The Financial and Non-Financial Aspects of College Planning

The topic of college planning has entered my home in full force. My oldest, who is currently a tenth grader, has embarked on his search for college. I know many of you think this is quite early to begin this, but being his dad is a planner I am sure it is not much of a surprise. Just like we talk about having a plan in place for your financial future to guide you, it is important for the student to have a plan in place for their educational and eventual career as well.

I have found over the years that there are two components to assisting a family through the college planning process, the financial and non-financial. Many wealth managers have a tendency to help families accumulate the assets they will potentially need for their child future education and stop there. I think it is as important to assist the family through the non-financial part too. Let’s delve a bit deeper into these two very different aspects of the college process.

The financial aspects of planning for college are fairly straightforward and include a great deal of assumptions in order to save enough for our children’s education. As a family, it is wise to determine what you plan on contributing to their education. Do you plan on paying for all their undergrad and graduate school regardless of where they attend or at what cost? Do you plan on paying the equivalent of the cost for a State university and anything above that is on your child? These will help you to determine what your expected cost will be in today’s dollars. You then will need to factor in inflation in the cost of school, the return you believe you will be able to achieve on your investments, and how long you have until they will need the money. This will lead you to discern how much you will need to save on an ongoing basis to fund that goal. Like any financial plan, it is important to revisit your goals, objectives and progress each year to make sure you are staying on course.

The non-financial aspects of college are typically a more difficult hurdle for families to overcome. In most cases, we as parents have not been in college for eighteen plus years and things have changed. How do we make sure our children are looking at, visiting, and ultimately applying the best schools for them? In my experience, people typically will spend more time researching everything they need to know surrounding a new car purchase than they will the higher education options their children are considering. Considering the education will cost anywhere between two to six times the price of the car, this needs to change. Not to mention the fact that the education your child receives will be the basis for their entire future moving forward.

We, as parents, really need to spend more time helping our young ones find the “right fit” for their education. I think it goes without saying that a university does not qualify as a “right fit” simply because they have a great football team and/or fantastic weather. My family decided that we needed assistance in this area for my son and we hired a college advisor, Hans Hanson of College Logic. This has been an excellent decision for us and he has already helped our son immensely. Currently, we have a list of sixteen schools with a goal of visiting each one by the end of his sophomore year. After only a few visits, he is starting to see what he likes and does not like about the schools on his list. Through the use of the advisor we have allowed my son to take ownership of the process and have discussions with us about his findings. Ultimately, by having a plan and his advisor to walk him through the process, we feel that our son will truly find a university that is the “right fit” for him and will put him on a path for success following his college years.

College planning is an involved process that contains financial and non-financial aspects that need to be addressed for the benefit of the student. The university your child attends should be a stepping stone to their educational, vocational and financial future which needs you to dedicate time and attention to determine fit. We would be happy to speak with you regarding getting your family on the right track for higher education from both the financial and non-financial aspects. In addition, we are pleased to share our experiences with hiring a college advisor and how it has helped us with this process immensely. Feel free to contact us, Mitlin Financial, at (844) 4-MITLIN x12 if you or someone you know needs assistance in this area.

This article represents the opinion of Mitlin Financial Inc. It should not be construed as providing investment, legal and/or tax advice.

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