Planning for college can be complicated. It’s hard enough for an advisor to keep up with emerging trends and news in the college-savings world. For clients, attempting to understand college preparation on their own can be even more difficult.
Joseph Hurley, founder of Savingforcollege.com, has published the Family Guide to College Savings, an 88-page manual that delves into the planning and savings options available to families for a child’s college education. The guide covers areas such as affording the college of your choice; comparing college savings alternatives; transferring assets between accounts; financial aid considerations; and putting your college savings plan together.
Hurley believes advisors should integrate the guide into their routine interaction with clients, noting that an advisor’s subsequent interaction with the client will be more effective as a result. “Advisors should mail out copies of this guide to their clients who have children or grandchildren below college age. Not only will the clients appreciate receiving a helpful and objective explanation of ways to save and pay for college, but they also become better educated,” he says.
Along with the guide, Hurley suggests including a message indicating that the time to put together a plan for saving for college is now, and that the advisor can help with that plan. The next step is to assist the client in figuring out a college savings budget (keeping in mind retirement and other goals), selecting the appropriate savings vehicles and determining the appropriate ownership, and helping to coordinate the implementation of that plan along with the client’s tax and legal advisors.
For high-net-worth clients, the estate planning advantages of 529s can be especially appealing, adds Hurley. “Many 529 plans now have sufficiently long track records to make meaningful comparisons of investment performance,” he notes. “Recommending an out-of-state 529 plan can make sense, although it is important to document reasons for not using the in-state 529 plan. A few states are now making a state tax deduction available for contributions to out-of-state 529 plans.”
The 2007-2008 Family Guide to College is available at www.savingforcollege.com. Hurley says bulk discounts are available for advisors.