Two-Thirds of Americans Still Do Not Know What a 529 Plan is, according to Edward Jones Study

83% of Americans Say They Cannot Afford the Cost of College

May 13, 2015, 09:17 ET from Edward Jones

ST. LOUIS, May 13, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Two-thirds (66 percent) of Americans still don't know what a 529 plan is, according to the annual 529 Plan Awareness Survey from financial services firm Edward Jones. In its fourth year monitoring college savings awareness, the survey found that only 34 percent of Americans could correctly identify a 529 plan as a college savings tool from among four potential options, up slightly from 30 percent in 2014 but down compared to the inaugural 2012 survey (37 percent). These college savings plans were first offered to Americans in 1996.

"Despite headlines focused on the increasingly high costs of college, we still see a significant number of Americans who aren't aware of one of the most important long-term savings vehicles that can help minimize the impact that the cost of education has on families," said Steve Seifert, Principal at Edward Jones. "Demographically, people are living longer and having children later in life, narrowing the time between a child's college bills and his or her parents' retirement age. This, coupled with the fact that the cost of college is increasing at a much higher rate than inflation, means that many are grappling with how to stay on track to meet savings goals."

Awareness varied by several factors including household income, size and number of children. Respondents with a household income of $100,000 or more were significantly more likely to correctly identify 529 plans (58 percent), than those with less than $35,000 (only 25 percent). Similarly, awareness also increased depending on household size and number of children. Americans with a household of three or more people reflected more awareness (40 percent) than those with a household of two people (30 percent). Surprisingly, respondents with children ages 13-17 years were actually less likely to correctly identify the college savings plan than those with children under the age of 13 (35 percent versus 41 percent, respectively).

The High Cost of College
The survey also asked respondents to indicate whether or not they believe they can afford the full cost of a college for themselves or a family member.  While male respondents were twice as likely to indicate "yes" than their female counterparts (21 percent compared to 11 percent of women), overwhelmingly, Americans say they simply can't afford the cost (83 percent). Interestingly, even higher income levels did little to help, with just 37 percent of the highest earning respondents (those making $100,000 a year or more in household income) saying they could afford the cost.

"While the cost continues to be a major concern, Americans still recognize the value of a college education – so finding ways to manage those costs becomes paramount in the process," added Seifert. "We need to remind them of the wide array of strategies that exist and help them put their goals into action through designing a plan that utilizes the appropriate tools in support of their savings goals."

As part of its ongoing effort to raise awareness for 529 plans and college savings techniques, Edward Jones branches across the country are recognizing May 29 as "Save for Education Day," a firm-wide holiday derived from the name of the popular college savings tool. Branches will be hosting events in their communities to remind families about the importance of setting education savings goals. Families are encouraged to visit their local branches to learn more about planning for their children's educational future. For more information about specific events in your community, contact Regina Deluca-Imral at 314-515-3050.

About Edward Jones

Edward Jones, a FORTUNE 500 firm, provides financial services for individual investors in the United States and, through its affiliate, in Canada. Every aspect of the firm's business, from the types of investment options offered to the location of branch offices, is designed to cater to individual investors in the communities in which they live and work. The firm's 13,000-plus financial advisors work directly with nearly 7 million clients. Edward Jones, which ranked No. 6 on FORTUNE magazine's "100 Best Companies to Work For 2015," is headquartered in St. Louis. The Edward Jones Web site is located at, and its recruiting Web site is Member SIPC.

Editor's Note

Survey was conducted by ORC International's CARAVAN Omnibus Services and was based on 1,008 landline and cell phone interviews of U.S. adults conducted April 23-26, 2015. The margin of error was +/-3%.

Withdrawals used for expenses other than qualified education expenses may be subject to federal and state taxes, plus a 10% penalty. There may be state tax incentives available to in-state residents who invest in their home state's 529 plan. Student and parental assets and income are considered when applying for financial aid. Generally, a 529 plan is considered an asset of the parent, which may be an advantage over saving in the student's name. Make sure you discuss the potential financial aid impacts with a financial aid professional. Tax issues for 529 plans can be complex. Please consult your tax advisor about your situation. Edward Jones, its financial advisors and employees cannot provide tax or legal advice.

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SOURCE Edward Jones