529 plan performance review: Q3 2018

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Mark Kantrowitz

By Mark Kantrowitz

November 14, 2018

Each quarter Savingforcollege.com analyzes the investment performance figures for thousands of 529 portfolios and ranks the 529 savings plans from best to worst for 1-, 3-, 5-, and 10-year investment performance. Our 529 plan performance rankings include plans that consumers can enroll in directly, as well as those sold through brokers and fee-based financial planners.

In producing our rankings, we compared the reported investment performance of a subset of portfolios from each 529 savings plan. We use a subset because plans vary greatly in their underlying investment options. We use a representative subset of options to compare plans on an apples-to-apples basis in seven categories. The “performance score” determines the combined ranking across the categories. For more details, please view our methodology.

It is important to remember that this data represents historical performance. Past performance over any period is not a guarantee of future results.

529 plan performance rankings

Generally, there has been a decline in performance in most 529 plans, except for a handful of 529 plans that squeezed out improvements of less than a percentage point. As in the previous quarter, plans that had more exposure to foreign stocks experienced a greater performance decline. 

Direct-sold

The top performers averaged across all ranked categories can be found below with the New York’s 529 College Savings Program — Direct Plan being the only one to rank in the top 10 in each time period. West Virginia’s SMART529 WV Direct College Savings Plan climbed to the top of the rankings, pushing California’s ScholarShare 529 out of the top slot.

Plan 1Y 3Y 5Y 10Y Details

SMART529 WV Direct College Savings Plan

1 1 4 12

California: ScholarShare 529

7 4 3

New York’s 529 College Savings Program — Direct Plan 

10 7 2 1

Wisconsin: Edvest

9

5 5

Nebraska Education Savings Trust – Direct College Savings Plan

5 6 12

Kansas: Learning Quest 529 Education Savings Program

2 16 6 9

Alaska: T. Rowe Price College Savings Plan

16 2 7 3

University of Alaska College Savings Plan

16 2 7 3

Ohio: Ohio’s 529 Plan, CollegeAdvantage

22 8 1

– 

Maine: NextGen College Investing Plan — Client Direct Series

12 11 9

6

Advisor-sold

The top performing advisor-sold 529 plans across all ranked time periods can be found below.

Plan 1Y 3Y 5Y 10Y Details

Nevada: Putnam 529 for America

1 4 1

Indiana: CollegeChoice Advisor 529 Savings Plan

4 1 2

Nebraska Education Savings Trust — Advisor College Savings Plan

2 2 4

Virginia: CollegeAmerica

15 3 3 2

South Carolina: Future Scholar 529 College Savings Plan (Advisor-sold)

8 7 6 6

Oregon: MFS 529 Savings Plan

5 8 9 4

Wisconsin: Tomorrow’s Scholar 529 Plan

11 6 7

Ohio: BlackRock CollegeAdvantage Advisor 529 Savings Plan

6 9 10

Illinois: Bright Directions Advisor-Guided 529 College Savings Program

10 5 12 8

Colorado: Scholars Choice College Savings Program

9 12 8 3

A good place to start:

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