Thanks anonymous for the ongoing dialogue. Hope you don't mind if a disagree a bit, and extend the conversation.
You mentioned there is a strong possibility that one would invest differently outside of a 529 than inside. I would usually agree; however, in my situation, I will probably go with the OH 529 plan and use the Vanguard S&P500 Index, Extended Market Index (those two combined in a certain ratio equal the Total Stock Market Index), and the Developed Markets Index for a bit of international exposure. I actually use those funds for my own retirement savings with Vanguard, so in this case - these are pretty darn good investments.
About life insurance - are you saying that it can be tough to qualify for life insurance down the road? Currently I am single and have no kids, but you are suggesting that it is better for me to start paying perhaps a $75 monthly premium to get some 20 or 30 year term life insurance coverage at perhaps a $500k benefit, than to put an equivalent amount into a 529? I find that a little tough to believe. You'd say this $75 a month over the next approx. 5 years, before I even have children, is a better expenditure of money than saving in a 529, which can be used for any of my numerous nieces/nephews even if I don't use it on my own kids?
Lastly, you said that a 529 isn't necessary until you have more than 1 kid and their other financial needs are taken care of. I agree with you in principle; you can always borrow for college at attractive rates, but you can't borrow for things like retirement, or medical care for a sick kid, or swim lessons, etc. etc. etc. HOWEVER, you cannot save for these things with the amazing benefit the 529 offers: tax free gains. I wouldn't put a ton of money into a 529 yet, but given I have 20 years or more before I'd distribute it out to a qualified education expense, that $7k could turn into a much higher tax free number than I could earn anywhere else! Especially considering that capital gains rates have nowhere to go but up in the future, as far as I am concerned.
As I said, worst case scenario is to transfer to nieces / nephews and have their parents reimburse me, and I've still avoided the capital gains taxes (I would guess they will be 20% to 25% or more in 15 to 20 years).
Anyways, thank you very much for your thoughts and rebuttals - this board is great to make sure I am not off in the weeds in my thinking. It is always good to be challenged, so I can learn more perspectives. I appreciate your time.