Savingforcollege.com 529 Plan Performance Rankings Show Tennessee, Alaska, New York Among Top-Performing Plans

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Savingforcollege.com’s Quarterly 529 Plan Performance Rankings for the fourth quarter of 2014 have been released, placing 529 upstart Tennessee at the top of the one-year performance rankings while District of Columbia, Alaska, Utah, and New York continued to show well in the longer-term rankings.

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The markets have produced strong returns in many 529 plans; The families that have been using these plans and now have children or grandchildren in college have to be pleased.

Strong and consistent investment performance from direct-sold 529 plans in the District of Columbia, Alaska, Utah, and New York make them stand-outs in a newly-released set of 529-plan performance rankings. Savingforcollege.com’s 529 Composite Performance Rankings are based on one-, three-, five- and ten-year investment performance of all 529 plans through December 31, 2014.

Tennessee’s TNStars College Savings 529 Program, which launched relatively recently (in 2012), scored best for one-year performance. The program is managed by the Tennessee State Treasurer and invests most of its assets in mutual funds from Vanguard and DFA.

Plans from Alaska and New York finished among the top five performers in each of the rankings for three-year, five-year, and ten-year performance. Alaska’s 529 plan is managed by T. Rowe Price while New York’s 529 is co-managed by Vanguard Investments and Ascensus.

Utah’s 529 plan, which also uses Vanguard funds, placed first for ten-year performance and fourth for five-year performance, while the District of Columbia (Calvert funds) scored highest for three-year performance. Maine’s NextGen 529 plan (Blackrock and iShares) finished third in five-year performance and fifth in three-year performance.

California’s ScholarShare 529 plan (TIAA-CREF) does not have a five- or ten-year investment history but placed second in the three-year performance rankings.

In producing its quarterly rankings, Savingforcollege.com compares the reported investment performance of a subset of portfolios from 529 savings plans in every state. Portfolios are selected based on their mix of stocks, bonds, and money-market funds, aiming for an apples-to-apples comparison in seven different asset-allocation categories.

“The markets have produced strong returns in many 529 plans,” remarked Joe Hurley, founder of Savingforcollege.com. “The families that have been using these plans and now have children or grandchildren in college have to be pleased.”

Hurley cautions, however, that past performance does not guarantee future returns, and that a plan currently ranking high will not necessarily outperform its peers in the future. "We see some movement in the rankings every quarter, most particularly in one-year performance," he said.

The full reports showing rankings for all direct-sold 529 plans can be viewed at http://www.savingforcollege.com/articles/2014-plan-performance-rankings-q4-330. Savingforcollege.com also produces, for its premium subscribers, separate rankings for advisor-sold 529 plans and for RIA-channel 529 plans, along with the investment data and scoring used in all ranking reports. Rankings are updated each quarter.

One-year Composite Performance Rankings (54 plans ranked)
1. Tennessee: TNStars College Savings 529 Program (multiple fund families)
2. New York: New York’s 529 College Savings Program – Direct Plan (Vanguard funds)
3. Michigan: Michigan Education Savings Program (TIAA-CREF funds)
4. Louisiana: START Saving Program (mostly Vanguard funds)
5. Colorado: Direct Portfolio College Savings Plan (Vanguard funds)
6. District of Columbia: DC 529 College Savings Program (Direct-sold) (Calvert funds)
7. Vermont: Vermont Higher Education Investment Plan (TIAA-CREF funds)
8. California: The ScholarShare College Savings Plan (multiple fund families)
9. Missouri: MOST - Missouri’s 529 College Savings Plan (Direct-sold) (Vanguard funds)
10. Iowa - College Savings Iowa (Vanguard funds)

Three-year Composite Performance Rankings (49 plans ranked)
1. District of Columbia: DC 529 College Savings Program (Direct-sold) (Calvert funds)
2. California: The ScholarShare College Savings Plan (multiple fund families)
3. Alaska: University of Alaska College Savings Plan (T. Rowe Price funds)
4. New York: New York’s 529 College Savings Program – Direct Plan (Vanguard funds)
5. Maine: NextGenCollege Investing Plan - Client Direct Series (multiple fund families)
6. Alaska: T. Rowe Price College Savings Plan (T. Rowe Price funds)
7. West Virginia: SMART529 WV Direct (mostly Hartford Funds)
8. Michigan: Michigan Education Savings Program (TIAA-CREF funds)
9. South Carolina: Future Scholar 529 College Savings Plan (Direct-sold) (multiple fund families)
10. Ohio: Ohio CollegeAdvantage 529 Savings Plan (mostly Vanguard funds)

Five-year Composite Performance Rankings (42 plans ranked)
1. Alaska: University of Alaska College Savings Plan (T. Rowe Price funds)
2. New York: New York’s 529 College Savings Program – Direct Plan (Vanguard funds)
3. Maine: NextGenCollege Investing Plan - Client Direct Series (multiple fund families)
4. Utah: Utah Educational Savings Plan (UESP) Trust (mostly Vanguard funds)
5. District of Columbia: DC 529 College Savings Program (Direct-sold) (Calvert funds)
6. Alaska: T. Rowe Price College Savings Plan (T. Rowe Price funds)
7. Michigan: Michigan Education Savings Program (TIAA-CREF funds)
8. Louisiana: START Saving Program (mostly Vanguard funds)
9. Florida: Florida 529 Savings Plan (multiple money managers)
10. South Carolina: Future Scholar 529 College Savings Plan (Direct-sold) (multiple fund families)

Ten-year Composite Performance Rankings(25 plans ranked)
1. Utah: Utah Educational Savings Plan (UESP) Trust (mostly Vanguard funds)
2. Louisiana: START Saving Program (mostly Vanguard funds)
3. Alaska: University of Alaska College Savings Plan (T. Rowe Price funds)
4. New York: New York’s 529 College Savings Program – Direct Plan (Vanguard funds)
5. Alaska: T. Rowe Price College Savings Plan (T. Rowe Price funds)
6. Ohio: Ohio CollegeAdvantage 529 Savings Plan (mostly Vanguard funds)
7. Nevada: USAA 529 College Savings Plan (USAA funds)
8. Florida: Florida 529 Savings Plan (multiple money managers)
9. Iowa - College Savings Iowa (Vanguard funds)
10. Colorado: Direct Portfolio College Savings Plan (Vanguard funds)

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