Quarterly 529 plan performance review: Q1 2018
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By Matthew Toner

May 14, 2018

Financial Professional Content

Each quarter Savingforcollege.com analyzes the investment performance figures for thousands of 529 portfolios and ranks the 529 savings plans from best to worst for one-, three-, five-, and 10-year investment performance. We rank plans that consumers can enroll in directly, as well as those sold through brokers and fee-based financial planners).

In producing our rankings, we compared the reported investment performance of a subset of portfolios from each 529 savings plan. We use a subset because plans vary greatly in their underlying investment options. We use a representative subset of options to compare plans on an apples-to-apples basis. The “performance score” determines the ranking. For more details, please view our methodology.

It is important to remember that this data represents historical performance. Past performance over any period is not a guarantee of future results. Log in to see the full list of direct- and advisor-sold plan rankings. 

Top performing direct-sold 529 plans

For the most part those plans that have performed well continued to perform well, especially across the 10-year rankings. A usually mainstay atop of the performance rankings, Pennsylvania’s 529 Investment Plan dropped off the three-, five- and 10-year rankings as it changed out all of its age-based portfolios. Nevada’s USAA College Savings Plan and New York’s 529 College Savings Program  continued to be strong performers over the 10-year period, and Maryland’s 529 — College Investment Plan was a newcomer to the top five. However, that is not to say these plans performed well across all four time periods. The top performers averaged across all ranked time periods can be found below, with only T. Rowe Price’s Alaska plans ranking in the top 10 for each time period.

California: ScholarShare 529323 


Alaska: T. Rowe Price College Savings Plan4343


Alaska: University of Alaska College Savings Plan4343


New York: New York’s 529 College Savings Program — Direct Plan11622


Ohio: Ohio CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Savings Plan1651


Nevada: The Vanguard 529 Savings Plan28912


Maine: NextGen College Investing Plan — Client Direct Series177610


West Virginia: SMART529 WV Direct College Savings Plan1011019


North Carolina: National College Savings Program12127 


Wisconsin: Edvest15148 


Top performing advisor-sold 529 plans

Similar to the direct-sold plans, there wasn’t much volatility in the 10-year advisor-sold plan rankings. A new #1 has emerged in the 10-year period, as the Virginia College America plan has overtaken Oregon’s MFS 529 plan which dropped to second. Both remain solid performers across all time periods. The top performers average across all ranked periods can be found below.

There were a few standout plans that made leaps in nearly every time period. The Fidelity Advisor 529 plan continued to make its way up the rankings and cracking the top 10 overall. The same can be said for the Maine NextGen Client Select Series, which moved up a couple of spots thanks to strong long-term performance. Arizona’s Ivy InvestEd continues it’s impressive one-year run moving up to second overall. We should see this strong performance help its three- and five-year time periods as time goes on. 

Indiana: CollegeChoice Advisor 529 Savings Plan112 
Oregon: MFS 529 Savings Plan35152

Virginia: CollegeAmerica21231
Nebraska: Nebraska Education Savings Trust — Advisor College Savings Plan1535
Illinois: Bright Directions Advisor-Guided 529 College Savings Program94126
Arizona: Ivy InvestEd 529 Plan22085
Maine: NextGen College Investing Plan — Client Select Series19844
New Hampshire: Fidelity Advisor 529 Plan813712
Ohio: BlackRock CollegeAdvantage Advisor 529 Savings Plan61411 
Nevada: Putnam 529 for America12181 

A good place to start:

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