Your Savings Won’t Hurt Financial Aid Chances

Feb 21 2012

Many families worry that their college savings accounts will kill their chances for financial aid.  If that’s what you’re worried about, here’s my advice: Relax!

Families who save for college are rarely ever hurt in student financial aid considerations. In fact, it’s been estimated that fewer than 4% of families who fill out financial aid applications are penalized for their savings.

Here are the two biggest reasons why saving money shouldn’t hurt your financial aid chances:

1. Colleges don’t care how much you saved for retirement.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which anyone applying for financial aid will complete, doesn’t even inquire about retirement accounts. Private colleges that use the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, will inquire about a family’s retirement accounts, but schools that use the PROFILE very rarely penalize parents for these assets.

2. Parents can also shelter plenty of money outside of retirement accounts.

It might not seem like it, but colleges don’t want to strip you of all of your available cash. The financial aid formulas will also let you shield a big chunk of your non-retirement money through an asset protection allowance.

How much you can shield from the FAFSA formula depends on the age of the oldest parent. The closer the parent is to retirement age, the greater the amount he/she can shield from the financial aid formula.

Let’s say the oldest parent is 52. The family would be able to shield $49,200 in 529 savings plan money, as well as any other cash laying around in taxable accounts such as savings, checking and brokerage accounts. In a two-parent household, a 60-year-old parent could shelter $61,400 from financial aid calculations.

The amount a mom or dad could shelter in a one-parent household is significantly less. A 52-year-old single parent, for instance, could shelter $16,700.

Knowing this, would you rather be a family who saved nothing for college or the family who has $100,000 in the bank? Obviously, it’s always better to save money, whether it’s for college or retirement. Do so and you’ll enjoy more options.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which anyone applying for financial aid will complete, doesn’t even inquire about retirement accounts. Private colleges that use the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, will inquire about a family’s retirement accounts, but schools that use the PROFILE very rarely penalize parents for these assets.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which anyone applying for financial aid will complete, doesn’t even inquire about retirement accounts. Private colleges that use the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, will inquire about a family’s retirement accounts, but schools that use the PROFILE very rarely penalize parents for these assets.

2. Parents can also shelter plenty of money outside of retirement accounts.

It might not seem like it, but colleges don’t want to strip you of all of your available cash. The financial aid formulas will also let you shield a big chunk of your non-retirement money through an asset protection allowance.

How much you can shield from the FAFSA formula depends on the age of the oldest parent. The closer the parent is to retirement age, the greater the amount he/she can shield from the financial aid formula.

Let’s say the oldest parent is 52. The family would be able to shield $49,200 in 529 savings plan money, as well as any other cash laying around in taxable accounts such as savings, checking and brokerage accounts. In a two-parent household, a 60-year-old parent could shelter $61,400 from financial aid calculations.

The amount a mom or dad could shelter in a one-parent household is significantly less. A 52-year-old single parent, for instance, could shelter $16,700.

Knowing this, would you rather be a family who saved nothing for college or the family who has $100,000 in the bank? Obviously, it’s always better to save money, whether it’s for college or retirement. Do so and you’ll enjoy more options.