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Saving For College: Start to Finish

Posted 2012-04-10

Step 1: Learn about 529 college savings plans

If you have a child who is high school age or younger, you should be saving for his or her future college expenses if at all possible. Although there are several different savings vehicles available to you, most American families should be looking to 529 plans for the bulk of their college savings.

But before you can make a decision about which particular 529 plan to use, you need to do your homework (or else find a financial professional to help you). Researching 529 plans can seem like a daunting task. Fortunately for you, offers a number of useful resources to help you through this process.

Start with the basics:

  1. website: Simply browsing though the site can help you get started on learning about 529 plans. A good place to begin is the "college savings 101" section. You can also access a wide variety of articles covering everything from college-savings basics to investment performance rankings of 529 plans. The Message Board gives you an opportunity to ask your own question or read the questions and answers from others.

  2. Family Guide to College Savings: This easy-to-read book is another great place to gain an understanding of the process of saving for college. It not only contains essential information concerning 529 plans, but also discusses other college savings options like Coverdell ESAs and Uniform Transfers to Minors Accounts, and provides an explanation of the financial aid process, legal considerations, and personal budgeting. A portion of the guide is reproduced on as the "College Savings Tutorial" and FOR A LIMITED PERIOD the entire Guide can be downloaded for free.

  3. The Best Way to Save For College--A Complete Guide to 529 Plans: Our "bible" provides an in-depth look at all things related to college savings and 529 plans. It explains just about everything a potential investor, financial planner, or tax professional might want to know, including plan qualification requirements, income and estate tax rules, financial-aid implications, and competing vehicles. Also, details of each state's 529 plan are included in the second section of the book.

Compare 529 plans

Once you feel more knowledgeable about 529 plans and have an idea of the features you are looking for, you can begin the process of comparing the plans in each state to determine the best one for you. The "Compare 529 Plans" tool allows you to view and compare all the features of up to six 529 plans at a time. This way, you can see how your own state's 529 plan stacks up against plans in other states. If you have a specific idea of what features you want to have in your 529 plan, you can also choose to compare 529 plans by feature to find out which college savings programs will best cater to your wishes.

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