Due to a new requirement having to do with performance data in the advertisements of 529 college savings plans, picking a college plan has just become a little bit easier, according to a Dow Jones Newswire.

The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) rule came into effect on Dec. 1 and requires that broker/dealers and municipal securities dealers use a defined method of computing and displaying performance data for mutual funds. Performance that is reported in an advertisement must be limited to average annual return, current yield, tax equivalent yield and after-tax return.

The rule states that a dealer can use information provided in the issuer's official statement. The life of a municipal fund securities issue should be measured from when the issuer first issues the securities. Performance data must be up to date and displayed in compliance with the SEC Rule 482.

An advertisement now requires disclosure of the fact that performance data is historical and does not in any way guarantee future performance. A toll-free number or Web site must also be displayed in the ad, so that investors may obtain the most recent quotes of total return. Advertisements that present data must also include maximum sales loads or any other reoccurring fee.

"This is an important step," said Ernesto A. Lanza, senior associate general counsel at MSRB. "This piece brings it more in line with mutual fund disclosures."

Before the rule came into effect, it was difficult for individuals to choose a plan without the assistance of a commercial site, or major research. Now consumers have "easy access" to even more comparative data.

 "I think that anytime consumers see 529 information presented in a consistent form, they are reassured that the programs are trying to do a good job in following the regulations," said Joe Hurley, president and founder of Savingforcollege.com.

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