529 ASSETS REACH $43 BILLION: Assets in 529 college savings plans totaled an estimated $43 billion at the end of the second quarter, up 7.4 percent over assets in the first quarter, according to a report from the College Savings Foundation. The quarterly asset total marks a 66.9 percent increase from the second quarter of 2003's total of $25.8 billion, according to data developed by research and consulting firm Financial Research Corp.
FRC said that estimated net new contributions to 529 savings plans for the second quarter were $2.9 billion, compared with $4.1 billion in the first quarter and $2.4 billion in the second quarter of 2003. For the first half of 2004, net sales of $7.0 billion were up 45.8 percent, compared with net sales of $4.8 billion in the first half of 2003.
The CSF is a not-for-profit organization focused on building public awareness of, and providing public policy support for, 529 plans.
WORTHMARK OFFERS TURNKEY BROKER/DEALER MODEL: With more and more clients expecting their accountant to be a one-stop shop, WorthMark Financial Services LLC has developed a new model for CPA firms interested in offering financial services.
Under the new model, a WorthMark registered representative incorporates within the CPA firm's current structure on a full- or part-time basis. The firm owns an interest in the broker/dealer, but isn't required to register any of its own professionals with the National Association of Securities Dealers, leaving them free to focus on their core accounting practice.
"The ability to own a financial services operation without losing focus on traditional functions, while at the same time providing the opportunity to increase profit and service to clients, makes this a unique approach in this industry," said WorthMark president Jim Peterson.
WorthMark recruits and trains the qualified financial advisor, who meets with clients to discuss their financial needs and offer planning services. Only the registered rep is required to hold NASD registration. WorthMark also provides access to experts in financial planning, case analysis and marketing strategies.
FPA, COLLEGE FOR FINANCIAL PLANNING FORGE ALLIANCE: The Financial Planning Association and the College for Financial Planning have forged an alliance that the groups said is aimed at helping to grow the financial planning profession.
The partnership will provide five scholarships to FPA members for the College's CFP Board-registered educational program. The scholarships will include full tuition, books and other educational materials. In exchange, the FPA will provide the College with at least 500 FPA-discounted student memberships to offer to its students.
The partnership also allows the College to offer FPA members a 15 percent discount from the list price of its financial education programs, including the Certified Financial Planner certification professional education program, review courses, books and materials.
VANGUARD CLOSES INTERNATIONAL EXPLORER FUND: Mutual fund giant The Vanguard Group has closed its $1.4 billion International Explorer Fund to new accounts.
Valley Forge, Pa.-based Vanguard said that the fund's existing shareholders may, however, continue to make additional purchases. This is the fifth of its funds - and the second international-oriented fund - that Vanguard has closed in the past eight months.
Vanguard initially responded to rapid cash inflows to the mutual fund by raising the fund's minimum investment from $10,000 to $25,000 in January. However, since January, the fund has experienced approximately $500 million in additional net cash flow.
"The closing of the fund does not reflect a particular sentiment on the international equity markets as a whole, nor the stocks of smaller, non-U.S. companies in particular. In fact, our research demonstrates that there is value over the long term in diversifying an equity portfolio in non-U.S. stocks," said Jeffrey S. Molitor, a principal at the Vanguard Portfolio Review Group.
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