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What is a Thrift Savings Plan?

A Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is a 401(k)-style plan for Federal employees. A Thrift Savings Plan functions the same way a 401(k) does – you can elect to contribute a portion of your salary, known as an employee deferral or employee contribution, and the money will be allowed to grow in the account tax-deferred. The TSP is only available to Federal Employees and United States military personnel. There is a flat contribution of 1% from the employer, and, depending on the type of Federal job, employees may be eligible for a matching contribution from the employer. Continue reading...

What is the Difference Between a Thrift Savings Plan and Other Retirement Plans?

The main difference is that the TSP is only for Federal employees. A Thrift Savings Plan is essentially a 401(k) for employees of the federal government. It functions in the same ways and is subject to the same limitations. The contribution limits and catch-up limits are the same, as well as the employer contribution limit. The plan actually has lower fees than most 401(k)s, so that’s one difference. The investment options are fairly limited, but not much more than regular 401(k)s. There are basically 5 index funds to choose from and then a series of target-date funds that blend the index funds. Continue reading...

What Are the Contribution Limits For My Thrift Savings Plan?

Contribution limits for the TSP are the same as regular 401(k)s. Employees and employers using the TSP will have the same contribution limits as 401(k) plans. An employee can defer up to $18,000 a year in 2016, plus a $6,000 catch-up deferral if the employee is over 50 years old. The employer can contribute up to a maximum total balance of $53,000 (or $59,000 if the employee is over 59 ½), including employee deferrals. There is a standard 1% employer flat contribution, and some Federal employees will also receive a match. Continue reading...

What is a 529 Plan?

529 plans are accounts designed to help families save for the future college expenses of young family members. A 529 Plan is designed to help you save money now to pay your child’s college expenses later. Investment companies who design a plan, which looks similar to a retail mutual fund account or IRA, will partner with state governments to offer the state’s official 529 plan. Families can invest in a 529 and gain access to an array of mutual funds. Continue reading...

How Can I Use the Money From My 529 Plan?

You can technically use it however you see fit if you are willing to pay the 10% IRS penalty. Money from 529 Plans can be used for tuition, books, supplies, room and board and, as of recently, computers and electronic necessities. Always check if you’re not sure that an expense is covered by the 529 plan. Money used for anything other than the specified costs will be subject to federal income taxes and a 10% penalty on the earnings. You can also transfer the account to another beneficiary or yourself if you or someone else will need the money for college one day, without incurring any penalties or taxes. Continue reading...

What are the Contribution Limits For My 529 Plan?

Parents and family members, or actually anyone, can contribute up to the annual gift tax exclusion limits, and beyond. Several people can fund 529 plans for the same person or child, and any one person can maintain as many 529 plans as they would like. Each person can contribute up to the annual gift tax exclusion amount, which in 2016 is $14,000, per beneficiary. 529 plans have a special provision that allows the owner of the account to exceed the gift tax exclusion by contributing up to $70,000 at once – but no contributions can be made for 5 years after that, because this provision is really just allowing you to accelerate the contributions. Continue reading...

Will Having a 529 Plan for My Child Impact His/Her Eligibility For Financial Aid in the Future?

It will be factored in when considering financial aid eligibility. Unfortunately, having a 529 Plan may affect your child’s eligibility for financial aid in the future. If a parent owns the account, in 2016 the financial aid office will take 5.64% of the account’s value (and all other non-retirement investment accounts) into consideration when determining how much financial aid a student can receive. Continue reading...

What is a Coverdell ESA?

A Coverdell ESA is an account which can be used to save for educational expenses. These used to be called Educational IRAs until someone realized that didn’t make sense. A Coverdell Educational Savings Account (ESA) allows you to save money for your child’s future education costs. As opposed to a 529 Plan, which is limited to post-high school education, money from an ESA can be used as early as Kindergarten. Continue reading...

How Can the Money in My Coverdell ESA be Invested?

You have about as many investment choices in a Coverdell as you would in a personal IRA account. Money in a Coverdell ESA can be invested in financial instruments such as mutual funds. You can establish a Coverdell ESA at any major brokerage or bank, and the investment choices will vary depending on the institution. The account will grow tax-deferred, and the withdrawals are not taxed as long as they are used for appropriate educational expenses. Continue reading...

How Can I Use the Money From My Coverdell ESA?

Coverdell ESA accounts can be used to cover educational expenses. Similarly to a 529 Plan, the money from a Coverdell ESA can only be used for qualified educational expenses. However, the definitions for “qualified” are broader with this plan, and can be used for educational expenses from Kindergarten through high school, in addition to postsecondary (college) expenses. The downside is that Coverdell’s have a low contribution limit of only $2,000 per year. Continue reading...

What are the Contribution Limits For My Coverdell ESA?

Coverdell ESAs have low contribution limits, and an income limit that may keep you from contributing at all. Currently, in order to contribute to an ESA at all, you and your spouse must make less than $220,000 per year (combined). The annual contribution limit to an ESA is $2,000, and the contributions made to an ESA are not tax-deductible. These limits have not been adjusted for inflation in years, and these plans are quickly becoming obsolete. Continue reading...