30 Day Financial Transition Challenge Day 15: College Planning

Welcome to Day Fifteen of the 30 Day Financial Transition Challenge.  Today’s article focuses on college planning.

Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF)

For most people, college planning will be for their children.  However, this could also include your own college planning efforts, if going back to school is a goal for either spouse.  It’s important to capture all of the requirements as well as all of the available resources when sitting down for your college planning.

Why? 

As we discussed in Day 5, it’s important to invest in your career.  However, since most families have children and some intention of helping them with college, it’s important to take stock of your family’s total college planning efforts.

Also, with the post 9/11 GI Bill, servicemembers have one of the most powerful college planning tools available anywhere.  With proper planning, the GI Bill, combined with tuition assistance, student loans, and other traditional college savings plans, can enable families to achieve both goals.

However, if you don’t take the time to plan, and to match college requirements to the available resources, you can risk the possibility of not meeting your goals.  Today’s goal is to establish the framework of that plan.

Goal

Your goal should be to figure out:

  • What college planning efforts you’re going to focus on
  • What resources you have (or are willing to) set aside towards college
  • How to optimize your resources so you can get the ‘biggest bang for your buck’ affordable premium with other insurance companies.

Relevant articles

What you need

You need to have your college 529 plan documents, or any other accounts where you’re setting money aside for college.  It would also be helpful to have some familiarization with the post 9/11 GI Bill.

How-to

  1. 5 W’s
  • Who is going to school?
  • When is each person going to school?
    • If you’ve captured education as a priority in Day 5 (Invest in Your Career) or in Day 6 (Five Year Plan), include it here.
  • Where is each person going to school? (in/out of state, living at home, living costs)?
  • Why is each person going? If you’re going back to school, then you might want to determine its priority compared to your childrens’ education.  If there’s not a direct reason (i.e. self-enrichment), is that affordable?
  • What is each person going to school for? Is there a specific goal?
  1. What are your values?
  • Are you committed to a certain philosophy (i.e. I will pay everything, or everyone should have student loans)?
  • What values are you willing to be flexible on in the name of finances?
  • Does the college support a career choice that you endorse?
  1. What are the costs?
  • Per person costs
  • Total costs (tuition, books, fees, out of pockets, room/board, etc.)
  • Create multiple options to balance cost with other priorities (i.e. quality of education, in state/out of state, etc.)
  1. What resources do you already have set aside?
  • Post-9/11 GI Bill
  • Savings plans (529 plans, Coverdell savings accounts)
  1. What is available?
  • Scholarships, grants, loans
  • Work-study programs
  • Employer programs
  1. What has to give?
  • Many people sacrifice retirement savings to put their kids through college. DON’T DO THIS!
  • Your children have a lifetime to pay down student loan debt. Aside from your military pension (if you have one), your retirement must be pre-funded.

Conclusion

To wrap up, today you’re going to:

  • Evaluate all college planning needs. This includes any educational goals that you’ve previously outlined in Day 5 (Invest in Your Career)

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss the Survivor Benefit Plan.  This is a very important decision, with a very narrow window of opportunity.  With that, it’s important that you approach this decision with a fully informed view.

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About Forrest Baumhover

Forrest Baumhover is a Certified Financial Planner™ and tax professional. His firm, Westchase Financial Planning, focuses on the unique financial planning needs of servicemembers and families looking to separate or retire from active duty.If you’d like to learn more about Forrest or his services, please check out the About Forrest page at the top of this article.
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