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DiNapoli urges parents to open a college savings account for their children

by jmaloni

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Sat, May 31st 2014 12:15 pm

New York's 529 College Savings Direct Plan ranked among the best in nation

New York state's 529 College Saving Program has helped New York residents pay for more than $230 million in college-related expenses in 2014, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said this week in recognition of 529 College Savings Day. The investment program, overseen by DiNapoli's office and the Higher Education Services Corp., is designed to help parents save for college and offers tax deductions up to $10,000 annually.

"A smart way to combat rising college costs is to plan ahead. It's never too early to begin saving for your child's future," DiNapoli said. "I encourage parents and loved ones to take advantage of this opportunity and open an account today. Saving for college now can make a significant difference in a student's life later."

New York's 529 College Savings Program offers two plans, the direct plan and the advisor plan, both of which are offered to individuals across the country. Combined, the plans have more than 800,000 accounts and assets totaling $18.6 billion. A chart showing account owners by county can be found here.

While parents make up the largest share of account owners, anyone can open a 529 account on behalf of a child. A direct plan account can be opened for as little as $25. The direct plan offers three age-based investment options that become more conservative as the child approaches college age. The direct plan also offers 13 additional investment options that account owners can choose from based on risk tolerance.

The advisor plan is for account owners who choose to invest through a financial advisor.

There are more than 556,000 direct plan accounts valued at $11.8 billion belonging to New York residents. The average account size is $24,000. Since January, direct plan account owners in New York have withdrawn approximately $193 million to pay for college-related expenses.

The advisor plan has more than 90,000 accounts valued at $2.6 billion belonging to New York residents. The average account size is $20,000. Since January, advisor plan account owners in New York have withdrawn approximately $38 million to pay for college-related expenses.

Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, which authorizes the College Savings Program, was enacted in 1996. New York's program is managed by Ascensus College Savings (formerly known as Upromise Investments) and has been available since 1997. According to the Financial Research Corp., New York's Direct Plan ranks No. 1 for assets in the plan.

New York taxpayers are eligible for a tax deduction on annual contributions made to their 529 College Savings Program accounts. Individual New York taxpayers who are account owners can contribute to the program and deduct up to $5,000 from their state taxable income, while married couples filing jointly can deduct up to $10,000 each year. The earnings portion of qualified withdrawals are exempt from both federal and state income taxes.

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