively, either with the help of an advisor or on their own.

Joe from Hawaii asked about whether he had too much in emergency reserves. My answer is even if you make a lot of money, maintaining 6 to 12 months of expenses in a safe place can protect you against a variety of unforeseen circumstances.

Thanks to everyone who participated and to Mark, the BEST producer in the world, who was alone while Christina the intern was on vacation. If you have a financial question, there are lots of ways to contact us:

  • Call 855-411-JILL and we'll schedule time to get you on the show LIVE