A financial planner can help you meet your college savings goals by looking at your assets, debts, income, insurance, taxes, investments, etc., and then developing a plan that you can afford. A good planner will monitor your progress and help you respond to changes in your goals, personal circumstances and even tax laws.
- Research and seek recommendations when looking for a financial planner. Ask friends or business acquaintances (including your attorney, insurance agent and banker) for recommendations. The Financial Planning Association (FPA), a membership organization of financial planners, has a database of certified financial planners in your area. Visit www.PlannerSearch.org or call 1-800-647-6340.
FPA also recommends checking with the Securities and Exchange Commission or the local Better Business Bureau on whether complaints have been filed against a particular financial planner. Ultimately, you need to feel comfortable with your planner, since yours will be a crucial and personal relationship.
- Avoid planners who try to give you the "hard sell." Some people call themselves financial planners even though they're actually more focused on selling specific financial products. A good financial planner addresses a variety of needs, not just insurance, for example. Look for a certified financial planner, too, since these professionals must have experience and continuing education in their field. They also hold to a code of ethics and must pass an exam to become certified.
- Once you've worked out a savings plan that you're comfortable with, make sure you stick with it. Remember, you're paying for the planner's expertise. Not following the plan would be a waste of your money.
- Make a point to check in with your financial planner once a year to see how your savings are progressing and whether changes in your life or changes in the economy warrant changes to your overall plan.
- Deirdre Wilson
Check out the other articles in this series:
- "Oh No, We Forgot to Save for College!"
- The Many Ways to Save
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The resources listed below cover long-range planning for college savings. This is just a small sampling of the resources available, but a good place to start.
Financial Planners or Advisors
Both membership organizations list local financial planners and good financial planning tips:
- The Financial Planning Association - www.fpanet.org.
- The National Association of Personal Financial Planners - www.napfa.org.
College Financing Advice
- CollegeBoard.com - Offers information to students and parents about saving for and applying to college.
- FinAid.org - This award-winning Web site has information on aid, scholarships, loans, savings plans and more.
- SavingForCollege.com - Provides information, tips and news about college savings options, including 529s and Coverdell Education Savings Accounts.
- 529 & Other College Savings Plans for Dummies, by Margaret A. Munro, Wiley Publishing, 2004.
- Kiplinger's Financing College: How Much You'll Really Have to Pay - and Where You'll Get the Money, from the editors of Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Dearborn Trade Publishing, 2005.