Connecticut sponsors a direct-sold and an advisor-sold 529 college savings plan that allow families to invest in their children’s educational futures. Both options offer a diverse investment menu designed for all kinds of savers including those new to investing. What’s more, some investment portfolios in the direct option offer among the lowest fees we’ve seen nationwide. If you’re looking to open an advisor-sold 529 or just want extra guidance from a professional, you can find a financial advisor to help. Both plans allow you contribute to a maximum of $300,000 which is on the low-end compared to 529 plans other states sponsor, and both allow Nutmeg State tax payers to make tax-deductible contributions up to certain limits.
|Plan Name||Program Type||How to Enroll||Fees|
|CHET Read Review||College Savings Plan||Direct-Sold||0.21% - 1.07%|
|CHET Advisor Program Read Review||College Savings Plan||Advisor-Sold||0.76% - 2.50%|
The Connecticut Higher Education Trust (CHET) 529 College Savings plan allows you to start investing in your child’s educational future with as little as a $25 deposit. The plan offers several investment options including ones that automatically rebalance their asset allocation to become less risky as your child gets closer to college, so you don’t need any investment knowledge to enroll in the plan.
The account is open to any U.S. citizen and offers several tax benefits. But, Connecticut families can deduct up to $10,000 from their state taxable income per account per year.
How Do I Enroll in the Connecticut Higher Education Trust (CHET) 529 College Savings Program?
The easiest way to open an account with the CHET 529 plan is online. The process should take about 15 minutes. You'd need the following information for yourself and your beneficiary: birthday, address, Social Security number of tax identification number and bank account and routing number if you’re making initial contributions electronically.
You can also download an account application and mail it in along with a check for at least $25.
In addition, you’d need to choose one or more of the plan’s investment portfolios at time of enrollment.
How Much Does the Connecticut 529 Plan Cost?
Each portfolio with the exception of the Principal Plus Interest guaranteed option carries a total annual asset-based fee that combines a program management fee and an administration fee, as well as expenses related to the underlying mutual funds that a portfolio invests in.
This total fee currently ranges from 0.21% to 1.07%. The fee is indirectly charged out the investment option and your account balance. Compared to direct 529 plans that other states sponsor, the fees in the Connecticut plan currently range from very low to high. You can speak to a financial advisor about how fees may affect your savings in the long run.
Tax Benefits of the Connecticut 529 Plan
Connecticut tax payers who open accounts with the CHET 529 plan can deduct up to $5,000 (if filing single) and $10,000 (if married, filing jointly) from their state taxable income per account each year. But the plan is open to any U.S. citizen or resident alien.
All account holders who invest in the plan can benefit from tax-deferred growth on their contributions. This means your money will grow tax-free as long as it’s invested, and it can thus gain the most from compound interest. Your withdrawals are also tax-free as long as you use them on qualified higher education expenses such as tuition and mandatory fees at eligible institutions. Eligible schools include virtually every institution that accepts federal financial aid from the U.S. Department of Education, so you can use your funds at nearly any accredited school in the U.S., including four-year colleges and vocational or tech schools. Some foreign schools are eligible as well.
However, taking money out of the plan for anything other than a qualified higher education expense is considered a non qualified withdrawal. It may be subject to federal income tax, state income tax and a 10% penalty. You may also have to pay back previously claimed state tax deductions. Speak to a local financial advisor or tax professional about how any nonqualified withdrawal may affect you based on your unique circumstances.
529 college savings plans also offer additional tax benefits, so you should also speak to your advisor about other benefits that may appeal to you based on your personal situation.
What Are My Investment Options?
The Connecticut direct-sold 529 plan offers several investment portfolios to choose from. If you’re new to the investing world, you may find an age-based portfolio appealing. Generally speaking, these options automatically change their asset allocations to become less risky as your child gets closer to the college years. However, the Connecticut plan allows you to choose an age-based portfolio based on your risk level, which can span from conservative to aggressive.
If you choose the aggressive option, your portfolio would currently invest 28% of your money in stock funds, which are generally considered riskier but could have the potential for stronger growth. On the other hand, its conservative counterpart would invest only 3% in stocks by that time.
If you’re not sure what your risk level is, you can use our asset allocation tool to see how different investment mixes may break down based on a specific risk tolerance. You can use this information to explore the plan’s multi-fund and single-fund options.
Multi-fund portfolios invest in a variety of underlying mutual funds based on a specific risk level. Single-fund portfolios invest entirely in a single underlying fund. Hower, the performance of single-fund portfolios depends on the success of the underlying fund it invests in. These options mays suit the investor who wants to invest in a specific asset class or combination of them including equity funds, money market and even socially responsible funds.
Also, keep in mind that it’s important to review your investment options periodically. Federal law allows you to change portfolios twice per year.
How Do I Withdraw Money from the Connecticut Higher Education Trust (CHET) 529 College Savings Program?
You can request a withdrawal online, by mail or via phone. You can arrange to have the payment made to yourself, your beneficiary or an educational institution. Make sure you keep records of all withdrawals.
CHET Advisor Program
The Connecticut Higher Education Trust (CHET) 529 College Savings Advisor Program is only open to Connecticut state residents through a financial advisor. Your advisor can help you develop a personalized investment strategy based on your unique financial circumstances and goals. The plan offers the same tax benefits as its direct-sold counterpart, but it offers a vastly different investment menu. Portfolios in this plan invest primarily in mutual funds from Hartford Funds as well as low-fee exchange-traded funds (ETFs) from BlackRock.
How Do I Enroll in the Connecticut 529 Advisor Program?
You can find a local financial advisor to guide you through the enrollment and investment selection process of the CHET Advisor program. But remember, not all advisors are created equal.
How Much Does the CHET Advisor College Savings Plan Cost?
Because you’d be guided through the college savings process by a professional, the CHET Advisor program may charge fees you won’t usually see when you invest in a direct 529 plan. These include fees to compensate the advisor and other intermediaries involved in running the plan.
Your fees would ultimately depend on which portfolio and share class you choose. The CHET Advisor program offers Class A, C and E shares. If you choose Class A, you’d be charged an up-front sales charge up to a maximum of 2.50%, which is considerably low compared to advisor-sold plans sponsored by other states. Up-front sales charges are taken from each contribution.
If you choose Class C, you won’t face any upfront sales charges. However, you’d be charged a deferred sales charge of up to 1.00% on any withdrawal units you withdrawal within 12 months of purchase. In addition, Class C units convert to Class A units after four years.
Some groups such as certain employees affiliated with Hartford Funds are eligible for Class E shares, which don’t have sales charge requirements.
In addition, each portfolio also carries a total-annual asset based fee, which can vary depending on share class. For Class A, it currently ranges from 0.76% to 1.20%. For Class C, it ranges from 1.51% to 1.95%. For Class E, it spans from 0.51% to 0.92%.
Below, you can read additional details about how fees break down across different share classes
- Total Annual Asset-Based Fees for Portfolios: 0.76% - 1.20%
- Maximum Up-Front Sales Charge: 2.50%
- Maximum Deferred Sales Charge: None
- Total Annual Asset-Based Fees for Portfolios: 1.51% - 1.95%
- Maximum Up-Front Sales Charge: None
- Maximum Deferred Sales Charge: 1.00%
Class E (Only available to eligible participants)
- Total Annual Asset-Based Fees for Portfolios: 0.51% - 0.92%
- Maximum Up-Front Sales Charge: None
- Maximum Deferred Sales Charge: None
As you can see, the fee structure can get a bit complex with advisor-sold plans. So be sure to discuss the most suitable investment option and share class with your advisor as well as the potential impact of all fees involved. And be sure to ask your advisor questions—especially about their qualifications, certifications and credentials. You should also carefully discuss their fees and compensation structure. Fees charged from one advisor to another can have a significant impact on your long-term savings.
Tax Benefits of Connecticut’s Advisor-Sold 529 Plan
The CHET Advisor program offers the same tax perks as its direct-sold counterpart. This means you can enjoy tax-exempt growth on your contributions while they’re invested, and the money you take out is tax-free as well if you use it on qualified higher education expenses.
You should also speak to your advisor about additional tax benefits that may appeal to you based on your individual situation. If you’re an affluent individual, you may be worried about any estate and gift-taxes you could face for contributing sizable amounts to one or multiple 529 plan accounts. However, 529 plans open the door to several ways you can give money to students and avoid gift tax.
But keep in mind that the advisor program could leave you open to the same tax pitfalls if you use 529 plan money for reasons other than to fund qualified expenses. Speak to your advisor about how any nonqualified withdrawal may impact you based on your unique situation.
What Are My Investment Options?
Your financial advisor can help you build a personalized investment strategy that reflects your individual financial situation and college-savings goals. You can construct a customized investment strategy with one or more individual portfolios, which invest in several asset classes like stocks and bonds. You can also choose from age-based portfolios and static portfolios built for specific risk levels including conservative, aggressive and a mix of both.
Portfolios in the plan are primarily composed of mutual funds by Hartford Funds as well as ETFs. The age-based option in the CHET advisor program follows a general glide path of becoming more conservative as your child gets older. The plan doesn't offer risk-specific age-based options like the direct plan.
How Do I Withdraw Money from the CHET Advisor College Savings Plan?
You can request a withdrawal by visiting your account online or by mailing in a distribution request form. You can also contact your advisor.
If you’re not sure how to go about seeking a financial professional, you can use our free SmartAdvisor tool that matches you with local advisors based on your preferences. You can also compare their qualifications and credentials. Furthermore, many specialize in specific fields like helping families save for college.