Q&A: How a 529 plan can help with education loans after graduation

Dear Liz: I have a 529 plan for my niece who has now graduated from college. She has student loan debt and would like to use the money left in the 529 account to pay this debt. Is this allowable without incurring penalties?

Answer: Yes, up to $10,000.

The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act, or SECURE Act, of 2019 allows a beneficiary a lifetime limit of $10,000 to repay the beneficiary’s student loans, including federal and most private loans, without taxes or penalties. You can withdraw an additional $10,000 to repay student loans for each of her siblings.

If there’s still money left in the 529 after that, you have the option of changing the beneficiary to another qualifying family member (including the beneficiary’s spouse, children, siblings, in-laws, aunts and uncles, nieces and cousins, parents and grandparents). You also can change the beneficiary to yourself, as the account owner. Such beneficiary changes preserve your ability to make tax- and penalty-free withdrawals for qualified education expenses.

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