Let’s talk about our kid’s college saving fund today. I’ve been planning to transfer our college savings from Oregon to Vanguard and I finally got it done this month. Why transfer? Basically, because we will pay lower fees and there aren’t any drawbacks. This post probably will be most interesting for Oregonians, but it might be helpful for parents living elsewhere, too. Read on…
College is getting too expensive
First a little background. My parents paid for the majority of my college education and I want to help our kid out in the same way. Mrs. RB40 also got some help from her parents so both of us graduated with minimal debt. Of course, we went to college in the mid 90s and the price of higher education has exploded since then. The average Class of 2016 graduate had over $37,000 in student loan debt. From what I’ve seen, the cost will continue to increase and I’d really hate to saddle our kid with a monster debt at the start of his career. It’s not a hardship for us to help out so we’ll try to give him a good head start in life. We’ll also make clear that he shouldn’t expect any inheritance. Personally, I think a good education is worth a lot more than a receiving a bequest upon our passing.
We’ve done pretty well with our college savings so far. RB40Jr was born in 2011 and we’ve been saving to his 529 plan since then. We chose the Oregon College Saving Plan because the contribution is deductible (up to $4,660 in 2017.) The Oregon state income tax is pretty high at 9-10%. Here is where we are at with our Oregon plan at the end of Q1 2017.
- Total Contribution: $41,820 over 6 years.
- 3/31/2017 Balance: $57,350.
I think we’re in good shape. The current balance should keep growing and we’ll continue to contribute about $4,600/year over the next 12 years. However, I’m sure the college cost will be ridiculous when our kid is 18 in 2029. The projected cost of sending a kid to the 4 years public in-state degree is $250,000! We’ll do our best and see how it goes.
The estimates vary widely. I think $250k is probably pretty accurate. That’s tuition, room & board, books, etc… It already cost $35k/year to attend our alma mater in 2016. Of course, there are ways to reduce the expenses. If we can’t afford 4 years, then I’d suggest living at home for a couple of years and attend a college nearby.
Why do I want to transfer our 529 plan to Vanguard? The main reason is lower fees. I also prefer Vanguard over TIAA-CREF because I’m a big fan of Vanguard. Let’s look at the fees.
For the basic funds, Vanguard’s fees are about 0.10% lower. That doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up once the balance is bigger. We’d save about $60 per year at Vanguard with our current balance. However, the account will keep growing and the amount saved will grow as well. Our account will be active for at least 12 to 16 more years so we’ll probably save over $1,000 once it’s all said and done. That’s not a huge amount, but every little bit counts. Maybe RB40Jr can buy a text book or two with that extra money…
The more complicated funds are not as easy to compare, but the fees are lower at Vanguard across the board. The Age-based funds in particular look better at Vanguard. Parents can choose aggressive, moderate, or conservative for the age-based portfolio and Vanguard will do the rest. That’s short and simple.
*The Vanguard plan has a $20 annual fee if your balance is below $3,000.
Transferring our account
Okay, here is the plan. I’d transfer our current balance from Oregon over to Vanguard. By the way, this is a Nevada plan. Then I’ll keep adding to my Oregon account every year so we can get the state tax deduction. Once the balance at the Oregon plan goes over $20,000, then I’ll transfer again.
This way, I’ll get the best of both worlds – state income tax deduction and low fees! Is this really possible? Wouldn’t the Oregon want the income tax deduction back if I transfer my account to Nevada? This is called recapture tax and most states charge this tax on outbound rollovers; however, Oregon is one of the few states that doesn’t.
I was worried about the recapture tax so I contacted the Oregon College Savings Plan and the Department of Revenue quite a few times. The answers were consistent and they all said no recapture tax on rollovers. The only caveat is you can rollover just once in a 12-month period. If there is more than one rollover, then it will be considered a non-qualified withdrawal. That’s bad because the earnings will be subject to income tax and a 10% penalty.
*This post was written in 2017. You can see if your state charges recapture tax – comparison of 529 plans at Savingforcollege.com. You should check with your state’s Department of Revenue about the recapture tax to make sure, though.
It took a couple of weeks to process the transfer because we had to fill out the paperwork and send it in the mail. It’s done now and I’m pretty happy to see our 529 at Vanguard. I’m familiar with Vanguard funds and it’s easy to see what funds we’re invested in. For now, I put 80% into the Total Stock Market Index and 20% into the Total Bond Market Index. It’s easy and I won’t have to worry about it much.
That’s all I’ve got today. Do you think it was a good idea to go with lower fees at Vanguard? Do you plan to help your kids with their college education?
Related post – Why we are using the 529 plan to save for college.
Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!
Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.
Latest posts by retirebyforty (see all)
- Make Your Partner Happier by Being Cheap - March 26, 2023
- 4 Ways to Avoid The 10% Early Withdrawal Penalty - March 22, 2023
- Goodbye SAHD FIRE, Hello Barista FIRE - March 19, 2023
- Don’t Stop Investing When SHTF - March 15, 2023
- Pack Your Bags for A 3-Year-Cruise - March 12, 2023
74 thoughts on “Moving Our Oregon College Savings Plan (529) to Vanguard”
Thanks for the nice post RB40! One quick question: what’s the reason behind transferring out when the Oregon plans balance is over $20,000? Different fee bracket? The Oregon plans website says a flat 0.25% annual fee?
In the disclosure book for Oregon 529 it says that rollovers ‘may be subject to a recapture’ and to consult a tax advisor…have the rules changed?
If you roll over more than once per year, then you’ll have to pay recapture tax. Otherwise, no. You should call these people again to make sure.
Well this is helpful for me. I follow you on twitter too.
I’m really trying to decide if I want to bother with a 529 plan, since I was just planning to use a taxed investment plan in my name for my child. But, at over 100k per year income, and the changes the max of state taxes that can be deducted from federal I’m rethinking opening a 529 (especially since there should be new ways to apply to k-12 and homeschool expenses).
I still don’t really know if it is worth it, and I’m not positive that my child will attend college (I don’t want them to go if there isn’t a clear plan and goal in attendance).
I’ve got about a month to decide!
Oh, I’m in Oregon I meant to say.
I think it’s useful. The tax deduction helps and you can transfer it to Vanguard periodically.
You have a lot more choices at Vanguard. It’s still good even if our kid doesn’t go to college. We’ll gift it to one of our nephews or nieces.
It`s ridiculous the huge amount one pays for university education in the States. Up north, it is still fairly affordable, averaging around $7000 a year for tuition. However, with food, books and accommodation, the amount adds up quickly. Not to mention that here, we have universal healthcare. Though not always efficient, it covers everyone. I am grateful for this country.
I agree that the education cost is ridiculous here. We’ll keep our option open with going to university elsewhere too. My cousin is going to a university in Germany and I think the tuition is free.
Yup, avoiding fees is huge over a couple decades.
I do plan to contribute to college, perhaps pay for completely. My parents did for me and I think it gave me a huge advantage in starting a career / life that many others don’t have. It allowed me to start my own business and work for myself!
This 529 plan seems to be great and helps in future for paying the college fee. And along with this if we can also try in getting scholarship for the ward, it would be much better.
Interesting! Might have to look at that. We do the max contribution for tax deduction to the Oregon plan each year and then have a Vanguard acct w/ Utah. Never thought about rolling over, though.
And good job on the savings! We are behind you (and kids are older). OTOH, we are saving for 2…
Very smart move – lower fees add up and make a difference in the long run. You kids will be in great shape financially! Thinking of having my sister move her stuff to Vanguard as well for the same reasons. Thanks for sharing
Very interesting post!
I want to share my strategy for accumulating college funds for my 1 year old son. It is a bit non-traditional.
I purchased a rental property for my son right after he was born. I bought it with a 15 year fixed rate mortgage. By the time he gets to college, it will have already been paid off for a few years. I will then refinance the property, pulling out six figures to fund my son’s college education. Then once he is done with college, I will hand over the keys to get him started in his real estate investing career. This plan hits 2 birds with one stone. 1) it should completely fund his education, all paid for by the tenants over 15+ years of paying rent and paying off my mortgage. 2) it will give him an opportunity to learn how to manage a rental property and understand the principles of cash flow, financing, appreciation, depreciation, and everything else that comes along in the real estate investing business. Ideally I will have left enough equity in the property when I refinanced it so that it will generate a solid positive cash flow for him to teach him the value of passive income.
I am considering doing something similar with our rental. At the time FAFSA are due refinance to put debt into the house. That way it reduces the amount of “business assets” by way of loan. The only thing I haven’t figured out is how to “hide” that money that you got from the bank in order to reduce the ETC. Perhaps give it to Grandparents and then they can use it to pay off student loans when they graduate.
It’s nice to get some tax benefits for the growth portion for the 529 plan. The down side is the restrictions on what your money can be spent on. I don’t like those hassles. It’s your money, and you should be able to spend it anyway you want to. I guess it’s a personal preference. In my case, I simply put the $ into the bank accounts, and it worked okay.
We started our kids 529 plans with Vanguard while working overseas. I especially liked having the age based options which went from aggressive to conservative over the course of 18 years.
Having all of our other accounts with Vanguard helps to make things easy to view
Thanks for the overview, Joe. In Minnesota, we do not have a tax deduction for contributions into a 529 plan. I’ve looked into other states that have low-cost investment options. The one thing that I get stuck on is the rigidness of having to use a 529 for educational expenses.
Hopefully, our daughter gets a full-ride scholarship! If not, we’ve decided to open up a UTMA account. While it doesn’t have the same tax benefits, it does enable our daughter to use the money as she sees fit – which may or may not be a good thing!
One problem with the UTMA is that the money is in the kid’s name. It will weight more when you fill out the FAFSA, financial aid application. The 529 is in the parent’s name and only a small percentage is counted toward financial aid. Do you know about this difference?
Interesting take on this. I never knew about the recapture fees. Since we don’t have kids we will not be using the 529, but I wondered if we could open or contribute to a 529 for a niece or nephew using a DAF (Donor Advised Fund). have you ever heard of someone taking that approach?
Yes, you can open a 529 for a family member. I’m sure a lot of grandparents do that. I’m not familiar with the DAF, though.
A DAF is a charitable contribution to a special account from which you can direct charitable transfers be made over time. It really has nothing to do with a 529 plan
I think if you can save even a little on fees, and you like the investments equally, there’s really no reason not to switch.
I’m a bit on the fence re: 529 plans overall, as there are some scenarios that could happen (full ride scholarship, or not going to college) that could result in the 10% penalty. I haven’t fully looked in to all the ins and outs, but it seems like you get some avoidance on state income tax (no federal) and you get tax free growth (probably the largest benefit) while the funds are in there: significant over an 18-22 year span.
Do you feel like the juice is worth the squeeze? I’m kicking around the idea of just investing in a taxable account, with some tax efficient investments (something like an S&P 500 index fund).
I think it really depends on your family situation. If our son get a full ride, then we’d probably change the beneficiary to one of our young relatives. I don’t mind helping out if we’re already comfortable. I think it’s worth it.
I was disappointed to find that our state doesn’t give us any incentives so we were at liberty to pick any plan available. Naturally, we went with Vanguard 🙂
Glad you made the move, welcome!
The California 529 plan is managed by TIAA Cref and the fees (for their passive funds) are much cheaper than the Nevada plans:
Oh wow, that’s a lot cheaper than OR. I guess TIAA CREF just charges more fees for OR because we get the tax deduction. Very crafty of them…
Thanks for sharing the link.
Nice! Generally, I think it’s better to switch to a plan with lower fees… unless there’s some special incentive the old plan has, but usually, low fees would be the way to go.
While I do plan to help my future kids out with their college tuition, I also hope that my kids will be able to land some grants and scholarships to reduce it by themselves as well.
Clever idea Joe! For people who live in states with a tax deduction this is a great idea!
We don’t have state tax here in Washington, so I don’t worry about getting a tax deduction. Instead, we use an Arizona 529 for our boys. The fees are fairly low, but now you’ve got me wondering if I could do even better.
I’m very jealous of your 0% state income tax. I’d love to move, but Mrs. RB40 just isn’t ready to go yet.
I am very jealous of both of you. Every time when I see 9.3% going to the State, I am almost ready to cry.
Crazy that the projected cost is $250,000. At what point does the cost benefit analysis show that the value of getting a degree is outweighed by the cost. $250,000 to start out a career will put most students into mortgage level debt which will take 30 years to pay off and then they are ten to fifteen years from retirement at that point. It will be interesting to see how things go in the academic world since I think most people agree salaries have not kept pace with increasing costs for most of America. Great job on setting your little guy up for success!
I agree. In 20 years, everyone will have a college degree. It won’t help that much and the cost is ridiculous. You’d have to be really picky about the field you’re going into.
I need to look into this since NC’s 529 plan wraps a 0.25% fee on top of all investments (which are Vanguard investments so otherwise really great and low cost). Thinking of moving to NY direct 529 plan which had 0.17% expense ratios last I checked.
But I’m worried about the recapture tax now that you mentioned it. I’ll have to investigate further.
OR has a similar account management fee on top of the funds. That’s why they are more expensive than Vanguard. 0.25% doesn’t sound like much, but it’s millions to the firm every year. Nice job if you can get it…
Nice post RB40! Im also a big fan of Vanguard and I need to look in to transferring my kids 529 plans as well.
I love Vanguard, personally I use it for our IRAs and for taxable investments. So far we can’t use it for 529s because of the $3000 minimum, but later, as soon as my kids’ 529 have enough we will transfer to Vanguard.
Unfortunately for us California doesn’t allow to deduct 529 contributions and in our case we can chose whatever plan. And we are doing more agressive investing, we are investing 100% in stock market
Really? I wonder why CA don’t give you a tax break for this.
I need to be more clear on this topic, 529 contribution are no subject for State tax deduction, but earnings grow tax free. But considering investment options for CA 529, which are really pure, we decided to go with other plan
I don’t know why, maybe because it’s 9.3% and CA needs money more than we do 🙂
Lower fees are always a good idea. I have a couple of Vanguard ETFs and that was a big reason to buy into them. But now I’m thinking if it’s worth it to change my son’s 529 over. Definitely something to think about, thanks!
Double check with your state about recapture tax.
We’re in the NY 529 plan and fortunately they have Vanguard funds. We contribute a small amount monthly and would like to help our kids with college but I’d be fine if they have to take out student loans. Both my wife and I went to state colleges so hopefully those will still be relatively affordable. I don’t know about those projections for in-state colleges…it doesn’t seem like that cost is sustainable. You guys have done a great job already of saving a good amount for your son.
I hope the college cost will flatten out too. But it seems like the cost keeps increasing and they just give out more scholarship instead. I think even in-state college will be very expensive in 12 years.
I really hate that you have to go through all these hassles and bureaucracy in order to save for your kid’s college. Each state is different, they all have different rules, and in the end, you end up contributing to the massive increase in costs for college by doing this.
Based on what I’m seeing in the work world, I would counsel my sons to go to a trade school to learn welding, plumbing, electrical, etc. They are already talking about outsourcing legal and engineer work, and AI in 10-20 years will be capable of doing a lot. Yet, you still have to have someone there to run the pipe, weld, put in the lines, and hundreds of other “dirty jobs” that can’t be outsourced.
Kind of like manicures and spa treatments – you still need a human touch.
I like your plan. We’ll have to see what field our kid excel in. If he’s good with trade, then maybe we’ll use the money to help him setup a business in the future. I think picking a trade is a great idea if college isn’t right for you.
Thanks for sharing your thought process on this. The fees really do make a huge difference and there’s very little value to the higher-cost funds so totally understand why you would be compelled to switch. Thanks again and have a great week!
You’re setting up your little one for financial success! I know he’s going to appreciate graduating (hopefully) debt-free. 🙂 I think we’ll also help with our kids’ higher educations (if that’s what they want to pursue), but we want them to be smart about it. ie. Dual credit classes in high school, earning basics at the community college, working during school, graduating early, etc. We’ll see what the future holds. 🙂
I like your plan. We’ll try to encourage him to do all of that too. It’s tougher now than when we were young.
My hope is that the cost of college is going to flatten out soon. I have read different numbers but something like 20-50% of kids have defaulted or failed to pay a dollar in the last seven years. If in state public school costs $250,000 that means becoming a doctor from Harvard will cost you over a million dollars. Numbers like that would be almost impossible for anyone to overcome.
I hope so too. I didn’t know that so many people are having trouble paying back. I heard that it’s really hard to get out of student loan debt. You have to pay back one way or another.
We’ll have to get creative if we can’t afford it. Maybe he can live at home for a couple of years and go to a university close by. Or maybe we’ll just move to his college town to save on COL. 🙂
We’ve been looking into this real time as we’ll soon open a 529 plan for our second kiddo. We used Utah’s 529 plan for kid #1 since it had the lowest fees and investment elections we wanted (Vanguard funds), but our current research has us leaning towards New York. They also use Vanguard funds, but have low and flat fees for all investments. I’ve learned to look at all fees, plan administration/management fees by the state and underlying fund fees. NY’s flat fees cover everything and are 16 bps which is lower than the 24.5 bps we pay at Utah.
That’s awesome Oregon doesn’t have the recapture tax, so rare to see that! Since there are no tax benefits in NC, we have always looked out of state, but may take advantage of the transfer like you did (once every 12 months) and move the Utah plan to NY. Still mulling it over but expect a post when the decision is made.
I found this great side by side comparison for Vanguard, Utah and NY plans – https://vanguard.wealthmsi.com/comp529main.php?vang1=NV2&planid1=UT1&planid2=NY2
Nice, thanks for the link!
The NY plan looks great. I wonder how they got the 0.01% discount?
Not sure. It is 1 bp difference on a few of the options, but 3 on the US Index Fund and 19 different on the international. We have about a third of our 529 plan invested in international so that’s an important consideration.
Also, these states often change around their programs and reduce fees to compete against the other states so it is a good practice to routinely check them out. I don’t recall looking that closely at NY last time but it is definitely more appealing now.
Thanks for the info Joe, we are going to be looking into 529 plans sometime in the next year and making a decision.
We will pay for part of college I imagine- just not at the cost of our retirement!
I agree. Retirement first. We’re doing pretty well at the moment so we’re saving for our kid. If we had to choose, then it makes more sense to save for retirement first.
Joe – this is a great idea. I plan to start a 529 fund for my great-niece/nephew when born. I will have to check on the recapture tax in our state. If it works out, why not go for the lower cost?? No need to throw money away!
Good luck! I think it’s great that you’re helping the kids out.
We don’t get a tax benefit so we started out with Vanguard (Utah).
I would probably be too lazy to transfer given that difference in fees, but it is great you’re not!
I need something to write about. 🙂
I guess it depends what you invest in, but I wouldn’t have thought saving .08% in US and losing .01% in international would add up to much. In Rhode Island we have a Vanguard Total US Stock option that has a .04% for in-state residents. I guess we’re pretty lucky there.
I was more shocked by the 4-year cost of $250,000 for in-state, public schools even in the 12-16 range. I find it hard to believe that $62K a year is going to be typical for public schools. I actually things moving in the other direction out here in New England. New York and Rhode Island have proposed (maybe even passed) free or partially free college tuition programs in the last year. Maine is saying that they’ll match the in-state tuition prices in Rhode Island, for those who are in Rhode Island to be competitive.
College is the one area of expenses that is completely unpredictable. (Okay, maybe healthcare is another one.) Still, you could tell me it will be $40K a year for public school and I’d say, “Sure.” Or you could tell me it will just be room and board and I’d say, “I can see that.” Might as well be playing Plinko on the Price is Right.
0.04% is really good.
I think $250k is definitely possible. It’s not just tuition, but cost of living too. It already cost $35k/year to attend our alma mater in 2016. Pretty crazy. We’ll research more as we get closer, of course.
Rhode Island most likely will not be offering free in-state tuition for four year programs anytime soon. There has been proposals for two year in-state programs to be free, however those have been pretty much dead on arrival in the current assembly (mostly left leaning), given the astronomical costs that would be borne by the taxpayer. My guess is if anything happens in-state 4 year tuition will most likely rise in RI given the last election cycle’s giveaway to the engineering department at The University of Rhode Island. Either they will have to increase out of state tuition to a level which attracts less students from the tri-state area or be forced to look at modest increases to in-state tuition. Think it’s pretty certain cost containment wouldn’t be on the table.
It would be incredibly difficult in RI for free tuition to happen, given an aging workforce moving into retirement , most of whom are state workers (largest employer in state) some of whom then move to Florida upon retirement. Given the crisis level of the pension system, additional funds will need to be focused there.
It’s a really nice idea to offer free tuition, but given the poor decisions that have been made in RI over the past few decades, it is more than likely not going to happen anytime remotely soon.
Joe – this is a great idea! I didn’t think it was possible to transfer your state 529 plan, and still be able to able to withdraw it tax free. However, your plan makes complete sense! I’ll have to look into it too. Can you tell me what turned you on to this idea? How did you know it was possible? Great article!
I read about this a few years back, but our balance was too low to make it worth it. Now our balance is pretty hefty and we’ll start to save a few bucks. It really depends where you live because only a few states don’t charge recapture tax.
My daughter graduated two weeks ago and we moved her to West Virginia to start grad school this weekend. We used NY’s 529 plan for some of her college money. She graduated debt free. She contributed $15,000 and we paid the rest – but she did it in 3 years and that made a huge difference. It cost us about $900 for “Year 1” which she did with AP classes in high school (had to pay for the AP tests) and for a community college class one summer to make sure she had enough credits and the right classes to graduate on time. She’s getting paid to do her Master’s degree (tuition waiver and stipend for being a teaching assistant). So we’re done with one child! The next one goes for orientation in two weeks and he has a plan to be done in 3 years too 😉
Congratulations! She did a great job! I’ll see if our kid can do something similar too. 3 years would make a huge difference. I was a TA when I was in graduate school as well. That’s a great way to reduce the expenses.
Wow this is really helpful! We haven’t invested in any education fund for Baby FAF yet. We’ve been hoping he will get a scholarship to go to college. But we also realized we need a plan B. I will definitely need to look into Vanguard when we decide on a college fund.
I hope our kid gets a scholarship too. That’s plan A. The 529 is plan B. 🙂
I love Vanguard funds too!
I’m surprised on the 80/20 mix. With young kids I’d go 100% stocks. Bonds, IMO, have minimal value beyond helping to smooth out short term volatility in a portfolio. Since the money won’t be touched for so long, I wouldn’t care about the volatility until closer to college age. Just my $.02.
I put 20% in bond because I think the stock market is too high. I’ll rebalance to 100% stock at some point. Thanks for your input.
Would you count your 100% stocks in your 529 into your total asset allocation? Or treat is separately? Since counting it would make your overall portfolio more aggressive.
It seems to make sense to lower the amount that you pay in fees. The only reason I haven’t moved my account is because I get a tax break that exceeds the difference in fees from my VA529 plan and Vanguard. Otherwise I’d be making the same leap 🙂
Our tax break is more than $60. That’s why we’ll continue to contribute to the OR plan. Luckily, we don’t have recapture tax here.