Ohio sponsors a direct-sold and an advisor-sold 529 College Savings plan. Both allow you to invest in your child’s future education with as little as a $25 opening deposit, an attractively low hurdle to clear as advisor-sold plans which typically require a much higher minimum. Both offer various investment portfolios designed for all risk levels, and you can contribute more than $400,000 into the plan, which is on the higher end of contribution maximums we’ve seen nationwide. You can open the direct plan online or find a financial advisor to open an account with the advisor plan and get a customized personal investment strategy. For help locating the right financial expert for you, check out our Financial Advisor matching tool to get paired up with a professional who can guide you through the process.
|Plan Name||Program Type||How to Enroll||Fees|
|CollegeAdvantage Read Review||College Savings Plan||Direct-Sold||0.04% - 0.55%|
|CollegeAdvantage Advisor 529 Plan Read Review||College Savings Plan||Advisor-Sold||0.55% - 1.53%|
CollegeAdvantage, Ohio’s direct-sold 529 college savings program, offers a range of benefits. Most 529 plans limit your investment options to mutual fund portfolios, but CollegeAdvantage also lets you invest in FDIC-insured savings accounts and certificates of deposit (CDs) offered through Fifth Third Bank. Total asset-based fees for its mutual funds currently range from 0.18% to 0.55%, which is substantially low compared to plans sponsored by other states. In addition, Ohio families can deduct up to $4,000 (if married filing jointly) in contributions from their state taxable income. The plan can also be linked to a Upromise account for additional savings. You also have a variety of portfolios to invest in including age-based options. These portfolios take the investment guesswork out of the equation, because they automatically change their asset allocation to become less risky as your child gets closer to college.
How Do I Enroll in Ohio’s Direct-Sold 529 Plan?
The simplest way to enroll in Ohio’s CollegeAdvantage 529 Plan is online. You’d need the following information about yourself and your beneficiary.
- Social Security numbers or tax identification numbers
You can also download and mail a physical application. Either way, you’d also need to pick an investment option at the time of enrollment.
How Much Does Ohio’s CollegeAdvantage Plan Cost?
The total annual asset-based fee for portfolios in the CollegeAdvantage plan currently ranges from 0.04% to 0.55%. This total fee is not charged directly out of your pocket but it’s factored out of assets in the portfolio you invest in, so your account bears a pro-rata share.
There are no maintenance fees for options by Fifth Third Bank. However, you may face an early withdrawal penalty with a CD.
Tax Benefits of Ohio’s 529 Plan
The earnings on contributions you make to the CollegeAdvantage plan grow tax-free. This can significantly boost the strength of your savings because of your ability to compound interest. In other words, your interest gains interest. Furthermore, Ohio taxpayers can deduct up to $2,000 in contributions per beneficiary every year when calculating their state income tax. Married couples filing jointly can deduct up to $4,000. Furthermore, money you take out from the CollegeAdvantage plan is tax-free as long as you use it for qualified higher education expenses.
However, taking money out of the plan for nearly anything else is considered a nonqualified withdrawal and may be subject to taxation. The earnings portion of your withdrawal may be subject to applicable federal, state and local income tax at your bracket plus a 10% early withdrawal penalty. The contributions portion of your withdrawal may be subject to Ohio state income tax to the extent of any state deductions you took.
You should speak to a certified public accountant (CPA) or financial advisor about how any non-education-related withdrawals may affect your specific tax situation.
What Are My Investment Options?
Ohio’s CollegeAdvantage program gives you the option age-based portfolios, risk-based options and individual fund portfolios that are invested in a range of securities including both domestic and international stocks and bonds.
Age-based options automatically rebalance their asset allocation to become less risky as your beneficiary approaches college or secondary school. You can also invest in a risk-based portfolios and one or more individual portfolios focusing on a broad range of underlying investments including stocks, bonds and cash.
Underlying investments in portfolio options are managed by established financial institutions such as Vanguard and Dimensional Fund Advisors (DFA). You have the choice of choosing from passive or actively managed investments. Passive strategies aim to reflect the performance of a given index of securities and thus tend to carry lower fees. Fund managers who run portfolios with active strategies try to beat the market in a sense by incorporating research and other resources into choosing which securities to invest in.
But you can also invest in FDIC-insured CDs and savings accounts from Fifth Third Bank. These options may suit you if you have a very low risk tolerance or if you’ve been saving for a while and believe it’s time to protect your earnings before you use them to fund your child’s education. If you’re not sure about which portfolio to invest in, you can use our asset allocation calculator to see how different portfolios can break down based on different risk levels.
How Do I Withdraw Money from Ohio’s 529 Plan?
You can request a withdrawal online and have it sent you, the beneficiary or the educational institution you’re funding. For the last option, you’d need the student’s school ID number. You can also fill out a withdrawal request form and mail to CollegeAdvantage.
CollegeAdvantage Advisor 529 Plan
Through a financial advisor, you can open an account with the BlackRock CollegeAdvantage Advisor 529 Plan. The program allows you to invest in portfolios with underlying mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETF) that BlackRock and other established financial services institutions manage. It also offers robust tax benefits.
How Do I Enroll in Ohio’s Advisor-Sold 529 Plan?
You can open an account with the CollegeAdvantage Advisor 529 Plan by contacting a financial advisor. Your advisor can walk you through the enrollment process and help you design a personalized investment strategy based on your unique financial situation and goals. But remember that not all financial advisors are created equal.
You should ask your advisor questions especially about his or her fee structure and all qualifications.
How Much Does the CollegeAdvantage Advisor 529 Plan Cost?
The cost of investing in this plan ultimately depends on the portfolio you choose as well as its share class. The CollegeAdvantage Advisor 529 Plan allows you to choose from Class A shares and Class C shares.
If you invest in Class A shares, you’d face an initial sales charge, which is taken out of every contribution you make. Class C doesn’t take a sales charge up-front, but you’d owe a contingent deferred sales charge (CDSC) if you take money out of the plan within one year of making a contribution. And because this is an advisor-sold 529 plan, you’d face some fees you may not typically find with a direct plan. These fees are charged to compensate advisors and other intermediaries involved in managing the plan.
In addition, each portfolio in the plan also has a total annual asset-based fee that currently spans from 0.55% to 1.53%.
Tax Benefits of Ohio’s Advisor-Sold 529 Plan
The CollegeAdvantage plan offers the same tax benefits as its direct-sold counterpart. This means your contributions will grow tax-exempt and the money you take out is tax-free as well if you use it for qualified higher education expenses. However, you could face the same tax penalties if you use the money for something else. Be sure to speak to your advisor about all tax implications of investing in this plan, as well as additional benefits that may appeal to you.
What Are My Investment Options?
The BlackRock CollegeAdvantage 529 plan allows you to invest in target-date options, which automatically rebalance their asset allocation to become less risky as your beneficiary approaches the college years. As that nears, your investments get switched to the BlackRock College Enrollment option, which is designed for students entering college or already in college. It aims to protect assets while achieving steady growth. All target-date portfolios are actively managed, meaning the fund manager tries to beat the market with its own research and investing strategies.
Target-risk options are designed to have a relatively constant asset mix of stocks, bonds and cash. Portfolio choices are based on your risk appetite: moderate, growth or aggressive growth.
Single-strategy options allow you to invest in a range of portfolios that focus on a particular asset class like equity, fixed income or a balanced mix of multiple asset classes.
How Do I Withdraw Money from Ohio’s Advisor 529 Plan?
You can request a withdrawal by logging on to your account online. You can also reach out to your financial advisor. If you’re not sure how to find the right professional, you can use our free SmartAsset Advisor matching tool. It asks you some simple questions in order to connect you with local financial advisors who can meet your needs and preferences.