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Why Late Stage College Planning Is The Niche Your Practice Is Missing (And How To Fix That)

The fact is that many families overpay for college. Without access to proper planning, research, and recourses, students and their parents aren’t prepared for the true cost of an education leading to an increase in student loans and a larger debt-burden. This takes a toll on future wealth-building opportunities and the economy at large—something you are in a position to fix. 

By offering late stage college planning services to your clients, you are able to serve a market that needs you and build relationships that can last a lifetime. But how can you capitalize on this market?

Integrate late stage college planning into your firm. 

While this may sound easier-said-than-done, we are going to show you a few important ways that we see advisors leverage college planning in existing practices. 

Assess Your Leverage

Most advisors have the capacity to include college planning as part of their offerings but they don’t know where to start. If you already have a full-service financial planning practice, there are a number of ways to seamlessly include college planning as part of your services. 

Here are a few we see most often.

  • Offer a limited engagement for college planning only.
  • Use a tool like College Aid Pro™ to add extra value for current and future clients at no extra cost.
  • Outsource college planning to a company like College Funding Services

How does each of these options work? Let’s take a closer look. 

Try a Limited Engagement

When an advisor wants to offer college planning services but isn’t sure how it will fit into their current service calendar, limited engagements are an excellent option to consider. 

This is especially applicable to advisors working with an aging client base who are on the brink of retirement. By integrating college planning in this way, you are able to spark interest in a new demographic and work to extend the life of your current practice. 

With a limited engagement, you work in a limited scope/capacity. There are many ways to do this like a

  • One-time college planning session
  • Financial planning basics
  • Monthy financial coaching, etc. 

The key with a limited engagement is that you offer advice or planning techniques but no implementation. You can think about it as a personal trainer. They can give you the technique, but you have to do the push-ups and sit-ups.

Sometimes, this type of engagement is all a family will need to get them on the right track. But more likely than not, serving them in this capacity and clearly addressing their pain points can lead to an ongoing comprehensive financial planning or investment management relationship. 

Limited engagements are a way to get your foot in the door and start to build relationships with prospects. Because of this pattern, we recommend viewing limited engagements as a type of paid prospecting tool. You and your client are both using the limited engagement to vet one another and determine whether you’re a good fit for future work.  It is like dating before you commit to a long term relationship. This is good for you and the client.

If you find that you are a good fit for their needs, it is important to anticipate a follow-up question, what’s the next step? You have to be prepared to answer that question and capitalize on the opportunity to invite them into your client base. The logical next step should be to create a plan that aligns their college funding needs with their retirement and other financial goals. Communicate to them that “the biggest impediment to an on time and comfortable retirement is overpaying for college”. A more comprehensive financial planning relationship will allow us to thread the needle and ensure you can pay for college and retire comfortably.

Look at Outsourcing

We know that late stage college planning isn’t the right fit for every advisor. Not every owner has the time or energy to integrate comprehensive college planning, but that doesn’t mean that they ignore the value that college planning provides. In a case like this, advisors should look at outsourcing a college planning solution similar to how you may refer out tax preparation or estate planning services. 

Outsourcing is also great for advisors who only have a handful of clients who require college planning each year. If you are only serving a few families with this need, adopting a whole new software model may not be in your best interest. However, having a trusted, reliable, and strong outsourced service can be a big help. 

Embrace College Planning

New advisors should pursue late stage college planning as a niche. Why do we feel that this is important? New advisors need an edge and a to way stand out from the crowd. There are many qualified advisors out there who provide great work. Offering late stage college financial planning is a great way to distinguish yourself and your services. 

But what would this really look like? You could do a number of things:

  • Pursue continuing education in the college funding space
  • Use your marketing collateral to target college-bound families
  • Make college planning a key topic in prospect meetings
  • Incorporate college planning into your client service calendar

New advisors have the luxury (and burden) of building their own practice. Think about the type of business you want to create and ask yourself if college planning is a good fit within that model. If so, you’ll need to streamline your process and start to seek out the right clients for your firm.

Getting Your Team On Board

For established practices, incorporating college planning doesn’t have to be a huge lift. You can have one person on your team be the college funding expert. In order to do that, provide them with the right tools, resources, and education that they need to excel. After that, have that person plug into every client relationship that requires college planning services.  Think of them as the surgeon on your team for this acute need.

When you have an established college planning expert on your team, you show your clients that you are more than qualified to cater to their unique needs. If you want to grow your business even more, empower your college funding expert to run that arm of the practice. By doing this, you free yourself and other team members up to focus on other tasks while also proactively tapping into a new market. 

At College Aid Pro, we are passionate about providing advisors with the software, training, and support they need to be successful in the college planning space. If you want to explore further, book a free demo with our team today.

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