529 College Savings Calculator: Free Planning Tool
Ready to start saving for your child or grandchild’s education? Our 529 college savings calculator will help you create a college savings plan and estimate the future total cost of college.
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- Updated: December 2, 2022
- 4 min read time
- This page features 2 Cited Research Articles
As you invest in your child or grandchild’s education, it’s important to consider tuition inflation rates, your current savings, your household income and your savings timeline.
Our 529 calculator uses these variables to estimate how much you should save to pay for the future cost of college for your child.
Cost of College for Steven in 2025
Total Adjusted Cost:
How to Use This Calculator
To calculate your projected college expenses, enter:
- The age of your child
- Your household income
- The yearly cost of your chosen college
- Your monthly or yearly planned contributions
- The percentage of college expenses you’re planning to cover
Once you’ve entered your information, our calculator will estimate the costs of college for your child and the amount you’ll be able to cover with your current savings plan.
Assumed Annual Return Rate
We estimate what your annual returns could look like based on the percentage you choose under “Assumed Annual Return Rate.”
- A 2% return rate would be on the lower side
- A 5% return rate would be more common
- A 9% or 11% return rate would be on the higher side
It would be rare to see returns of anything over 11%, but our calculator allows you to estimate up to 21% returns. Your actual earnings will depend on your investment choices and risk tolerance.
Annual Financial Aid Coverage
The amount in annual scholarships you expect your child to receive is determined by your household income and the type of college your child will attend.
For example, if your household income is $50,000, then we’d estimate your child’s financial aid to fall around $8,600 per year (using financial aid averages from the National Center for Education Statistics).
If your projected savings won’t cover the full cost of college, your “savings gap” will indicate the sum of leftover college costs.
If there’s a significant gap, you may want to reevaluate your monthly or yearly contributions to reach your savings goal.
If you’re having trouble reaching your savings goal, it could be smart to rethink your investment strategy with a financial advisor.
Making the Most of Your 529 Plan
Investing in a 529 plan is a great way to save for your child or grandchild’s education, but you want to make sure you’re making the most of your plan. Some ways you can maximize returns from your plan include:
- Establish automatic contributions: Automatic contributions help you adhere to your savings plan, minimize the volatility of your investments and capitalize on tax-free growth.
- Search for a plan with minimal fees: Costly fees tend to decrease your investment returns over time. This is why it’s important to compare and contrast 529 plans thoroughly to find the best fit for you.
- Start saving sooner rather than later: The earlier you start contributing to your 529, the more opportunities those funds have to grow.
As you search for a 529 plan, keep in mind that you aren’t limited to plans within your home state. While your state might offer you tax deductions or matching contributions for your account, it’s still a good idea to research other states’ 529s as potential options.
The costs of college can be difficult to estimate, particularly if your child is still young. Our above 529 calculator can help you put together the best savings plan possible. As you invest in your and your family’s futures, it’s a good idea to brush up on the basics of money management and financial planning.
2 Cited Research Articles
Annuity.org writers adhere to strict sourcing guidelines and use only credible sources of information, including authoritative financial publications, academic organizations, peer-reviewed journals, highly regarded nonprofit organizations, government reports, court records and interviews with qualified experts. You can read more about our commitment to accuracy, fairness and transparency in our editorial guidelines.
- College Board. (2021). Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2021. Retrieved from https://research.collegeboard.org/media/pdf/trends-college-pricing-student-aid-2021.pdf
- National Center for Education Statistics. (2021). Average amount of grant and scholarship aid and average net price for first-time, full-time degree/certificate-seeking students awarded Title IV aid, by control and level of institution and income level: Selected years, 2009-10 through 2019-20. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d21/tables/dt21_331.30.as