College Financial Action Plan

Concerned about paying for college?

 

 

 

These are some of the things that I hear from parents all the time:

  • We work hard but there’s not much money left at the end of the month to save for college
  • We’re afraid that our child won’t qualify for financial aid and that we’ll have to pay more than we can afford for college
  • We want to support our child’s college choices but we don’t want to jeopardize our retirement security
  • We want our child(ren) to go to college but we don’t want them (or us) to end up with a ton of debt
  • As small business owners, we need our funds to operate the business.  And, we’re not sure how they would treat our fluctuating income
  • We’re a divorced family and we’re not sure how colleges evaluate financial aid
  • Everything is different from when we went to college.  We don’t even know where to begin – we’re confused, frustrated & scared that we’ll miss something important.  And, the more we read online, the more confused we get.
  • We just don’t have time to learn all the ins and outs of this overwhelming process.  We’re at a loss as to how to proceed.

“I was filled with fear … but you really helped me through all this … you made it simple, answered every question and took a lot of stress out of it” -John S

If any of these concerns apply to you or sound familiar, you’re not alone.  When it comes to paying for college, the majority of parents today are scared to death that they’ll mess this college thing up and never recover financially.  And many have younger children who also plan to go to college.   Yikes!

My program has been helping families save money on college costs since 2004.   I’ve worked with high, medium and low-income families to help them successfully navigate this confusing process.  There’s a very good chance that I can help your family as well.

“I am so grateful for the information and guidance that you gave our family regarding financial aid and the labyrinth of college finance information. It all seems unfathomable to parents like myself! With your help, we managed to get some very critical financial aid for our daughter’s next year in college” -Mary P

 

The College Financial Action Plan 

I called my program the “College Financial Action Plan”, because I’ve noticed that despite their best efforts, many families facing this challenge unknowingly and unintentionally work against their best interests and pay more for college than they have to.  Taking action is critical if a family is hoping to reduce the impact of college costs.

When I work with a family, I have three simple goals:

  1. To reduce your stress and anxiety by helping you to better understand this confusing college planning process.
  2. To help your child identify colleges that you can afford.   Right College – Right Price
  3. To help you create a financial plan to pay for college by reviewing your resources, determining what you can afford to pay and by establishing which accounts to tap and in what order.

“Well, your suggestions worked. Again, thanks for all your help. We wouldn’t have survived this mess without you. You can rest assured we will be sending everyone we know in the same boat your way. Take Care.” -Richard B.

What makes our program unique?

This is not a one size fits all program – everything we do is tailored to your family’s situation and goals.

Most students, when creating their college list, appropriately look for colleges or universities that are a “good fit.” However, they rarely consider affordability as an important aspect of “fit.” The money is typically only discussed after the college acceptances arrive in the spring.  That’s often too late.

We take a consumer-minded approach because we strongly believe that college cost should be a consideration on the front-end of the process, as the college list is being created, not at the end of the process which is normally the case.

In what other ways is our program unique?

Effective tax, financial and investment planning are, at times, at odds with effective college financial planning.

Actions that save taxes might have a negative impact on financial aid.  Similarly, certain investments can have a negative impact.

As a CPA and Certified Financial Planner, I understand the nuances and am able to help you navigate these important challenges by working with your tax & financial advisors.

For High Income or High Net Worth Families where the child will not qualify for need-based financial aid, we use other strategies for reducing the impact of college costs.   College selection, tax, gifting, scholarship, cash flow & appeal strategies are often used.

Our goal is to help you create a funding plan that minimizes the amount of money you and/or your child have to borrow.   If some amount of borrowing is needed, I’ll explain the pros and cons and compare each of the options to help you choose the debt program that is best for you.

 

When is the best time to begin planning?

The best or ideal time for our first stand-alone strategy session is in your child’s sophomore year in high school.

The College Financial Action Plan is actually a 12-month program that begins in the summer between your child’s Junior and Senior Years in High School.

Here’s why it’s best to start with a meeting in your child’s sophomore year: For financial aid purposes, colleges look at the family’s income and assets.  For your child’s freshman year in college, colleges look at your tax return from 2 years prior to your child’s high school graduation.

For example, if your child is a junior and plans to graduate in 2021, the first tax return considered would be that from 2019.  So, for income planning purposes, meeting in the child’s sophomore year would be ideal and provide the most potential planning opportunities.

While a meeting this early is ideal, it is unfortunately, not common.  Many parents wait to come in until their child is a junior or senior in high school.   Not to worry, we can still help!

This is what you can expect over the 12 months of the College Financial Action Plan:

  • This program is not cookie-cutter.  Rather, it is structured specifically for your family to help you save money on college costs
  • I’ll meet with you quarterly beginning in the summer between your child’s Junior and Senior years

Summer: 

  • Assist with creating a college list with affordability in mind
  • Provide job and salary data for each college and major
  • Help you to determine what you can afford to pay for college
  • Evaluate current savings & investments for college readiness and tax efficiency
  • Begin or continue support for the private scholarship search effort

Fall:  Assist with student’s applications for Financial Aid (FAFSA & CSS Profile)

Winter: 

  • Begin building your strategy for which accounts to tap & when to tap them.
  • Continue support for the private scholarship search if desired.

Spring: 

  • Evaluate & Appeal Offers (including projected debt for both student and parents)
  • Continue strategy sessions, including comparison & evaluation of borrowing options.

More useful info:

  • Each session will have a specific purpose & goal.  You’ll have a modest amount of homework before each session.
  • I’ll make sure that you stay on top of all financially related deadlines
  • In between sessions, we’ll stay in touch by phone and email

 “Can’t we do this financial stuff ourselves?”

Absolutely!   You can absolutely do this yourself and many people do. It’s not rocket science.  But it does take a significant amount of time and effort to be successful.   If you would enjoy jumping into a multi-year research project and you have the time, go for it!

While there are exceptions, what I’ve found over the years is that most parents just don’t have the time to spend doing all of the research.  Nor do they have access to or know where to find all of the information they would need to create a plan and make informed decisions.    Having said that, many families take care of this process every year without any outside help.

Over the past 15 years, we’ve assisted hundreds of families with their planning.   I can honestly say that a modest investment in our program has more than paid for itself, normally in terms of actual dollars saved but, at a minimum, by reducing your stress and anxiety.

“Thank you for your invaluable assistance in helping us plan our daughter’s college admission and financial aid applications. Our daughter received several extremely generous financial aid packages from major universities, and now has the privilege of attending a university of her choice. We feel she deserves the opportunity, because she worked hard for it. At the same time we firmly believe that it wouldn’t be happening without your timely advice. We will always be grateful to you for your part in helping our daughter have the college experience she’s dreamed of.”–Craig & Michelle

Is the College Financial Action Plan Right For Your Family?

I think that it is if you answer “yes” to at least one of these questions:

  • Are you a high income or high net worth family who would like to avoid paying full price for an expensive college?
  • Are you a middle or low-income family who is quite concerned about your ability to pay for your child’s college expenses?
  • Are you a business owner who would like to try to pay for a bit of college costs on a pre-tax basis?
  • Are you wondering if your money is in the right types of accounts for effective college planning and in what order you should use them?
  • Are you adamant about not borrowing excessively or letting college costs affect your retirement plans?
  • Do you find yourself stressing more as college approaches?

If you’ve gotten this far, it might be that the College Financial Action Plan can help your family.   If so, I invite you to contact me for a complimentary 30 to 60-minute Strategy Session.

How much does this plan cost? 

That’s what you’ve been wondering right?  As I mentioned earlier, the good news is that compared to the savings typically experienced, the cost is extremely reasonable.   Since some families request more assistance than others, there is not one fixed price.   You decide how much help you need.  

What I can tell you is that for a family that requests the plan beginning with the meeting in the sophomore year and includes all of the quarterly meetings during the junior/senior year, that family would pay approximately $1,000 to $1.200 over the course of the entire plan.   With four-year-costs at state colleges totaling around $100k, UC’s around $170,000 and privates nearly $300k, I strongly believe that an investment in the College Financial Action Plan will often pay for itself many times over.

First Things First.   The first thing we’ll do is define your current reality:

  • Where you are
  • Where you need to be
  • How you intend to get there

We’ll determine whether this program is a good fit for you.

If, after our strategy session, you feel that the program is not for you, you’ll still leave the session with more clarity, understanding and with a clearer picture of the path ahead.  Without spending a cent!

To schedule your complimentary strategy session, please send me a message via this website and I’ll be in touch to schedule a convenient time for us to meet.

Here’s what you’ll receive at your complimentary strategy session:

  • An opportunity to ask your specific family’s questions
  • EFC calculation for both FAFSA & CSS Profile
  • Many articles and resources, including private scholarships
  • A step-by-step action plan
  • A reality check!

I look forward to hearing from you!

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