Unlike retirement, a family's education expense is more a personal choice than an eventuality. Each client has their own educational experience that may have been funded for them or by them. Simply deciding how much (if any) and what school(s) need to be funded is the first step, in a relatively short savings period.
If the decision is to fund all or a portion, proper planning and investing for this goal is as important as planning for retirement, capital needs or the client's estate. A 529 Plan is one of the tools used to achieve this goal, but there are definitive pros and cons to using them. Using other account types is also very important in planning, as the penalties for using 529 monies for expenses other than education are costly to the client.
The process begins by choosing a target school and entry date. Once these have been defined, similar to the retirement planning process, a rate of return and risk limit is quantified. This is followed by choosing the type of account(s) most appropriate, the annual funding amount and finally the asset allocation.