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The difference costs can make

Don't ignore the price of investing. High costs can make a huge impact on how much you have left to pay for education.

What you're paying for

Investment costs, which pay for the management of the plan and its investments, are measured in small percentages known as expense ratios. Even a seemingly small expense ratio can make a big dent in your savings.

Let's say you have $10,000 to invest in your newborn's education fund and you're choosing between two 529 plans. In the first plan, the investment you're interested in has an expense ratio of 0.40%, which is the industry average.* A similar investment in The Vanguard 529 Plan has an expense ratio of 0.15%.

Such a small difference couldn't matter that much in the long run, right?

Well, in year one, you'd pay $40 for your investment in the first plan, versus $15 in The Vanguard Plan. So your balance at the end of the year would be $25 higher in The Vanguard Plan, all else being equal.

But wait—that's not the end of it. The $25 that you didn't pay in expenses to Vanguard will keep earning returns over the next 17 years. In fact, by the time you're ready to use your education savings, that $25 could actually be worth $71.

And remember, this scenario will keep playing out every year that you have money in your account. Put it altogether, and that 0.40% expense ratio could knock $1,224 off your final balance. That number drops to $470 with The Vanguard Plan. That's an additional $754 your child can use for education.

The moral of the story is: Don't let costs erode your savings.

You could keep more money for education by choosing Vanguard

Bar chart depicting how much more you could be paying with a 0.45% expense ratio versus one that is 0.15%.

This hypothetical illustration assumes an average annual 6% return over 18 years and does not represent any particular investment nor does it account for inflation. "What you lose to costs" represents both the amount paid in expenses as well as the "opportunity costs"—the amount you lose because the costs you paid are no longer invested. There may be other material differences between investment products that must be considered prior to investing. Numbers are rounded. The rate of return is not guaranteed.

The Vanguard 529 cost advantage

Our costs are among the lowest in the industry. Since our plan was introduced in 2002, we've cut our expenses 10 times. Because we stay focused on reducing your investment costs, more of your money can stay in your account—working toward your goals.

Expense ratios for The Vanguard 529 Plan portfolios:

  • Target Enrollment portfolios: 0.14%.
  • Individual portfolios: 0.12%–0.42%.

Fees you won't pay at Vanguard:

  • Enrollment fees.
  • Transfer fees.
  • Commissions.

The Vanguard 529 College Savings Plan is a Nevada Trust administered by the office of the Nevada State Treasurer.


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Expense ratio

Fees charged to investors to cover operating costs, expressed as a percentage. The money is deducted from investment returns before they're given to investors. For example, if you had $10,000 invested in a portfolio with an expense ratio of 0.20%, you'd pay about $20 a year out of your investment returns.

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Tax law update

On December 22, 2017, the president signed new tax legislation into law. The following describes several new provisions related specifically to 529 plan accounts, beginning with the 2018 tax year:

  • Account owners can use assets to pay for qualified K-12 expenses up to $10,000 per year per student.
  • Account owners can treat K-12 withdrawals as qualified expenses with respect to the federal tax benefit. The tax treatment of such withdrawals at the state level (determined by the taxpayer’s state of residence) is less clear, and states may ultimately determine the treatment of these withdrawals independently. Account owners should consult their tax advisors for further guidance.
  • Account owners can roll over 529 plans to ABLE plans, up to the ABLE annual contribution limit. States may need to expand the definition of qualified withdrawals to include rollovers into ABLE plans. Without a change to the definition, such rollovers could be categorized as nonqualified withdrawals.

We'll provide more information as additional details about the effects of the tax bill become clear. We encourage you to consult a qualified tax advisor about your personal situation.