Families who purchase a 529 plan through a financial advisor often pay a sales charge in addition to the plan’s underlying mutual fund fees. The amount of commission an advisor earns depends on the mutual fund share class selected within the 529 plan.
A Sneaky Sales Practice
Advisor-sold 529 plans offered through brokerage firms (Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, UBS, etc.) are typically sold as Class A shares or Class C shares. Class A shares have an upfront sales charge (as high as 5.75%) and low annual fees, and Class C shares have no upfront sales charge with higher annual fees.
Generally, Class A shares are recommended for 529 plan beneficiaries who have a longer investment time horizon, since there is more time to absorb the cost of the upfront sales charge and the investor will benefit from the lower annual fee.
But, some advisors intentionally placed clients with young children in Class C shares to collect the higher ongoing sales charges.
How 529 Plan Fees Affect Your College Savings
With almost any 529 plan, the investor pays annual mutual fund fees. Direct-sold 529 plans typically invest in passively managed funds (such as index funds) with very low expenses. However, many advisor-sold 529 plans invest in actively managed funds with expenses as high as 1% and come with an additional sales charge to compensate the advisor. A 529 plan’s expense ratio also varies by share class.
Even a small difference in 529 plan fees can add up over time. For example, if you invest $100,000 in a 529 plan with a 1% expense ratio you would pay $1000 in fees. If you instead invest in a 529 plan with a 0.10% expense ratio you would only pay $100 fees that year.
And remember, a 529 plan’s annual expense ratio is based on a percentage of assets in the account. So, as your account balance grows you end up paying more in fees. The more you pay in fees, the less money you are investing for your child’s college education.
For the original article click here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/katiepf/2019/07/10/how-much-are-you-paying-for-your-529-plan-you-might-be-surprised/#23f7bcc01723
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