Integrated Planning

Retirement, College & A New Planning Paradigm

College Planning Best Practices

by Murray J. Miller

 Mr. Miller is the CEO of Financial Strategies Group LLC, and co-founder of the Smart Track™ College Funding system. Since 2000, Miller has been assisting families nationwide in maximizing financial aid, paying for college in the most tax-advantaged manner and making a smooth transition from high school to college. Miller has used his extensive financial background and college funding knowledge to help his clients in properly positioning their finances to maximize financial aid eligibility, structuring their finances to create cash flow for college and taking advantage of little known tax strategies to reduce college expenses. Connect with him by e-mail:

Retirement or college for the kids? Do you have to choose? Perhaps this is where college planning fits into your practice.

In the world of financial services we solve problems and offer solutions for retirement planning, investment planning, long term care and life insurance. However, a strong and emotional driving force for our baby boomer clients is their desire to provide for their children’s college education. They want happy, successful children, but they’re feeling the squeeze of paying for college while keeping retirement planning on track.

The rapid change in the college funding landscape over the last 15 years has neces­sitated a new college planning paradigm for today’s financial advisors. Many private colleges and universities command $60,000 to $70,000 per year and over 70 percent of students that graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree took an average of 5.2 years! Today consumers want and need more than just college savings strategies from their advisor. They want their advisor to help them identify ways to reduce their out-of-pocket college costs—without com­promising their retirement savings goals. A seemingly tall order.

The college-planning prospector

Financial professionals today who have the specialized capability to provide college saving plans and also provide college cash flow and tax strategies have a tremendous opportunity. They are positioned to dif­ferentiate themselves from other advisors, deepen the client relationship, generate more revenue and identify other opportuni­ties with the client.

The rapid change in the college funding landscape over the last 15 years has neces­sitated a new college planning paradigm for today’s financial advisors

Providing professional assistance to col­lege bound high school families during the final stage of college planning is a grossly underserved market. With close to 6 million new students enrolling in more than 4,000 colleges in the Unites States this year, and a new crop of high school seniors graduating every May, families are frantically seeking to maximize their potential with scholarships, grants and financial aid in conjunction with setting up realistic cash flow strategies and paying for college in the most tax-advan­taged manner.

As a professional advisor in today’s market it is important for you to be able to quickly and efficiently identify and assess strategies for helping your clients cut their out-of-pocket expense, as they are typically reaching close to the end of their “saving for college” years.

Advisors need to seek access to school-specific college funding and college cost saving strategies that can be customized to their client’s finances and college funding timeframe. Obviously, if you can help your clients save thousands of dollars on the cost of college by becoming a specialist, you will wind up with more refer­rals from happy clients. I personally have found it to be very gratifying to help families cut college costs and successfully pay for college without sacrificing retirement.

Through the utilization of a proprietary web-based system, advisors can partner with local high schools with a free and simple online system that has built-in tools and resources designed to help high school families with their college funding plans from start to finish. This gives those families that are interested an opportunity to self-select and “raise their hand” to indicate that they would like help navigating the process with a professional advisor. It is a true win-win.


I am a firm believer that any parent, regardless of their background or financial circumstances, can comfortably afford to help send their student(s) to college if they learn how to play and win the college funding game.