Can I use this 529 plan to pay for living expenses during trade school?


Q. I have a 529 for my son. He has a full-time job with a plumber’s union and will start training in their school program for two nights a week in September. The training program lasts five years. The union will be paying for the training. Will any of his living expenses be eligible for reimbursement from his 529?
— Proud mom

A. Congrats to your son on this program.

Here’s the lowdown on the 529 plan.

A 529 plan is a qualified tuition plan that enables tax-advantaged savings for education costs.

The funds that are invested grow tax-deferred and withdrawals can be made without penalty for tuition, room, board and other qualified expenses, said Claudia Mott, a certified financial planner with Epona Financial Solutions in Basking Ridge.

While the primary benefit of these accounts is the earnings growing free of income taxes, in some states, the contributions can be tax-deductible up to certain limits, she said.

Mott said while 529 plans are generally associated with paying college costs, they can also be used for qualified trade schools.

“As a result of tax law changes over the past few years, funds can also be used to cover tuition at K-12 schools up to $10,000 per year,” she said. “A 529 plan can be used for living expenses such as room and board or an equivalent amount of rent and food for a student living off campus.”

In order to qualify to use the 529 funds, a trade school must be eligible to participate in a student aid program that is run by the U.S. Department of Education.

You can look up whether the program your son is looking at is eligible here.

Mott warns that If the training program that you mention is run by the union, it may not qualify.

Your son’s living expenses such as rent and food would only be eligible to be paid with 529 funds if there was a cost for room and board to attend a qualified program, she said.

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This story was originally published on May 24, 2023. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.