Thursday, September 16, 2010

College 529 Account Returns are Flat for 2010

Although we typically make our college saving account contributions in January, I decided to wait in 2010 in case the market dipped again. In preparation for the 2010 contributions, I reviewed the current status of our college 529 savings accounts. We originally opened the accounts in December 2005 and have made the maximum state tax deductible contribution for each year. Through 2008, we invested the contributions evenly in the Aggressive Growth, 500 Index, Extended Market, and International funds with Vanguard. In 2009, we changed our contribution mix and added to the Aggressive Growth, Extended Market and Morgan Growth (new for 2009) funds.

The table below shows the total return for the contributions that have been made to date. The first column shows how the bear market of 2008 significantly reduced our college savings accounts. Not only were all the gains from 2006 and 2007 eliminated, the losses also reduced the principal from the contributions. However, the recovery since March 9, 2009 has enabled the accounts to break even. Most of the improvement in the 529 accounts had occurred by 10/14/09. For 2010, the return has essentially been flat. Here are the results as of 9/14/10:

Total Return
Total Return
Total Return
Total Return
Vanguard Aggressive Growth Index Portfolio





Vanguard 500 Index





Vanguard Extended Market Index





Vanguard Developed Markets International Stock Index





Vanguard Morgan Growth






- 28.74




This analysis had shown me the high volatility of equity investments in our 529 plans. Since our daughter is 13 years away from attending college, we will continue to invest the funds in the stock market. When it gets closer to needing the funds, we will definitely want to avoid this level of fluctuation. Thus, we plan to move a significant portion to interest bearing accounts within 2-4 years of needing the money for college.

In addition, this analysis shows the benefit of continuing to make contributions as the market declines, i.e. dollar cost averaging downward. The 2009 contributions, made in January 2009, were distributed among the Aggressive Growth Index, Extended Market Index and Morgan Growth Index funds. Those funds are now above the amount principal contributed. The other two funds, which did not receive any contributions in 2009, are still below the original principal, being down 11.32% and 12.72%

Our plan is to make the maximum state tax deductible contribution for 2010.

For more on Crossing Generations, check back every Thursday for a new segment.

This is not financial, saving or investment advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

Copyright © 2010 Achievement Catalyst, LLC


pfstock said...

In California, there is no state tax deductible contribution allowed for 529 plans. Nevertheless, we do have a Fidelity ScholarShare plan, and put the contributions into an age-based portfolio. It is supposed to automatically shift from stocks to more conservative investments when the child approaches college age. You might consider a similar option for your state, if you don't want to personally manage these investments. Nevertheless for the plan we're in, it has also been "flat" for last 3 years. We just started to break even...

Super Saver said...


We also have age based portfolio investment options. I haven't chosen them because I prefer the control making the changes myself:-)