In my book, Never Pay Retail for College, I talk about the birth of my son, Mack, leading me down the path I find myself on… I took 8 weeks off from my financial planning practice to take care of him and recover from a C-section. When I wasn’t changing diapers and doing other “new-mom” things, I was throwing myself into research about the projected cost of educating our little bundle of joy. I was convinced that sleep deprivation had impaired my brain when I gawked at the results. The roughly $250,000 projected for Mack to attend a 4-year college took my breath away.
Just like that, my personal life and my professional existence collided in a way I could’ve never predicted or understood. My emotional heart as a new mother had to be reconciled with my logical financial planning brain; it’s taken almost 16 years to get comfortable with that balance and be able to communicate the true magic that happens when that tightrope is mastered.
Thanks to the hundreds of families I’ve helped along the way, I understand the emotional, stressful and overwhelming aspects of this 6-figure project called college. And as a college fiduciary, I understand the pragmatic process and critical components of this seemingly elusive equation. It’s truly my privilege to help families reduce stress and create “peace of mind” while saving money on college.
But I also recognize what an incredible leap of faith it is when a family engages in our services.
Often times the full benefit can only be seen on the back end of everything, in the rear view mirror. Never Pay Retail for Collegeisn’t just a book title – it’s literally the operating system for what we do on a daily basis. But parents need to see what I see so they can understand what we do; to that end, I wanted to share just two examples of how we helped families last year:
3 phone calls, one spreadsheet and the template for a letter. Those elements came together to save a family $72,988 over 4 years. Knowing what to say, how to say it, who to engage in the conversation and how to follow up did - in fact - work. Dad admitted he’d been extremely skeptical about what he called “college voodoo” but he couldn’t bring himself to look his daughter in the eye and tell her she couldn’t go to her #1 choice without pulling out all the stops. In the end, he just kept saying he couldn’t believe it actually worked. He couldn’t believe how excited she was; he couldn’t believe how relieved he felt; he couldn’t say thank you enough.
And then there was the family that will be saving $123,792 over 4 years. More time, more effort, more satisfaction for all involved. But more moving parts require an even greater leap of faith. We had to reposition assets on the balance sheet to improve aid eligibility; we had to select colleges that had a history of giving scholarships to students like theirs; we had to let the college know about competing offers – better offers – that needed to be overcome; we had to educate the financial aid officer about special circumstances that inflated the family’s income in an unsustainable manner.
And it didn’t all come together until 4 days prior to the decision being made. That kind of trust is humbling and deserves every ounce of energy we can muster.
I like to say I’m a mom on a mission. Mack blessed me in so many ways when he caused that personal/professional collision. I’m forever grateful to him and to the families that invite us into their lives to guide them through this complicated, confusing, costly thing called “college”. Never Pay Retail for College. It’s not a slogan – it’s a belief system and we want to share it with as many families as we can.