For those of you looking at 529 College Savings plans, Morningstar has released it’s list of top ranked plans. I utilize Morningstar as third party research in managing portfolios and screening for investment ideas.
For those of you new to the world of 529 plans they are used as a college savings vehicle in which contributions are made on an after tax basis in which assets grow tax free and withdrawals are made tax free for qualifying expenses such as tuition and books. I personally own and manage several plans and like them for the following reasons:
- Anyone can setup an account for a child, friend, family member, etc. (Great for grandparents)
- Although each plan varies, there is usually a high contribution amount vs. other savings plans which only allow you to contribute $2000 annually
- You can transfer accounts between children if necessary
- Most plans offer a variety of investment options. If you don’t like your own state plan you can always choose another.
Another good college savings vehicle is actually an IRA. Either a Traditional or Roth offers qualifying college expenses as a withdrawal option. This gives you more control in case your child or person you are saving for does not attend college.
Being the father of new born triplets college is a little ways away for me. However I manage 529 plans for clients and have discussions with people about how to save for college. My wife and I have been having this discussion posted in the WSJ about weather college should be an option for our kids. Many people would think that is ludicrous but when you start to break down college as a value proposition you can begin to see the merit of such an analysis.
A blogger that I follow James Altucher, has a few posts about how college does not work or alternatives to college (Why parents should not send their kids to college, 8-alternatives-to-college). For example if you plan on raising an entrepreneur then college may not be the best option or value. Both my wife and I went to college and as I see it our diplomas were an entry ticket for us to get into the game. I don’t think that it necessarily works that way any longer. Even though employment is higher for those with college degrees what was the cost of that degree and what kind of earnings power does it create? You can’t just simply get rid of your college debt as you can with a credit card or mortgage debt even if you file for bankruptcy.
Here is some additional information on the ECRI recession call provide by Doug Short. As noted the ECRI does not provide the analytical detail behind it’s recession call and neither does is specify a recession date. Even though the revised GDP at 2.5% was better than expected that number is rear view looking.
Again I believe we are suffering from a lack of confidence due to lack of government leadership and the continued issues with the European financial crisis where one day you have a possible solution and the next day you do not. It makes investing extremely difficult no matter what side of the trade you are on long or short.
Full disclosure although I didn’t go to Notre Dame I am a huge Notre Dame fan. I’ve been going there since age 7 and have season football tickets. The Chief Investment Officer, David Malpass of the Notre Dame endowment fund and Jay Jordan were both on CNBC this past week discussing how they were able to grow the fund through the great recession.
Notre Dame has been one of the top performers among the large endowments of the past 15 years with a return rate of 12.1%, it is the 14 largest educational endowment in the country. Here are some items to point our regarding their fund and strategy:
- Take a long-term horizon
- Asset Allocation – 30% hedge funds/30% private equity/25% Equities/15% Other
- 40% invested overseas
- Attempt to avoid leverage
- Corporate distress market (again long-term view)
A key take away as the managers point out is that most people can’t invest in opportunities that an endowment invests in. You can somewhat mirror their asset allocation strategy and take a long-term focus but getting into a hedge fund or private equity position is very difficult without a significant amount of capital.