It is important to understand the fees and expenses associated with 529 plans. Prepaid tuition plans typically charge enrollment and administrative fees. In addition to "loads" for broker-sold plans, college savings plans may charge enrollment fees, annual maintenance fees and asset management fees. Some of these fees are collected by the state sponsor of the plan, and some are collected by the financial services firms that the state sponsor typically hires to manage its 529 program.
If you invest in a broker-sold plan, you may pay a load. Broadly speaking, the load is paid to your broker as a commission for selling the college savings plan to you. Broker-sold plans also charge an annual distribution fee of between 0.25 percent and 1.00 percent of your investment. Your broker typically receives all or most of these annual distribution fees for selling your 529 plan to you.
Many broker-sold 529 plans include several classes of shares, which impose different fees and expenses. Here are some key characteristics of the most common 529 plan share classes:
Class A shares typically impose a front-end sales load. Front-end sales loads reduce the amount of your investment. Class A shares usually have a lower annual distribution fee and lower overall annual expenses than other 529 share classes. In addition, your front-end load may be reduced if you invest above certain threshold amounts—this is known as a breakpoint discount.
Class B shares typically do not have a front-end sales load. Instead, they may charge a fee when you withdraw money from an investment option, known as a deferred sales charge or "back-end load." A common back-end load is the "contingent deferred sales charge" or "contingent deferred sales load" (also known as a CDSC or CDSL). The amount of this load will depend on how long you hold your investment and typically decreases to zero if you hold your investment long enough. Class B shares typically impose a higher annual distribution fee and higher overall annual expenses than Class A shares. Class B shares usually convert automatically to Class A shares if you hold your shares long enough.
Be careful when investing in Class B shares. If the beneficiary uses the money within a few years after purchasing Class B shares, you will almost always pay a contingent deferred sales charge or load in addition to higher annual fees and expenses.
Class C shares might have an annual distribution fee, other annual expenses, and either a front- or back-end sales load. But the front- or back-end load for Class C shares tends to be lower than for Class A or Class B shares, respectively. Class C shares typically impose a higher annual distribution fee and higher overall annual expenses than Class A shares, but unlike Class B shares, generally do not convert to another class over time. If you are a long-term investor, Class C shares may be more expensive than investing in Class A or Class B shares.report abuse