Since we’re on the topic of college tuitions, I have recently adjusted the investment mix in my Ohio CollegeAdvantage 529 Plan. As I’ve mentioned before, I choose a very conservative mix because I think a 20-year or less horizon with a 4-year or less withdrawal period is actually a pretty short horizon. I just want to see gradual but reliable increases in my balances. In contrast, I view retirement as a 30 year horizon with another 20-30 year withdrawal period.
Previous Asset Allocation
My original asset allocation was 100% Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) through the Ohio 529′s Vanguard Inflation-Protected Bond Option which is essentially the Vanguard Inflation-Protected Securities Fund (VIPSX) with a slightly higher expense ratio. Back in 2009, I ran a comparison of the CollegeSure Tuition-Indexed CDs vs. Inflation-Protected Bonds, and picked TIPS. However, back then the real yield was 1.7%, and it is now 0.49%. Accordingly, the fund has a pretty good performance since then.
Updated Asset Allocation
20% Stocks (simple low-cost index option)
40% Inflation-protected bonds
40% Bank CD 10-year initial term, paying 5% APY.
The reason I chose to add stocks is that historically, adding 20% of stocks to a portfolio has actually reduced volatility while increasing returns. Here is a chart from my Choosing An Asset Allocation series of posts. As I get closer to college start date, this 20% portion will go down to zero.
Adding a 5% Bank Certificate of Deposit
Right now, a regular nominal 10-year Treasury Bond yields less than 2.50%. The real yield on a 10-Year TIPS bond is 0.95%, so the market is basically predicting inflation over the next 10 years to be about 1.50% annually.
However, the Ohio 529 plan offers a FDIC-insured certificate of deposit with a 10-year term earning 5% APY through Fifth Third Bank. (Heads up via Bogleheads.) That’s quite a big boost in yield. For every $10,000 I put in today, I’m guaranteed over $15,000 in 10 years. Early-withdrawal penalties are steep at half of accrued interest, so I had to be sure I wouldn’t need the money sooner.
As long as the real yield on the TIPS fund stays below 1%, then as long as inflation stays below 4% over the next decade the CD will win out over TIPS. If inflation somehow goes nuts, then the TIPS will keep the portfolio from falling too far behind. (Hopefully the stocks will help out as well.)
Since these are all in a 529 plans, the gains will be tax-free if used for qualified college expenses, which is good because otherwise federal and state taxes on a bank CD would be pretty high for us.