Skip to Content
Market Update

What Bad Returns at the Wrong Time Can Mean for College

The order in which returns unfold over time can either help or hurt.

I’ve written a couple of articles about how sequence-of-returns risk can affect portfolio values both for retirees making portfolio withdrawals, and younger investors who are putting money away for the future. The order in which returns unfold over time is important because it can affect the dollar value of a portfolio that has cash flows from contributions or withdrawals. In a nutshell, the periods when more dollars are invested will carry more weight in your overall results.

In this article, I’ll explain how even a year or two of bad equity-market returns can affect portfolio values for college savers and give some practical tips for dealing with this risk. I'll focus mainly on 529 plans, which we've covered extensively as one of the best vehicles available for families planning ahead to cover the costs of college education.

Transparency is how we protect the integrity of our work and keep empowering investors to achieve their goals and dreams. And we have unwavering standards for how we keep that integrity intact, from our research and data to our policies on content and your personal data.

We’d like to share more about how we work and what drives our day-to-day business.

We sell different types of products and services to both investment professionals and individual investors. These products and services are usually sold through license agreements or subscriptions. Our investment management business generates asset-based fees, which are calculated as a percentage of assets under management. We also sell both admissions and sponsorship packages for our investment conferences and advertising on our websites and newsletters.

How we use your information depends on the product and service that you use and your relationship with us. We may use it to:

  • Verify your identity, personalize the content you receive, or create and administer your account.
  • Provide specific products and services to you, such as portfolio management or data aggregation.
  • Develop and improve features of our offerings.
  • Gear advertisements and other marketing efforts towards your interests.

To learn more about how we handle and protect your data, visit our privacy center.

Maintaining independence and editorial freedom is essential to our mission of empowering investor success. We provide a platform for our authors to report on investments fairly, accurately, and from the investor’s point of view. We also respect individual opinions––they represent the unvarnished thinking of our people and exacting analysis of our research processes. Our authors can publish views that we may or may not agree with, but they show their work, distinguish facts from opinions, and make sure their analysis is clear and in no way misleading or deceptive.

To further protect the integrity of our editorial content, we keep a strict separation between our sales teams and authors to remove any pressure or influence on our analyses and research.

Read our editorial policy to learn more about our process.