Paying for College

martinis and your money

Paying for College

A few months back, Melissa Sotudeh, a financial planner with Halpern Financial reached out to me to talk about the topic of paying for college. I have to be honest and say that I assumed this was a subject matter in which I was well versed; however, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there’s always something new to learn.

I think this is a great episode for people with kids of all ages and even if you don’t have kids, there are great strategies for how you can plan for and pay for college.

What are we drinking?

Melissa – The Mexican Martini

3 ounces añejo tequila
1 1/2 ounces Cointreau
1 1/2 ounces fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce green-olive brine from the jar
a splash of fresh orange juice
lime wedges and olives

Shake over ice, pour into martini glass and garnish with olives and limes

Shannon – FinCon Martini

1.5 ounces Deep Eddy’s Lemon Vodka

1.5 ounces Deep Eddy’s Cranberry Vodka

Club Soda

Shake the first two ingredients over ice, pour into martini glass and top with club soda.

Podcast Notes:

  • Melissa shares some of her thoughts on the benefits of 529 plans as a savings vehicle
  • Melissa cautions against funding 100% of an expensive college
  • Shannon asks Melissa what she thinks of saving 30%, paying 30% in real time and financing 40%
  • Melissa shares her rule of thumb around the amount of money you should consider financing – limit aggregated loans taken out to equivalent of estimated one year salary of future grad
  • Melissa cautions parents from focusing on getting kids into dream college without consideration for costs
  • Many parents will think about the best school first and then how they pay for it second
  • Parents should help kids find colleges that offer merit-based aid and make those schools a focus as far as which ones their kids apply to
  • Sometimes we have to adjust what we think is the best
  • Melissa says that you should have a Reach, Target and Safety school not just for academics but for financial costs as well
  • No matter what your financial background looks like, you should fill out a FAFSA form
  • Melissa addresses some fallacies about filing for federal aid
  • Melissa advises researching the graduation rates for schools, if it normally takes 5 years vs. 4 years then this is a 20% increase in cost
  • She also says that you should look for cooperative education programs at schools to help your student during and after school
  • Shannon shares her best practice strategy for applying for student loans

Links that we mentioned during the podcast:

The College Board

College Data

Scholarship sites

Random 3 Questions Melissa Answered:

  • What’s one of your biggest money mistakes?
  • What is your favorite thing to do to relieve stress?
  • What is a book that has influenced your life?
Did your parents pay for college or did you have to take out loans? Do you plan to pay for your kids to go to college?
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Shannon is a financial planner who left a “traditional” financial services firm to start her own company, The Financial Gym, because she felt traditional financial services firms did not have the tools or resources to help people in their 20s and 30s who are starting out and trying to build assets while also managing debt. She realized that the key to long-term personal financial success is a commitment to financial fitness and making smart financial choices. Through her blog, Financially Blonde, her book, Train Your Way To Financial Fitness, her podcast, Martinis and Your Money and The Financial Gym, Shannon is committed to making financial fitness fun, easy and accessible for everyone.


  1. One of my biggest money mistake is that I didn’t refinance my student loan. I wish that I did, it would definitely have made paying a lot easier. Nice podcast by the way!

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