• Score Big As The Bengals And CollegeAdvantage Team Up

    by Amy Lyle | Dec 01, 2016

    Since 2012, the Cincinnati Bengals and CollegeAdvantage have teamed up each season to present one lucky family with $10,000 to help reach their college savings goals.

    This season, the grand-prize winner will receive their $10,000 College Savings Award before kickoff of the Bengals’ Dec. 18 home game, against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    In addition, the second-place winner will win a visit by a Bengals’ player to their child’s school! Ten runners-up will win a piece of autographed Bengals memorabilia and three additional runners-up winners will receive other Bengals prizes.

    To enter to win, all you have to do is visit us on Facebook. You can enter once per day, per e-mail address. This giveaway will run until 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4. For complete rules, visit https://www.collegeadvantage.com/docs/default-source/sweepstakes-rules/16bengalsgiveawayrules.

    Don’t wait to enter. The clock is ticking down to score a touchdown for your college savings. We hope to see you at the 50 yard line of Paul Brown Stadium Sunday, Dec. 18!

  • CollegeAdvantage.com unavailable due to site maintenance

    by Amy Lyle | Nov 30, 2016
    Our website, CollegeAdvantage.com will be unavailable due to routine site maintenance from 1 - 4 a.m. ET on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. We expect the website to be back up with full functionality at or after 4 a.m. ET on Thursday. If you need access your CollegeAdvantage account during this period, you can do so at https://www.mycollegeadvantagedirect.com/ohtpl/auth/ll.cs.
  • Reds Heads and Reds Rookies Kids Club Winners Announced

    by Amy Lyle | Nov 30, 2016

    CollegeAdvantage teamed up with the Reds Heads and Reds Rookies Kids Clubs this past year to give away $529 college saving awards each quarter.

    The lucky winners were randomly selected. They are:

    • Nicole Harrison of Harrison, Ohio
    • David Murphy of West Chester, Ohio
    • Dawn Hertlein of Cincinnati, Ohio
    • Jessica Gilley of Bellbrook, Ohio
    • Stephanie Heitz of Hamilton, Ohio

    Thank you to everyone who participated. Congratulations to all our winners!*

    Would you like to see your name on a winners’ list from CollegeAdvantage? Here’s one last opportunity to do so.

    Check out the Bengals CollegeAdvantage Kickoff College Savings giveaway. Visit our Facebook page and enter to win a $10,000 college savings award for your 529 plan. The second runner-up will win a visit by a Bengals player to their child’s school. Additionally, ten runners-up will win a piece of autographed Bengals memorabilia and three additional runners-up winners will receive other Bengals prizes. Complete giveaway rules can be found here. The deadline to enter is 11:59 p.m. this Sunday, Dec. 4, so don’t delay!

    *Please note that the list of winners is subject to change.

  • Celebrate Giving Tuesday With A 529 Contribution

    by Amy Lyle | Nov 25, 2016

    Ahh, the holidays — it’s the most wonderful time of the year! You’ve finally finished the Thanksgiving turkey leftovers. You joined the masses out on Black Friday and then again on Small Business Saturday. To complete all your holiday shopping, you took advantage of all the online deals for Cyber Monday.

    And then Giving Tuesday comes around, and you think, “Maybe there’s a better holiday gift I can give, one that has impact? Why not the gift of college?” Giving Tuesday marks the start of the charity giving season which lasts through all the holiday celebrations. It emphasizes meaningful offerings of your time, financial support, or talents for the benefit of others. Giving to a loved one’s CollegeAdvantage 529 college savings account — or starting an account — is truly a gift that has value and significance.

    What’s a 529 plan? Simply, it’s a college savings account that grows tax free, and withdrawals taken for 529-qualified higher education expenses are free from federal and state income tax. Additionally, the money in these accounts can be used at any federally accredited educational institutions – whether for a two-year, four-year, graduate or professional degree, or any other post-secondary school. CollegeAdvantage can show you the more of the basics.

    Contributions to a 529 plan can start as low as $25 (a Fifth Third Certificate of Deposit requires a $500 minimum contribution) and be increased to any amount you would like to donate. You can even set up an automatic monthly amount to be transferred into the 529 account to show your continual support for your loved one’s college education plans.

    If you are an Ohio resident, you are eligible to deduct up to $2,000 of your 529 plan contributions per beneficiary from your state taxable income. However, you are allowed to contribute even more! Contributions over $2,000 per beneficiary, per year, may be carried forward to deduct from future tax years until all of your contributions are fully deducted.

    Per federal 529 laws, individuals can invest up to $14,000 ($28,000 for married couples) per beneficiary without incurring any federal gift-tax consequences. You can even contribute up to $70,000 per beneficiary in a single year ($140,000 for married couples) and take advantage of five years’ worth of tax-free gifts at one time. (Contributions are considered completed gifts and are removed from your estate,  but you, as the Account Owner, retain control.) Upon the death of the Account Owner, money remaining in the account will not be included in the Account Owner's estate for federal estate tax purposes. For more information, consult your tax adviser or estate-planning attorney.

    If you aren’t a 529 account owner but would like to give the gift of college to a loved one’s 529 account, there are a variety of ways to do so! You can open an account for the child, and, if you’re an Ohio resident, take advantage of all the tax benefits listed above. You can also ask the parents for a Ugift code for their child’s CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan account. Ugift allows account owners (usually the parents) to set up a code which allows gift givers to donate online directly to an already established CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 plan account without needing the actual account number. Once you have the unique Ugift code for the gift recipient, you can visit Ugift529.com to make your electronic contribution securely from your bank account. It’s that easy. It’s also quick and easy for parents to request an Ugift code for their existing accounts. They just need to log in to their account and click on Ugift. You can also order a holiday greeting card to announce your online contribution.

    Celebrate the spirit of giving during this holiday season and contribute to a 529 account, or even start one for a loved one. 

  • CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan Recognized As A Top 529 Plan

    by Amy Lyle | Nov 22, 2016

    COLUMBUS, Ohio (​​Oct. ​31, 201​6) – In a report recently released by Morningstar, Inc. the leading provider of independent investment research of 529 college savings plans, Ohio’s CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Plan received a “Silver” rating. Morningstar has praised CollegeAdvantage for its low fees and an impressive investment lineup, noting that Ohio’s CollegeAdvantage direct-sold plan is a top choice for Ohioans as well as non-Ohioans.

    “We believe we have the best 529 college savings options in the nation right here in Ohio”, said CollegeAdvantage Executive Director Tim Gorrell, ”but this rating, from a highly regarded national agency, validates our claim and we hope will encourage more people to trust us with their college savings investments both in Ohio and across the nation.”

    This is an annual report by Morningstar which ranks 529 plans, by a five pillar system. The five pillars represent: process, performance, people, parents, and price. The five pillar system is similar to how Morningstar ranks mutual funds. Morningstar’s ranking system groups 529 plans as “Gold”, “Silver”, “Bronze”, Neutral or Negative. The “Gold”, “Silver”, and “Bronze” ratings are all positive ratings. Morningstar’s rating system makes it easier to understand how 529 plans across the country compare and perform to their peer plans. The “neutral” rating indicates room for improvement and a “negative” rating indicates a plan is clearly inferior to other 529 plans across the country.

    Morningstar reviewed a total of 63 college savings plans this year, with only 13 plans considered to be among the top plans in the country. The “Silver” rating is a very positive rating given by Morningstar and identifies CollegeAdvantage to be a “best-in-class” option for saving. Plans that received “Gold”, “Silver”, or “Bronze” rating are plans that follow the industry’s best practices. According to Morningstar they offer strong underlying investments, have a good selection of investment managers, well-researched asset allocations, low fees, and strong oversight from the state and program managers.


    About the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority/CollegeAdvantage: CollegeAdvantage is Ohio’s 529 college savings program, offered and administered by the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority, a state agency under the Office of the Chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education. Ohio is the fifth largest state sponsor of 529 plans in the country. CollegeAdvantage is offered as the CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Savings Plan and the CollegeAdvantage Advisor 529 Saving Plan which is offered and marketed through BlackRock and sold through professional financial advisors. The CollegeAdvantage program, which offers families a tax-advantaged way to save for college, has nearly $9.7 billion in assets under management and over 635,000 total accounts as of September 30, 2016. To learn more, visit www.collegeadvantage.com.

  • Happy Thanksgiving! Our Offices Are Closed

    by Amy Lyle | Nov 21, 2016

    The offices of the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority (OTTA) will be closed on Thursday, Nov. 24, in observance of Thanksgiving Day.

    Our Customer Service department (1-800-AFFORD-IT) will be closed for the holiday; however they are available to assist you on regular business days from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET before or after the holiday. You always have access your 529 account online 24/7. Please be aware that you may transact business online as usual, where you can even make account contributions.

    The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) will be closed as well on Thursday, Nov. 24. Additionally, the NYSE will close early at 1 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 25.  Any transaction requested on a holiday, weekend, or after the NYSE closes will be processed on the next business day.

    Our OTTA office will be open for business as usual on Friday, Nov. 25.

    We wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving!

  • 3 Ways To Make 529 Payments To A College

    by Amy Lyle | Nov 18, 2016

    NOTE: This is the process for CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Plan accounts only. The process is different for Guaranteed Plan accounts. Here’s guidance for withdrawals from the Guaranteed Plan.

    CollegeAdvantage wants your 529 plan withdrawal and subsequent payment for qualified higher education expenses to be simple and quick. By initiating these transactions online, you are taking advantage of the fastest and most accurate method; however, there are other procedures you can also follow. Keep an eye on your payment timeline as you start the withdrawal process. It’s better to prepare now than to be surprised by time constraints after making the request. This guide can serve as a useful reference now and in the future.


    Online

    Online withdrawal requests followed by online tuition payments to the school are the fastest way to move money from your CollegeAdvantage 529 account to a college or university. Here’s how to do it all online:

    1. Add your bank’s information now. Before you can make a withdrawal, you must have your bank account information on file for 15 business days. For security purposes, no withdrawals will be processed until your bank information has been on file with your CollegeAdvantage account(s) for at least 15 business days. This is a one-time waiting period unless you change your banking information. To add your current bank account details to each of your CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan accounts, log in to your account, and use the “Asset Management” menu to add your bank information in the “Manage Banks” section.
    2. Request your withdrawal be paid electronically to your bank account. The fastest delivery method that CollegeAdvantage offers is to have your 529 withdrawal sent electronically to your bank account. Withdrawals requested before 4 p.m. ET on business days will be processed and approved in two business days. It may take additional time for your bank to show the 529 withdrawal as being deposited. From the date of your request, you can expect the funds to be received by your bank within three to five business days.
    3. Pay your tuition online from your bank account. Once the 529 funds have been deposited to your bank account, use your college’s online portal to pay your higher-education expenses from the school from your bank account. Most schools have their own electronic tuition payment process as well as other traditional methods. Check your school’s bursar office for details. Processing times will vary by school; you should ask what it is then start the withdrawal process early to avoid late fees.


    Paper Check Delivery to the School

    CollegeAdvantage can send the payment directly to the school, but be aware that we only send paper checks by U.S. mail. Depending on the U.S. Postal Service’s delivery schedule as well as the school’s paper check processing procedures, this may cause delays in the payment. If you still choose the paper check delivery, you must do the following:

    1. Provide CollegeAdvantage with the correct school address where the check should be sent.
    2. Provide your student’s school ID number with the withdrawal request so the school knows to whom to credit the payment.
    3. Allow at least an additional 10 business days after the date of your online withdrawal request for the check to arrive at the school. It will also take the school additional time to apply the payment to your student’s expenses.


    Paper Withdrawal Request Form

    For those who prefer to use a paper form, CollegeAdvantage offers a Withdrawal Request Form. Please be aware that this is potentially the slowest withdrawal method. This form, as well as other account maintenance forms, can be found here.

    In the interest of time and prompt payment, we do encourage you to make your withdrawal request online, rather than download the form. The form is available as a fillable PDF, which we recommend taking advantage of if you plan to use it.

    You may also print the form and clearly write on it. The completed paper form must be signed then mailed to the address provided on it.

    You may have the funds sent to you as the Account Owner, or to the Beneficiary, either by mailed paper check, or by Automated Clearing House (ACH) which electronically deposited the 529 withdrawal in you or the Beneficiary’s bank account. Once you receive the funds, you will have to decide how to pay the school.

    If you wish to have the payment sent directly to the school, review the “Paper Check Delivery to the School” information above then provide the required information in section 3 C of the Withdrawal Request Form.

    The most important step is to prepare now for upcoming 529 withdrawals. Make sure your bank information is correct on your CollegeAdvantage accounts and that you know how much time the school needs to process your payment. These simple steps will expedite the withdrawal so you can pay the school expenses on time.

  • 529 Plans Aren’t Just For Kids

    by Amy Lyle | Nov 16, 2016

    Are you considering heading back to college to finish your degree? Or do you want to further hone your skills for your profession? Or maybe you’re interested in starting a new career path? Or are you finally able to start the graduate degree you’ve wanted? You’re already been saving money in a CollegeAdvantage 529 plan for your child’s future college expenses. Why not open a 529 plan for your schooling as well? Only this time, mark yourself down as the beneficiary.

    While traditionally 529s have been used to fund children’s future college costs, there are no age restrictions on who can use these college savings accounts and there are no time limits on when the account must be used. 529 plans can be used by anyone who wants to receive a post-secondary education. And it doesn’t have to be a traditional four-year collegiate program either. 529 accounts were created to be used for qualified higher education expenses at any federally accredited educational institution; the list includes two-year, four-year, graduate, professional or post-secondary degree programs. So if you’ve always harbored a secret desire to become a world-class chef, visit FAFSA’s school code search to see if the nearest culinary school is on the list. If it is, you can use your savings in the 529 to cover your qualified costs. If you interested in going to back to college to further your career, for instance to earn an MBA or take continuing education classes, check with your workplace to see if tuition reimbursement is a part of the employee benefit package.

    All the tax advantages you enjoy through your beneficiary’s 529 account will apply to yours as well. The 529 will grow with tax-free earnings on your contributions. To see how much tax-free growth adds up in a 529 savings plan, use the tax benefit tool and immediately notice the difference between a 529 account to a taxable savings account. Unlike a taxable savings vehicle, a CollegeAdvantage 529 plan ensures that every bit of investment growth is yours to use. Withdrawals from 529 plans are also tax free, provided the funds are used for qualified higher education expenses, which includes many large costs like tuition, mandatory fees, and computers. If you’re Ohio taxpayer, contributions to CollegeAdvantage may be deducted from your state of Ohio taxable income in any amount up to $2,000 per year, per beneficiary, with unlimited carry forward. This means that $2,000 per year is not a contribution cap. Should you choose to contribute more than $2,000 in a calendar year, any amounts above $2,000 may be deducted in future years, in increments up to $2,000 per year, until all contributions have been deducted. If you have College Advantage 529 accounts for your children as well as yourself, you receive the deduction to your Ohio taxable income for contributions made to each of your 529 accounts.

    If your child has already finished their collegiate education and there is money left over in their 529 plan, you can also transfer the remaining funds to your account. No tax penalties will be accessed with the transfer as long as the new beneficiary is a family member to the original one — which you are. By rolling over these 529 plan assets to your account, you can use the money you’ve already set aside for college expenses, but now it’s funding your own continuing education.

    Why not ask for family and friends to give you the gift of college at your birthday or the holidays to help fund your 529 plan? They may prefer to contribute to your continuing education rather than have to buy the latest and greatest fad. You can set up a code through Ugift which will allow gift givers to donate directly to your 529 plan online without needing the actual account number. Your loved ones can even check to make sure their electronic contribution is securely transferred from their bank account by visiting Ugift529.com. Once a gift giver has the code, they can continue to make one-time or recurring electronic gifts for college without fees.

    If your children are interested in continuing their own education into graduate school, encourage them to contribute to their own 529 plan. Once they turn 18, your children can also open a 529 account, list themselves as the beneficiary, and then start setting aside money to fund their ongoing schooling. This way they may also benefit from all the tax advantages of owning a 529.

    It’s simple to start to 529 account for yourself. Visit CollegeAdvantage.com for additional information, such as investment options and investment performance. When you’re ready to join Ohio’s 529 Savings Program, it’s easy to open an account here. As always, with CollegeAdvantage, it’s your plan, your way.

  • Gift Contributions From Family Encouraged Us To Keep Saving

    by User Not Found | Nov 15, 2016

    In 2015, CollegeAdvantage celebrated its 25th anniversary. In honor of this milestone, many longtime account owners shared their Saving Stories and how using CollegeAdvantage helped them achieve their goals. We are fortunate to have these encouraging stories of how families prioritized their children’s higher education and are sharing them again.

    We saved up for college for all three of our children through CollegeAdvantage. We value education and knew this was a priority for us to help with our kids’ education. Our biggest tip for others is to save each month and to ask grandparents to help contribute. Each year, instead of lots of Christmas gifts which the kids played with only briefly, grandparents would buy some special gift plus give into the account. Those gift contributions made a world of difference and also encouraged us as parents to continue to put away as much as we could each time.

    All three kids chose to go to private colleges that matched them perfectly. We could have never afforded to give them that opportunity without the money we had in CollegeAdvantage. One daughter attended the University of Findlay, then OSU and is now a practicing veterinarian. Our other attended Malone University and is now a teacher. Our son attended Valparaiso University, the seminary and is now an ordained Lutheran pastor. We are proud of all of them.

    We now have three grandkids, each with their college saving plans. Within the first year of their births, their parents started the fund knowing how much it made a difference for them. Of course, we continue the grandparent tradition of giving gift contributions to their accounts. We put money back monthly for each of their plans and at Christmas time we make a contribution for each of them. Like our families gift contributions inspired us to keep saving toward this worthy goal, we are now supporting our children doing the same for their little loved ones.

    CollegeAdvantage made a major difference for the education in our family.

    Bill and Jeanie Wise

    Edon, Ohio

    This Saving St​ory was originally published April 14, 2015.
  • CollegeAdvantage.com Unavailable Due To Site Maintenance

    by Amy Lyle | Nov 14, 2016

    Our website, CollegeAdvantage.com will be unavailable due to routine site maintenance from 1 ​- 4 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Nov​. 15, 2016. We expect the website to be back up with full functionality at or after 4 a.m. on the 15th. If you need access your CollegeAdvantage account during this period, you can do so at https://www.mycollegeadvantagedirect.com/ohtpl/auth/ll.cs.

     

  • Our Offices Are Closed For Veterans Day

    by Amy Lyle | Nov 10, 2016

    The offices of the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority will be closed on Friday, Nov. 11, in observance of Veterans Day.

    Our Customer Service department (1-800-AFFORD-IT) will be closed for the holiday; however they are available to assist you on regular business days from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET before or after the holiday. You always have access your 529 account online 24/7. Please be aware that you may transact business online as usual, where you can even make account contributions. The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) will be open. However, any transaction requested on a holiday, weekend, or after the NYSE closes will be processed on the next business day.

    Here are some relevant links in recognition of the day:

    • From the Ohio Department of Higher Education, here are education opportunities for veterans and active service members.
    • If you are active in the military or are a veteran, here is a listing of Ohio’s County Veteran Service offices and commissioners.
    • The Ohio History Center will host events to recognize veterans and active military throughout the weekend. A special exhibit titled, “The Forgotten War: Korea 1950 – Photographs by Max Desfor,” will open Nov. 11. A Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer for the Associated Press, Desfor captured striking images of what the American soldier and the Korean populace faced during this war. Additionally, Ohio History Connection is working with the Ohio Department of Veteran Services to collect stories and mementos from Ohio’s active military members and veterans to archive and preserve our state’s longstanding involvement of protecting our country.
  • Want To Build Your 529? We’ve Got The Tools

    by Amy Lyle | Nov 09, 2016

    Great job! You are moving forward to save for your child’s future college costs by starting a 529 account. CollegeAdvantage has tools to help you decide what saving strategy is the best fit for your family. After all, it is your plan, your way.

    Ohio’s 529 Savings Plan offers four calculators with which you can construct your 529 plan*:

    • College Savings Planner;
    • Cost Of Waiting Tool;
    • Tax Benefit Tool; and
    • Risk Tolerance Questionnaire.

    By working with these four tools, you can adjust the 529 account according to your college savings goals, time frame before college, and how comfortable you are with risk to determine the right asset allocation mix.

    College Savings Planner

    Use the College Savings Planner to receive personalized saving information; it can help you to estimate how much to put aside in a 529 account. After inputting your college savings goals and examining your total projected costs, you will receive an estimated monthly amount needed to meet your savings objective. Please note that this is an example for hypothetical purposes only. For further advice, consult with your legal, financial, tax, or other adviser.

    To create a savings plan on College Savings Planner, enter your child’s name and age. From there, a line will automatically populate the annual cost for a public, in-state, and four-year college program. There is also the option to select a specific out-of-state university. The following box will ask for the amount you plan to contribute, whether it is monthly or yearly. Once the information has been entered, an estimated savings balance will be provided as well as what percentage the college costs may be covered by this savings plan.

    So with that information, let’s apply it to an example:

    Colleen is a one-year-old child who will enter a public, in-state, four-year eligible education institution in 17 years. The 529 account will be opened with an initial $2,000 contribution. Then, planned monthly contribution of $250 will be set, with a goal of covering half of the college costs. With a selected hypothetical rate of 6%, hit calculate to generate Collen’s report. The report includes the estimated total education cost, the amount which may be accrued, the dollar amount covered based on current savings and if there’s any additional steps needed to reach the saving goal.

    You can use the College Savings Planner to create a plan that’s right for you and your family. And, once you’ve generated that the plan that works for you, you can generate, email and save a copy of your own plan.

    Cost Of Waiting Tool

    The earlier a college saving plan is started for a child, the longer the advantages of compound interest can grow in a 529 account. You should start saving as soon as possible to have the maximum impact of the 529 tax and interest benefits.

    As with the College Savings Planner, you will need to input information into the Cost Of Waiting Tool including how many years your child has before starting college, and how many years it will take to complete the college education. There are certain defaults set for the annual college cost, education cost inflation rate and hypothetical annual rate of return; you may change any of these predetermined numbers. Then hit the calculate button. Your personalized results will appear on the screen, including charts showing the cost of waiting to save for college with a monthly payment, started by a lump sum investment, or by saving goal.

    For the purposes of this calculator, college costs include tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies, as supplied to the College Board and Wealth Management Systems Inc. (WMSI) from the institutions. The average costs are based on two and four year, public and private colleges nationally. There are different kinds of institutions in each region, and because of this, there may be a large variation in the actual costs for specific institutions. 

    Tax Benefit Tool

    Perhaps you’ve already started setting aside funds for your child’s college education in another saving vehicle, such as a bank account. By using the Tax Benefit Tool on CollegeAdvantage.com, you can compare the benefits of saving in a tax-advantage CollegeAdvantage 529 savings plan to a taxable savings account.

    With an Ohio 529 plan, there are benefits from tax-free earnings, tax-free withdrawals on qualified higher education expenses, and State of Ohio tax deduction available for residents of Ohio only.

    As with the other calculators, you will need to fill in certain fields: the current savings balance, planned annual contributions, and how many years until college among other fields. Once the required information has been entered, a chart will appear to show potentially how much more additional funds may be in a 529 tax-free account when compared to a taxable account.

    Please note that this is a hypothetical illustration; The Tax Benefit Tool doesn’t represent any particular investment and it doesn’t account for inflation. There may be other material differences between investment products that must be considered prior to investing. Again, you should consult with your legal, financial, tax, or other adviser.

    Risk Tolerance Questionnaire

    Lastly, CollegeAdvantage offers a tool to help calculate risk tolerance which can shape an investment strategy. The Risk Tolerance Questionnaire may help you to ascertain with which asset allocation strategy of stocks, bonds, and other short-term investments you will be most comfortable. Investors fall into three categories – conservative, moderate, and aggressive. After determining what risk-taking category is the best match, the tool can establish what asset allocation you may want to follow. For example, after taking the questionnaire, you find yourself in the aggressive category, the tool will suggest an asset allocation more heavily weighted in stocks. If you’re more conservative, you might be more comfortable with an asset allocation more tipped towards bonds. You can also review all the asset allocation of each type of investor for comparison. These allocations are suggestions only. Any investment in stocks, bonds, or short-term cash can lose money (excluding bank products).

    CollegeAdvantage is your plan, your way. We have the tools for you to shape ​your 529 plan to best fit your family’s needs. If you are ready to start with Ohio’s 529 Savings Program, it’s easy to open an account here. CollegeAdvantage also has pointers on age-based strategies based on in which life/school stage your child is. If you already have an account and want to make some changes, log in to your account to update information or do other maintenance.

    * Please note: With all the tools — College Savings Planner; Cost Of Waiting Tool; Tax Benefit Tool; and Risk Tolerance Questionnaire — the information supplied by them are for hypothetical illustrations only. The savings goals depicted by the College Savings Planner are an estimate based on certain assumptions with the information you have provided and cannot guarantee that sufficient amount of money will be saved or the future performance of any investment option. You should consult with your legal, financial, tax, or other adviser for their professional knowledge. The Tax Benefit Tool doesn’t represent any particular investment and it doesn’t account for inflation. There may be other material differences between investment products that must be considered prior to investing. CollegeAdvantage does not provide any investment, legal, or tax advice concerning individual decisions. You should always consult with your legal, financial, tax, or other adviser to carefully consider all of your options before investing.

  • Partnering With CollegeAdvantage For The Future

    by User Not Found | Nov 08, 2016

    In 2015, CollegeAdvantage celebrated its 25th anniversary. In honor of this milestone, many longtime account owners shared their Saving Stories and how using CollegeAdvantage helped them achieve their goals. We are fortunate to have these encouraging stories of how families prioritized their children’s higher education and are sharing them again. 

    Over the years, my wife Pam and I have thanked our “lucky stars” at our good fortune in signing up for CollegeAdvantage when it began.

    As it turns out, our family grew up with your program and today we continue with the next generation in getting our grandchildren off to a good start. (More on that later.) Our three children all received the benefit of Ohio’s 529 CollegeAdvantage Program. Because of your program, all three of our children graduated with a four year college degree and NO debt! Our deal with our kids was always the same.  They were responsible to take care of their room and board, and we would use their CollegeAdvantage funds for the education. I am proud to say all three of my children held jobs for the four years they were on campus which kept them focused on why they were there. It also insured that they would leave college with a degree and no debt hanging over their head.

    Our oldest son graduated from Bowling Green State University with a major in Business Marketing. He is a very successful sales representative for a leading medical technology and services company. Our second son graduated from Bowling Green State University with a major in Middle School Math and Social Studies teaching degree. He is a successful middle school math teacher, an athletic director and football coach in Ohio. He subsequently earned a Master’s Degree from Bowling Green State University in Education Administration. Our youngest daughter earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business Marketing from The Ohio State University. She is a Human Resources Specialist for one of the premier lingerie companies worldwide.

    When we began raising our family 35 years ago, Pam and I had no idea how important our decision to invest in CollegeAdvantage was going to be. Employed as teachers and having just purchased our first home, we were not loaded with extra cash. Several investment advisors that I was reading were advocating that “States with good 529 plans” were a great way for young families to save for rising costs for college educations.  At the time I began reading these things, Ohio did not have a program in place. By the time our oldest son Matthew was 10 years old, the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority was formed in Ohio and the rest is history! Our savings in the program was slow and methodical, but time is on your side if you can just start early enough.

    And now the rest of the story!  We presently have three grandchildren and another on the way. Before their first birthday, our goal is to invest $5,000 in the CollegeAdvantage program for each. Every birthday thereafter, we add another $500 in their accounts. At Christmas time, we print off their CollegeAdvantage Statement and put it in their Christmas stockings so their parents can see how things are going, and be encouraged to do the same. Our family is very fortunate to have you as a partner in their futures.  Thanks for being there and congratulations on 25 years!

    John and Pam Wilhelm

    Hamler, Ohio

    This Saving Story was ​first published on April 13, 2015.

  • How To Avoid Mistakes With Your 529 Withdrawal

    by Amy Lyle | Nov 02, 2016

    NOTE: This is information for CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Plan accounts only. The process is different for Guaranteed Plan accounts. Here’s guidance for withdrawals from the Guaranteed Plan.

    You’re in a rush, trying to get through today’s to-do list when you look at the last item –paying your child’s college tuition bill. As you start your Direct 529 Plan withdrawal request, CollegeAdvantage has some pointers on how to avoid mistakes that may cost you in the long run.

    1) To start, create a payment timeline to follow before completing the withdrawal request form. It’s better to prepare this timetable now than to accrue late fees at the end of the process. Two time constraints that should be included in this schedule are:

    • The time it will take for the 529 Plan withdrawal to be deposited into your bank account. If you make your 529 withdrawal request online, then you can expect funds to be received by your bank within three to five business days after the date of the request. However, if you choose to use a paper withdrawal request form, it is potentially the slowest withdrawal method and you will need to plan accordingly to make sure your payment arrives on time.
    • The time it will take for the school to receive then process your funds. Most schools have an electronic payment option as well as traditional procedures. Check with your school’s bursar office for details as payment processing times will vary. You will want to know how long this stage will take so you can start the withdrawal early to prevent penalties. Additionally, electing to pay your bill electronically will be the fastest method of remittance. (Reminder: If you elect to have the funds sent directly to the school from your CollegeAdvantage account, these are only sent as checks.)

    2) Next, you will want to check that your banking information on your CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan is correct and up to date. For security purposes, this information must be on file with your CollegeAdvantage account(s) for at least 15 business days before you can make a request. No withdrawals will be processed during this time period. Log in to your 529 account and use the “Asset Management” menu to verify, or add, your bank account information in the “Manage Banks” section. If you don’t review this information before the withdrawal request, you may be adding unnecessary delays to receiving your funds.

    3) The simplest and quickest method to request a withdrawal of your 529 funds is by doing it online.  It’s also the most accurate: by entering the information in the online withdrawal process, you minimize the chances of any errors being entered — unless you mistype —and you won’t be able to submit the form until it’s fully completed. Paper withdrawal forms run the risk of illegibility or other errors, slowing the withdrawal process down until the information can be verified. Also, the online withdrawal process expedites the deposit of the withdrawal to either your bank account or directly to the eligible education institution.

    4) Your withdrawal must be for 529-qualified higher education expenses. These eligible expenses include: tuition, mandatory fees, computer equipment and related technology and services, books, supplies, and equipment required for enrollment or attendance; room and board costs during any academic period the beneficiary is enrolled at least half-time; and certain expenses for a special-needs student. As such, these withdrawals are not subject to federal or state income taxes.

    Avoid the mistake of withdrawing funds to cover any costs other than these qualified higher education expenses; it will be considered a non-qualified withdrawal. Some examples are transportations costs, insurance, fees and equipment that are not required for enrollment, parking tickets, library fines, and payment for student loans. As a non-qualified withdrawal, a 10% federal tax penalty will be imposed on the earnings portion of the withdrawal. You will also owe federal and state income taxes on the earnings.

    5) If your child earns a scholarship, you can withdraw up to the same dollar amount as the scholarship from the 529 plan. This will be a non-qualified withdrawal but only the earnings portion will be subject to federal and state income taxes. Normally, there would be an additional 10% federal tax penalty on the earnings; however, since this withdrawal is due to a scholarship, the tax penalty will not be imposed. However, if you mistakenly make a withdrawal over the dollar amount of the scholarship, the overage will have the 10% federal tax penalty as well as federal and state income taxes levied on the earnings portion.

    If your student has other qualified expenses that the scholarship doesn’t cover, you can instead use your account to cover these qualified expenses. As with any other qualified withdrawal, this type of withdrawal would not be subject to federal or state income taxes, or the 10% penalty.

    These are just a few suggestions on what missteps to avoid with 529 plan withdrawals. If you have any questions during the process, please visit our website or call CollegeAdvantage Customer Service at 1-800-AFFORD-IT (233-6734). 

  • College Is More Important Than Dining Out

    by User Not Found | Oct 31, 2016

    In 2015, CollegeAdvantage celebrated its 25th anniversary. In honor of this milestone, many longtime account owners shared their Saving Stories and how using CollegeAdvantage helped them achieve their goals. We are fortunate to have these encouraging stories of how families prioritized their children’s higher education and are sharing them again. 

    CollegeAdvantage helped us make our children’s dreams come true. Shortly, after our children were born, we enrolled in the program. It was a struggle to put back money each year for two children. We scrimped on vacations by taking a cooler and eating our breakfast and lunch from the cooler. We had a budget that included payments to CollegeAdvantage and we stuck to it. We prioritized the payments as our monthly living expenses. 

    I could continue with many hardship stories of trying to make the payments but the point is we decided that making the payments were more important than eating out, cable T.V., etc. Everyone needs to determine what they can do without in order to save for the future. We decided we would cover the first four years of college for our children, so that was our target goal to save. 

    When both of our children graduated from high school, many of our friends were worried about paying for their child’s college. That was one less headache for us. Both children received some scholarship funding which helped to stretch the CollegeAdvantage funds. Both received their undergraduate degrees from The Ohio State University. In addition to our savings and the scholarships, but children also ended up with some student loan debt. 

    Our son enjoyed an internship program with Ajax Toco where he worked summers and Christmas breaks. The one year that the economy was so bad that Ajax was unable to hire him for a summer job he worked at The Ohio State University as a painter. Our daughter enjoyed a job on campus in the maintenance department as a clerk. She started at 7:00 A.M. in the morning before her classes and worked around her class schedule. These funds helped cover their living expenses and incidentals.

    Our son studied engineering physics and during his last quarter at OSU he accepted a position with Ajax Toco as an engineer where he still works today. Our daughter received her undergrad in Psychology from OSU and went on to Kent State University to receive a master in Public Health. She worked a year for Americorp and part time for Oriana House and Neomed. She is now the Health Educator at the Trumbull County Health Department. 

    We are so proud of both of our children and are so glad our family made the sacrifices to provide them finances for their college education. 

    Vicki Amerine

    Vienna, Ohio      

    This Saving Story was first published April 6, 2015.
  • Direct Plan Fee To Be Reduced Nov. 1

    by Amy Lyle | Oct 28, 2016

    CollegeAdvantage, Ohio’s 529 Savings Program, is pleased to announce that the fee charged by Ascensus College Savings, the Direct 529 Plan’s program record-keeper, will be reduced by one basis point from 0.13% to 0.12%. This reduction starts Nov. 1, 2016. The overall effect is the total annual fee for the investment options in the Direct Plan will decrease by 0.01% in total. The record keeping fee reduction will have an impact on all of our investments except for our banking products offered through Fifth Third Bank. The banking products are not charged any record keeping fees. This fee reduction was made possible due to Direct Plan Assets Under Management (AUM) reaching a level that triggered contract-specified price reductions.

    As Direct 529 Plan assets grow, CollegeAdvantage looks for efficiencies, including fee reductions like these. Making contributions to your 529 account will help it to meet your savings goals. At the same time, your contributions also help to grow AUM, which allows for efficiencies and triggers AUM-based fee reductions. And don’t forget, family and friends can also give the gift of college by contributing to your CollegeAdvantage Direct account as well.

    New accounts also grow Ohio’s 529 Savings Program, and as the Direct Plan grows, everyone benefits! If you know someone with small children, tell them about the tax advantages of saving for college with CollegeAdvantage. You’ll be helping them to save for the future college dreams of their children or grandchildren, and you’ll be helping to grow the plan, too. Refer family and friends to CollegeAdvantage.com to learn more and enroll online or request a CollegeAdvantage Kit.

  • CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan Recognized As A Top 529 Plan

    by Amy Lyle | Oct 27, 2016

    Morningstar Inc. recently released its findings into the best college savings plans for 2016. And CollegeAdvantage, Ohio’s 529 Savings Program, is happy to announce that our Direct 529 Plan has retained the Silver rating.

    Since 2009, the CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan has been consistently rated as a top plan by industry ratings firm Morningstar. According to Morningstar, plans receiving a top rating “stand out because of generally attractive investment lineups, well-resourced asset-allocation teams, capable oversight, and competitive fees.” In 2016, the Direct Plan was recognized as a Silver Plan, one of the top 13 529 plans out of 63 reviewed.

    Rankings are based on five key pillars:

    Process — What investment options are offered;

    People — Who are the underlying fund managers and their expertise?

    Parent — How is strong is the oversight of the program manager?

    Performance — How are the investment options performing and does it set a strong precedence?

    Price — Are the investment options offered of worth to the account owner and does the program offer low fees? Morningstar also examined the tax breaks offered with each 529 plan.

    Morningstar likes what it sees in the CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Plan. According to the Morningstar analyst’s report, “Thanks to low fees and an impressive investment lineup, Ohio's direct-sold CollegeAdvantage plan remains a top choice for residents and nonresidents alike.” Additionally, the report points out, “Results generally look attractive, with the majority of plan options earning 4 or 5 star ratings. Tax benefits create further incentive for Ohioans, as contributors can deduct up to $2,000 per beneficiary from their taxable income. The plethora of options may also appeal to out of state do-it-yourselfers.”

    Interested in learning more? Click on this link to read the complete Morningstar article.

    To do some more research on CollegeAdvantage and the tax advantages our college savings plans offer, please visit here. If you aren’t sure where to set your saving goals, we’ve got the tools to help. And if you are ready start your CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 plan, go here for the online enrollment.

  • Don’t Be Afraid Of 529s

    by Amy Lyle | Oct 26, 2016

    Ghosts and ghouls, skeletons and zombies, haunted houses and 529s. You can be scared by things that go bump in the night but there’s no need to be afraid of 529 college savings programs. Let’s conquer some of those fears of what you can and can’t do with a 529 plan.

    Fear: I don’t have extra money for savings.

    Fact: Budgets are a challenge for everyone but there are simple steps to take to build a CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Savings Plan account. The easiest way to save is to regularly contribute money before you have a chance to spend it on something else. You can fill out a form to set up recurring contributions to be made directly from your bank account to your 529 plan. Time your contributions to align with payday, or establish a monthly contribution schedule. Even if you’re putting away a minimum amount, it can add up.

    Like ghosts, disappearing expenses — those costs that are in your budget for a limited time — can start to fade back into your budget; instead add them to your 529 accounts. For instance, preschool is a large disappearing expense for families. Once your child starts school full time, consider rolling over your former preschool or day care costs into regular contributions to your 529 plan. The funds are still going to your child’s educational needs but now you’re investing for their future college costs.

    With no cost to join, you can set aside more money for college by shopping through Upromise. Connected with hundreds of America’s leading companies, your Upromise membership can earn you cash back as you shop at the stores you normally would. By linking your Upromise account to your 529 plan, your earnings can be automatically transferred, subject to a set minimum dollar amount.

    For the milestones in your child’s life, have heart-to-heart conversations with family and friends about making contributions to your child’s 529 account. Loved ones often would prefer to give the gift of college, rather some toy or trinket that’s quickly forgotten. With Ugift, you can set up a code which will authorize gift givers to donate directly to your 529 plan online without needing the actual account number. Once your family and friends have the code, they can continue to make one-time or recurring electronic gifts for college without fees.

    Fear: What if my child doesn’t go to college in Ohio?

    Fact: Never fear! You can use your 529 account for qualified higher education expenses at nearly any public or private, two-year or four-year college nationwide! The institution must be a U.S. accredited college, university, graduate school, or technical school, which means that it is eligible to participate in U.S. Department of Education student financial aid programs. To see if a school is eligible, visit FAFSA to verify it has a Federal School Code.

    Fear: What if my child doesn’t attend college right away?

    Fact: There are no time limits for when a 529 account must be used. Let the 529 plan sit and watch the tax-free earnings continue to grow.

    Fear: What if my child doesn’t go to college?

    Fact: You always have access to the money you have saved in a 529 plan. Hold onto to the account to see if your child rethinks the decision. If not, you can transfer the funds to any member of the family of your beneficiary, including yourself, without any tax consequences.

    Remember, 529 plans are not just for traditional four-year college; they can be used at any federally accredited educational institutions including two-year, graduate, professional or any post-secondary credential.

    And you always have the option of withdrawing all the funds from the 529 plan account. It will be considered a non-qualified withdrawal. Like a 401(k) or a traditional IRA retirement account, there is a penalty assessed if money drawn from the account is used for something other than its intended purpose. So, an additional 10% federal tax penalty will be imposed on the earnings portion of the withdrawal. You will also owe federal, state, and local income taxes on the earnings.

    Fear: Won’t the 529 account have a negative effect on my child’s financial aid?

    Fact: The assets in a 529 plan are a component in determining the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Current federal guidelines state that if a student is a dependent and the 529 account is owned by a parent, then the account will be considered the parent’s asset and will be calculated ay just 5.64% of its value when determining the EFC. So yes, 529 plans are taken into consideration when determining financial-aid eligibility, but their impact on need-based financial aid is minimal.

    Fear: What if my child receives a scholarship? Can I still use my 529 plan?

    Fact: Yes, your 529 plan is still an important component of your college-saving strategy even if your child does earn a scholarship. Very few scholarships cover 100% of the costs; for instance, a scholarship may only cover the cost of tuition. A 529 plan is perfect for filling any gaps with other qualified expenses such as: room and board during any academic period the beneficiary is enrolled at least half-time; mandatory fees; computer equipment and related technology and services; books; supplies; and equipment required for enrollment or attendance; and certain expenses for a special-needs student.

    529 plans help you prepare for the future. And you don’t need to look into a crystal ball to determine it. While visiting CollegeAdvantage online, you can go to the tools menu and use the calculators to set your savings goal. If you need help determining how much to put aside each month, fill in the College Savings Planner to receive personalized saving information. After inputting your college savings goals and examining your total projected costs, you will receive an estimated monthly amount needed to meet your savings objective. Please note that this is an example for illustrative purposes only. For additional advice, consult with your legal, financial, tax, or other advisor.

    There’s only one thing to be afraid of with 529 plans — not starting one. If you are ready to start with Ohio’s 529 Savings Program, it’s easy to open an account here.

  • Retired And Still Saving After 25 Years

    by User Not Found | Oct 24, 2016

    In 2015, CollegeAdvantage celebrated its 25th anniversary. In honor of this milestone, many longtime account owners shared their Saving Stories and how using CollegeAdvantage helped them achieve their goals. We are fortunate to have these encouraging stories of how families prioritized their children’s higher education and are sharing them again. 

    It is amazing how just a modest amount of savings per month grows over the years. My husband and I started a savings program when our children started third grade. This savings supplemented the tuition for both of our daughters as they continued their education after graduating from high school.

    Our oldest daughter attended SAA (School of Advertising Art) and graduated with a graphics art degree. The college savings plan paid for her art supplies and books. She is the senior graphic designer at Oberweis Dairy in the Chicago area.

    Our other daughter used the college savings money for music supplies and books to help her with the music education degree she received at The Ohio State University. She is teaching orchestra in the Allen school district in Texas.

    We saw how a modest college savings plan greatly helped our children and decided to continue a savings program for all of our grandchildren when they too began their 3rd grade year of school.

    Our oldest grandchild has recently graduated from high school and plans on attending a trade school in carpentry. The second grandchild just started 3rdgrade, and we recently opened an account for him. We have two more grandchildren, ages 4 and 2. Plans are still set to begin their savings program when they reach third grade.

    My husband is a retired school administrator, and I am a retired school instrumental music teacher. Since we have always budgeted every month for someone’s college savings program for the past 25 years, it has become part of our budget and is not a financial burden as one would think. With being on retirement pay, we still can put aside a small monthly amount that will continue to help our extended family.

    The CollegeAdvantage program has and continues to invest our money wisely. We are fortunate that this program sees beyond the present and into the future for the wellbeing of our children and grandchildren.

    Michael L. and Joanne Shaffer

    Dayton, Ohio

    Originally posted April 29, 2015
  • Can Others Contribute To A 529 Plan?

    by Amy Lyle | Oct 21, 2016

    You work hard to save money for your child’s future college costs. But did you know that there is more than one way to save in a CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 plan? You can visit the CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 plan website and follow the life stage guide to calculate the best ways to optimize your account​. You can also contribute to your tax return as well as add some disappearing expenses (i.e. costs that are in a family’s budget for a limited time span) to the account. Another way to benefit from contributing to a 529 plan is by joining Upromise. With this membership, you’re earning cash back as you shop online, dine out, fill your gas tank, buy groceries, book hotels, and more. By linking your Upromise account to your CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan, your earnings are automatically transferred on a periodic basis, subject to a $25 minimum. If you sign up for automatic recurring contributions, you could transfer money from your bank account to the Ohio 529 plan.

    After considering every potential option available when opening a 529, you may even begin to wonder how others can help contribute to your child’s 529 savings plan. For example, after celebrating your child’s first birthday, you may look around to find toys scattered, some of which haven’t even been used. This brings up the question: Is there a better way to celebrate this milestone? The answer: Yes. Instead of receiving unnecessary toys from family members, consider asking for the gift of college by having loved ones contribute to your child’s 529 plan.
    Fact_Post2CAnOthersContribute

    Family and friends want to give meaningful gifts for your child’s milestones. By asking them to consider gifts for college in lieu of gifts at baby showers, birthdays, holidays, graduations, and many other special occasions, your child’s future will only continue to benefit. The first, and easiest, option for CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 plan gift contributions is through Ugift. Ugift makes it easy for an account owner to set up a code which will authorize gift givers to donate directly to a 529 plan online without needing the actual account number. They can even check to make sure their electronic contribution is securely transferred from their bank account by visiting Ugift529.com. It's that easy. Once a gift giver has the code, they can continue to make one-time or recurring electronic gifts for college without fees. Plus, if the gift giver is an Ohio taxpayer, they can also deduct up to $2,000 in contributions per beneficiary, per year, from their state taxable income. Their gift contribution must be made payable directly to the account, not to the child.

    Have gift givers who may prefer paying by check? Simply encourage them to write a check payable to the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority, rather than the beneficiary, and give them the 11-digit account number to add to the memo line. ​You can then mail it with an Additional Contribution Form to the listed address and it will be added to your CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Plan account. Again, if the gift giver is a taxpayer in Ohio, they can deduct their own gift contributions from their state taxable income.

    Another option to consider? Having heart-to-heart conversations with your child’s grandparents. It has been shown that a large number of 529 plan gift givers are grandparents who place a high value on higher education. After you talk with them, they may wish to make a gift to your existing 529 plan or they may want to establish their own account for your child. As the account owner, the grandparents will oversee the account and determine when to make withdrawals to pay for your child’s higher education expenses. They also control transfers between accounts, which is especially flexible if there is a need to transfer surplus funds from one grandchild to another. Or they can transfer their 529 account funds into an account that you’ve already established as college approaches.

    Grandparents who are Ohio taxpayers can take the deduction from their state income tax for gift contributions to CollegeAdvantage accounts of up to $2,000 in contributions per beneficiary, per year. Make sure that your grandparents are aware that there are gift tax considerations that may come into play depending on the amount of the gift contributions. The current annual gift tax exclusion is up to $14,000 per person to each beneficiary, per year, but that amount is inclusive of all gifts to a beneficiary, not just gifts to a 529 account. Additionally, your child’s grandparents can use 529 plans as part of their estate-planning strategy. As this is a complicated area of tax law and strategies vary from person to person, please have them consult with a tax or financial advisor for information on this option.

    As the next future celebration approaches, when family and friends ask what they can give, encourage them to give the gift of college by contributing to your CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Plan.

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