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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Up against the Wall (Street)

A reader who has money in the Oregon 529 college savings plan raises an interesting issue: "I find it strange that the 529 fund for Oregon is on east coast banking hours." Apparently the end of the business day for the plan is 4:00 Eastern Time -- 1 in the afternoon out here in Oregon. What ever happened to "buy local"?

He also notes that his initial $1400 contribution has earned a whopping $72 over the past 8 years. You finance majors out there will note that that's about a 0.6% annual return. Maybe the reader should try to get Junior into PERS. That would move the decimal point -- at least.

Comments (9)

It may end at 1PM because that is when the stock and bond markets close. There are strict rule on what time of day you value funds and calculate the price per share for funds. Then again, the returns on Oregon's 529 suck. You do not have to use the Oregon 529. Other states run better funds (like Utah). You still get the fedreal tax relief, but lose the Oregon credit.

529's which allow for prepaying college tuition seem superior in these times of stagflation with next to zero bond returns and flat but volatile stock returns. Washington state I know had such prepaid plans, but am not sure if they still exist. These prepaid plans guard against tution inflation.

I still can't recommend Oregon's 529 plan because the instruments for investing are fee based mutual funds whose number are rather limited. It's as though Oregon has yet to pass from the 1980s in its investing philosphies. I'd say make them self directed state tax free investment accounts so folks can lower management expenses, and offer a prepaid tuition route.

I don't see why the market has to be open for them to answer the phone.

The fund managers answer the phone from Boston and are very helpful 5-5 Pacific time. It is the bank transfers that are that are tied to East Coast bank hours. Robert seems correct about the market and fund values. My daughters' accounts lost money yesterday so there will be 2 days of market trading before the transfer goes out tonight?

I don't understand what the "transfers" are about. Don't you put money into the fund and leave it there for many years until college time rolls around?

When will we learn that Wall Street is just a big (rigged) casino? At least gambling is fun.

Dear Jack: It IS "transfers time" for one kid. The best reason now to have an Oregon 529 is money can be laundered for 10 days up to ~$4000 for joint filers and reduce gross income for Federal and Oregon State personal tax.

I looked into this plan and decided they had such a limited view of investing (a few Wall Street equity/bond funds) that there was no way to come out ahead.

They have the false idea that a bear market cannot last for years and years, but that is easily disproved by historical trends.

When you are in a bear market, then you need to look at other investment tools, such as commodities and precious metals.

You still get the federal tax relief, but lose the Oregon credit.

There's no federal tax deduction for 529 contributions -- although distributions out of the fund are tax free. It is FAR better to use your own state's 529 and get the state tax deduction than give up that deduction using another state's plan. Even with significantly lower fees, your RoR has to be much higher to make it pan out.

I have no problem with Oregon's 529 plan. Returns have of course been extremely low, as they have everywhere. If you're a sophisticated investor who can successfully time the market, you may want more and different investment options. Good luck to you (and please share your wisdom with the rest of us). If you're like most of us, the options are fine. They have some low-fee index funds, and some higher fee automatically rebalanced age-based portfolios.

The best thing about the 529s in my opinion is that if you end up not having to pay for college (either because your kid's a dropout OR gets a full ride), you can pull the money out and pay the appropriate income taxes but not incur any additional penalties.

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