How to Open a 529 Plan before the Baby is Born

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By Mark Kantrowitz

July 24, 2020

When you save for a child’s college education before the child is born, you can either use yourself as the beneficiary on a 529 plan, or save the money in a taxable account.

A parent’s greatest asset is time. The sooner you start saving for college, the more time there’ll be for the earnings to compound.

Parents can even start saving for college before the baby is born, even before the baby is just a twinkle in their parents’ eyes. I started saving for my children’s college educations before they were born. 

To open a 529 college savings plan with a child as a beneficiary, the child must have either a Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Neither is available before birth of the child. 

There are two workarounds that let you start saving for a child’s college education before birth. 

  • One is to save in a taxable account and to use it to make a lump sum contribution to a 529 plan after birth.
  • The other is to save in a 529 plan where the parent (or another relative) is initially listed as the beneficiary, and to change the beneficiary after birth. 529 plans allow the beneficiary to be changed to a member of the family of the old beneficiary. 

If there are multiple births, you can deposit or rollover funds into multiple 529 plans. 

Apps to Get You Started

You can open a 529 plan by with CollegeBacker or link an existing 529 plan. As you buy everything you need for your new addition, shop through their links to get cash back on purchases. Plus, you can set up a gifting page and ask family and friends to pitch in from the start. In fact, 20% of users on CollegeBacker are saving for an unborn child.

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At Savingforcollege.com, our goal is to help you make smart decisions about saving and paying for education. Some of the products featured in this article are from our partners, but this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

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