Ask the grumpies: How much is too much in a 529?

OMDG asks:

We are also starting to have what… seems like a lot in our daughter’s 529. Any thoughts on what is “too much?” She’s 10.

We are not finance professionals.  Consult with a certified financial planner with fiduciary responsibility and/or do your own research before making any important financial decisions.

Here’s our last ask the grumpies on realistic 529 numbers.  This post also has links to calculators.

Here’s a forbes article on the topic.  They recommend saving 75% of the expected cost of college, whatever that means.

In the previous ask the grumpies, we were talking about a situation in which the oldest of multiple kids hadn’t started college yet.  There’s less leeway to making oversaving mistakes when you only have one person that it can benefit, rather than obvious people you can pass a plan to.  Maybe you our your spouse have additional education you can get that isn’t paid for by your employers? Age 10 is a bit early to know if graduate school is a definite thing.

If you can’t think of any obvious educational use for excess money, then it might be a better idea to stop using the 529 (giving up some of the tax advantages) and put targeted money in another accessible account.  You have to pay a 10% penalty plus any taxes on earnings for anything that you withdraw for an unauthorized use.  Having to pay tax on the earnings is something you would have had to do anyway if you hadn’t put the money into a tax advantaged account in the first place.  A 10% penalty is a lot, but it’s not the end of the world, especially if you’re high income.  So if you do over-contribute, you’ll survive.  But you will also survive if you have to cash flow or take out temporary loans.

Obviously you know that you should be putting as much money as possible into retirement accounts before putting money into the 529.  If necessary, you can stop contributing as much to retirement and cash flow some college expenses with what you would have contributed beyond the employer match during those 4 years.  When you’re high income, there’s no real downside to “over-contributing” to retirement while there is still some downside risk to over-contributing to a 529.

You are in a state with one of the top public college flagships in the world.  There’s a reasonable chance that your kid may end up going to school there and getting in-state tuition.  If you can cover 4 years of that now maybe it’s time to stop contributing to the 529 and direct private school moneys to some other outlet.  (College costs will probably go up at a rate faster than inflation, but it’s quite possible that so will the stock market.)  If you’re certain that only private school (or out of state public) is on the horizon, then you may want to stop contributing once you get to the average cost for four years at a private school.

You can get back money that your DD gets in terms of merit scholarships without having to pay the 529 withdrawal penalty.  You will still have to pay taxes on any earnings, but you would have had to do that anyway if you’d put the money into the taxable stock market.  You’re high income, so unless something changes, you’re unlikely to be getting much need-based aid.

We stopped contributing to our kids’ 529s a while back, figuring we’d rejigger for DC2 if necessary once DC1 started college.

Looking at what we have… DC1 has $256K (a year and some change away from college) and DC2 (currently in 5th grade) has 130K.  If either of them choose to go to a local state flagship and then decide not to continue to graduate school, we have way over-saved.  Given DC1’s age, it makes sense for hir to tack on a 2 year MA after college, so we’re not that worried about having over-saved.  If DC1 goes to one of the most expensive schools out there, Harvey Mudd (not incredibly likely, but it sounds like zie may try hir changes with early decision), their expected 4 year cost for us is something like $330K, so we will have to cash flow some of that (or, more likely, move some from DC2’s account and cash flow some of DC2’s college down the line).  If DC1 goes to my state school for four years and lives at home (the cheapest option), then it would be like $60K and all the excess would go to graduate school and/or DC2.

Most likely what will happen if it turns out we over-contributed is that we will just hold onto the excess 529 money and if our kids decide to go to graduate school later, we’ll use it for any unfunded portion.  If that doesn’t happen, then maybe they’ll have kids who want to go to private K-12 school or college and we’ll transfer it over.  (Or potentially we can transfer it to DH’s siblings for their kids.)  Or when we’re in retirement they’ll still have the loophole in which you can learn cheese mongering in someplace like France with the money.  Either we’ll find a use for it or it will get passed to our heirs.

The nice thing about being high income is that these choices aren’t really life or death.  We can still buy whatever we want at the grocery store if we make the wrong decision.  Optimal isn’t as important as satisficing.

Ask the grumpies: Realistic numbers for a 529 plan

First Gen American asks:

What’s a realistic number as your max for 529 savings per kid? Is it 4 years at a state university or something different and why?

Disclaimer:  We are not financial professionals.  Please consult an actual financial professional with fiduciary responsibility and/or do your own research before making any life-changing financial decisions.

This is going to depend on a whole lot of things–where you think your kid will end up going, how much financial aid you think you’ll get, whether there are younger siblings, how much you can afford to contribute, and so on.

If you’re high income and you think your kid might go to one of your state universities, then yes, 4 years at a state university seems really reasonable.

I don’t like our state universities– our graduate students from our state schools (even ours) often come in thinking only in terms of black and white and multiple choice one right answer.  Students often don’t know how to use the library system because they never had to.  Many of them can’t write essays with topic sentences.  Our students from regional midwestern schools are generally better able to think in terms of shades of grey.  So… that’s not going to be an option for our kids.

We also have two kids, so anything leftover from DC1 can go to DC2.  Also, DC1 and DC2 have both skipped a grade or two, so it might make sense to just do a masters degree before going into the workforce just to be closer to a normal age for that.  With DH employed again, we’re back in the “not eligible for financial aid” category.  Not even at Harvard, which is particularly generous to high income parents.  (Here’s the Harvard calculator)

So what we did was try out a few calculators for various colleges that DC1 might be interested in going to.  Here’s some older posts on that.  Ponderings on college costs from 2015.  College savings are hard to plan from 2017.

I think I will revisit those posts…

DC1 currently has:  $253,277.50 .  DC2 has about $130,000 (we plan to re-start saving for hir once we know if DC1 will have any leftover).

I have assumed the full tuition cost of DH’s Alma Mater (a private “regional ivy”), which is around $55K tuition give or take, plus the calculator’s default for room and board.  I don’t think Harvey Mudd (our most expensive potential option) is going to happen.

This calculator says we should be saving about $500/mo more for DC2.  We’re going to wait on that.

This simple calculator says we should have a surplus of about $3K for just DC1.  If we do, it will go to DC2.

Basically, if we oversave for DC1, it can go to DC2, but if we oversave for DC2 then it is not as easy to deal with.  Someone has to use the money for some kind of education or we will need to pay a penalty.  Now, education could be a professional degree or a fun class for us, but I’d rather not have to come up with something in order to use up money.  It’s also possible that we could transfer the 529 to a child who could then use it for a grandchild, but we can’t predict the future and our kids may not have kids.  We could do something similar to transfer it to a nibling, but I don’t know that we have any plans to pay for our niblings and there are 6 niblings from two siblings so I’m not sure how fair transferring to just one person would be.  (I don’t think there’s a safe direct path to transfer to the relatives we are paying for and they’ll all be in their 30s and 40s by the time DC2 finishes college anyway.)  You can get money put into a 529 back without penalty if your kid gets scholarships for the amount of the unexpected scholarships.

So, to sum, for us we saved for an expensive private school for DC1 using a number of different online calculators (that take into account parental income) and then less than that for DC2 (who is 6 school years behind).  We have stopped at this point after doing a couple of lump sum contributions and will rejigger once we know where DC1 is going and how much that’s going to cost.  We have the ability to cash-flow things if necessary and can also take out parental loans if that seems like a reasonable thing to do.

As a reminder:  Max out your retirement savings first– 529 money counts for financial aid purposes but retirement savings does not.  If I could go back in time, I would have maxed out our retirement first.

Grumpy Nation, what is the max that you would save for your kids’ college?

I guess I will front-load DC2’s 529 too?

Previously we decided to stop contributing monthly to DC1’s 529 and instead invest a lump sum equal to what we would have invested each month in the time before zie graduated high school.  Once we knew more about hir college plans, we could adjust.

DC2’s 529 we kept investing in monthly as before.  I guess we’d decided not to because we were expecting to pay for DH’s relative’s son’s college.  But he didn’t go to college in the end.  And I was completely wrong about the stock market– I always am!  The stock market is unpredictable.  It’s irrational!  Especially when we have such huge income inequality.  (We will be paying for 2 years of DH’s relative’s daughter’s college though, tuition and fees but not living expenses– she’s recovering from being sick taking this semester off and plans to finish her remaining two community college courses in the fall, then transfer to a state school as an English major.  Hopefully that will actually happen.)

Right now we have too much in cash savings.  Even with the 12K gone for our annual IRA Backdoor Roth conversion.

We could also use a little bit more monthly cash flow to help me with accounting given DH’s continued unemployment.  Another $750/month wouldn’t go amiss, especially since my health insurance costs have gone up $300/month putting DH on the plan and switching from the  the Traditional 403(b) to Roth 403(b) (now that Trump is gone, I’m more willing to pay taxes now) is taking more money out of my take-home pay.

So we could do a lump sum in DC2’s 529 equivalent to what we would put in between now and when DC1 graduates from high school (or some other target date) and then stop contributing until we know what DC1’s college plans are going to cost.  DC1 is currently a second-semester sophomore so two full years would be $750*12*2 = $18,000 and then $750 a month additional for however many months more we want to add.  If we do that, our savings account will drop to a more reasonable level– a standard academic emergency fund (3 months summer salary + 1 month for emergencies) and a little bit more.

Now I just need to get around to actually doing this.  (Which is why this post has sat in drafts for a while.)

If DH suddenly gets employed before I get around to doing this, I might not?  But I don’t know if that is going to happen or not.  After the four interviews last week I’m not sure that there’s anything obvious to set in motion unless we are willing to move.

 

Ask the grumpies: Could you revisit 529 plans?

Minnesotan asks:

Can you please discuss 529 plans again? Do you still have your kids in Utah’s plan? My state now has “parity” and will give some income tax deduction for donations to any state plan (still need to read more on this). Should I go with Utah, or is another state the best option now?

Disclaimer:  We are not financial professionals.  Please consult an actual financial professional and/or do your own research before making important financial decisions.

Ooh, great question, and great benefit.  Let’s take a look at this parity thing…

From savingforcollege.com:

Minnesota taxpayers now have the option of claiming either a tax credit or deduction for contributions to any state’s 529 plan…

Deduction:  Up to $3,000 for a married couple filing jointly or $1,500 for all other filers for contributions made to a qualified 529 account…

Credit:  Credit can be claimed on half of contributions up to $500, subject to phase-out starting at a federal adjusted gross income of $75,000…

Calculator for which is better In 99 percent of cases, however, they’re going to be better off using the credit if they’re under the $100,000 income threshold…it’s safe to assume above and below the $75,000 and $100,000 income levels that they should take the credit or deduction, respectively.

So that’s cool.  The question then becomes, what state’s 529 plan should you use.  It seems like the answer should be the same as for people who don’t get any state income tax deduction from being in a 529 plan.  And for that, you want places with (1) low fees, (2) reasonable investment options, (3) reasonable customer service… and probably in that order.

Let’s see what the big financial sites are saying now.

Forbes:  Rates Maine, Nevada, and Utah as best options.  (They also like Alaska, but note it has higher fees.)

Investopedia:  Ohio, Utah, Illinois, Virginia, New York

Morningstar:  Illinois, Virginia, Utah, California, though they intend to put out new numbers using a new methodology sometime in October that emphasize fees more.  You will probably want to check this out before making any major changes/investments.

Kiplinger:  Utah

So… to answer your question, yes our kids are still in the Utah plan.  Although some years another plan may match or even beat Utah’s fees, those plans don’t tend to consistently have the lowest fees.  Although Utah doesn’t always have the lowest fees every single year anymore, it has always been competitive for non-resident plans every time I’ve looked.  That consistency over time is why I don’t regret picking Utah and sticking with it given that we don’t get a tax break only from using our own state’s plan.  Past performance doesn’t predict future performance, but there is something to be said for having a steady track record with fees over time.  You’ll probably also want to take a look at Illinois and Virginia and maybe some of the other states listed above and see what you think.

Grumpy Nation, if applicable, what state is your 529 plan from?

I guess I’m not going to front-load DC2’s 529?

I’d been waiting for our emergency fund to refill after all of the big expenses we had had.  (March has been so long that I don’t even remember what the last big thing was… I mean, I know we hired a handyman to fix some stuff because I haven’t finished that post yet, and I know we bought a car this summer, paid for lots of summer travel and camps that probably won’t happen now, maybe it was front-loading DC1’s 529… probably that.  Bad market timing there, eh?  Shoulda kept dollar cost averaging!)  Since our tax bill and estimated taxes ended up being a wash again this year, we’re back to having more money than we need for the long unpaid summer.

I still don’t know how much college is going to cost for DH’s relative’s kid next year.  They weren’t clear about if the number given was just for summer semester (which they mistakenly put down as the first semester of attendance) or the full year or what.  They also didn’t know if that number included loans etc. etc. etc.  So they were going to move his start to the Fall with everyone else and then get the page with the full work-up of the costs to us.  That hasn’t happened yet because the ‘Rona shut the university down and so on.

In any case, I’m hoping he’s still planning to go in the fall [update:  currently unlikely– he’s moved out and may not finish high school] and I’m thinking that selling stocks is not such a great idea right now, even if they’re only down to 2017 levels.  So instead I’ll keep stockpiling in cash.  There seems much less of a reason now to try to figure out where to put money.  I can’t predict the future, but I somehow doubt we’re in a temporary market low that will immediately zoom back up making me regret not having invested more than our usual right now.

Potentially excess money can sit a while in savings until we find out whether or not it will all be turned into tuition next year or regular spending if DH gets laid off.  We can re-evaluate on frontloading DC2’s 529 in the future, and in the mean-time we will continue to put $750/month in there.

All the good personal finance bloggers out there will say stay the course, and we are… I’m not dropping 403b/457/regular 529 investing.  But I’m also not looking at this as a huge opportunity to get in the market.  Who knows how long the recession will last.  Maybe things will bounce back after a vaccine is out.  But maybe all the things that the Trump administration did to hurt the economy will be exposed and it will be a while before we dig out of this one, just like with W’s recession.

Are you changing any money plans because of the pandemic/upcoming recession?

 

Should I put lump sums in the 529 instead of dollar cost averaging?

One of the reasons this blog seems to have become a spendapalooza is that there’s really not any obvious place for extra money to go.

But there actually is one place for extra money to go– the kids’ 529 plans.  (A 529 plan is an awesome way to save for college or vocational school such that the earnings are tax-free.  But, it’s a good idea to max out your retirement before setting money aside in 529 plans because retirement accounts aren’t included in college financial aid calculations and you can take out loans for college but you can’t for retirement.)

In the past, I’ve always said, “and the kids’ 529s are on track to pay for the school of their choice [by the time the graduate college].”  What I mean by that is that we’ve been putting away $750/month in the accounts, even in the summers when I don’t get paid.  (It used to be $500/month, but we increased it when we paid off the mortgage and stopped paying for daycare.)  But we haven’t *actually* put enough money to be able to cash flow the remainder of the cost of (a four-year private) college yet.  We’re just on track to.

Over the next 4 years before DC1 starts college, $750/mo works out to $36,000 (actually a little less than that since it’s November, but it’s an estimate).  Over the next 8 years before DC1 ends college, it would be $72,000.  (That’s a LOT of money!)

We could just put in $36K (instead of $9,000) over the course of this year and then either start contributing again once we know where DC1 is going to college or not based on the cost of hir chosen school.  (Given hir struggles in English, it is likely that HMC is out, but also out with HMC is its insanely high $72K/year tuition.  I told DC1 we could get hir a unicycle anyway.)

Doing it this way loses some dollar-cost averaging benefits, but it gains the benefits of a longer period of untaxed earnings.

There are some wrinkles to doing BIG 529 account transfers.

The first is that even though the account is a custody account and doesn’t actually belong to the child, it still is subject to the annual gift tax.  For 2019, the amount that can be given annually without tax is $15,000.  Each parent can give that amount, so a married couple can give $30,000 in one year.  $36K is more than $30K, but there’s a loophole with the 529.

This wrinkle has its own wrinkle:  An individual or couple can give a larger lump sum, so long as the total given in that five year period is still less than 5 times the annual exclusion.  So DH and I *could* give $150K this year so long as we didn’t contribute again for another 5 years.  (Of course, that’s a moot point because we don’t actually *have* $150K to give, but you get the idea.)  That means when DC1 actually gets into college, we should be able to continue to contribute to hir 529 without penalty.

So our plan is to do a lump sum of $36K this month to DC1’s account (this gets rid of all our excess cash and digs pretty deep into our emergency fund, but the emergency fund doesn’t actually have to be full until May since we can cash flow most emergencies when we’re both being paid).  Then we will stop contributions to hir account entirely.  We will continue as normal with DC2’s account (contributing $750/month) until we build up excess cash and I start to feel like forcing DH to buy all the Apple products again.  At that point we will re-evaluate and decide whether we want to do a lump sum to DC2’s account or if we just want to increase the monthly contribution.  I’m sure I will post about what we end up doing.

In ~4 years when we know where DC1 is going to college, then we’ll decide whether or not to start contributing to that 529 plan again, and we will have a better idea about how much DC2’s account can bear without going over.

Grumpy Nation, I don’t have a good question for this post.

Ask the grumpies: How to save for multiple kids’ 529s?

First Gen American asks:

Once our mortgage is done again, we’ll swap that out with a 529 auto deposit option that comes out of both paychecks….which brings me to another question…Should we funnel a ton now into older kid and worry about younger kid later (he’s 4 years younger) or should we fund both at the same time now? I’m assuming we can roll over older kid’s excess into younger kid if we over deposit but then if we die before kids do, an uneven distribution would screw things up for kid 2. Not sure what to do yet.

I have also spent some time thinking about this.  I am not sure it actually matters that much.

Yes, if you have too much money for kid #1, you can easily transfer the leftover amount to the second child.  (An added wrinkle–if you undersave for DC1, will you take from DC2’s account?  You can, but would you be willing to?)

A quick check on the internet suggests that the 529 does not automatically go to the child who is named on its behalf– you can name a beneficiary.  It is also something that you can talk about with an attorney for a trust if you do not have a successor that you trust not to just liquidate it at a loss.

We have target-date accounts for our children in their 529s, so it makes sense in terms of risk to fund them separately.  That means DC1’s account has less risk in it right now (a larger bond to stock ratio) than DC2’s does because DC1 is closer to college.  But I’m thinking of them as separate buckets and we’re aiming to fully fund 4 years at a private school given that we’re not expecting much financial aid.

If you’re not thinking of them as separate buckets, then you might want to think of it as if you are going to “retire” and you know you’re going to be alive for 8 years after “retirement” and then suddenly “die” (if you’re planning on funding post-college education, or your DCs might take more than 4 years to graduate, then you might want to add some years to that).  What kind of investment portfolio would be optimal in that scenario?  It’s going to depend on your risk aversion, but you probably could pick a single fund that would fit your risk preferences given that scenario.

In terms of how we’re funding, I don’t actually think that our method of putting in $X/month to each child’s fund is necessarily optimal.  It would make better sense while we have excess cash to put in lump sums right now and stop contributing later (allowing for more tax preferred earnings).  But $X/month/kid is predictable and is easy to fiddle with should our situation change.

The important thing that gets brought up in the comments when we talk about this kind of situation is the perceived fairness of the situation by the kids.  Pick some rule that seems fair for both kids and stick to it.  If you have to make adjustments, make sure that you adjust for the other kid as well.  For us, we’ve decided that fully funding tuition without loans is what we consider fair, so we will be ignoring the actual costs and financial aid for the schools.  Our kids will get college paid for by us no matter what college they choose.  Other people choose a specific dollar amount (though I hope they adjust it for inflation!), or may have a rule like, “we will pay up to the cost of state school X”.  What you don’t want to do is pay full freight for one kid and force the other to take out loans for the full amount because that can lead to them writing about how you don’t love them on money forums, and nobody wants that.

Grumpeteers– How do you think First Gen should save for two kids’ college?

529 plans and astonishment at compounding

Club thrifty had a post recently about funding her kids’ college education, which caused me to take a look at how my kids’ 529 plans are doing.  We’ve been putting in $500/mo since each of them was born.  At the time of writing this (though not the time of posting), DC1 is 7.5 years old.

So if we’d just put $500/mo away in our mattress, we’d have $45,000.  That’s a lot of money, and would currently fund in-state tuition for four years at many state schools without any aid.

That’s not how much my 7.5 year old has in hir 529.  How much is in there, do you ask?  $69,874.56.

Let me say that again.

$69,874.56

That means the stock market and compounding has added something like $25,000!

~$25,000 just because we put $500/mo in the stock market instead of in a mattress (or instead of spending it!)

Doing this exercise has given me a few scattered thoughts.

1.  Compound interest from stocks over a long period of time is AMAZING. It’s just in one of the Vanguard target date funds from the Utah system, so we’re really just matching the market with a little bit of adjusting to bonds as ze gets older.

2.  This kind of thing is how the rich get richer.  The best truly passive income is reaping profits from the sweat of the proletariat.   Rent-seeking is where it’s at.  Getting those returns to capital.  The poor get poorer by comparison because they have to spend their money to live and can’t have their money make money.  It’s terrible.  At the same time, as a member of the upper middle class, it’s something we need to do to keep from sliding down the income/wealth scale.  Because if you only have a choice between rich and poor, it’s better to be rich.  We need major political change in this country.  Yes, charitable donations are nice, but the entire system needs a new Great Society overhaul.

3.  Sacrificing early and starting early with savings is the way to go.  We never really felt the $500/mo cut to our income because it coincided with our employment.  We made our decisions based on a smaller income.  When you get a new job, if you can max out your retirement funding before you get used to the higher paycheck, that’s definitely the way to go.  (Of course, high interest debt is also worth paying off– the trick is not to get used to a higher level of spending that you then cut down.)

4.  I don’t think it’s time to stop contributing yet.  We suspect DC1 will end up going to a private school (or, less likely, an out of state public that costs just as much).  Right now with both of us employed we’re in the middle area of whether or not we’d be considered for any financial aid at all, and there’s that hope that by the time DC1 gets to college we’ll be in the “no financial aid based on income alone” bracket (we can dream, right?).  If not, we still have time between our two kids to adjust based on what kind of aid the eldest gets or doesn’t get.  If DC1 gets aid, then we simply stop contributing to DC2’s plan at that point.

5.  Because of the way that financial aid is calculated, most people should max out their retirement savings before contributing to a 529.  We’re doing that now, but we weren’t doing that this entire time because we had *too* much room for retirement and didn’t realize that DH would be getting a better job that paid more, so we didn’t put away all 72K/year that we could have, figuring we’d need some of that money to pay for college! [Note:  For those who haven’t been following our finances for the past few years, DH no longer works for the government so we can no longer put away anywhere near 72K for retirement because he no longer has a 457 option or a second 403b option, just a really lousy 401K with high fees and a lousy match.]  Yes, you can withdraw ROTH contributions to pay for college, but it would probably not be enough.  The 529 is still a much better place for your child’s money than a savings account in your child’s name, for financial aid purposes.  That’s because the 529 in your name counts as your savings whereas any savings in your child’s name is expected to go 100% to college, which cuts down financial aid from the school.

6.  Regular savings that you don’t miss because you’re used to that money not hitting your checking account really add up.  However, if you can’t afford auto-deducting any of your paycheck (though automatic retirement savings should be a priority), 529s are a great place for monetary gifts for your kids to go.  A little bit early on really does go a long way.

What are your thoughts on retirement and 529s and compounding stealth saving?  Also, how often do you look at your accounts?

A post for Ana on 529 plans

We were poking around on medical moms blogs when we came across this comment from reader Ana. She said she wanted to just be told what to do with 529 plans because she’d hit the paradox of choice and everything was all complicated.

The post was almost a month old so  we felt silly for replying to it there, so we figured we’d reply to it here and hope that Ana saw it.

Also:  a disclaimer.  We’re not financial advisers.  Take our “advice” such as it is at your own risk.

Step 1:  Check to see if you live in one of these states that offer tax breaks for 529 contributions.

1a.  If you do, then go with your state’s 529 plan.

1b.  If you don’t, then go with Utah.  There are some other 529 plans that are now just as good as Utah’s but Utah’s has always been ranked among the top and we hope will continue to be ranked so.

Step 2:  Pick a plan company within the plan.

2a.  If Vanguard is one of your options, go with that.

2b.  If not, then look at the fees.  Pick one with low fees.

Step 3:  Pick a fund from your choices.

3a.  You want to look for terms “age-based”, “life-cycle” or “target-date”.

3b.  If there are multiple choices among these options, then it doesn’t really matter which one you pick.  They’ll be different in terms of risk and possibly fees.  You’ll again want to focus on the lowest fee plan first.  If your kids are little, more risk is better, if they’re closer to college, less risk is fine.  Don’t worry about the risk if you can’t decide– flip a coin or something.  It’s better to pick something randomly than to pick nothing at all because you’re worried about getting the “best”.

So, if you’re in a state that doesn’t give a tax advantage, you want the Utah UESP Vanguard Age-Based Aggressive Global fund.  And you’re done.  If you’re in another state we’d be happy to poke at their options for you.

Put in what you can.  We like putting some away automatically each month.  Something is better than nothing.

Are you saving for your kids’ college?  How?

August Mortgage Update and ponderings on 529 plans

Last month (July):

Balance: $102,221.27
Years left: 8.666666667
P = $798.18, I =$416.22, Escrow = 621.66

This month (August):

Balance: $100,747.56
Years left: 8.5
P = $803.97, I =$410.44, Escrow = 621.66

One month’s savings from prepayment:  $2.62

Hopefully by this time there’s a new addition to the family!  If not, I hope ze comes out soon.

In any case… For DC 1 we’ve been putting away $500/month every month since ze was born.  Ze has a pretty sizable kitty now, and is on track to be able to pay for the private school of hir choice should we keep this up (depending on the calculator we use and the assumptions we make).  We’re hoping to be making enough money that we don’t qualify for financial aid.

The question is:  What should we do for DC 2?  We could do the same thing, ignoring inflation, and start putting away another $500/month.  Then DC2 will also be on track, give or take, to pay for the private school of hir choice come college time.

The problem:  What if DC1 decides to go some place that doesn’t cost hundreds of thousands of dollars?  What if ze gets huge amounts of merit aid*?  What if I move to a university that pays tuition costs?  Basically, what if ze doesn’t liquidate hir 529 for school?  Then we’ll want to be able to transfer it directly to DC2 (since we don’t really believe in paying for graduate school as much as we believe in paying for college), but if DC2’s 529 plan is also pretty full we might end up with more money in 529s than we actually need.  We would then have to transfer it to some other relative, pay for our own kids’ graduate school, or take the money out at a penalty (in which case, why use the 529 in the first place?).  None of those options are appealing.

However, there are several years between DC1 and DC2, so in theory if we saw DC1 costing less than predicted, we probably could just stop putting money away to DC2’s plan at that point.  Right now putting $500/month away probably isn’t going to put us in any danger of oversaving in 529 plans.  We, of course, may have to readjust once our work situation changes.

So I guess that’s what we’re gonna do.  Put $500/month for each kid until we have some reason not to.  After all, it’s the early savings that are going to benefit the most from the tax advantage since they’ll have more time to generate earnings.

*Currently it looks like there’s a way to take money out without penalty up to the amount of a merit scholarship, but there’s no guarantee that will still be the case in the future.