How to use Education Analysis

College Funding Analysis Overview

The Education screen allows you to illustrate options for funding your clients' own or children's education. A tab will be displayed for any individual (client, co-client, or child) who has one or more college goal cards entered on the Profile / Goals screen.

In the Action Items section, you can specify or adjust costs, savings, and the approach that will be taken to fund the college expenses.  You can indicate different Action Items for each student.

Costs

College costs will be created for each College goal assigned to the student.  You will see the annual college cost, scholarship / other funding, and student borrowing that were entered in the Profile section.  The net cost reflects the gross annual cost less the scholarship / other and student borrowing values.

You can adjust the annual cost, scholarship / other funding, and student borrowing values to see the impact of different types of college or different funding options.  Those values will be reflected in the charts upon clicking 'Refresh'.  Updates to the proposed value on the Education screen will not impact what is entered in the Profile section.

529 Balance and Savings

The 529 balance will reflect the total value of all 529 accounts set up on the Profile / Net Worth screen where the student is the beneficiary.

In the Annual 529 savings section, you will see the value associated with any 529 savings cards where the student is set as the beneficiary of the 529 savings.  If there are multiple cards in the Profile / Savings section, you will see them all listed as separate items, reflecting the name entered in the savings card.

You will also see two additional options for illustrating savings.  Lump sum saving will allow you to show a one-time lump sum amount saved to a 529 plan for the student.  That amount is assumed to be invested in the 529 account immediately.  Additional annual 529 saving allows you to show an additional annual amount that will be saved each year from the current year through the first year of the student's college goals.

Note 

The results you see in the Education module go through our full cash flow projection module; as a result the actual savings may be limited based on your settings.  If you are using the cash flow or modified cash flow planning methods, saving to a 529 will be limited to available cash flow, or to cash flow and taxable account balances if using the 'Use taxable account to fund IRA and 529 saving when current year cash flow is inadequate' setting.  If you are using the goal based planning method, any saving indicated will be reflected in the projection.

Strategies

The 529 Asset allocation strategy determines how funds invested in 529 plans are allocated.  This will affect the assumed rate of return when projecting savings moving forward.  You can either choose any Model portfolio or use the 'Current' allocation (which is the default option).

If 'Current' is used,

  1. We will use the asset allocation associated with all 529 accounts in the client's profile where the student is the beneficiary.
  2. If there are no 529 accounts where the student is the beneficiary, we will use the Proposed asset allocation from the Retirement / Analysis Action Items.

The Funding sources strategy determines which assets are used to fund the costs associated with college goals.

  • If 529 only (which is the default option) is selected, then only assets and savings in 529 accounts  will be used to fund the goals.  If there are not sufficient assets in those 529 accounts or via any Unassigned 529 savings, the remaining costs will not be funded.
  • If 529 and taxable is selected, we will first look to fund goals using 529 accounts where the student is the beneficiary or Unassigned 529 savings.  If those assets are insufficient to fund the goals, we will look to fund goals from cash flow (if the cash flow or modified cash flow planning method is used) and any taxable investment accounts the client has.  If those assets are insufficient, the remaining costs will not be funded.
  • If 529, taxable and Roth is selected, we will use the methods in 529 and taxable to fund the goals.  If those are insufficient, we will withdraw assets from Roth IRA investment accounts.  If the Roth assets are unable to fund the goals, the remaining costs will not be funded.  Withdrawals from Roth accounts will be treated as penalty-free withdrawals.

Details

On the Details tab, you can see two separate charts for each student that allow you to review the numbers behind the projection.

The 'College cost summary' chart shows the total costs and how those are funded, including any shortfall.

The '529 summary' chart shows how 529 balances track over time, including portfolio return, savings, and withdrawls.  It will only reflect 529 accounts where the specified student is the beneficiary.

College funding in Retirement Analysis

Changes made in the Education section will not, by default, impact Monte Carlo analysis or cash flow projections found in the Retirement section (or any other section).  When doing the cash flow projection we will use 'All resources' as the funding source, which means that we will always look to fund the net amount of all college goals, taking assets first from 529 accounts, and then following the overall distribution strategy (generally taxable assets, tax-deferred assets, and tax-free assets).  This is reflected as the 'Current strategy' for Education planning.

In order to see the impact of your Education plan on your overall plan, in the Strategies section of the Retirement / Analysis Action Items, you can set the 'Education strategy' to "Education proposal":

When the Education proposal is used,

  • Any changes to the college costs reflected on the Education screen will be used in the projections.
  • Any changes to 529 savings, as well as any lump sum or additional 529 savings, will be included in the projections.
  • 529 accounts will use the 529 Asset allocation strategy selected for projecting account growth.
  • For each student's college goals, the projections will reflect only the funding sources indicated in their tab of the Education screen.  If any of the '529 only', '529 and taxable' or '529, taxable and Roth' options are used, and the goal coverage is less than 100%, then in the cash flow projections under Goals only the amount of the Goal that can be funded will be reflected.

Using the Education proposal will reflect any changes made for all students.

College cost assumptions

College costs are used within the College Goal as a reference for advisors.

National average costs are from CollegeBoard.org published data. Specific college costs are taken from the Department of Education published data.

We plan to review the data on an annual basis.