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How 529 Plans Work


Investment Control
You may not actually manage the assets in your 529 plan, but you have more control over your investments than you might think.
You may not actually manage the assets in your 529 plan, but you have more control over your investments than you might think.
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Remember that a money management company – not you or the state -- actually manages your investments. The state works with those companies to set up your selection of investment options. Your plan's investment manager determines where and how you can invest your 529 account funds. Many states are expanding their investment choices, making it easier for most people to find a plan that suits both their goals and their acceptable risk levels.

In addition to mutual funds, most state plans are also beginning to offer several age-based portfolios of mutual funds that include conservative, moderate, and aggressive asset allocations. These types of investment choices start out in stocks when your child is very young and shift gradually to bonds and money-market funds as your child gets closer to college-age. The idea behind the age-based portfolios is to be aggressive when you have more time, but to keep your investment safer as it gets closer to the time that you need to cash out. The perk behind this scheme is that you don't have to remember to shift the investments yourself. You can buy it and then forget about it. In addition to the age-based portfolios, you may have the option of 100-percent stock and fixed-income funds that can be used alongside an age-based portfolio in order to fine-tune the overall allocations to suit your needs.

If you decide later on that you're not happy with the way your account is growing, you have the option of rolling your money over into another state's 529 plan without penalty. Keep in mind that if you're getting a state tax break by using your own state's plan then you'll lose that by moving to another state's plan. You can always keep the account in your state and open a second account in another state. There is no limit to the number of accounts you can have -- even for the same child.