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Saving for College 101: U.S. Savings Bonds

Series EE bonds and I-bonds provide a safe, tax-favored way to save for college, but they alone won’t help you meet your investment goals.

Saving for your children's college education is one of the most important financial tasks you will ever undertake. Luckily, you have plenty of savings options, most of them with tax advantages designed to encourage you to invest in your children's future. Consider U.S. savings bonds:

Series EE bonds and I-bonds provide a safe, tax-favored way to save for college, but they alone won’t help you meet your investment goals. EE bonds issued before May 2015 earn a fixed 0.1% annually, much less than the college inflation rate; I-bonds, which combine a fixed basic rate over the life of the bond with an inflation rate that is adjusted semiannually, earn 1.48% through April 30, 2015. Each bond earns interest over 30 years. You can redeem them for their purchase price after one year, but you sacrifice three months’ interest if you redeem them within the first five years.

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Here’s the education advantage: The bonds let you exclude from taxes some or all of the earnings on any amount you redeem that covers tuition and fees at a qualified post-secondary institution. To get the break, you must be 24 or older when the bond is purchased. Only EE bonds and I bonds purchased after 1989 qualify for the tax break.

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You must also meet income limits to get this tax break. As of 2014, the exclusion starts to phase out at a modified adjusted gross income of $113,950 for married taxpayers filing jointly and at $76,000 for single filers. The exclusion disappears completely when adjusted gross income is $143,950 for couples filing jointly and $91,000 for single filers.

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