A:  The number one answer to this question is our experience.  We’ve worked with hundreds of families in addition to having spent thousands of dollars of our own money to investigate the subject and learn the answers to what works effectively in the process and what doesn’t.  We have over 1500 hours of research time invested in the rules and regulations of the Department of Education, and we have read and are familiar with things like the Higher Education Reauthorization Act, which is hundreds of pages long, often amended, and something most parents have never heard of, let alone, take the time to go through.  We continue to spend numerous hours on continuing education and research in order to keep up-to-date on the latest tax laws, planning laws, pending legislation, and college rules as they affect parents.  Also, as part of a nationwide organization, we have the resources necessary to research individual schools so we can provide statistics about the type of award packages these schools historically tend to give families.  If there is a pattern going on, we usually know about it.  Last but not least, you won’t have to spend huge amounts of time and energy hassling with it yourself – and wondering if you’re doing things “right”, and instead, have peace-of-mind.

A:  Yes, absolutely you can, just like you can do a lot of other things yourself.  You can practice law, make your own wills, and be your own doctor by diagnosing things on the internet, or even be your own plumber and fix things yourself.  The reason you may want to consider working with us is so you can capitalize on our experience and expertise, so you won’t have to attempt to become an expert in a process you probably know very little, if anything about.  If you’re thinking along these lines, let me ask you another question; when was the last time you did something really good the first time you tried it?  Do you remember when you were trying to ride a bike?  How many times did you fall?  Do you remember when you were learning to drive a stick shift car?  How many times did you stall in that learning process?  Well, by the same token, how much will it cost you if you miss just one of the many college deadlines?  How much will it cost you if you fill out a form incorrectly and include an asset that shouldn’t be included or if you apply to the wrong type of schools in general?  How much will it cost you if an asset is in the wrong place or something is valued incorrectly?  Remember, we’re talking about a decision (four-year college) that, on the low end, can cost anywhere from $104,000 to over $325,000+ on the high end, to live on campus at a college per child. You’ll need to decide for yourself if hiring someone with expertise and experience who can walk you through the process and greatly reduce the risk of making missteps and overpaying for college may be a smarter option.

A:  That’s a really common misconception.  As far as colleges themselves helping you, remember, their sole purpose is to get you to pay as much as humanly possible for the college experience.  If getting your student to go to their school requires you to borrow and be in debt for the next 30 years once a financial aid award has been provided, then so be it. They are more interested in getting your student to enroll and obtaining your tuition dollars and generally won’t be very helpful in telling you how to get more money from them for to help pay for college. Another way of looking at this is, would you go to the IRS to ask for help on lowering your taxes?  No, you wouldn’t.  Well, that’s the same as going to the financial aid office to ask them for help for lowering your college expenses. You’ll most likely find it to be a very frustrating experience.

A:  No, that’s one of the biggest reasons to consider working with us in the first place. How realistic is it that a 17 or 18 year knows what they want to do for the rest of their lives, or what type of school will be best for them? Remember, our services can provide a private one on one counseling session with your student, which includes a college search, a career profile, and a complete discussion of how to choose a potential career path. All things many parents feel their students just aren’t getting direction or help with elsewhere.  We concentrate on these major issues and can assist in all the other phases along the way, guiding and directing you and your student throughout the process.

A: Probably not so much. CPA’s are excellent at strategies to reduce your income taxes, but in our experience most are not trained in the college financial aid process. Tax strategies used to reduce your tax bill can cost you thousands in lost financial aid dollars. GOOD TAX PLANNING MAY EQUAL BAD FINANCIAL AID PLANNING! We are Financial advisors and consultants by background and are skilled at helping you create and protect your wealth. However, the financial aid formulas are designed to see this wealth and that can cost you dearly in lost financial aid dollars. Parents need to know where to hold their money and how to legally and ethically position their assets for purposes of financial aid and lowering out-of-pocket college expenses. Where you keep your money could be the difference between getting thousands of dollars or nothing! We feel everyone should pay their fair share for college – but we don’t think anyone should have to overpay simply because they didn’t know something and are blind to the rules of the game!