By Carol Lloyd
Some parents don’t need this book. And if you're one of them, you can be assured that you're in pretty rarified company.
However, if a survey of GreatSchools staffers offers any indication, this new guide by financial advisor Ken Clark will strike a soft spot in the heart of ill-prepared American parents. The 337 pages of information, advice, and know-how make no assumptions about your intelligence — covering everything from the definition of board (“a fancy term for ‘food’”) to myths about scholarships (myth #1: Scholarships are impossible to get). Beyond the quick gloss on the obvious, the book digs into territory that many parents (including this one) really need to know. And let’s face it: Ideally, you learn this stuff long before it’s too late and your teen is wailing on the couch — Why did I work so hard in high school? I’m never going to college cause there ain’t no money! — and you’re so chastened and so sad, you don’t even correct her grammar.
So if, like most parents, you don’t have a college plan for your child and are without a financial advisor nimbly pouring your pennies into the right tax free-pots, this book is an excellent way to begin the process. It will explain different kinds of financial aid, the strategies for saving money (in accounts and in life), and even offer chapters on alternative routes to paying for college — like military service, Peer-to-Peer lending, and non-traditional colleges (i.e. online or hybrid).
Like most of the Dummy and Idiot books, this one overpromises at times. Everything is possible! Just follow this 299-point plan! Chances are, however, many parents will throw up their hands and surrender to the Gods of chance and wishful thinking before they soldier through every chapter. But even if the parent doesn’t complete the book or perfect their college prep plan before their newborn is discharged from the hospital, the book will still be valuable. Written in a clever, approachable voice with an expert’s exhaustive understanding of the subject, the guide will no doubt do many parents a good turn when it comes to planning for college. Not only does it show the range of what’s possible — for better or worse, there’s no single (read: simple) road to college planning — but outlines which strategies have their pros and cons. If nothing else, the book is a healthy reminder for parents to focus, now and not later, on their ultimate hopes for their child and that a little strategic thinking today will go a long way to making dreams come true tomorrow.
And that’s just the sort of thinking this well-educated idiot needs to do.