I set up a 529 college-savings plan for my daughter. Every time I make a contribution, I’m charged a sales fee of 5.25%. Is there a cheaper way to save? -- Sonia Lieto, Rye Brook, N.Y.
SEE ALSO: The 529 College Savings Plan Quiz
Many states offer a 529 plan sold directly and a plan sold through advisers. The two plans may have different investments and very different fees. The adviser-sold plans generally charge an upfront sales load (such as the 5.25% that you encountered) when you invest the money, in addition to the annual plan charges.
Each adviser-sold plan’s fees vary depending on the share class, the funds you choose and your account balance. For example, New York’s adviser-guided 529 plan charges a sales load of 5.25% for most Class A shares of stock funds if your balance is less than $50,000 (4.50% for balances of $50,000 to $99,999), plus an annual expense ratio of 0.75% to 1.54%. But the New York direct-sold plan, which invests in Vanguard funds, has no sales load and charges only 0.17% per year for expenses.
A financial adviser can help you make investment decisions, but it’s important to understand how much extra you’re paying for the service. See www.savingforcollege.com to compare plan fees and investments.