Ross Riskin has no career plans to become an author, but the Sacred Heart University doctoral student took it upon himself to write “The Adviser’s Guide to Education Planning” when he realized there was a void in the financial planning publishing category.
“There were guides for Social Security planning and retirement planning, but nothing in the education funding area,” he recalled.
Riskin, a student in the doctor of business administration in finance program at the Fairfield-based university, is no stranger to the subject of education planning: he is also vice president of Riskin & Riskin PC, a public accounting firm located in Orange, and is an assistant professor for taxation and academics with the American College of Financial Services. In planning “The Adviser’s Guide to Education Planning,” Riskin sought to bridge a gap between guidance counselors who are focused primarily on aiming teens into college and financial advisers who work with families on the funding aspect of higher education.
“It is a very complicated subject,” he observed. “Especially when you come to financial aid. The financial aid system is just as complex as the tax system and the methodology changes all of the time.”
Created over the span of eight months, the 114-page book is divided into eight chapters covering college savings vehicles, an introduction to the financial planning process, education tax deductions and credits planning, strategies for high-income and high-net-worth individuals, strategies for business owners on how to approach the financial aid process, strategies for divorced and divorcing couples, strategies for grandparents who wish to be involved in their grandchildren’s education funding, and general academic planning topics. Riskin noted that even among financial planning experts, there is still a great deal of misinformation and confusion related to financial aid qualifications.
“There is a myth that if you make a lot of money, you don’t qualify for financial aid,” he noted. “And business owners may be unsure about how to report the value of their business when their children fill out financial aid forms.”
Riskin wrote the book for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and it is available to members of the organization’s Personal Financial Planning Section, as well as to certified public accountants who have the personal financial specialist designation. Riskin added that “The Adviser’s Guide to Education Planning” can also serve as a complementary resource to the Certified College Financial Consultant designation program within the American Institute of Certified College Financial Consultants, which he founded in 2017.
Higher education planning and financing has taken on a new level of attention with the recent college bribery admissions scandal dubbed Operation Varsity Blues, which resulted in the arrests of wealthy individuals including Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. Riskin is planning to incorporate this still-unfolding story when his book is ready for a second edition.
“It is a horrible thing that happened,” he commented. “And it is more widespread than people think. How risk-averse are the wealthiest people as to where kids go to school? There is no research saying if you go to this school you will be successful.”
Riskin is aiming to complete his Sacred Heart studies next year and he is already planning a second book, which will offer a guide to the student loan environment.
“That has become a hot topic now because the debt crisis is out of control,” he said.