Is a 529 Plan Still Your Best Bet?


Published:

With the cost of living soaring each year, many parents start thinking ahead to college as soon as they’re done counting their newborn’s fingers and toes. Not a bad idea. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the average cost per year of attending a public university is more than $15,000, while the average cost per year of attending a private school is around $33,000.

Since 1996, parents have had the option of saving for college via a 529 plan. Named after Section 529 of the Internal Revenue code that created it, this type of education savings plan is operated by a state or educational institution and is designed to help families set aside tax-free funds for future college costs. Anyone — grandparents, friends or anonymous benefactors — can contribute to the account.

But in December 2013, the North Carolina 529 plan tax break ended. While other states have retained tax-free 529 plans — and even increased the deductible (Nebraska, for example, allows married couples to file up to $10,000 jointly) — any money North Carolina residents contribute to their 529 plans will be taxed by the state.

Previously, N.C. taxpayers could deduct up to $2,500 ($5,000 on a joint return) for qualifying contributions to the fund, regardless of a family’s adjusted gross income. In recent years, according to the N.C. Department of Revenue, families in North Carolina saved more than $6 million dollars, collectively.

Fortunately, these earnings still enjoy a federal tax break. “Earnings from 529 accounts are not subject to a federal tax; however, contributions to a 529 plan are not deductible,” says Andrew Belasco, a licensed counselor, independent educational consultant and CEO of College Transitions, a college-planning consulting company.

Because 529 plans are earmarked on a family, not individual, basis, any child in your family can use the funds, as long as the money goes toward that child’s education. So, kids can share the funds or, if there’s excess, parents can pick up courses toward an advanced degree themselves.

Other Options

You can still contribute to your family’s 529 plan without the tax break, but there are other college investment options at your disposal.

  • You can put money in a general investment fund that has not been earmarked specifically for college costs. This way, you’ll be saving money, but if your child decides not to attend college (or wins a full-ride scholarship), you can use the money elsewhere, like your own retirement. As with any investment, this money will be subject to usual economic fluctuations, since stocks rise and fall.
  • You can contribute up to $2,000 a year to a Coverdell Education Savings Account, which is free from federal income tax and can be used to pay for qualified education-related expenses, including college tuition. Because of its $2,000 annual cap, you’re limited to how much you can save, and the funds must be used by your child’s 30th birthday or else taxes and a penalty will be applied. Note: If a beneficiary is unable to use the funds before his or her 30th birthday, Belasco says he or she “can avoid penalties/taxes by ‘rolling over’ the account to another (younger) family member.”
  • Save the old-fashioned way — not under a mattress, but by opening a traditional savings account. You would need to start early — very early, like when your child is an infant; get a good interest rate; contribute regularly; and be diligent about never withdrawing funds.
  • Deduct against future earnings. In other words, take out a college loan. The benefit to this is if you absolutely don’t have the funds, your child can still attend college. The drawback, of course, is that interest rates over time can make paying the loan back challenging, and this saddles your student with loans right out of school. But the option is there and, with diligence, the loan can be repaid.
  • Invest in a Roth IRA. Again, you’ll enjoy a tax break, but annual contributions are capped, so you have to plan wisely. Unlike the Coverdell ESA, there’s no age time-out to use the money for education. Also, if you don’t use all (or any) of the funds for education, you will still have built a nest egg you can use for retirement.

Need help planning for college and finding out how to pay for it?

  • The College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC) helps North Carolina families plan and apply for college. Visit cfnc.org for more information.
  • How much will you need to put your child through college? Savingforcollege.com features a simple calculator you can use to determine the estimated costs for your child’s college education. Just plug in your child’s age and the calculator does the rest, generating how much you’ll need to save each month.
  • Learn about colleges and financial aid, and access an individualized step-by-step plan to approach college at bigfuture.collegeboard.org.
  • Visit the U.S. Department of Education’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid at  fafsa.ed.gov to learn about available funds and how your student can qualify.

 

Kathleen M. Reilly is a freelance writer and mom in the Triangle.

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Calendar

November 2019

Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

During harvest time, farmers often helped their neighbors to get hard work done during communal gatherings such as corn shucking. Learn about this fall tradition and make a corn husk doll to take...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675

More information

We will be conducting a food drive during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get involved...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Experience some of the best trail running the Piedmont has to offer in this unique trail marathon and 10 miler across Durham County, North Carolina. The course winds along the scenic Eno River...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
5253 Roxboro Rd
Durham, NC  27712
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Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: 24.00

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: 24.00

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Website »

More information

Hike along Bolin Creek Greenway to the Adams Tract Red Trail to learn about the trees and wildlife in Carrboro.

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilson Park Shelter
101 Williams St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Website »

More information

Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Tour fee: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60 & over), $3/Child (ages 7-16),...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (60+ yrs), $3/Child (7-16yrs), Free/Child (6yrs & younger)

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Learn about mammals of the Piedmont through skulls and pelts, and what bones reveal about animals.  This is a hands-on family friendly presentation by Patricia Thomas-Laemont with Elon...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bynum Front Porch
950 Bynum Rd
Pittsboro, NC  27312
View map »


Sponsor: Friends of Lower Haw River State Natural Area
Website »

More information

November is a time to be thankful! Celebrate the natural world and where our favorite Thanksgiving foods come from. Investigate corn under microscopes and hand lenses, learn the difference between...

Cost: For all ages; FREE. Registration is required for everyone

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850

More information

Join in the fight against kidney disease by taking part in a 3.5-mile walk at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. All ages. Strollers are welcome; however, bicycles and in-line skates are not...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Blackwell St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Fall Family Cookie Decorating. Enjoy a family outing…. Come learn a variety of cookie recipes suited for decorating. Then practice piping and flooding sugar cookies for the perfect look....

Cost: $5.00

Where:
The Studio School of Durham
1201 W Woodcroft Pkwy
Durham, NC  27713
View map »


Sponsor: The Studio School of Durham
Telephone: 984-377-4502
Contact Name: Danielle Sunde
Website »

More information

Search for salamanders, owls and more. Equipment provided. Ages 10-13. Register online. Choose course #128019.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

See horses compete and enjoy food trucks, children's activities and more. Admission is free; Saturday evening Grand Prix tickets are $10/person. Proceeds benefit Duke Children's...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gov. James B. Hunt Horse Complex
4601 Trinity Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
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We will be conducting a food drive during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get involved...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Red, yellow, orange, and brown – leaves come in all different sizes and colors. Practice your color and shape recognition through centers, songs, and stories. For ages 18 months to 3 years (adult...

Cost: FREE. Registration is required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

See horses compete and enjoy food trucks, children's activities and more. Admission is free; Saturday evening Grand Prix tickets are $10/person. Proceeds benefit Duke Children's...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gov. James B. Hunt Horse Complex
4601 Trinity Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

We will be conducting a food drive during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get involved...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Register online. Choose course #127196.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Catboy, Owlette, and Gekko will delight fans of all ages with live performances featuring world-class production, toe-tapping tunes and a whole lot of super fun as they go into...

Cost: $28.50 and up

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

We will be conducting a food drive during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get involved...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

See Happy Dan perform magic, comedy and more.

Cost: $5/person

Where:
Renaissance Centre
405 Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

We’ll enjoy poetry written in honor of the many holidays that occur around this time of the year. Following questions and discussion, those attending will have the opportunity to share by reading...

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

We will be conducting a food drive during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get involved...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Join us in the Kidzu Front Yard Garden for a special off-season Junior Gardeners in honor of Chapel Hill Arbor Week. Get hands on and explore trees, and all the things they provide including...

Cost: Free

Where:
Kidzu Children's Museum
201 S. Estes Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »

More information

Take the fast track to nature in this hands-on study of ecology. Ages 8-12. Register online.  Chose course #127203.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

The word philanthropy means love of mankind. From the earliest days, human civilization has depended upon kindness directed towards strangers. Explore the history of giving, then help to cut out...

Cost: FREE. Registration is required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675

More information

Join us to learn about 4H and then enjoy fall activities and crafts!  No registration is required. Grades 3-5

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

More information

Join Cary Lifestyle Magazine for a wonderful night of charity, fashion, decadent food and drinks and shopping. Proceeds go to Saving Grace NC,non-profit animal rescue, that since its inception in...

Cost: $75.00

Where:
Hilton Garden Inn
131 Columbus Ave
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Sponsor: Carolina LifeStyle Magazine
Website »

More information

Enjoy a family-friendly movie and a slice or two of pizza. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $5/person. $2 for ages 2 and younger

Where:
The Halle Cultural Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 11 and older with special needs help support the Town of Cary's annual toy drive by donating an unwrapped toy for a child in need. Make cards for the holiday cards for these...

Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Transformative stories through the mists of time adapted from "1001 Arabian Nights" and performed by Emerson's 10th grade class.  Recommended for audiences age 10 and up. For...

Cost: $5-$12

Where:
Emerson Waldorf School
6211 New Jericho Road
Brown Wing
Chapel Hill, NC  27516
View map »


Website »

More information

It’s the summer before the 1904 World’s Fair and the three Smith sisters are filled with anticipation. But the year brings turmoil as family life interferes with their newfound chances...

Cost: Adults: $15 Seniors: $10 Students and children: $5 Family 4-pack

Where:
William Peace University, Kenan Auditorium
15 E Peace St
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Sponsor: William Peace University
Contact Name: Charles Machalicky
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

We will be conducting a food drive during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get involved...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Celebrate collards at the State Farmers Market.

Cost: Free

Where:
State Farmers Market
1201 Agriculture St.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

More information

Come share the excitement as Park West Village hosts Winter Wonderland in The District. Kids of all ages will enjoy our Magical Winter Lights Paintscaping, featuring colorful holiday lights...

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Village Market Place
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Park West Village
Contact Name: Conner
Website »

More information

Talented dance students perform the lavishly staged holiday ballet alongside guest artists from Carolina Ballet. All ages. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $12-$27

Where:
Fletcher Theater, Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Deck the halls at Waverly Place and welcome the holiday season with their Eighth Annual Tree Lighting Celebration! The festivities kick off on Friday, November 22 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Waverly Place Shopping Center
302 Colonades Way
Cary, NC  27518
View map »

More information

Transformative stories through the mists of time adapted from "1001 Arabian Nights" and performed by Emerson's 10th grade class.  Recommended for audiences age 10 and up. For...

Cost: $5-$12

Where:
Emerson Waldorf School
6211 New Jericho Road
Brown Wing
Chapel Hill, NC  27516
View map »


Website »

More information

The Triangle Youth String Orchestra and Youth String Sinfonia present a joint concert of their fall repertoire. All ages. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

It’s the summer before the 1904 World’s Fair and the three Smith sisters are filled with anticipation. But the year brings turmoil as family life interferes with their newfound chances...

Cost: Adults: $15 Seniors: $10 Students and children: $5 Family 4-pack

Where:
William Peace University, Kenan Auditorium
15 E Peace St
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Sponsor: William Peace University
Contact Name: Charles Machalicky
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

We will be conducting a food drive during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get involved...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Give rugby a try. Take part in tag rugby pick-up games every Saturday morning at Baileywick Road Park, near the Second Shelter.  No experience necessary. All ages. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Baileywick Road Park
9501 Baileywick Rd
Second Shelter Field
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Redhawks Rugby
Contact Name: denise travis
Website »

More information

Ages 5 and older move through yoga poses and show gratitude by writing a thank-you note for someone special. Registration required online. Choose course #127447. 

Cost: $19/child

Where:
Middle Creek Community Center
125 Middle Creek Ave.
Apex, NC  27539
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn about the state’s American Indian culture from musicians, dancers, craftspeople and storytellers from eight state-recognized tribes. Over 100 presenters will fill the museum and...

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Join dozens of ethnic communities at the Global Holiday Festival and Market to celebrate and honor holidays and traditions from around the world.  Sample traditional dishes, view free dance...

Cost: Free

Where:
Moore Square, Downtown Raleigh
Raleigh, NC


Website »

More information

Talented dance students perform the lavishly staged holiday ballet alongside guest artists from Carolina Ballet. Show times are at noon and 5 p.m. All ages. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $12-$27

Where:
Fletcher Theater, Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30 & 3 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's history...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (60+ yrs), $3/Child (7-16yrs), Free/Child (6yrs & younger)

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Participants develop their naturalist skills and understanding of local nature. Ages 5-8 with parent. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Talented dance students perform the lavishly staged holiday ballet alongside guest artists from Carolina Ballet. Show times are at noon and 5 p.m. All ages. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $12-$27

Where:
Fletcher Theater, Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Come share the excitement as Park West Village hosts Winter Wonderland in The District. Kids of all ages will enjoy our Magical Winter Lights Paintscaping, featuring colorful holiday lights...

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Village Market Place
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Park West Village
Contact Name: Conner
Website »

More information

East Cloud Kungfu hosts a Parent's Night Out event, featuring a safe environment for kids as they about the wide world of kungfu.   Check it out!...

Cost: $25 first child, $20 each additional child

Where:
East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
5655-A Western Blvd
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Sponsor: East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
Telephone: 252-646-7053
Contact Name: Imari Colon
Website »

More information

Transformative stories through the mists of time adapted from "1001 Arabian Nights" and performed by Emerson's 10th grade class.  Recommended for audiences age 10 and up. For...

Cost: $5-$12

Where:
Emerson Waldorf School
6211 New Jericho Road
Brown Wing
Chapel Hill, NC  27516
View map »


Website »

More information

It’s the summer before the 1904 World’s Fair and the three Smith sisters are filled with anticipation. But the year brings turmoil as family life interferes with their newfound chances...

Cost: Adults: $15 Seniors: $10 Students and children: $5 Family 4-pack

Where:
William Peace University, Kenan Auditorium
15 E Peace St
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Sponsor: William Peace University
Contact Name: Charles Machalicky
Website »

More information

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