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Financial Planning for College-Bound Families

Saving for college shouldn’t mean neglecting your other financial goals

How Can A Dedicated College Financial Planner Help me?

Families often must choose between saving for retirement or college. Our goal is to make sure both are funded so you can design the life you want no matter where you are in the journey. We strive to have families pay as little as possible for college and eliminate the stress and anxiety surrounding college funding. We accomplish this by helping them navigate the College Financial Process.

Pay Less for College

We'll help you gain significant savings on out-of-pocket costs, have less college-funding debt and improve your chances of gaining financial aid.

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Stay on Track

We'll evaluate your college funding needs within your overall financial plan to make sure you also meet your other key goals like a secure retirement.


Technology On Your Side

We use the award-winning college planning software College Aid Pro to identify opportunities for you to save.

Timeline for Saving For College

We know that saving for college and higher education expenses is a concern for most families. Developing a funding strategy that comes primarily from savings should be the focus for families with young children under 14 years old (8th grade). Developing an appropriate education funding strategy early on is critically important as our clients will have time on their side to maximize the future value of their savings through reinvestment and compounding growth.

We can help you run calculations to see just how much your family needs to save over your respective time frame, given assumptions about investment returns and risk tolerance levels. Since college can be such a major expense for families it is best to start saving early so that can reach your funding goals without derailing your retirement plans.

While every case is unique and we need to plan according to your family’s personal financial situation, here is our general recommended savings amount by age for your future college-bound student.

Primary Focus: Saving for College

Planning Strategies: Tax Planning, Cash Flow Planning

Primary Focus: Paying for College

Planning Strategies: Tax Planning, Cash Flow Planning, Financial Aid Planning, Debt Management Planning 

College Financial Planning - What you need to know

You’ve got questions and we’ve got answers. Here’s what you need to know about planning and saving for college, financial aid, 529 plans, and how a professional advisor can help.
wHealth College Planning


Traditionally, planning for college has been limited to a parent or family member opening a 529 account when a child is born to save for a college education. The next time it is discussed is right before the student is ready to attend college, which in most cases is too late.

After high school graduation, the student receives their financial aid package and pays the remaining balance with their 529, UTMA, or other funds earmarked for college, and fills in the gap with student loans. This type of planning has resulted in a rapidly rising student loan debt crisis that was $1.6 trillion in 2020. It’s time to change the current process and begin creating comprehensive college funding plans to maximize financial aid, minimize taxes, and save for retirement, while not jeopardizing your goals and desires.

As early as possible. Of all the things you will spend money on for your child, college is likely to be the most expensive. The more time you give yourself to save, the better your chances are of paying those college bills. Take advantage of compounding and tax advantaged vehicles such as a 529 college savings plan.

Most people are familiar with 529 plans and these are a great place to start. Additional savings vehicles include Coverdell Education Savings Accounts, savings accounts, Roth IRAs, taxable brokerage accounts, and custodial accounts.

A 529 plan is a state sponsored savings plan designed to be used for the beneficiary’s education expenses. You can withdraw funds tax-free to cover qualified educational expenses.

Each 529 plan has an account owner and beneficiary (owner and beneficiary can be the same person). The account owner controls the investment options and uses the funds to pay for qualified college expenses and K-12 tuition of the beneficiary.

Benefits of 529 plans

Most people consider saving for education through 529 plans because of the many benefits that they provide. These include:

  • Earnings accumulate in a 529 plan on a tax-deferred basis. If used for qualified distributions, the gains are tax free.
  • Most states allow contributions to 529 plans to be eligible for a state income tax deduction or credit.
  • The owner maintains control of the account, not the beneficiary.
  • No income-based restrictions
  • Flexibility of use
  • If your state does not offer an income tax deduction, you have the option of choosing a plan from any state.
  • Ability to change beneficiaries
  • Ability to change investments twice a year or when there is a change in beneficiary
  • Various investment options, including age-based

529 savings plans are not tax deductible at the Federal level. More than 30 states offer a 529 tax deduction or credit, which will allow you to deduct your 529 contribution in a given year and thus lower your state income tax burden.  Deduction limits will vary by state. 

Loans from 529 plans are not allowed.

Get your free College Money Report™

It explains the critical things you need to know to succeed in the college funding process.

Common College Financial Planning Mistakes

Not having the college money talk before searching for colleges

Not knowing your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and what it means

Not submitting financial aid forms

Having too much income or assets in student’s name

Thinking that you will get more financial aid if you don’t put money aside for college

Using the wrong college savings accounts

Using retirement funds to pay for college

And many more… Reach out to us for more details

As a comprehensive certified financial planner, I can show you how to pay for college without putting your budget, retirement, or other goals at risk.

John Munley, CFP®
wHealth College Planning

What is the process of working with a college planner?

Step #1
Explain how the financial aid system functions
Step #2
We perform an in-depth analysis of your finances. We will review your income, assets, and family dynamics to calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and explore ways that may lower it to qualify for more aid. Colleges use this number to measure a family’s financial strength and help to determine how much financial aid a particular institution will offer you.
Step #3
Assist in identifying schools that will be generous with either need based or merit based financial aid depending on your family’s situation. Colleges provide significant discounts off of their “sticker price”. Our goal is to find schools that the student will love and that will be great value to the family.
Step #4
Assist in the preparation of all Financial Aid applications
Step #5
As your student begins to receive his acceptance letters, we will evaluate the financial aid awards
Step #6
Conduct a financial aid award analysis
Step #7
Determine if an awards appeal is appropriate
Step #8
Draft financial aid award appeals
Step #9
Discuss revised financial aid package
Step #10
Once final school selection is determined, we will discuss the best strategy to pay for college. This includes income, asset, and tax strategies, reviewing optimal loan options, and creating a four year distribution strategy.

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Our affiliations

We are members of leading financial and college planning organizations and have the expertise to help you reach your goals. Our focus is to make college more affordable and accessible and to help you live your best life.