Divide and conquer. For Amy Irvine, a Certified Financial Planner at Rooted Planning Group, this strategy can really work when saving for college. She often advises families to open multiple 529 plans — something that comes as a surprise.
If you think you’re limited to one 529 plan, let Amy show you that’s not the case. She debunks this myth and more when it comes to saving for college.
Myth: You can only enroll in one 529 plan.
“You are not limited to one 529 plan,” says Amy. “And to be honest, most of the time we look at it from a very balanced approach.”
Why would I save in more than one 529 plan?
“I always look at it as a way of hedging your options,” says Amy. “You as a family member might want your child to go to your [alma mater]. There might be a strong connection. So, you would want to consider a prepaid 529 plan in that case because you’re buying at today’s dollars, not dollars 16 years from now. You would contribute a portion of [your savings] into a prepaid 529 plan, and then you could also save in a traditional 529 college savings plan.
“As the child ages and you gain a better understanding of their academic direction, you can look at it and say, ‘Well, maybe I’ll take the college savings plan and dump it into the prepaid plan,’ especially when you know that that’s likely to be the direction they go.”
How can I get started right now?
“We know college savings is as clear as mud,” says Amy. “We understand this is very confusing. So, what do you do to get started?
“First, think about what college you might want to send your child to. I know it’s really early on in the process, but if there is a private college they want to go to, then you should reach out to [the college] and see if there’s a prepaid plan that you can contribute to. If not, then a private 529 plan might be the answer.
“Second, consider a 529 savings plan in the state that you’re actually located in, especially if there are tax benefits.
“Third, you really want to automate all of this. Check with your employer. See if they can pull it right out of your paycheck, and if not, pay it like you do any other bill. Just make sure it happens automatically and you don’t have to write the check every month.”