Find a 529 Pro

Frequently Asked Questions

From what I've read, it looks like 529 plans may be a good way for me to save for my child's college education. However, my financial consultant admits he knows very little about these programs. What can I do?
Well, one thing you can do is FIND a professional with 529 expertise, one who can advise you on how to use them to your best advantage. Unfortunately, many financial, legal, and tax consultants just aren't up to speed on 529 plans yet. Savingforcollege.com's Find a 529 Pro Directory is designed to help you with this search.
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I usually handle my own investing. Is there any reason why I need to seek professional help for my college planning?
Naturally, if you feel comfortable with your own ability to plan your investments and can understand the intricacies of 529 plans, it is not necessary that you to use a paid professional. Many 529 plans allow you to request enrollment materials and sign up directly with the program. The states, or the investment companies hired to manage the state programs, usually have well-trained and enthusiastic employees available through their call centers ready to assist you with any questions you may have. However, they are generally prohibited from offering investment advice and so may not be able to meet all your needs. Financial planners and investment consultants can provide you with this investment advice, and they can be helpful in making sense of the unique and somewhat confusing features of 529 plans and other college savings alternatives.
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How do I make sure any particular professional really has a good handle on 529 plans and can provide competent advice?
It's up to you to ask a lot of questions and gauge the ability of a financial, legal or tax consultant to provide you with competent professional advice. Make sure you understand the consultant's experience, credentialing, and education. Find out if the consultant has been helping other families in investigating 529 plans. You might even ask if the consultant has set up accounts in a 529 plan for his or her own family. Since investment advisers are required to register with their states, you should take a look at their form ADV and make sure it agrees with what they are telling you about their operations. For more information on how to perform an adequate background check on a potential advisor, see our search tips on selecting a financial professional.
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How will the financial consultant be compensated?
A financial consultant can be compensated through fees that you pay under your own arrangement with the consultant, through commissions paid by the investment company involved with the 529 plan, or through a combination of fees and commissions. It's up to you to thoroughly understand and become comfortable with the way a consultant gets paid.
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If an investment broker earns commissions on the sale of a particular 529 plan, doesn't that mean he is biased and will try to sell me just that plan?
Although brokers have an incentive to sell only certain 529 plans, their obligation is to ensure that any recommendations they make to you are suitable. A sale of a 529 plan by a broker is subject to the investor-protection rules of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board and these rules are enforced by FINRA. A broker should be able to tell you about some of the differences in competing 529 plans, and should make sure you are aware that your own state's 529 plan (which may or may not be available through the broker) offers special benefits that you may not get with an out-of-state 529 plan. Most brokers value their relationship with you as a client much more than the commissions they may earn on the sale of a 529 plan and will work in your best interest in recommending a 529 plan and fitting it to your overall financial situation.
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I want to be sure my will and estate planning are structured properly if I use 529 plans. Can I find an attorney to help me through the Find a 529 Pro Directory?
We invite estate planning attorneys with knowledge of 529 plans to join the directory and expect that more will sign up in the future. They are invited to take the same 529 exam as other consultants to in order demonstrate a broader knowledge of these programs than just the gift and estate tax rules.
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