We provide all the information surrounding the fees associate with Arkansas' 529 plans so you can make an informed decision for your education savings.
When considering a particular 529 plan, it’s always prudent to look at how well the plan performs before you sign on the dotted line. Although all 529 plans share some characteristics, the individual investment options vary from one state to the next, as do the costs associated with these accounts. It may not seem like 529 plan fees are much of a problem at first, given that they tend to be only a fraction of a percent, but those with experience managing and observing 529 plans know that these costs can eat into your earnings; luckily, Americans can enroll in almost any 529 plan in the country, so you’re not confined to a high-cost plan. Whether you live in Arkansas or any other state, you might like to know what The Natural State charges for its 529 plans. Keep reading as we explain.
Across the country, every state has its own take on the 529 plan, and many states offer several different options, including Arkansas, which has three distinct 529 plans.
Two of these plans – the GIFT529 College Investing Plan and the iShares 529 Plan – are examples of education savings plans, the most popular variety of 529 account. In essence, they’re investment plans that allow for tax-free earnings as long as the funds go toward a qualified distribution (i.e., expenses related to education). Although they operate in much the same way, Arkansas’s two versions of the education savings plan feature some key differences, including how their respective fee structures are set up.
The last 529 plan available from Arkansas, AR ABLE, is an example of an ABLE account, also known as a 529A account. In practice, ABLE accounts work in almost the same way as education savings plans, but they are only available to Americans living with a disability. They also offer the greatest degree of flexibility in terms of how the money in the account can be spent; along with education-related costs, ABLE accounts cover medical bills, housing, and job training, to name a few uses.
Within the three main types of 529 plans – education savings plans, prepaid tuition plans (which Arkansas doesn’t offer), and ABLE accounts – there are further distinctions to be made, including two important ones where fees are concerned: direct-sold plans vs. advisor-sold plans and passively managed funds vs. actively managed funds.
Direct-sold plans are those provided directly by the state. They tend to come with lower fees, since there’s no financial advisor to pay, but they often have fewer investment options and may not perform quite as well without the constant oversight and support you get with advisor-sold plans.
As far as the types of funds are concerned, actively managed funds tend to be more expensive because they are, well, actively managed by an individual or team that tries to generate the greatest possible returns. Passively managed funds, on the other hand, simply follow the market index, so they require less oversight and therefore come with lower fees.
The rest of the fees associated with these 529 plans in Arkansas are typical for accounts of this type, though the amount account owners have to pay varies by state. Generally, fees are charged as a percentage of the account balance. Below, we’ll look at the fees for each of Arkansas’s 529 plans:
This direct-sold 529 plan is notable for the fact that its fees are static, meaning that (with one exception) they don’t vary for different investments. It does carry an account maintenance fee for out-of-state residents, however, and – depending on how you’d allocate investments – could be a bit more expensive than some other options from Arkansas.
• Enrollment fee: None
• Account maintenance fee: $20 per year, but only for out-of-state residents
• Program management fee: Most portfolios charge 0.48% to cover the cost of the underlying investments, plus a 0.07% fee that’s paid to the state. Account owners with a Savings Portfolio are charged 0.32% for their investment, plus the same 0.07% fee.
• Investment fees: Covered by the program management fee
• Total fees: 0.39% for the Savings Portfolio, 0.55% for other investments, and $20 annually for out-of-state account owners
As an advisor-sold plan, the iShares 529 Plan sometimes carries significantly higher fees for account owners compared to the other accounts offered by Arkansas. However, there are far more options, especially for plans with static portfolios. Funds available for custom portfolios are separated into Class A, Class L, and Class F.
• Enrollment fee: None
• Account maintenance fee: $10 per year for accounts with less than $20,000
• Program management fee: This plan’s automated portfolios carry a 0.40% base manager fee, plus varying sales fees depending on the class of the fund: 0.25% for Class A and 0.60% for Class L, with no sales fee for Class F. Custom portfolios feature a lower manager fee (0.35%) and the same annual sales fees.
• Investment fees: Between 0.06% and 0.15% for the automated portfolios, and between 0.03% and 0.49% for Custom Portfolios, with no fee for Savings Portfolios
• Total fees: Minimum of 0.35% for all investments, with a maximum of 1.09% for Class A, 1.44% for Class L, and 0.84% for Class F, plus a possible $10 annual fee
AR ABLE accounts offer some of the lowest fees, but they also have a more complicated fee structure. In addition to variations for different investments, residents of partner states get a special fee rate, while residents of other states are charged a slightly higher rate.
• Enrollment fee: None
• Account maintenance fee: $15 per quarter and a $2 monthly service charge, with discounts for plans with electronic document delivery or balances of over $250
• Program management fee: 0.32% on all investments except the Checking Option, which has no fee
• Investment fees: Between 0.02% and 0.05%, with no fee for the Checking Option
• Total fees: No fees for the Checking Option and between 0.34% and 0.37% for other investments; between 0.19% and 0.33% for residents of Ohio or partner states; between 0.45% and 0.59% for residents of other states, plus account maintenance fees on all accounts
Although it can seem tough to sort through all the details surrounding the many 529 plans available nationwide, the free Sootchy app makes the entire process much easier. Download our app today and get started with a 529 plan from Arkansas or any other state, or visit Sootchy online to learn more.