#9 How Smart Parents Find the Right School for the Right Price Transcript



Let’s go find those schools. Let’s curate a list of schools that are going to allow me to flourish in the areas that I have interests and aptitudes. And I don’t have to know specifically I’m going to be in this major, but I do need to know that it’s going to be a or B and that I can do a or B. At these given schools, it’s almost like eliminating choice focusing and putting us this student in an environment where they’re likely to become the best version of themselves at the end of the day, that ends up saving people money, because we might even get a four-year degree in four years.


How novel in today’s.


When financial planner, Beth Walker sat holding her infant son. She began researching how much she should start saving to send him to college. Nearly two decades later, the shocking answer had her searching for answers on the best way to manage the college planning project, a project she likens to painting a room.


Was she. Led to a career of helping successful families be better stewards of their wealth. As her son entered high school, she wrote a book on the subject using the mind of a financial planner with the heart of a mother Beth’s message and expertise will resonate with every parent who is planning for their kids’ college and their own returns.


I’m Lisa marker Robbins. And I want to welcome you to episode nine of college and career clarity, a flourish coaching product. Let’s dive right in to a great conversation


today on college and career clarity. It is my pleasure to welcome Beth Walker to the podcast. She is a friend, but she is in my words, a guru on college planning. She’s the author of never pay retail for college. How smart parents find the right school for the right. But she developed after she became a mom and became concerned for her own son, Mack, about his future and college and paying for college.


She’s leaned on what she’s learned from gurus, such as college admissions, counselors, financial aid experts, scholarship gurus, and a very determined group of parents. Beth, welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much. I’m really excited to be with you today. This is a passionate area for both of us and we’re big believers.


So this was fun. And I think what I love best is that I’ve got this world. People around me, many of them who have become brands that we have different focuses. So while I’m focused on the academic and the college and career fit on college planning, you really are a financial planner. Tell everybody a little bit about yourself and what you.


I was a recovering corporate America person and entered into the financial services industry because I realized that a lot of really successful people just don’t have a background in personal finance. So they are ignorant about how to be the best stewards of their wealth. And that was. It’s not that they’re not smart.


I am blessed to work with brilliant people. Super successful, make lots of money, but they don’t have necessarily the time or the expertise or the interest in monitoring all that, measuring all that and cultivating it in a way that serves them best. And so I saw an opportunity and I made a career transition.


Wrote a book on employee stock options loved working with people to help them reach their goals. But it truly was the birth of my son, Mack that changed my life and my career path forever because when I was home with him, after he was born, recovering from a cesarean section, I started just tinkering with.


Projections on putting them through college. And I was astounded that the rate of inflation for college costs has been out of control for a couple of decades now. And so when I looked at the fact that. He was going to be graduating from high school and going to college within 10 or 15 years of retirement, I realized, wow, we’re on a collision course with two really big challenges here.


And it caused me to really start researching. Isn’t there a better way to do this? Can’t we be smarter about this? Unfortunately, I learned that we can all be a whole lot smarter about how we go about slaying the college dragon. The financial services industry uses a lot of conventional wisdom that doesn’t necessarily serve all of us well.


And so being able to approach this with the mind of a financial planner, but the heart of a mother has been a game changer for me. So now I just consider myself a mom on a mission, trying to figure out how do we do this the right way. And I think the biggest surprise for me coming at it from a purely financial perspective was how important it was to involve the student in the process.


I had to unlearn the spreadsheet part of this, the financial calculation part of this, and really learn that it has to be a student centric approach finding that right fit academically, socially, emotionally, financially. And it all starts with figuring out how that kid is hardwired. So it was a decade long learning process, but so worthwhile, because think about it aside from your own retirement and buying a house or a house in a vacation home, putting your kids through college is easily the biggest financial challenge parents face.


For sure. We’re both moms paying for that. Right now. We are more efficiently than a lot of our friends. Thank goodness. That’s right. You’ve got a great point where we’re both working with families that have been successful. They’ve got a lots of know-how but time is there scarcity as that, and it’s not renewable.


I always say time is our most important non-renewable asset. Amen to that. And it’s overwhelming. And so people can lean on your expertise, my expertise, others in the industry to help them because time is of the essence and they need the help. So your mission of. I’ve got smart families. They’ve got the means to pay for college, but I love how you were saying this before we were talking earlier about sure.


You can do it. You can do a good job of this, but you could do. No question about it. We’re both blessed to work with really successful people, smart people, motivated people, and they’re accustomed to investing time, energy effort, money in better health in better tools and technology and things that save them time.


And I think because of the emotional needs, Of what I call the college purchase as parents, we just lose our mind when it comes to college for our kids, we lead with the heart. We want happy kids. We want the best possible outcome. We want to help them launch themselves in the most successful way. And so we take off that consumer mindset and lead with that parent heart sometimes to our own detriment.


And if you’re fortunate enough to. Overpaid for college because you just were doing it once or twice or three times, as opposed to hundreds of times every year, you just may not have picked up along the way that there’s a smarter way to do it. So for a lot of the families that I serve, the discussion is around.


Good, better, best. We have lots of conversations to say, you know what? You’re right based on what you bring to the table, what you’re trying to accomplish, the kind of student that we’re working with here, this will turn out pretty good, but you invited me into your life to make it better. You invited me into your life to create the best possible outcome for everyone involved.


And I think that’s the other thing that sometimes gets lost in this. Several stakeholders in the process. We’ve got the future of the student we’re dealing with. We’ve got the present lifestyle of the family that we’re dealing with and we’ve got the future lifestyle of the parents we’re dealing with.


And our job is to balance all of that simultaneously. And so looking at. The various ways we can create tax scholarships. We can create cash flow efficiencies. We can literally create discounts from the colleges that are selected. That’s a game changer. So I come to the table and I disclose this with every family I work with.


I come to the table with a bias towards protecting mom and dad’s pocket book, but never at the expense of the student. But I’m a financial person. The students’ wellbeing, whether it’s identifying probable career path and major finding the right schools, that’s not my wheelhouse. So I have to get teammates to help me do that.


This is a collaborative problem solving effort, and it’s got to be driven by the student. And I didn’t know that. Early on as a financial person, it was like, why would I have to even deal with the student? I just have to deal with mom and dad. It’s their pocket. There’s those of us over on this side.


They’re like, yeah, we want to talk about the money. I just love kids. I just want to help kids. So exactly have to come together for the household to create the best. You can’t lean on an expert who can, I don’t think adequately do both buckets really well. Like it has to be a team effort. I agree more. And I used the analogy for years of the kitchen remodel because it takes a collection of expertise to pull that off.


You have a general contractor, big picture budget timeline, but they don’t do the. They don’t do the electric work. They’re not putting that granite countertop in place. All those people have to bring their expertise at the right time. And the project timeline. To pull that beautiful new kitchen off. And oftentimes when you’re in the midst of that, there are delays that nobody could have expected and people have to have the expertise to be able to deal with that.


So it’s very similar in that we’ve got to have. Professionals that really bring their a game for the benefit of that student and that family at the right time and the process to create the best possible outcome. So it’s not limited to justify financial person. It’s not limited to just an independent dependent education consultant or a career assessment specialist.


All of them have to come together to create that great outcome, even as. I love the, as the college majoring career piece with my launch course, but we just did a college list challenge for families in our community. And the four components of that were academic fit. Can I get in financial fit? Which in my world, I just got, I’ll just know your budget, make sure it works.


You do a way better job of that. But to me, that’s that piece of it. Right? Then there’s a social fit, which typically I find is what people. Dark delete with without the other piece. And then finally the college major and career piece so that we can be intentional and begin with the end in mind. And I know that you’ve got 12 critical elements that you share about in your book.


I love what you said earlier about what you found was the most important pieces were go ahead and headed again. It wasn’t the financial piece, but. It’s so ironic, isn’t it? It took some education and experience on my end in working with families, trying to solve that college cashflow challenge, to understand that, to create the best financial outcome.


Had to get involved with two critical components that have nothing to do with money. One, which I think is critically important is developing that student’s self-awareness and giving them the tools, the language, and the understanding of how they’re hardwired, how they play to their strengths. What kind of careers they’re likely to thrive in to back into that college?


Maybe? Because understanding that drives school selection, let’s go find those schools. Let’s curate a list of schools that are going to allow me to flourish in the areas that I have interests and aptitudes. And I don’t have to know. Specifically, I’m going to be in this major, but I do need to know that it’s going to be a or B and that I can do a or B at these given schools.


It’s almost like eliminating choice focusing and putting us the student in an environment. Where they’re likely to become the best version of themselves at the end of the day, that ends up saving people money, because we might even get a four-year degree in four years, how novel in today’s world. And when you do that, understanding what drives admissions decisions, GPA, test scores, strength of high school curriculum.


You are also in a better position when you curate. Of achieving tuition discounts, merit based scholarships. So I run Stickley, starting with the student, their self-awareness curating that strategic college list where they’re likely to receive more discounts. It costs less money for the household. If we go about it that way.


And then. And only then when we really understand what the probable out of pocket cost is going to be, should we be now in a nuanced way saying, okay, I’m a smart, successful person. I’ve got the means to make this happen, but what’s the most cashflow efficient and tax efficient way to do this. None of my clients would willingly overpay to buy a new house.


Right. So why would they willingly overpay to buy college, but we’ve failed to put it in that context as this big major capital purchase. And I think that the clients that I serve, the families that I’m fortunate to work with, the light bulb goes on and they’re like, oh, I get it. I don’t have to, I should just be a smart buyer here.


A good consumer of higher education. It’s just a better way to go about. We recently hosted our parent masterclass that I do just a couple of times a year. And it’s really about avoiding the four common mistakes students make when choosing a college major. But when I asked the parents who were in attendance, like what’s the primary driver of you being here?


I said, is it that you don’t know what to do? Is it that you’re concerned with overpaying and getting a great ROI? Or do you just want happy kids? I, everybody said happy kids for sure. And a lot of one and three, I don’t know what to do. And. And I was a little surprised, there were people that said, number two, concern for cost of college and increasing the ROI that the attendance of that when I ran that just this week and last week at the time that we’re recording this, I was surprised at the number of people who are like, not we’re good on the pain and the number of people who I said, are you concerned with your kid getting out in four years?


And number of people said, not really, but I think when you put it in the context of. We wouldn’t overpay for a house or a car or any kind of major purchase. So why would we overpay for this? Even if you have the money or, and another simple analogy, I enjoy flying first class, but if I could get a discount on my first class seat, wouldn’t I?


Absolutely. Yes. Let’s just put this in the context of a consumer purchase. I truly believe having done this for as long as I have that, because this is such an emotional purchase and we’re talking about our kids, right? We’ll do. To get them launched and help them be happy. And that’s what we signed up for when we became Berets.


And so I never discount the motivation that smart parents have for, if they get into that school, I’m going to make it work. I hear that all the time. And so I just want to collaborate and partner with them to say, great. Let’s make that work, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that we could do this better.


Do you really want to fork over? Unnecessarily money to the college, or would you rather have that on your balance sheet? So when the time comes, you can take the grandkids on a Disney cruise. I’m a big fan of us controlling capital on our balance sheet, as opposed to just own unknowingly, forking it over when we don’t have to.


I know you said you wrote your book in 2017 and you’re getting ready to revise it because of changes, major changes and just college in general and the FASFA and college funding. You are sharing that you might be changing your analogy from the kitchen, remodeled. Talk to us about how college planning is like painting your house.


I just painted this office I’m sitting in, so it really resonated with me, but I think it, it really drives home the process for smart parents. Like you said, in your book, it came to me when I was thinking about when you paint a room. Or you paint a house all the work, the time, the expense, it’s not in the pain.


It’s actually in preparing to do the painting. It’s the spackling. It’s the sanding. It’s the taping off. It’s the covering. It’s making sure that surface is going to. Be ready to receive that pain and that it’s going to look the way that you want it to. And it just occurred to me that all the work needs to be done before you actually get to college.


And so helping that student understand. Oh, yeah, I’m really good in these areas. I’m really interested in certain subjects. Yes. I need to make sure that I do high school well, achieve that GPA that puts me in a position. For better options and better selection criteria for certain schools, I take challenging coursework while I’m in high school, so that the strength of my high school curriculum demonstrates that I can do college level work.


I invest the time and energy in preparing to take a standardized test. Even though people are talking about test optional, those are critical criteria for admissions committees. And so all that preparation, doing the work to really understand which schools are going to be a good fit, getting past the brand names and the great marketing brochures of the colleges to dig in and understand which ones really going to serve you the right way.


That is all about preparing right? Filling out the forms. Look, most of the families that I get to work with need-based financial aid is not what they’re looking for, but if we change that paradigm about, oh, access to low-cost student loans, that I don’t have to start paying back for five years. Oh, and if I get a four-year degree in four years and I maintain my GPA that allows that merit based scholarship to be renewed every year.


Oh, mom and dad are going to pay off my loans. If I meet my half of the equation, that’s low cost capital for the family to use. It’s literally changing the framework of how we think about this and doing that prep work so that when we go to. It’s easy. And frankly, that the prep work is not fun when it comes to painting.


We just had, that’s why I hired out. If I enjoy painting, I don’t enjoy the prep. So I hire out my painting and it’s, there’s some pain, but in the end you finished, you’re like, ah, it’s so clean. It’s so beautiful. And we don’t, if you think about it in terms of what you’re saying, bottom line, It’s not necessarily all those pieces aren’t necessarily going to be fun, but the outcome this fantastic.


And here’s the other reality who wouldn’t, if spending a little bit of money today saves you 25 to 50% on the total cost of college who wouldn’t sign up for that. Yeah, and that is the value proposition. Now I don’t care how successful you are. I don’t care if you could write the check and it’s never going to bother you.


I still haven’t met good stewards of wealth who willingly overpay. And that’s the name of the game. So oftentimes we’re leaving parents with the mantra of finance, their future, meaning the student’s fund yours, meaning your retirement. Just make sure you are maintaining liquidity use and control the capital on your own balance sheet and use other people’s money super intelligently over time to pay for college.


Pretty simple, but it’s just unconvinced. I want more people to hear your unconventional message, because I think it’s a game changer for smart parents. And I could talk about this all day long, but thank you for being on the podcast bath. We’ll definitely have you back. So your book is never pay retail for college.


How smart parents. For the right price. You’re giving them a different paradigm to think about college planning for even families who have accumulated wealth to be smarter with their wealth. And I know we’ll have you back on when you get an updated version out as well. So thanks Lisa. Thanks Beth.


Beth is a friend I could talk to for hours and I love that. She’s always thinking about how to help them. Slay the college planning dragon, as she puts it after working for over two decades in this space, I’ve found that no one size fits all when it comes to college planning. So what should you do now?


I’m going to steal from Beth’s fantastic analogy of painting. By the end of this very weekend, I encourage your family to sit down and make a list of all the room prep you need to do before you paint. What items do you still need to do for college planning? Identify what you want to do yourself and parts you can benefit from getting some guidance and help.


If you’re feeling unsure what needs to be done or feeling overwhelmed. I have a free college planning timeline that takes you through all of the steps of college planning from freshman year to graduation. I’ll put the link in the show notes with this episode. If today’s episode was helpful to you, please share with a friend who needs this to sharing, following the podcast rating and review.


Helps us resource more students to launch into a successful future. Thank you for listening to the college and career clarity podcast, where I help your family move from overwhelmed and confused to motivate a clear and confident about your teens future .