The ‘problem’ of extra money in your 529 plan

by Grace

If you’re lucky enough to have left-over money in your 529 plan, there are ways to handle that problem.  Besides paying for traditional two- or four-year colleges, other options exist for 529 funds.

  1. Vocational education – money in a 529 plan can be used to pay for postsecondary vocational or technical training at schools eligible for financial-aid programs administered by the U.S. Department of Education. This includes schools that teach a variety of trades, such as automotive and aerospace maintenance, hairstyling and computer skills. 
  2. Graduate school – 529 funds can be used for postgraduate education
  3. Change the beneficiary to another family member – siblings, first cousins, parents, or grandchildren
  4. Leave the money in to grow tax-free – as long as there is a living beneficiary
  5. Charity – donating the proceeds to charity allows you to take a tax deduction if you itemize deductions

Tax penalties waived if a scholarship covers college costs

Say there is money left over in a 529 account because your child got a big scholarship that reduced his or her college costs. In that case, money withdrawn would be subject to tax on the earnings but the 10% penalty would be waived, as long as the withdrawal doesn’t exceed the amount of the scholarship. The penalty on withdrawals also would be waived if the beneficiary dies or becomes disabled.

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