Paying4College Book Excerpt: Avoid 10 Common Mistakes Parents Make

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College costs are skyrocketing, and parents can’t seem to keep up. On average, families save $2,676 each year for their children’s education, with a total savings of about $14,000. At the same time, public four-year colleges typically cost about $7,605 each year, meaning parental funds will be tapped out before the end of sophomore year. And forget about private colleges: they cost an average of $27,293 per year, almost doubling in one year what most parents have saved for an entire four years. Looking at these facts, it’s not surprising that many students turn to scholarships and student loans, as parents are either unwilling or unable to save enough to send their kids to college without assistance. Approximately two-thirds of all college students will graduate with a student loan, with the average college student graduating with $25,000 in debt.

Saving a substantial amount of money on your children’s college education starts with avoiding the most common mistakes. Because many parents have acted without the guidance or support of experts, these mistakes happen all too often, costing them unnecessary time and money. Avoiding these mistakes alone will save you time and money, not to mention the saved stress, missteps, and aggravation.

The ten biggest mistakes families make and how to avoid them:
1. Not knowing your retirement needs. Parents simply cannot begin to establish their college “budget” until they understand how much of their income and assets they can pledge toward college without derailing their own retirement.  Your student can qualify for loans and scholarships to pay for college. Simply put, you will not find loans and scholarships available for your retirement. It’s the rare parent that calculates the future cost of paying for college and quantifies the impact it will have on them in 20 years. As a simple example, paying an average of $37,000 per year for four years of college equates to a loss of nearly $1800 per month in retirement. That’s not insignificant!
2. Not knowing your EFC (Expected Family Contribution). Most parents don’t even know what EFC stands for before it’s too late to do anything about it.  Your Expected Family Contribution is the amount of money the federal government assumes you should have to pay for college. Your EFC is based on the income and assets of the parents, the income and assets of the student, the number of people in your household, the number of people in your household attending college, and the age of the parents.  The amount of money the government believes you can put toward college is guaranteed to be more than you would reasonably expect. But with time and effort, there may be ways for you to trim your EFC and increase your aid eligibility.
3. Not establishing a total college “budget.” Parents tend to think of college on a year-by-year basis. The incremental cost of college isn’t nearly as daunting as the aggregated cost – all years, all kids combined. But parents need to understand the total cost of college if they are going to approach their funding challenge strategically. You can’t impact what you don’t fully understand. Think of a doctor treating each symptom rather than diagnosing the total problem… it just prolongs the agony and rarely solves the real issue.
4. Not applying for Financial Aid. The myths surrounding financial aid are numerous, but the biggest reason every family should file the FAFSA (Free Application For Student Aid) and/or CSS Profile (used by a few hundred private schools) is that merit-based aid is handed out through the need-based door. In other words, if you have a marketable student (decent GPA, good test scores, athletic, academic or artistic skills), you are telling the schools you are interested in any incentives they may want to give your child by completing the paperwork.  There is financial aid that is not determined based on “need” so raise your hand and let them know you are interested in free money if they are handing it out. 
5. Assuming “staying in state” will cost less. Many parents mistake the advertised sticker price for each college as the actual cost. Nothing could be further from the truth! What parents need to know is the actual out-of-pocket expense associated with each school and compare the costs after all the discounts are factored into the bottom line. Private schools have leveled the playing field for years by doling out their endowment dollars to students that fit their profile. Also, it is good business. Schools understand that certain students will thrive at their school, go on to become productive members of society and, twenty or thirty years down the road, contribute to their alumni endowment programs. This allows the institution to continue to attract smart kids to their school. These same private schools have an incredible knack for graduating their students much sooner than the state universities – about 75% more often. The last year of college is always the most expensive because of the inflationary nature of college costs: students at state schools tend to take 5.5 to 6 years to earn a 4 year degree, costing parents more money in the long run.
6. Accepting the idea that junior will “figure it out” once they are away at school. You simply cannot afford to let your son or daughter “experiment” at $20,000, $30,000 or $40,000 per year (going up at 8% per year!). There are terrific, low-cost or no-cost tools available to every high school student to help them understand their strengths, their interests and abilities, their values. It is absolutely possible for a 17 or 18 year-old to have a solid understanding of what their likely career path will be, and what educational curriculum will support that career.  But parents need to understand that these tools may not be provided by the schools or the guidance counselor. A small investment of time and money in this area will save most families a fortune in the long run.
7. Waiting until your child is a junior in high school to discuss college. Parents need to create an education culture within their household, and begin this culture at an early age. Setting expectations in terms of what you expect, what you are prepared to invest, what your student should contribute to the process, needs to be woven into conversation early and often.  While college isn’t for every student, a lifetime of learning is for every person. Helping your son or daughter understand how to play to their strengths and how to put themselves on a path toward success is one of the greatest gifts you can give them as a parent. I discuss these types of things with my son on our drives to school in the morning – he’s in 4th grade – and I’m always amazed at some of his comments and opinions. Our kids are always more capable than we think and/or give them credit for being!  No matter how old they are, it’s not too late. Start the discussion and continue it up until the day they graduate with a college degree, or make a different decision for their future.
8. Not making your student “invest” in their future. If your student doesn’t have any “skin in the game” you are setting yourself up for heartache and unnecessary expense. Kids need to “own” their future. They need to literally invest in their education – in the form of maintaining certain grades, earning scholarship dollars, taking out student loans in their own name, or participating in a work-study program through the college. For families that are fortunate enough to be able to afford to send their kids to college without incurring student loan debt, I still recommend you have the student apply and take the loans.  You can pay it off at graduation but benefit from their literal investment while they are in the process of earning the degree.  Statistics show that kids who are “invested” finish faster, with better grades.
9. Waiting too long to start this process. The typical parent of a college-bound student in America has saved less than half of one year of the cost of college (College and Retirement, You Can Do Both by Scott T. Moffitt). We are simply letting this enormous investment sneak up on us and find us unprepared. Because of the escalating cost of college, most parents simply cannot save their way to success in terms of funding college. But they could save 40% - 50% of the total cost and then do those things during the high school years that will foot the rest of the bill.  Challenging course selection during all four years of high school, college campus visits, marketing a student-athlete to college coaches, standardized test prep courses during the junior year, job shadowing, sending kids away from home for a week at a time (camps, relatives, leadership opportunities), filing financial aid forms, applying to a handful of private schools with a history of generous financial offers… all of these will contribute to a better (cheaper) college selection and college admissions process.
10. Relying too much on the high school guidance counselor. Today’s Guidance Counselor can help your son or daughter find the college “fit” at best or assume the kid is college material and leave them to fend for themselves at worst. The Public Agenda Report published in March 2010 entitled “Can I Get a Little Advise Here: How an Overstretched High School Guidance System is Undermining Students’ College Aspirations” demonstrated that our current system leaves a lot to be desired (  Even if the guidance counselor did help your student figure out a likely path for their future, they cannot and will not help you with the financial realities of funding college. They have neither the training nor the expertise to assist parents in one of their biggest expenses.
To avoid these mistakes, and learn how to get your child the best and most cost-effective college education, get the book Paying4CollegeHow to Save 25-50% On Your Child’s College Education by Beth Walker & Honorée Corder. You can find it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.
Honorée Enterprises, Inc. turns service providers into rainmakers, average producers into rock-stars, and dreams into reality. For more information on how we can specifically help you or your organization, click here. You can read all about Honorée here.

1%-er Actions for Market Domination

The top 1% most successful business people have specific, intentional actions they take on a regular basis. Most of those actions are simple, straight-forward and the best news is they work. Following are the ones I shared at a recent presentation for Network in Austin

They Have Excellent Attitudes
While I have done several posts on attitude (such as here, here and here), I always begin my presentations with at least a few reminders about how important a great attitude is and how you can get one. Let this be your reminder that your attitude makes all the difference in your life, your career and how successful you are long-term.
They Communicate with Confidence

Top achievers are clear about: what they offer, how much they charge, and why they are the logical choice. They are confident that they are adding value in excess of what their prospective clients are looking for, and they aren't afraid to say it! They don't waffle on their fee, or take what they can get. They're terrific at what they do, they know it and show it. Get clear about what makes you unique, special, and extra-qualified to serve your client. Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is actually your Unfair Selling Position! Unfair to your competition, that is.

They Laser in on Their Top Prospects

The top 1% identify their absolutely perfect ideal client. Learn how to do that here. You'll know you're talking to an actual good prospective client when they meet the following 8 criteria:
  1. You like them.
  2. They like you.
  3. You know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that you can help them with your products and services.
  4. They desire what you're selling.
  5. They require what you're selling.
  6. They have pain you can get them out of, or help them avoid.
  7. They have the power to decide to pay you.
  8. They have the cash to pay you.

If any of these criteria are missing, move on. You're sorting through everyone you meet to find those that are ready to engage you now, or to find those that have a high potential of engaging you later. It's a waste of everyone's time when you try to fit someone who doesn't fit, just because you want to make your numbers or are "settling" for who is in front of you.
They Narrow the Gap Between Prospect and Paying Client

The best of the best are committed to staying in the relationship-building (sales) process until ... until their prospects: die, go out of business, send them a cease-and-desist-letter, or hire them. That engagement might takes minutes, months or an entire decade. But when you are absolutely certain someone would benefit greatly from buying what you're selling, you owe it to them to stay in touch. Remember, you're sorting. Someone is engaging someone just you like right this minute -- is it you? Would you like it to be? Then drill down your target market and then target those folks and only those folks.

So, how to stay in touch? Develop a “touch funnel” (or system) for prospects based on: who needs to hear from you, what do they need to hear, and how often do they need to hear it? You can send them a monthly ezine, handwritten note, a book by your favorite author, an article you've written, or about a million other things. The point is to be clever, informative, interesting, consistent, and friendly two to twelve times a year. Until.
They Develop Strategic Alliances to Create a Full Business

Not having strategic partnerships is the kiss of death in business, you must have them if you want to live in the enviable position of having referral business. I did an 8-part series, start with Part I here.

Becoming more successful - even a 1%-er - doesn't have to be complicated or mysterious. Success comes from executing these and other time-tested fundamentals. Make it a point to add them into your daily routine and soon you'll be more successful than you dreamed possible.

Effortlessly Expanding Your Network

3 Ways to Find Who You Need to Know

Wouldn't it be great to have an unpaid (or minimally compensated) but much appreciated marketing department? If you structure your network correctly, you can have just that.

If you haven't already identified the most effective and efficient channels for new business, now is a great time to do that ... simply analyze where your deals, new clients, customers or transactions have come from over the past 12-24 months. If you're like most of my clients, you'll identify individuals and/or specific professions that have sent you most of your business. It makes logical sense to multiply those channels, i.e., if you have one CPA that sends you several clients each year, find more CPAs!

Now that the intention is clear, what you need next is the mechanism: the how to expand those channels and connections. Here are my top 3 ways to find the people you need to know to effortlessly expand your network:
  1. Ask your current clients. Every professional and every business has a team of providers: lawyers, CPAs, insurance providers, etc. Find out who else is providing valuable professional services to your clients and ask to meet with them. Chances are great that if you have one mutual client, you have the potential for many more.
  2. Ask the professionals you already know. I know over one thousand attorneys, and just as many CPAs, bankers, investment bankers, real estate and mortgage professionals (and many, many more!). By age 30, every person knows about 2000 people. When you ask specifically for introductions to the people you need to know, chances are you'll get at least one valuable introduction.
  3. Use LinkedIn. I think LI is an under-utilized and incredibly valuable tool you can use to find other connections, show career highlights, allow past clients to endorse you, and so much more. Paul Castain has created an amazing reference guide: I highly recommend you check it out!
Honorée Enterprises, Inc. turns service providers into rainmakers, average producers into rock-stars, and dreams into reality. For more information on how we can specifically help you or your organization, click here. You can read all about Honorée here.