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Saving for college in a brokerage account: when does it make sense to forgo college savings accounts?

Founder & CEO
Wallis is the Founder & CEO of AboveBoard Financial, a company reinventing investment advice and insurance with revolutionary transparency and honesty. Wallis spent over 10 years at Goldman Sachs as an investment banker and hedge fund investor in financial institutions. She founded AboveBoard to cut through the BS and present important choices with clarity and compassion. Wallis lives in New York City with her husband and two young children.

The key trade-off is tax advantages vs. flexibility in how you spend the money.

Brokerage accounts "don't care" what you spend the money on, but you'll pay tax on your investment gains. (Ordinary income tax on some investments, capital gains tax on other investments, but you're still paying tax.)

529 plans and Coverdell savings accounts give awesome tax advantages, but only if you're ready to spend the money on education. And there are penalties and tax if you don't.

To learn more about your options to save for college, visit our interactive AboveBoard College Savings Guide.

To think through how to put college savings in the context of your other goals in life, check out our interactive AboveBoard Financial Action Plan.