Proper College Planning Equals Clarity & Peace of Mind.
Applying for college can be a stressful time for both students and parents. The many choices, the forms, the time, the cost — it can all become overwhelming quickly. Having a skilled and experienced partner to help you navigate the college-bound process makes all the difference. It’s called “Peace of Mind”. Our team of advisors and college counselors provides the knowledge, expertise and services to make sense of this journey as together we assist you in finding a college that fits your student — academically, socially and financially.
For over a decade, we’ve successfully helped students and their families arrive at the right choice through proven techniques, teleconferences, timelines and programs developed specifically for this purpose. We are with you from start to finish, turning process into progress, so that in the end, you’re able to select a college with confidence, clarity and certainty.
We Cover All 3 Pillars of Planning for College:
- Finding the right college & getting accepted.
- Getting Financial Aid
- Fund the Cost
To Find the Right College, We:
- Confirm or discover a student’s career goals.
- Empower the student to come up with a career/major choice scientifically through Aptitude Assessment.
- Position the student to ensure that the selected colleges fit him academically, socially and the family financially.
- Offer a data bank of general, administrative and financial data sheets of over 1900 U.S. colleges. Interactive capabilities are included which allow students to explore a “What If” scenario, should they improve their standardized test scores.
Services for Receiving Financial Aid:
We personally work with clients to verify the accuracy of the financial data used to complete financial aid applications.
- Completion of the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid): This is required by every college-bound student and family, even by the student who will not receive need-based assistance. This form must be completed to qualify for federal aid, most state programs, and is often required for institutional merit-based aid.
- CSS Profile (College Scholarship Service Profile) registration and completion. This form is required by certain colleges for financial aid consideration.
- Institutional Financial Aid Forms Completion: Some schools have their own need-based forms that are just as important as the CSS Profile and the FAFSA.
- Award Analysis: A breakdown of an award package from two points of views. A) The colleges’ viewpoint, including non-free money such as student loans and work study programs. B) The families’ viewpoint (free money only) without long-term student loans or work study programs. These reports make it crystal clear what the client’s true cost is for their first year in college.
- Evaluation of Award Letters / Appeal Support: Through our analysis we can determine if it is to the family’s benefit to appeal any of the awards sent to the family.
- Loan Option Information: Resources are provided on loan options: Private loans, Federal Loans. We also provide the family with a college loan booklet which addresses important loan topics.
Monthly Teleconferences: Live & Interactive in group settings! Discussing an assortment of college-bound topics in chronological order.
Monthly College Reminder Emails: Content rich emails that provide an overview of the college planning topic(s) of the month. Status Calls/Emails: Monthly emails and calls to ensure the student/family are well aware of the next step in the program.
Data Privacy and Security: This is our top and utmost concern. We secure your data by using hybrid information security systems, data back-up and other safeguards, unparalleled in the industry. Feel free to ask about our IT safety track record.
Comprehensive Customer Service: Our consultants are friendly, professional, and knowledgeable, and are available to answer service-related questions toll-free at our service center. You will not be talking to a member of a call bank but to a servicer dedicated to you.
Funding the Cost:
Despite plenty of legitimate grievances towards the unreasonableness of today’s higher education costs, the overwhelming percentage of parents still prefer and insist on college education for their children. Therefore, to ease or ideally to even eliminate this costly endeavor, it is absolutely imperative to start saving for kids’ college as soon as possible.
To put things in perspective, consider that the 2017-18 average cost of college tuition, fees, room & board was $20,770 for an In-State 4 Year Public College, and, a whopping $46,950 for a Private Non-Profit college. So, based on these costs, the total cost of completing a 4-year Public college today will amount to over $83,000, and for a Private college, that amount will be over $188,000!
So, Let the Saving Begin Now!
To meet the high costs of sending your kids to college, we encourage and guide our clients to start a college savings account as early as possible, preferably right at the child’s birth! As in any other investment, time is of the essence, hence, being proactive and early can only help your accumulation goals. For later years, when the child is about 2 years away from entering college, we also guide our clients for the planning of any scholarships, grants, and low interest financial assistances that can provide you with funds.
To accumulate college savings, we offer a variety of financial vehicles, many of them tax advantaged. The following is a brief explanation of each.
529 College Savings Plan: It was originally created by the Congress in 1996 as a part of the Small Business Job Protection Act. However, it was not until 2001 that the plan really started to take off in popularity via financial companies’ mass marketing efforts. 529 plans are created specifically for the purpose of saving for college, and most mutual fund companies offer them. The owner of a 529 account who is typically a parent has the full control of the plan such as the ability to select investment types, changing beneficiaries, and controlling distributions. The potential growth inside a 529 plan is tax free, and any distributions from the plan are also tax free, as long as they are spent on education related items such as tuitions, fees, room & board, stationary, computers, and even student car expenses. Unlike IRAs, there are neither income limits nor contribution limits for 529 plans, however, $15,000 per year is the limit for a single contributing individual ($30,000 for married couple) to contribute to the plan without any gift-tax consequences. A 529 plan can be established for anyone- child, grandchild, spouse, or even for oneself.
As far as investment styles are concerned, there is not a set way of an approach, but generally speaking if a 529 account is opened at a child’s birth, the account owners/parents tends to typically be more “aggressive” during the first seven years of the child’s life in order to theoretically take advantage of an above the average growth potential. Starting age 8, the investment approach tends to shift towards becoming more “moderate”, and it remains that way until the child becomes 15. After age 15, it might be appropriate to obtain a “conservative” portfolio in order to minimize the risk of a loss in case of a sudden market decline.
How Do 529 Assets Affect Financial Aid? A major disadvantage of a 529 Plan is that it directly affects a student’s eligibility for receiving either Cal-Grant or Federal Pell-Grant, because, a 529 plan is considered a student’s contributing asset. 529 assets that are owned by the parent or the student are counted at a 5.64% rate when determining financial aid eligibility. Qualified distributions from a parent- or student-owned 529 are ignored, meaning they do not count as income for expected family contribution purposes.
Maximum Funded Index Universal Life Insurance (IUL)- Another strong and viable way of saving for college. The funds in such policies accumulate and are distributed without any tax consequences when the distribution is done through a properly designed policy loan regiment. A supremely valuable feature of an IUL is that it earns market like returns while being protected against any market loss (Learn about Index UL). However, it should be noted that an IUL is a long-term financial vehicle, so, to maximize its’ benefits, a minimum window of 12 years should be allowed. Unlike 529 Plans, the cash value in a life insurance does not affect a student’s eligibility to receive financial aid if the student is not the policy owner. Another major advantage of saving for college via life insurance is its’ protective aspect in case a parent dies prematurely.
Roth IRA: This is also a tax-advantaged option to save for college. For 2020, a total of $6,000 a year ($7,000 for over age 50 folks) can be contributed to a Roth IRA. The monies in a Roth generally gets invested in a variety of mutual funds that the account owner can select. When using Roth IRA for the purposes of qualified education expenses, the 10% early withdrawal penalty for people under the age of 59 ½ is waived. However, the earnings portion of the account will still be taxable at the owner’s income tax rate. On the other hand, the contribution portion of the account is always tax free, because the taxes have already been paid on the contribution portion since Roth IRA is not tax deductible.
Municipal Bonds: It’s an alternative way of saving for college; one that avoids taxes entirely and is also a safer bet in comparison to growth oriented mutual funds. The earnings of Municipal Bonds may be low due to the nature of the investment, but if started early and contributed regularly, they have the potential to accumulate enough for college. Munis are also considered to be a rather smart investment as they are not restricted to only college spending, but for any purpose that the account owner might deem necessary. Another important aspect is that the ownership of a muni account is typically under a parent, resulting in complete parental control of the distributions, and, the avoidance of lowering a child’s chances of getting grants.