June 2013: 529 College Savings Resources

The June Advisor Monitor examines 529 college savings resources. Of the mutual fund firms in our coverage group, 15 provide information on college savings and 529s. Firms frequently provide a centralized 529 outlet, hosting information on the benefits of the tax-advantaged investments, as well as sales ideas and client deliverables. We focus primarily on how firms deliver 529 information to advisors and provide resources for working with their clients. Our analysis centers on the following qualities:

  • Organization & Accessibility
  • Value Added Features
  • Deliverables

Fifteen firms provide information on 529 savings plans. Most firms offer on-site, centralized 529 outlets, with others providing off-site, state-based resources. We awarded four As and five Bs; we also gave out four Cs, one D and one F.

 

A unified 529 center is available on 73% of advisor firm websites. An overlapping 53% of firms provide access to external, state-based resources, and two firms exclusively host resources off-site. We find that 529 centers are generally well-organized and top firms include deliverables visibly alongside relevant articles.

 

Firms add value for advisors in a variety of ways, most notably by providing sales ideas to use with clients. Two thirds of firms include business building ideas. Fewer discuss working with employers to establish a 529 benefit system for workers, and only 20% suggest building business by administering scholarship programs for non-profits. Firms also frequently provide college savings calculators, and 87% of firms offer some type of tool.

A variety of deliverables are offered to advisors, including a range of formats, with PDF brochures the most frequent offering. Eighty-seven percent of advisor firms offer brochures explaining 529 college savings plans. The next most common format is the flyer. Firms also frequently offer presentations and seminar resources, with 53% providing presentations, and 47% of firms offer prospecting post cards and letters. These materials are generally integrated into 529 centers, and 87% host resources directly in college savings outlets. Additionally, 27% of firms provide direct access to literature centers from the 529 center.

 

This report finds that firms should offer advisors with sales ideas and talking points for promoting 529s with clients, including prospecting with employers and organizations. Additionally, top firms provide centralized 529 outlets that effectively promote literature and deliverables. Firms should also promote their 529 resources, for example with homepage promotions.   

 

Among others, we uncovered the following key findings in our analysis:

  • 73% feature on-site 529 centers.
  • 53% include links to external, state-based sites.
  • 40% provide materials discussing employer-based plans.
  • 20% address working with organizations to establish scholarships.
  • 87% provide calculators.