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Checklist for the CollegeChoice 529 Direct Savings Plan

The Savingforcollege.com 529 Selection Checklist is a simple tool designed to assist you in your research and selection of a 529 college savings plan. Before investing in a 529 plan, be sure to read the official program offering materials.

Steps:

  1. Use a separate checklist for each 529 plan you are considering.
  2. Use the "Notes" line to add any notes or thoughts you feel are relevant to that particular question. Information about the 529 plan being evaluated can be gathered from its official program disclosures, the plan web site, and third-party sources like Savingforcollege.com.
  3. Use the "Acceptable, Unacceptable, or Not Important" checkboxes to indicate your conclusions as to how well the 529 plan you are evaluating meets the various criteria. Some criteria will not make any difference in your selection of your plan and should be noted as Not Important. In lieu of simply indicating acceptable or unacceptable you may want to develop a rating scale, e.g. 1 through 5.
  4. Compare the checklists for the various 529 plans being considered and use the results to help you select the appropriate 529 plan.

Enrollment Issues:

Who is eligible to use this particular 529 plan?
U.S. citizens and resident aliens at least 18 years old, emancipated minors, UGMA/UTMA custodians, and legal entities.
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________
How do I enroll: through a financial advisor (generally higher expense) or directly with the program (generally lower expenses)?
Enroll directly with the program.
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________
What, if any, age or time limits are imposed by this 529 plan that may restrict how long I can hold the plan?
For Indiana taxpayers claiming a state tax credit on contributions, the account must remain open for at least one year to avoid recapture of the tax credit on distributions used to pay qualified education expenses.
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________
Can I complete the enrollment process for this 529 plan online (including funding the account)?
Yes
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________
Can I meet the plan's minimum contribution requirements either with a lump-sum contribution or by signing up for automatic contributions?
$25
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________
Is the plan's maximum contribution limit high enough to accommodate my college funding desires?
Accepts contributions until all account balances in Indiana's 529 plan for the same beneficiary reach $298,770.
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________
Will this 529 plan allow my other relatives and friends to make contributions directly to my account?
Yes, and through Ugift--Give College Savings, families and friends may be invited via e-mail invitation or gift contribution coupon to make contributions to the account.
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________

Program benefits:

If I live in the state offering this 529 plan, what are the state income tax deductions or credits I can claim for my contributions to it? (Note: If you live in Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, Maine, and Pennsylvania you do not have to use the in-state 529 plan to claim a deduction).
A 20% tax credit on up to $5,000 per year in contributions to an Indiana 529 plan can be claimed against Indiana income tax (maximum yearly credit is $1,000). Effective January 1, 2010, rollover contributions and contributions generated through a rewards program are not eligible for the credit.
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________
If I live in the state offering this 529 plan, what matching contributions might I be eligible for?
None.
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________
If the state offering this 529 plan administers its own student financial aid programs, will my account in this plan be excluded for purposes of determining eligibility?
Yes
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________
If I prefer an investment that automatically changes to a more conservative asset mix as my child approaches college age, what "age-based" options are offered in this 529 plan?
The Age-Based Program contains 7 portfolios of underlying mutual funds. Contributions are placed into the portfolio corresponding to the beneficiary's age, and later reassigned to more conservative portfolios as the beneficiary approaches college age.
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________
If I prefer one or more investments that do not adjust over time, what "static" options are offered in this 529 plan?
Select among 7 options using various investment managers--Active Bond, International, Bond Index, Money Market, Short Term Bond Index, U.S. Equity Index, and Inflation-Protected--plus a FDIC-insured Savings Portfolio.
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________
Which mutual fund families, or other investment managers, are utilized in this 529 plan? Do the investment options consist of a single fund family or a mix of fund families?
Age-Based Option: Vanguard index funds, Loomis Sayles, and money market fund<br> Individual Portfolios: Mutual funds from Dodge & Cox, Scout Investments, Vanguard, and Western Asset.<br> The Savings Portfolio invests in the Sallie Mae High-Yield Savings account.
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________
Does my preferred investment option in this program include foreign stocks, real estate, inflation-adjusted securities, or other sectors that I feel are desirable?
Check the program offering materials to see the specific mutual funds used.
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________
Which type of mutual funds does my preferred investment option use: actively managed funds or passively managed index funds?
Mostly index funds in the Age-based option; both active and passive index funds in the Individual portfolios
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________
What is my assessment of the quality of the particular investment options in this 529 plan?
You will need to make this judgment.
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________
How acceptable is the range of investment options in this 529 plan in the event I wish to change investment options in the future?
You must make this judgment recognizing that some 529 plans have many options while others may have just a few.
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________

Fees and expenses:

How much is the enrollment fee in this 529 plan? Do I qualify for a waiver?
None.
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________
How much is the account maintenance fee in this 529 plan? Do I qualify for a waiver?
$20 annually, waived for Indiana residents or beneficiaries and for accounts with $25,000.
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________
What is the total asset-based expense ratio (or range of ratios) for the investment options in this plan?
0.27% - 0.92%<br>
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________
How do the fees and expenses of this program compare to other 529 plans that offer investment options very similar to my preferred investment option in this program?
Similar investments may be found in other Upromise-managed 529 plans at slightly lower cost.
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________

Other issues:

What are the special creditor protections for this 529 plan under the laws of the sponsoring state?
None.
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________
Is this 529 plan linked into my favorite rewards service (e.g. Fidelity 529 College Rewards Card, Futuretrust, Upromise)?
Yes, with the http://www.upromise.com/acquisitionLanding.do?aqid=moneyforcollegevis&ax=affpartner-stu-SFCb">Upromise rewards</a> service. CollegeChoice 529 also offers a credit card, the SALLIE MAE 529 REWARDS World Elite MasterCard issued by Sallie Mae Bank, that earns rewards on qualified retail purchases that are automatically transferred into the owner's 529 account on a periodic basis.
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________
Will I have online access to my account for looking up my account values, etc?
Yes
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________
Who can I name as "payee" on distributions from this 529 plan? How easy is the process of requesting distributions?
Eligible educational institution, beneficiary, or account owner, as directed by the account owner. Check program materials to determine the process for submitting distribution requests.
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________
Will this 529 plan accept my request to transfer the account owenership to someone else?
Accepts requests to transfer account ownership.
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________
How thorough and understandable are the program's official disclosure materials, and how much help is available through the programs web site, call center, etc.?
You will need to make this judgment.
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________
Are there any other considerations unique to this program that can be considered advantages or disadvantages?
You may notice other differences not included on this checklist.
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________
Before investing, be sure to read and understand the official program materials provided on the 529 plan's website.
http://www.collegechoicedirect.com
(  ) Acceptable (  ) Unacceptable (  ) Not Important
Notes: _______________________________________________________________________
Enroll Now in the CollegeChoice 529 Direct Savings Plan