Many investors have recently discovered a new lucky number: 529. Named after Section 529 of the federal tax code, these 401(k)-style college savings plans have grown in popularity in the past few years (see cover story). Here are some Web sites that can answer your questions (for even more 529 Internet resources, visit registeredrep.com):
The best site for student savings plans, savingforcollege.com is a clearinghouse for all things 529. It describes and rates every state plan, and has an entire section devoted to tips for 529 practitioners. There's advice about how to break into the burgeoning market and a link to the 529 section of the tax code. The site was created by the reigning 529 expert, Pittsford, N.Y.-based CPA Joseph Hurley, author of the book “The Best Way to Save for College — A Complete Guide to 529 Plans.” Savingsforcollege.com also offers advisors a chance to do a bit of self-promotion. They can sign up to be included on the site's consultant directory.
TIAA-CREF, the teachers' pension fund administrator, manages 529 plans for more states — including two of the country's most populous states, New York and California — than any other company. Links to the state plans are provided as well as general information about 529s. An interactive college tuition calculator is also available on the site, which some of your clients may find interesting — but be forewarned: Some of your less well-heeled clients may find the big numbers discouraging to the point of paralysis.
College Savings Plans Network
The College Savings Plan Network is an affiliate of the National Association of State Treasurers, the officials who oversee the privately run 529 plans in every state. Less complete than some of the other 529 sites, it's still worth a look for several reasons. The site includes a clickable U.S. map that makes it easy to find out about the 529 situation in a given state — an important feature, since unlike IRAs or 401(k)s, 529 college savings plans were created by the individual states. And while anyone is free to enroll in any plan, anywhere, some states provide special tax deductions for residents who make contributions to a homegrown plan.