Parents Report: Saving for College is not Easy

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With tuition costs soaring ever higher, parents have discovered that saving for a college education is tough, much tougher than expected. 

According to a recent Student Loan Hero survey, less than one-third of parents believe they’ll be able to cover the cost.  The vast majority of those polled are finding it tough and more than half wish they had saved more.

The survey found that:

  • Nearly 80% say saving for their child’s education is much harder than anticipated.
  • 43% feel guilty they haven’t been able to save more for their child’s education.
  • Nearly 36% are currently paying off their own student debt while trying to save for their children’s education. (My note – they likely have a mortgage, credit card balances, auto loans, and possibly medical bills as well.)
  • Nearly 57% of parents plan to help their children pay off their student loans.
  • 39% say saving for their child’s education is a bigger priority than saving for retirement (17%).
  • For 57% of parents, their financial support comes with strings attached.

Falling short of goals creates massive feelings of guilt.

How are parents saving? 

  • 73% of parents use savings accounts.
  • 23% are setting aside cash.
  • 17% are using savings bonds.
  • 16% are using 529 Plans. (My note – for the record, there is a safer savings strategy.)

As many parents feel their savings will fall short, they are considering other options…

  • 32% plan to take out a personal loan.
  • 21% intend to co-sign a loan in their child’s name.
  • 19% will use a credit card.
  • 17% intend to utilize a Parent PLUS loan

If and how you choose to support your child and the expected expense of a college education is a personal decision.  If you are trying to save, the goal is to find the means that fit best within your family’s financial situation.

We’re here to assist you with your college planning campaign and we can help identify the means of covering the cost of an education that best fit your family dynamic.

Contact our professional college planners for assistance.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Student Loan Debt and Your Retirement

Student loan debt continues to rise, nearing $1.6 Trillion, forcing Americans to delay saving for retirement.

According to research conducted by the MIT AgeLab and published by the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America-College Retirement Equities Fund (“TIAA”), 84 percent of Americans report that student loan debt negatively impacted their ability to save for retirement.  In fact, almost 75% delayed maximizing retirement savings to focus on student loan debt repayment.  And, 26 percent indicate they aren’t saving for retirement at all.

According to Roger Ferguson, Jr., the TIAA President:

 “To be sure, getting a college degree remains one of the smartest investments a person can make in their financial future — but saving for retirement is equally important.”

According to the survey, borrowers are prioritizing repayment of student debt and will focus on saving for retirement once the debt has been repaid.  Of more concern, 43 percent of parents and grandparents incurring debt on behalf of their children and grandchildren will focus on retirement after the student loan debt has been paid.

Based on the repayment plans available to graduates, repayment can span quite a period of time.  Moreover, when combined with other debt, such as mortgages, auto loans credit card balances, medical bills, etc., the delay in saving for retirement can have a disastrous effect.  In fact, Americans may lose hope in ever retiring at all.

What if there was a better way, a way to repay your debt and save for retirement at the same time, a way that won’t compromise lifestyle?  Would that be of interest to you?

If so, we await your call or email.  We can be reached at (317) 536-1391 or john.baird@collegeplanningstrategiestoday.com.

Student Loan Debt – A Taboo Topic

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For most Americans, religion and politics are taboo when it comes to topics of conversation.  Likewise, it seems, is the subject of student debt.  So much so that Americans may dive into the formerly taboo topics referenced above.

According to a Harris Poll of more than 1,000 adults, the topic of student loan debt is the greatest financially taboo topic at this time.  A similar TIAA-sponsored survey found that 40% of those responding reported never talking to their family about their student loans.  Over half indicated their families know nothing or very little about that debt.

Americans suffer under more than $1.5 Trillion in student loan debt, with one in four carrying a balance.  In fact, the amount and effect have been widely studied.

The Fed found that this debt directly impacted the 20% decline in home ownership among millennials (age 24-32).  In fact, student loan debt has been found to delay other major life events.

So, why is the topic taboo?

In the end, it’s debt.  It’s an uncomfortable topic.  And, people fear others will pass judgment.

Whether you’re nearing, starting, or in the midst of your college planning campaign, it’s highly likely that loans, both student and parent, will be one of the means by which the cost of attendance will be funded.  A properly-designed plan for implementing and repaying such loans should be a high priority.

Student and parent loans is one area in which we can provide guidance.  We look forward to assisting your family with its college planning campaign.

Conventional Wisdom & Student Loan Debt

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Student loan debt, second only to mortgage debt, accounted for $1.5 Trillion of the total debt held by Americans.  As most of those burdened by such debt will adhere to traditional and conventional means of repayment, they’ll spend years, even decades, perhaps their entire working life paying off those loans.  A few of the misconceptions they labor under include the following:

Student Loan Debt can be Avoided by Working Your Way Through School

What once may have been true remains so no longer.  It hasn’t been true for years, perhaps decades.  Trends in wages and tuition rendered this strategy impossible.

The Greater the Student Loan Debt, the Heavier the Burden

A six-figure student loan debt can be a heavy burden.  A few students graduate with such a debt load, but those are few and far between.

Typically, students with such debt are those graduating with degrees in medicine, law, or some other professional designation, including those earning PhDs.  Such degrees provide earning potential that will more than offset the debt incurred.

Statistically, those most likely to default and most likely to suffer multiple financial setbacks are those servicing less than $10,000 in student loan debt.  Defaulters tend to be older, to be African American, and to attend for-profit institutions.  Almost half never earn an undergraduate degree.

Student Loan Debt is a Youth-Centered Problem

Not necessarily.  While millennials do struggle with such debt, baby-boomers are overwhelmed.  Boomers likely still pay on their own student debt, have taken on school debt for their own children, are addressing financial issues faced by their parents, and “hopelessly” face an improbable retirement.

According to the AARP, Americans over 50 owe almost $290 Billion of total student loan debt.  While a good portion is tied to their own school debt, growth has occurred through parents and grandparents incurring debt on behalf of their children and grandchildren.

A College Degree Just isn’t Worth the Student Loan Debt Incurred

While parents and students truly may feel this to be true.  It may indeed be true should the degree be earned in a low-wage field.  However, earning a degree in a high-wage field, even just finishing the degree, increases the odds that a college degree will pay off.

Decades ago, a high school degree meant you could find a good job, support your family, and retire comfortably.  In today’s reality, the college degree has replaced the high school degree.  Studies show that those with a college degree will earn roughly $1-$1.5 Million more in lifetime income than those with just a high school degree.

Unless your child is an exceptionally-gifted individual, whether it be academically, athletically, or artistically, the dream of a “full-ride” undergraduate education likely is highly unrealistic.  More likely, based on the ever-increasing annual cost of attendance, school loans, whether student or parent, will be utilized to help cover the expense.

Rather than settle on a college or university based on “sticker price,” consider engaging our services.  We will assist your family in identifying the best school at the best price for your student, based on academics, institution size, geographic location, and family budget.  Moreover, we’ll show you how to save for the expense in the most efficient manner possible for your family.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Evaluating a Financial Aid Offer

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Though most families don’t realize it, especially those whose first or only child is now beginning the undergraduate journey, the Financial Aid Award Letter can be highly misleading.

The award letter is merely an offer; not all aid listed will be awarded. Rather, the letter lists the aid for which you qualify. It’s up to you to review the offer and to accept or reject the aid listed.

Why can the award letter be confusing?

Schools use their own form letters and their own terminology. Understanding the offer as presented can be a pivotal point impacting your financial future not just for the next few years, but potentially for decades to come.

Before making a decision on which school’s offer to accept, as well as what aspects of the offer to accept, be sure you understand the following:

1. What will be the actual total cost, not just for the first year, but projected for the next four years? Look at the school’s project cost of attendance for the first year, then increase it by at least six percent for each subsequent year.

2. Is there free money and how much? Grants and scholarships are awards that need not be repaid. Each may have specific requirements that need be met in order to retain eligibility for the grant or award in future years.

3. What is your net out-of-pocket expense? This is the amount you will have to pay, whether from savings, retirement plans, or loans.

4. Is work-study included in the offer? While this may be included in the offer, it is not available to reduce expenses due at the beginning of an academic period. Rather, it will be paid to the student as earned, provided they can find campus employment, and usually serves as spending money.

5. Does the award include loans? Usually a letter includes a variety of loans. Loans must be repaid with interest. Some require that repayment begin immediately.

Understanding the award letter remains vital to your future, whether student or parent. Like it or not, loans have a place in funding the expense of an education. If managed properly, they are a worthwhile source of funding.

Contact us to learn more about loans as a source of funding, to learn how to manage them, and to learn how to pay them off at a much faster rate than expected (without sacrificing your standard of living).

We look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

6 Conventional Ways to Pay for School

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Whether you’re a high school senior beginning the “freak-out, how to pay” phase of your college planning campaign, a high school student on whom the upcoming, unbelievable expense is beginning to dawn, or the parent of a college-bound student of any age facing yet another addition to the ungodly amount of debt you currently manage, there are a number of conventional ways to cover the expense when you’re short on cash.

Option #1 – The current flavor of the day, month, or year (your choice!) – the 529 Plan. Although it’s called a “savings account,” it truly is an investment account. Sure, you might get a tax break. And, yes, the earnings grow tax-free. So, it might be right for you. However, the money you place in a 529 Plan is subject to market loss and you could end up with less than you’ve actually contributed. Moreover, the plan comes with government restrictions on when and how you can use the funds.

Option #2 – You could attend a cheaper school. While it may look cheaper on paper, it could actually cost you more. Rather than focus on “sticker price,” a price that families with a properly designed college planning campaign will not pay, focus on finding the right school at the right price. A school that may cost more on paper, but may actually be less expensive in the long run.

Option #3 – Apply for scholarships and grants. While these represent only about 3% of all available financial aid and thousands of students apply, it’s possible you could win one, perhaps a few. But, you are legally obligated to report those “winnings” to the schools who can then reduce the financial aid award. Certainly, apply for those you could win; just don’t rely on this strategy.

Option #4 – Borrow money from the government. No matter who you are, if these are available, take them. They have lower, fixed interest rates set by Congress and flexible repayment terms. With a properly designed college planning campaign, such loans shouldn’t be as fearsome as the media portrays.

Option #5 – Private student loans. While it means more debt, these loans are in the student’s name (with a co-signer), typically at lower interest rates than PLUS loans, and somewhat flexible repayment terms. With a properly designed college planning campaign, such loans shouldn’t be as fearsome as the media portrays.

Option #6 – Find a job. Whether on-campus (typically through work-study programs) or off, the money earned can offset the cost you may need to cover through loans.

Then, there’s the unconventional way, a way that shelters savings from financial aid calculations, that does not restrict how and when you can use those funds, that does not subject your savings to market correction (i.e., loss), and that is guaranteed to increase in value year-in and year-out.

Contact us for more information.

How Today’s Typical Family Pays for College

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The way families pay for school truly indicates the depth of their planning…

Ironically, according to a Sallie Mae study, while families feel confident in their planning, nearly 40 percent have no plan in place.

Talk about rainbows and unicorns!!

According to Sallie Mae and Ipsos, an independent global market research company, the cost is covered, as follows:

• 47% is funded through family income and savings (even as they family services a load of other debt);
• 28% is funded through scholarships and grants;
• 2% is funded by extended family and friends; and,
• 24% is funded through parent and student school loans.

Basically, 70% of the cost of an education is funded through current or future income.

53% of the families surveyed borrowed money, with two-thirds having expected to borrow. Bring up repayment and almost 40 percent of families haven’t considered repayment.

Experts say that, with the right tools and knowledge, families can develop a smart strategy for paying for college.

We are here to assist your family with designing and implementing its college funding campaign, not with just the savings aspect, but also with the loan repayment aspect.

We are waiting to hear from you…

 

Senior Citizens, School Debt, and Retirement

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More seniors than ever before enter retirement with school debt.

The cost of an education can last a lifetime.

More than 2.8 million Americans over age 60 service some amount of school debt. In 2018, in just fourteen years, school debt held by Americans over age 50 increased from $36 billion to more than $260 billion (Federal Reserve statistic).

Much of this school debt is not debt incurred for their own education. Rather, it has been incurred on behalf of their child or grandchild.

School loan debt is the only debt in the country that cannot be discharged through bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is not an option.

What can be done?

We have a program that, when properly designed, can get the typical American or American family completely out of debt, including school loans and mortgages, in nine years or less.

There’s a good chance we can help you and/or your family too. We’re just waiting to hear from you.

Start Saving for College Today

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So…

When’s the best time to start saving for the cost of your child’s college education?

The correct response is…

NOW!!!

Anecdotally, we like to say at conception (perhaps, even prior to that).

Absent a properly designed college funding campaign, a family can be rudely shocked at what awaits.

As the cost rises, students (and parents) plunge into debt that may take decades to repay. And, when factoring in inflation, education can cost two or more times the current price when a preschooler graduates from high school.

Avert the financial crisis – start saving now!

When considering the cost your family faces, it’s never too early to start. In fact, the earlier, the better.

But, don’t just throw your money in a savings account, money market account, or a CD. The rate of return won’t get you to your goal.

Don’t set up a 529 Plan. Sure, it’s the flavor of the month, even the year, yet even the marketing materials tell you it’s an investment.

What about equity funds, bond funds, fixed income funds, etc.? They’re all investments. And, investments can be lost.

In the end, when developing a college funding campaign, it’s about creating a long-term, practical strategy. It’s about clear goals and guarantees.

We’re here to assist your family in designing and implementing its college funding campaign.

We’re waiting for your call…

 

Facing Retirement with Student Loans

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More than $18.2 billion in student loan debt is held by Americans aged 65 and older. As baby boomers continue to retire by the thousands, that number will continue to rise.

Those in retirement with school debt and those approaching retirement with school debt likely did not borrow the money for their own education. Rather, they took out or co-signed loans for a child or grandchild.

Quite often, people don’t realize that co-signing places repayment responsibility on them when the person for whom the loan was taken fails to pay.

And it’s awkward pressuring a family member, especially if they don’t have the resources to make payments.

Unfortunately, school debt usually survives bankruptcy, placing seniors at great financial risk and a host of negative consequences. Those negative consequences include, but are not limited to, the following:

• Seniors with school debt may be forced to work longer before retirement, perhaps even part-time in retirement in order to meet everyday expenses.

• Seniors with school debt may have stopped saving for retirement in order to make debt payments. They even may have borrowed from their current retirement plan to pay down debt.

• Seniors with school debt may refrain from seeking needed health care for lack of funds.

• Seniors with school debt may be unable to obtain loans to make needed repairs, purchase a vehicle, or deal with other expenses.

• Seniors with school debt maybe unable to help other family members in need, even though that school debt arose from helping a child or grandchild further an education.

In fact, approximately 200,000 retirees currently have their Social Security income garnished in order to satisfy defaults on school debt.

There are steps you can take to address when school debt is part of the financial picture, as well as long before it becomes part of the picture.

Contact us for more information on what you can do to address the above long before any of it occurs.

We are waiting to hear from you…