Despite increased regulatory scrutiny of 529s and uncertain future treatment by the tax code, “rational exuberance” is the most appropriate phrase to describe how Joe Hurley feels about the prospects of qualified state tuition plans.
Hurley is a CPA and the author of The Best Way to Save For College — A Complete Guide to College Savings Plans (Savingforcollege.com LLC, 2004). Since he first published his book, he has made his name synonymous with the $50 billion college savings plan industry. Running “Hurley” and “529” through a Google search isn't the most scientific of experiments, but it does bring back over 50,000 hits.
Perhaps the most notable indication of Hurley's devotion to analyzing 529 plans is the fact that he currently invests in 32 different states' offerings for his own family, suffering through a paper blizzard of monthly statements for research purposes.
Hurley thinks the complexity of the plans, and the necessity of integrating saving for college with retirement and estate strategies, make the financial advisor's role that much more crucial. And the numbers back him up. “About two out of every three dollars currently in 529 plans arrived there with the help of an advisor,” he says. “And roughly 80 percent of new money deposited goes through the advisor channel.”
To help interested parents and grandparents find qualified advisors, Hurley has created a “Find a 529 Pro” directory, searchable by city, state and zip code. Financial advisors who pass a written exam and pay a listing fee can avail themselves to the thousands of families Hurley says visit savingforcollege.com each week.