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LA County Fair, Magical Hotels, Sunglasses & More!


Friday Fun from the

Desk of Gurdayal Singh…

September 23, 2016

LA County Fair Daily Schedule

Last Weekend! Mojo’s Wild & Crazy Lagoon is home to many exotic animals, including their newest friend, Stanley the Giraffe!

Fall Eyewear

We may now entering Fall, but as this is California… How to pick proper Sunglasses.

15 Magical Hotels to Visit in Your Lifetime

If you ever wanted to know what it felt like to be a hobbit, this is the perfect place to stay. This mountain-shaped, treelike structure emerging from between the southern Andes is the kind of place where every guest feels like they’re living a real-life fairy tale.

Tom Simmons – Money Is Our God

Tom Simmons is at it again, with another socially conscious comedy routine focused on money, the federal reserve, bankers and even a little Jesus to top it all off.



Do You Have An Income Annuity Solution?


Retirement Readings

September 21, 2016



How Can an Income Annuity Protect Against the
Risk of Living Too Long?

The purpose of an annuity is to protect against the financial risk of living too long…the risk of outliving retirement income…by providing an income guaranteed* for life.

In fact, an annuity is the ONLY financial vehicle that can systematically liquidate a sum of money in such a way that income can be guaranteed* for as long as you live!

Here’s How an Income Annuity Works:

  1. The annuitant pays a single premium to an insurance company.
  2. Beginning immediately or shortly after the single premium is paid, the insurance company pays the annuitant an income guaranteed* to continue for as long as the annuitant is alive, assuming the annuitant selects a life income option. There are other payout options also available.
  3. The insurance company pays survivor benefits, if any, to the annuitant’s designated beneficiary after the annuitant’s death.

* Guarantee is based on the continued claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company.


Please contact my office if you’re interested in discussing possible income annuity solutions to the “risk of living too long.”

from the Masters…


by Zig Ziglar

Some things cannot be measured, and the heart is one of them. I think of three former NFL football stars. Mike Singletary, according to the experts, was too short and his 40-yard speed was not that great. However, they could not measure his heart and they did not measure his speed for the first five to fifteen yards, and at that distance he was exceptionally fast.

As a result, when a running back broke through the line of scrimmage…Singletary was able to stop him in the first couple of yards. That made quite a difference.

Emmitt Smith’s 40-yard speed was not earth shattering…(but) again, the experts could not measure his heart nor the burst of speed he was able to generate the instant he touched the ball. As a result, he was able to break through the hole at the line and pick up five to eight yards on a consistent basis and frequently break for much longer runs.

Jerry Rice is the other classic example. His 40-yard speed also was not record-breaking, but his commitment to excellence (was) not measurable. Videotape of Jerry Rice shows him running stride for stride downfield with a defensive back until the pass is thrown to him. At that point, Jerry turns on the afterburners and frequently leaves the defensive back well behind.

There’s something here for all of us to learn. We can measure I.Q., speed, strength and a host of other things, but the will to win and the commitment to excellence will enable a person of average ability to excel. So, use what you’ve got, including your heart, and I’ll SEE YOU AT THE TOP!

from the Masters…

On Belief

“Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around.”

— Henry David Thoreau

“Whatever you believe with emotion becomes reality. You always act in a manner consistent with your innermost beliefs and convictions.”

— Brian Tracy

“Somehow I can’t believe that there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secrets of making dreams come true. This special secret – curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of all is confidence. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably.”

— Walt Disney

On Parenting/ Family

“Spend unbroken chunks of time with the most important people in your life.”

— Brian Tracy

“There is no greater leadership challenge than parenting.”

— Jim Rohn

“One should guard against preaching to young people success in the customary form as the main aim in life. The most important motive for work in school and in life is pleasure in work, pleasure in its result, and the knowledge of the value of the result to the community.”

— Albert Einstein

Friday Fun…Nuts, International Lessons and What About the Debt Clock?



Friday Fun – from the Desk of Gurdayal Singh

September 16, 2016

San Bernardino’s World Traveler

Mark Porter spent over 500 days of world travel in 26 countries on 4 continents, watch his video for a few lessons learned that can apply to us all.

National Debt Clock

State Debt Clocks; World Debt Clocks; Have you taken a look at the current National Debt? The Clock is constantly rising…

40 American Towns You Haven’t Heard of But Should Visit ASAP

Let Country Living introduce you to 40 unsung hot spots. These unheard-of towns across the U.S. might not have made it onto your bucket list yet, but believe us, they deserve a spot.

Go Nuts for Nuts

Nuts are chock-full of health benefits, from protecting your heart to helping you lose weight. Get tips for adding walnuts, pistachios, and more to your diet.




When You Change Jobs…You Have Important Decisions To Make!

September 2016

What to do with your money in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k) plan. Since these funds were originally intended to help provide financial security during retirement, you need to carefully evaluate which of the following options will best ensure that these assets remain available to contribute to a financially-secure retirement.

Take the Funds: You can withdraw the funds in a lump sum and do what you please with them. This is, however, rarely a good idea unless you need the funds for an emergency. Consider:

  • A mandatory 20% federal income tax withholding will be subtracted from the lump sum you receive.

  • You may have to pay additional federal (and possibly state) income tax on the lump sum distribution, depending on your tax bracket (and the distribution may put you in a higher bracket).

  • Unless one of the exceptions is met, you may also have to pay a 10% premature distribution tax in addition to regular income tax.

  • The funds will no longer benefit from the tax-deferred growth of a qualified retirement plan.

Leave the Funds: You can leave the funds in your previous employer’s retirement plan, where they will continue to grow on a tax-deferred basis. If you’re satisfied with the investment performance/options available, this may be a good alternative. Leaving the funds temporarily while you explore the various options open to you may also be a good alternative. (Note: If your vested balance in the retirement plan is $5,000 or less, you may be required to take a lump-sum distribution.)

Roll the Funds Over: You can take the funds from the plan and roll them over, either to your new employer’s retirement plan (assuming the plan accepts rollovers) or to a traditional IRA, where you have more control over investment decisions. This approach offers the advantages of preserving the funds for use in retirement, while enabling them to continue to grow on a tax-deferred basis.

Why Taking a Lump-Sum Distribution May Be a Bad Idea:

While a lump-sum distribution can be tempting, it can also cost you thousands of dollars in taxes, penalties and lost growth opportunities…money that will not be available for future use in retirement.

Let’s say that you have $100,000 in a retirement plan with a former employer, you’re under age 59-1/2 and you’re in the 28% federal income tax bracket.

Taxes and penalties if you…

Roll the $100,000 into an IRA

Take a lump-sum distribution

20% mandatory withholding at the time of distribution



8% additional income tax due at filing



10% premature distribution penalty tax



Ending Balance:



Cost to Take the Funds Today:


Value of $38,000 in:

5 Years

10 Years

15 Years

20 Years

5% Return





8% Return





10% Return





NOTE: The above is a hypothetical example for illustration purposes only and assumes that one of the exceptions to the premature distribution penalty tax is not available. In addition to the federal taxes illustrated above, state tax may also be payable. This example is not indicative of any particular investment or performance and does not reflect the fees and expenses associated with any particular investment, which would reduce the performance shown above if they were included.

Please contact my office if you would like any additional information on rolling funds over from a previous employer’s retirement plan.

from the Masters…


It is a challenge to succeed. If it were not, I’m sure more people would be successful, but for every person who is enjoying the fruit from the tree of success, many more are examining the roots. They are trying to figure it all out. They are mystified and perplexed by what seems to be some strange, complex and elusive secret that must be found if ever success is to be enjoyed. While most people spend most of their lives struggling to earn a living, a much smaller number seem to have everything going their way. Instead of just earning a living, the smaller group is busily engaged in designing and enjoying a fortune. Everything just seems to work out for them. While the much larger group sits in awe at how life can be so unfair, complicated and unjust.

“I am a nice person,” the man says to himself. “How come this other guy is happy and prosperous, and I’m always struggling?” He asks himself, “I am a good husband, a good father and a good worker. How come nothing seems to work out for me? Life just isn’t fair. I’m even smarter and willing to work harder than some of these other people who just seem to have everything going their way,” he says as he slumps into the sofa to watch another evening of television. But you see you’ve got to be more than a good person and a good worker. You’ve got to become a good planner, and a good dreamer. You’ve got to see the future finished in advance.

You’ve got to put in the long hours and put up with the setbacks and the disappointments. You’ve got to learn to enjoy the process of disciplines and of putting yourself through the paces of doing the uncomfortable until it becomes comfortable. You’ve got to be prepared and willing to attack the challenges if you want the success because challenges are part of success. Now that may sound like a full menu of activities, but let me assure you that the process of going from average to fortune isn’t really all that difficult. Thinking about it is the difficult part. Anticipating all the effort and the changes and the disciplines is far worse in the mind than in reality. I can promise you that the challenges you’ll meet on the road to success are far less difficult to deal with than the struggles and the disappointments that come from being average. Confronting and overcoming challenges is an exhilarating experience. It does something to feed the soul and the mind. It makes you more than you were before. It strengthens the mental muscles and enables you to become better prepared for the next challenge.

I’ve often said that to have more, we must first become more, and to become more, we must begin the process of working harder on ourselves than we do on anything else. But in addition to gathering new knowledge, new skills and new experiences, it is also important to discover new emotions. It is how we feel about what we know that makes the biggest difference in how our lives turn out. How we feel about the chances we have and the choices we have determines the intensity of our effort. Whether we try or don’t try. Join or don’t join. Believe or don’t believe.

I’d like for you to discover some strong feelings about your life and about what you want to do with that life. You probably have much of the knowledge and a lot of the experience and perhaps most of the skills that it takes to become successful. What you may be lacking in are the strong feelings about what you want and what you want to do. You may be one of those who have become so involved in the process of earning a living that you’ve forgotten about the choices and the chances you have for designing your own life.

Let these strong feelings help you take a second look at your life and where you’re headed. After all, you’ve only got one life, at least on this planet. So why not make it an adventure in achievement? Why not discover what all you can do and what all you can have? Why not discover how many others you can help and in the process how that can help you?

Why not now take the Challenge to Succeed!

from the Masters…

On Stewardship

“The man says, ‘If I had a fortune, I’d take good care of it. But I only have a paycheck and I don’t know where it all goes.’ Wouldn’t you love to have him running your company?”

-– Jim Rohn

“I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

— Helen Keller

“Don’t be afraid to give your best to what seemingly are small jobs. Every time you conquer one it makes you that much stronger. If you do the little jobs well, the big ones tend to take care of themselves.”

— Dale Carnegie

On Overcoming Failure

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”

— Denis Waitley

“I am not judged by the number of times I fail, but by the number of times I succeed; and the number of times I succeed is in direct proportion to the number of times I can fail and keep on trying.”

— Tom Hopkins

“No man ever became great or good except through many and great mistakes.”

— William E. Gladstone

Friday Football, Finances & Fun



Friday Fun from the Desk of Gurdayal Singh…

September 9, 2016

LA County Fair Daily Schedule

From animatronic dinosaurs and a reimagined “Bodies” exhibit
to summer ice skating and the ultimate hands-on sports experience,
the 2016 attractions offer something for everyone.

9 Toothbrushing Mistakes — and How to Fix Them

Admit it — brushing your teeth is so second-nature you barely think about it. But doing it right is key for a healthy mouth. It can help you avoid problems like cavities and gum disease.

Ten Bucket-List Worthy Campsites

Having a great camping experience is as much about the people you’re with as it is about the campsite, but there’s no doubt that having a great view to look at while cracking a cold one after a long day outdoors doesn’t hurt either. Here are ten truly bucket-list-worthy campsites around the contiguous US.

Being Broke…

What’s in your wallet? Alvin Williams knows he isn’t paying his bill, in fact, it’s laughable… What would we do without the minimum monthly payment.

Football is Back!

Here’s the 2016 Season Starting Sunday Schedule:



Famous Public Probate Records

roosevelt     elvis

September 7, 2016



You may be interested in what the public probate records of the estates of businessmen, attorneys, entertainers, accountants and even a President have to show.

Name Gross Estate Net Estate Percent Shrinkage
Franklin D. Roosevelt $1,940,999 $1,366,132 30%
Henry J. Kaiser, Sr. $5,597,772 $3,109,408 44%
Edwin C. Ernst, CPA $12,642,431 $5,518,319 56%
Robert S. Kerr (U.S. Senator) $20,800,000 $11,300,000 46%
A.H. Wiggin (Chairman, Chase Bank) $20,493,999 $5,646,666 72%
William E. Boeing $22,386,158 $11,796,410 47%
Rick Nelson $744,357 $506,636 32%
Elvis Presley $10,165,434 $2,790,799 73%
Rock Hudson $8,600,000 $3,926,288 54%
James S. Kemper (Insurance Executive) $10,948,356 $7,007,560 36%
Nelson A. Rockefeller $79,249,475 $56,727,628 28%
Conrad Hilton $199,070,700 $93,288,483 53%

Source: Public Probate Records

If these people, who had access to the best advice money could buy, were not able to avoid the “unwanted heirs” (federal and state estate taxes and estate administrative costs), it will be difficult for the rest of us to avoid estate settlement costs.

Proper advance planning, however, can minimize the impact of estate settlement costs on the value of your estate.

from the Masters…


by Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE

Clean out the closets of your life. Have you ever looked at the clothes in your closet with a critical eye: the bargain shoes in the wrong color; the expensive suit you got on sale that never fit; the “great” shirt that was a gift from someone you love?

I had all of those items in my closet. Then a wardrobe consultant friend came over and made me clean out the clothes that didn’t fit or that no longer represented my self-image. It was an exhilarating feeling. Now the clothes I wear make me feel and look great, and project the image I like.

Your clothes closet isn’t the only hiding place for negative things in your life. You have a self-image closet too. Take a serious look at what you find there. Try cleaning it out. Throw out ideas that no longer fit your lifestyle or your experiences.

Clean your closet of certain old friends as well — the ones who have become acquaintances. Too often we spend our energies with people whose interests have grown apart from ours.

Clean the negative people out of your life’s closet. Some folks cannot accept your achievements, insisting it’s only a “fluke” when you finally attain a great goal. Their own insecurities require them to shoot other people down. It is time to let them know you are proud of your achievements, and then move on to someone who will support you in your endeavors.

Closets may be hiding places for our outmoded clothes and ideas, but they are also where we store the building blocks for our daily lives. Don’t let them get cluttered with outdated ideas.

from the Masters…

On Personal Development

“Pity the man who inherits a million dollars and who isn’t a millionaire. Here’s what would be pitiful: If your income grew and you didn’t.”

— Jim Rohn

“Dedicate yourself to continuous personal improvement — you are your most precious resource.”

— Brian Tracy

“No one limits your growth but you. If you want to earn more, learn more. That means you’ll work harder for a while; that means you’ll work longer for a while. But you’ll be paid for your extra effort with enhanced earnings down the road.”

— Tom Hopkins

On Personal Responsibility

“If you’re proactive, you don’t have to wait for circumstances or other people to create perspective expanding experiences. You can consciously create your own.”

— Stephen R. Covey

“Don’t become a victim of yourself. Forget about the thief waiting in the alley; what about the thief in your mind?”

— Jim Rohn

“Self-responsibility is the core quality of the fully mature, fully functioning, self-actualizing individual.”

— Brian Tracy

“The highest manifestation of life consists in this: that a being governs its own actions. A thing which is always subject to the direction of another is somewhat of a dead thing.”

— St. Thomas Aquinas


© 2015 BenefitConsultantInc | All Rights Reserved



Labor Day Weekend Fun!


Friday Fun from the Desk of Gurdayal Singh

September 2, 2016

What is Labor Day?

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.

20 Foods That Can Save Your Heart

Like Fresh Herbs, when you add these to foods instead of salt and fat, you’re making a heart-healthy choice. They add flavor without the bad stuff. Spices and other foods are delicious ways to eat heart-smart.

Staycation the Labor Day weekend?

Click here to find out what’s happening locally.

Mel Brooks Remembers Gene Wilder

Mel Brooks chats with Jimmy Fallon about working with his good friend Gene Wilder over the years, including the origin of Young Frankenstein.

Did you know September has 6 Financial Deadlines?

September 15:    3Q 2016 Estimated Taxes Due

                         2015 Extended Partnership Returns Due

                         2015 Extended C-Corp Returns Due

September 30:    Last Day to determine Beneficiaries after

                         IRA Owner’s Death



Odds of Living to Retirement Age 65


Business Briefs

August 31, 2016



Of 1,000 Men…

Of 1,000 Men at Age Number Who Die Before Age 65 Their Odds of Living to Retirement at Age 65
30 161 84%
35 155 84%
40 148 85%
45 138 86%
50 123 88%
55 100 90%
60 62 94%


Of 1,000 Women…

Of 1,000 Women at Age Number Who Die Before Age 65 Their Odds of Living to Retirement at Age 65
30 126 87%
35 121 88%
40 116 88%
45 109 89%
50 97 90%
55 78 92%
60 47 95%

Inadequate retirement savings can keep you from realizing your retirement dreams!

Are you making effective use of your business to achieve your retirement planning goals?

from the Masters…


by Jim Rohn

Several years ago I went into the studio and recorded a 56-minute video for teenagers called “Three Keys To Greatness.” Although my focus was for teenagers, the principles I shared certainly apply to adults as well.

Recently I was asked to list these three things using one to two sentences for each. Now for your benefit here they are again.

1) Setting Goals. I call it the view of the future. Most people, including kids, will pay the price if they can see the promise of the future. So we need to help our kids see a well-defined future, so they will be motivated to pay the price today to attain the rewards of tomorrow. Goals help them do this.

2) Personal Development. Simply making consistent investments in our self-education and knowledge banks pays major dividends throughout our lives. I suggest having a minimum amount of time set aside for reading books, listening to audio cassettes, attending seminars, keeping a journal and spending time with other successful people. Charlie Tremendous Jones says you will be in five years the sum total of the books you read and the people you are around.

3) Financial Planning. I call it the 70/30 plan. After receiving your paycheck or paying yourself, simply setting aside 10% for saving, 10% for investing and 10% for giving, and over time this will guarantee financial independence for a teenager.

If a young person, or for that matter an adult, focused on doing these three simple things over a long period of time I believe they will be assured success!

Here’s To Your Success!

from the Masters…

On Expectation

“Look for the good in every person and every situation. You’ll almost always find it.”

— Brian Tracy

“Life…It tends to respond to our outlook, to shape itself to meet our expectations.”

— Richard M. DeVos

“Don’t join an easy crowd; you won’t grow. Go where the expectations and the demands to perform are high.”

— Jim Rohn

On Entrepreneurism

“Entrepreneurial leadership requires the ability to move quickly when opportunity presents itself.”

— Brian Tracy

“Kids ought to have two bicycles, one to ride and one to rent.”

— Jim Rohn

“The future will be owned and operated by the entrepreneurially minded.”

— Mark Victor Hansen




The purpose of this newsletter is to provide information of general interest to our clients, potential clients and other professionals. The information provided is general in nature and should not be considered complete information on any product or concept described. For more complete information, please contact my office at the phone number below.

Published by The Virtual Assistant; © 2016 VSA, LP

Tax Bracket Planning…From The Office Of Gurdayal Singh


August 24, 2016



Did You Know That…

Tax brackets have an impact on funding insurance solutions to the needs of closely-held corporations and their shareholders?

For example, a corporation in the 15% tax bracket gets to keep 85 cents of every taxable dollar it makes, while an individual in the 35% tax bracket gets to keep only 65 cents of every taxable dollar he or she makes. Since life insurance purchased to fund a buy-sell plan must be paid for with after-tax dollars, it may make more sense to pay the premiums with 85 cent dollars as compared to 65 cent dollars.

Impact of Tax Brackets on Buy-Sell Planning

  • Lower bracket corporation — If the corporation is in a lower tax bracket than the shareholders, a stock redemption buy-sell plan can be funded with enhanced dollars, since premiums are paid by the corporation.

  • Higher bracket corporation — If the corporation is in a higher tax bracket than the shareholders, a cross purchase buy-sell plan may be more cost effective since premiums are paid with enhanced dollars by each shareholder.

Impact of Tax Brackets on Executive Benefit Planning Conversely, the marginal tax brackets of the corporation and shareholder-employees can have an impact on the total cost of a selective benefit plan. Benefits provided to corporate employees on a selective basis generally are either tax-deductible by the corporation or are not currently taxable to the employee, but not both. As a result, the relative impact of tax brackets should be considered in selecting a selective executive benefit plan that produces the most advantageous overall tax results.

  • Lower bracket corporation — When the corporation is in a lower tax bracket, selective benefits that are non-deductible by the corporation and non-taxable to the shareholder-employee generally produce the better overall tax results.

  • Higher bracket corporation — When the corporation is in a higher tax bracket, selective benefits that involve tax-deductible corporate payments are generally more advantageous, even if taxable to shareholder-employees.

from the Masters…


by Tony Jeary

Priorities refer to those things that are important.

Many are still in the habit of “reacting” to the urgent rather than “responding” to the important. Think about this statement. Important activities should be of high priority because they are the things that contribute significantly to our objectives. They have more “long-term” impact. They should help us the most in reaching our goals. Don’t prioritize based on who gave you the work; fit it based on its importance and urgency and who should be handling it based on responsibilities, skills, and capacity.

Urgent activities usually are more “short-term” in nature and may or may not relate to our objectives. They usually do not make significant contributions. They make endless demands on our time and pressure us daily.

There is a constant tension that develops between the urgent and the important. Because the important things seldom need to be done today, and the urgent almost always do, there is a critical need for learning to set proper priorities so that our visions, goals, and desires can be met more effectively.

Most people don’t take the time to prioritize. They are usually reactive. We recommend you be proactive.

Here is a list of time-gaining events to help you more effectively prioritize. Enter the approximate amount of time you feel you will gain each day by successfully performing the selected events, changing your habits and using your tools.

1. Setting priorities during your daily planning, eliminating unproductive tasks gains valuable time.

2. Having a written agenda, and following it, for every meeting with no more than three objectives gains valuable wasted time from long, ineffective, rambling meetings.

3. Learning to “say no” to demands that don’t benefit you, or sending the request to the appropriate person, helps you to “double” the time gained by not reacting to the demand, and by freeing you up to do what DOES benefit you.

4. Learning when your high-energy time is and scheduling your priority work for this time gains minutes through more effective and empowering work.

5. Prioritize your reading by learning to skim articles, memos, books etc. Then read only what really gives you value. This will gain you crucial daily time every time you read.

6. Request that people that send you e-mails, prioritizing and spelling out the actions they are asking of you with clear bullet points, not long narratives.

7. Write down what your objectives are before you return phone calls to gain time through quicker, more effective communication.

8. Early in the day, sorting mail and placing each piece appropriately (now, future, trash) gains valuable time throughout the day as each piece is addressed only once.

9. Asking the originator of a document to send you ONLY the relevant information that pertains to you gains time by not wasting it on reading information that is irrelevant to you.

10. Create lists often. This helps with focus and multi-tasking.

11. Prioritize and review the list of tasks you have given a subordinate. Clarity and merging of the minds often uncover shortcuts.

12. Gain time by having visitors screened and only meet with those visitors whom you must. Stand when you greet drop-ins, sit only if YOU want to.

13. Use a Daytimer™ or electronic datebook to help prioritize daily events.

After going through this list of 13 activities, add up the approximate time you believe you would save on a weekly basis – and then start doing it!

 meme for FF aug 12

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© 2015 BenefitConsultantInc | All Rights Reserved


7 Ways to Help You Cut College Costs


By Lynn O’Shaughnessy

Parents may assume they earn too much to qualify for financial aid. However, there are a number of strategies that even wealthy families can employ to cut expenses. Here are seven steps for estimating costs and maximizing financial aid.

While it’s no surprise that parents stress about how they’re going to pay for college, you may be shocked at those who are arguably the biggest worriers. In my experience, the people who are most proactive in seeking ways to cut college costs are affluent and wealthy parents.

The good news is that simple yet effective strategies exist to help you make college more affordable for your children. You can start with these key steps:

Don’t make assumptions about financial aid

You may think you won’t qualify for financial aid, but parents are often terrible judges of their potential eligibility.

When money is an issue—and it usually is for even affluent families—determining whether a student will qualify for need-based aid is a critical first step in reducing college costs.finanicial aid

Once a family knows the answer to this question, they can target the right sources for college money. To illustrate this, here are three financial aid scenarios:

  • Example 1

Parents have an adjusted gross income of $225,000. With this level of income, only a few elite schools might give this child need-based aid. This family should aim for colleges that award merit scholarships to high-income students. Nearly all colleges do, except for a tiny number of schools, including the Ivy League institutions.

  • Example 2

The parents in the above example now have two children attending college. The aid formulas are much more generous when siblings are attending college simultaneously. This family would now enjoy a much greater chance of qualifying for need-based aid at many private institutions but would only be eligible for merit scholarships at state universities.

  • Example 3

Parents have an adjusted gross income of $130,000. At expensive private institutions, this student would be eligible for need-based aid, but the family would be looking exclusively for merit awards at state schools.


Get familiar with the EFC

You may ask: “How rich is too rich for financial aid?”

The answer this popular question involves a critical number called the “Expected Family Contribution” (EFC). An EFC is a dollar figure that represents what a financial aid formula says a family should be able to pay, at a minimum, for one year of a child’s college education.

The EFC for an impoverished family can be as low as $0. That means they don’t have the ability to pay even a single dollar for college. The wealthier the family, the higher the EFC will be, and there is no cap. An executive at a national restaurant chain once told me that he calculated his EFC at $108,000.

As you can see from the examples below, once you have generated the EFC, it’s simple to determine if need-based financial aid is a possibility.

  • Example 1

Family’s EFC is $35,000 and the school’s sticker price is $59,000.

Cost of attendance: $59,000 minus EFC: $35,000

$24,000 Student’s financial need

In this case, the student would ideally receive $24,000 in aid to bridge the gap between what the formula says the family can afford and the school’s price tag.

  • Example 2

Family’s EFC is $60,000 and school price is $32,000.

Cost of attendance: $32,000 minus EFC: $60,000

$0 Financial need

With no chance for financial aid at this school, the child should look for a merit award from the institution to cut the price.


How to obtain your EFC

You can generate your EFC by heading to theCollege Board and using the site’s EFC Calculator(

To use the calculator, you must gather your latest income tax return and your investment and savings account statements. Questions the EFC calculator asks includes:

  • Number in household
  • Marital status of parents
  • Number of children in college
  • Parents’ adjusted gross income
  • Parents’ income taxes paid
  • Student’s adjusted gross income
  • Student’s income taxes paid
  • Claimed education tax credits
  • Medical expenses
  • Cash, savings, checking for parent(s) and child
  • Non-retirement investments for parent(s) and child

Using the calculator, you can generate the following two EFC figures:

  • Federal EFC is linked to the Free Application for Federal Student AID (FAFSA), the federal form that anyone wanting need-based aid must complete.
  • Institutional EFC is connected to a second aid form called the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE,which about 260 mostly private schools use to determine which students will get their in-house assistance. In addition to the FAFSA, many prestigious private schools use the PROFILE.

EFC Example

Married couple’s AGI: $150,000

Taxable accounts: $100,000

Home equity: $200,000

Federal EFC: $36,652

Institutional EFC: $35,006

Start using an EFC calculator as early as your child’s middle-school years. You’ll need to know what kind of college tab you’ll will be facing soon.


Use net price calculators

Students apply in blind faith to colleges and then often wait months to find out if they’ve been admitted and what their awards, if any, will be.

Thanks to a relatively new online tool called the “net price calculator,” your child doesn’t need to apply in the dark. A net price calculator generates an estimate of what a particular school will cost your family based on your financial strength and your child’s academic profile after any potential grants/scholarships are deducted from the price tag.

net price

A good net price calculator will require the same type of financial information that an EFC calculator needs. It may also ask about a student’s GPA, class rank, and standardized test scores to calculate merit awards.

  • Bad calculators. Beware that about half of the nation’s NPCs are bad. These calculators rely on the federal calculator template, which only asks for income ranges and doesn’t inquire about assets at all! Without that information, you can’t generate an accurate estimate. A federal calculator should only take a minute or less to use.
  • Hidden tool. Schools sometimes hide these federally mandated calculators on their websites. The easiest way to find one is to Google the name of the school and “net price calculator.”
  • When to use. If money is an issue, you may run net price calculators for individual schools before allowing your children to apply anywhere. If the net price is too high, keep looking for more affordable options.


How your investments impact aid awards

Parents tend to be quite concerned about how their savings will impact their ability to get college awards. It’s often not as big an issue as they assume, because many assets aren’t considered in the aid formulas, including retirement accounts.

Depending on the financial aid form, schools assess relevant parent assets from 5% to 5.64%. Any 529 college accounts are treated as a parent’s asset.


Parent’s assets: $100,000

5% Assessment: x .05

($5,000) Family’s eligibility for financial aid

In this scenario, the family’s eligibility for financial aid would decrease by $5,000.

Most families will only need to complete the FAFSA when seeking financial aid, and the following assets aren’t considered and should not be included on the application:

  • Retirement assets
  • Home equity in primary home
  • Annuities
  • Cash value in life insurance

Nearly all PROFILE schools also ignore retirement assets in aid calculations. These institutions, however, are interested in home equity, non-qualified annuities, and sometimes the cash value in life insurance.


How child assets impact aid awards

Financial aid formulas treat child assets more harshly. The PROFILE assesses child assets at 25%, while a child’s savings will reduce potential aid by 20% with the FAFSA.

UGMA and UTMA custodial accounts are considered a child’s assets.

  • Example

Child’s assets: $25,000

5% Assessment: x .25

($6,250) Aid eligibility drops by $6,250

One potential solution is that you could close a custodial account, pay any applicable taxes and then move the assets into a “custodial” 529 account. Money in a custodial 529 is treated for aid purposes as if it belongs to the parent.

Important: If a family is wealthy and will not qualify for need-based aid, the amount of investments that parents and children possess is irrelevant.


Check graduation rates

Parents typically assume that their children will graduate from college in four years, but that usually doesn’t happen. According to federal statistics, 33% of students attending state universities graduate In four years, while nearly 53% of students at private colleges pull this off.

Making sure a child graduates on time is a sure-fire way to limit ballooning college costs. Check out the following two resources to research grad rates at individual schools before your children apply anywhere:

Bottom line

Knowing these late-stage college planning tools can put you in a much better position to help your college-bound teens maximize their financial aid and avoid accumulating mountains of college debt that takes many years to pay off. Consult with your financial advisor on how to set up the best college plan for your specific situation.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is a nationally recognized college expert, higher education journalist, consultant, and speaker.

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