A:  The number one answer to this question is our experience.  We’ve worked with many families in addition to having spent thousands of dollars of our own money to investigate the subject and learn the answers to what works 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, which most parents have never heard of, let alone, taken the time to go through it.  We continue to spend many hours a month in 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 nationwide organizations, we have the resources to pay big money to research each individual school so that we can give you statistics about what type of award package these schools give on average to 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 – you can leave the time and worry to us on this one.

A:  Yes, absolutely you can, just like you can do a lot of other things yourself.  You can practice law yourself and make your own wills, be your own doctor by diagnosing things on the internet, be your own plumber and fix things yourself.  The reason to consider working with us is so you can capitalize on our experience and expertise so you don’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 (college) that on the low end will cost you $80,000.00 to $118,000.00 in total to live on campus at a state school and on the high end, can be upwards of $260,000 at a private university, per child. You have to decide if it’s worth it to hire someone with expertise who can walk with you through the process so you don’t run the risk of making missteps and overpaying for college.

A:  That’s a real 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 borrowing and being in debt for the next 30 years, they frankly do not care.  Their interest is in getting their money.  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 with help for lowering your college expenses. They usually won’t be very forth coming in telling you how to get more money from them for college.

A:  No, in-fact, that’s the exact reason to hire us in the first place. Remember, our service includes private one on one counselling with your student, which includes a college search, a career profile, and a complete discussion of how to pick the career of their dreams among others.  All of the things that many parents feel their students aren’t getting elsewhere.  We will be working on that and every other phase along the way guiding and directing 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 by background and Financial advisors are typically skilled at helping you create and protect your wealth.  However, the financial aid formulas are designed to see this wealth and that will 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 money for purposes of financial aid and lowering their out-of-pocket college expenses.  Where you keep your money could be the difference between getting thousands of dollars and nothing!  We think everyone should pay their fair share for college – but we don’t think anyone should have to overpay simply because they didn’t know the rules of the game!