529 plan performance review: Q2 2018

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By Mark Kantrowitz

August 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. The “performance score” determines the ranking. 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 across-the-board in all 529 plans, except possibly with New Jersey’s advisor-sold Franklin Templeton 529 College Savings Plan. Plans that had greater exposure to foreign stocks seem to have experienced greater performance declines, perhaps due to the impact of trade tensions and xenophobia. 

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 and The Vanguard 529 Savings Plan being the only ones to rank in the top 10 in each time period. However, it could reason that California’s ScholarShare 529 will join them when the plan has enough historical data to obtain 10-year 529 plan performance rankings.

Plan 1Y 3Y 5Y 10Y Details
California: ScholarShare529 2 1 1

New York’s 529 College Savings Program — Direct Plan

4 2 3 2

Nebraska Education Savings Trust – Direct College Savings Plan

3 3 12

Wisconsin: Edvest 7 9 6

Alaska: T. Rowe Price College Savings Plan

14 10 4 3

University of Alaska College Savings Plan

14 10 4 3

SMART529 WV Direct College Savings Plan

1 4 7 21

Nevada: The Vanguard 529 Savings Plan

8 6 10 10

Maine: NextGen College Investing Plan — Client Direct Series

11 7 8 12

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

9 13 14 5

Advisor-sold

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

Plan 1Y 3Y 5Y 10Y Details

Indiana: CollegeChoice Advisor 529 Savings Plan

2 1 2

Nevada: Putnam 529 for America

1 10 1

Nebraska Education Savings Trust — Advisor College Savings Plan

5 3 4

Virginia: CollegeAmerica

10 2 3 1

Illinois: Bright Directions Advisor-Guided 529 College Savings Program

6 5 11 4

Ohio: BlackRock CollegeAdvantage Advisor 529 Savings Plan

4 6 10

Oregon: MFS 529 Savings Plan

8 4 13 2

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

14 7 6 6

Arizona: Ivy InvestEd 529 Plan

3 20 8 7

Maine: NextGen College Investing Plan — Client Select Series

22 9 5 5

A good place to start:

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