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Radio Interview on 8/22/2021 With Chuck Drawbaugh, President of CFA
Radio Interview on 5/3/2020 With Chuck Drawbaugh, President of CFA
Shore man helps take fear out of college planning
Asbury Park Press
Chuck Drawbaugh owns College Funding Associates LLC, with offices in Manasquan and Rumson.
When did you decide you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
In the early 1990s I worked for a large corporation and my personality drove me to put in long hours. After about six years, I decided if I was going to work that hard, it made sense to do it as a business owner. In addition to my father, I was exposed to plenty of small-business owners, so I think that also had some influence on my desire to be an entrepreneur.
Why did you start this business?
It became very apparent when working with families in the high school years that they were overwhelmed with the entire process; from identifying potential careers, majors and schools, to the admissions and financial aid process, and ultimately how to pay. It is very stressful for teenagers, who are unsure of what they want in a school and a career, to engage in the process. Meanwhile, parents were struggling to get their student to engage while at the same time learning the process themselves and figuring out how they were going to pay. A family’s busy life doesn’t slow down for the time-consuming college process. In short, I realized people were overwhelmed, stressed and perhaps needed some help with this important milestone in life.
Were there any challenges that made you think twice about striking out on your own?
Sure there were uncertainties. I was going to have to invest the time to better educate myself and also support personnel. This new endeavor would likely come with increased expenses and reduced production and income on the existing business. While I saw the need, it was also new territory for me and starting something new can be a little scary and come with some hesitation.
If you could do it again, what would you do differently?
I think I took too much time dipping my toe into the pool and trying it, instead of fully committing once my decision was made. I’m not saying you just decide one day to go into business without thinking it through and doing some planning, but once the decision is made, you have to commit to make it happen. Trying it out halfway will typically result in one of 2 outcomes: 1) You never really give it the effort to become successful and end up frustrated or 2) you ultimately commit and become very successful, but kick yourself for delaying the success you deserve.
What’s the best business advice you have ever received?
If you make it clear that you are committed to helping people, you don’t have to know all the answers before you offer your help. If you don’t know the answer to something, you can always say that you will look into it and get back with that answer. Even experts are learning new things and having to doublecheck because of changes that can occur or develop. If you are afraid to help because you are not sure if you know the answers to all the questions that can be asked, then you will never help anyone.
What personality trait helps you the most?
I don’t mind working hard.
What’s the hardest part of the job?
Managing all aspects of the business. When you work for someone else, or a large company, your role tends to be more defined. Someone else is worrying about other aspects of the business. So it can be hard identifying when it is time to find others to take over different aspects of the business, since it isn’t possible to do it all and do it all really well.
Going to work each day.
What surprised you the most about running the business?
Probably the realization that not everyone will value what you do the same, and many people will want your product or service but don’t agree with the price. It is hard to come to grip with the reality that you can’t help everyone, and you really only want to work with those who do see the value of what you offer and what you charge. That said, it does take some testing and trial and error to find the right balance.
Describe your most unusual customer, job or work experience.
I guess one of the most unusual experiences I have had more than once, is that clients have sometimes (jokingly) said they are not happy with me or our company. When we asked what was wrong, they stated that they were angry that they had been trying to get some points about college across to their kids for months and after having a relatively brief conversation with someone on our staff, the student suddenly acknowledges that point as a good idea and they engage. We are not the student’s parent and as parents, we all know that that much of what we say to our kids is “stupid or wrong.” We also don’t have to go home and live with the teenagers after making a suggestion, whether they like it or not.
How would you like the business to grow and change?
While we have worked with families in other states, I think we can do a better job of helping families understand and be comfortable that we can help without meeting face to face. Technology makes this very possible as people now carry on conversation with friends and family via Skype and face time. Businesses hold web meetings all the time where the same information that would be shared in a face-to-face meeting is shared by computer screen and phone. I would also like to build the business so I can be away for longer periods of time without worrying as much about getting caught up when I return. It is pretty easy to take a day or two here and there, but more of a challenge after a week or more.
In one sentence, tell us why customers should go there.
We will make a process that is very time consuming, overwhelming and expensive, much quicker and easier to navigate, less stressful, and give families the peace of mind that we helped them do everything possible to keep their cost to a minimum.
What do you love about the community where your business is located?
I have lived in the area of both our office locations, having grown up in Little Silver, the first house I bought was in Oceanport, and now I live in Manasquan. They are all smaller towns and great for raising a family.
When you leave work, do you leave the office behind, or are you always in contact?
I am working on getting better at leaving the office behind, but owning a business makes it much tougher to do than if you work for someone else.
What do you do in your off time?
I try to exercise, love to sail, and now that I cut my commute to a seven-minute walk or three-minute drive (except in summer traffic), I expect to be home for dinner more often and spend more time with the family.
When you leave the business behind some day, what will you do?
I don’t really see myself leaving the business behind because I really do enjoy helping the families. While college is the immediate issue we help with, our planning makes sure that college does not become a retirement problem down the road, so the planning carries on after college. I can imagine slowing down some day to do more sailing and taking longer vacations. It seems grandchildren tend to be a happy option for people to replace work time later in life; but for now, like many of our clients, we are getting the kids through school, so grandchildren simply are a future vision.
Expert discusses ways families can make a college education affordable
By Matt O’Brien – The Coast Star
Paying for a child’s college education can be a profound financial challenge. Having to send two, or even three, children within a few years of each other to college for an annual cost of $15,000 and up per child can make parents’ heads spin. However, on Thursday, Chuck Drawbaugh, an insurance and investment planner and college funding expert, offered some helpful hints for parents to keep their children’s college education affordable.
One type of financial aid Mr. Drawbaugh stressed during Tuesday evening’s seminar at the Wall Township Library was that students and parents should search for schools that will offer “merit aid” over other types of financial assistance. Merit aid, or what Mr. Drawbaugh compared to as a college’s free-agency money, was ideal for students.
When merit aid is offered, it usually goes to students because of their academic and extracurricular performances in high school. “Prospective students are going to have to do some research and homework on schools where they might get merit aid” he said. For students to increase their chances of receiving merit aid, Mr. Drawbaugh said they and their parents would have to “get over the name game.”
In other words, smaller schools that have smaller tuition rates than the larger, well known colleges, may offer its prospective students certain types of merit aid not offered by the larger schools, he said. Families that have a tight budget may want to opt for the smaller school. Just because the smaller school does not have the reputation as some state universities or Ivy League institutions does not mean the student’s quality of education would suffer, Mr. Drawbaugh said. “There are a lot of good schools out there” he added.
If merit aid is not an option for students, the families can pursue other loans and grants that are offered by the state. Mr. Drawbaugh said students need to fill out and submit the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine what type of grants and loans they would be eligible for. College registration offices usually supply the FAFSA forms.
After submitting the application to the state it would be determined how much the family would have to contribute to the student’s tuition and other college costs, he said. Before filing out a FAFSA form, Mr. Drawbaugh said, there were ways students could adjust their finances in order to increase their eligibility for grants and loans. “For example, if a student has money in their name, that will count more heavily against them in the formulas for financial aid eligibility” he said. “[However,] legally they can’t just yank it [out of an account]” but in some instances families could legitimately overcome such obstacles to increase their chances for financial aid, he added.
In order to augment a student’s college fund, they should always be on the lookout for scholarships, such as money offered by the local chamber of commerce or by companies like Coca-Cola, Mr. Drawbaugh said. “People know there are thousands of scholarships” he said. “But at best it will help you with a small amount of what you need.” Because scholarships will help with only a tiny portion of college costs, Mr. Drawbaugh said, students should “position” themselves with a school that will offer them the best financial incentive, such as offering merit aid.
He also said that families should be aware of scholarship scams. Some unethical companies that are hired by students and families that offer to hunt for scholarships often promise a certain amount of aid, Mr. Drawbaugh said. However, no one can promise how much aid the state or school offers, he said. “They are preying on the desperation of families and kids,” he said. “When people get desperate they do stupid things.”
Mr. Drawbaugh also discussed loan options prospective students should keep in mind. He said low interest loans, which sound ideal, are sometimes not always the best option. For example, he said, a low interest loan that must be paid back within 10 years may be more of a burden than one with a higher interest rate that must be paid within 25 years. The loan with a shorter period of time to pay it back will have higher monthly installments, Mr. Drawbaugh said.
Mr. Drawbaugh also discussed ways families could lower taxes when paying for a child’s college tuition. One method he said families could use when borrowing money to pay for college was to borrow from their home by taking out a first or second mortgage. Families could deduct the interest they are paying from the mortgage where educational loans will not enable them to do so, Mr. Drawbaugh said. Such reductions could mean $2,000 to $3,000 in savings a year, which is as good as a scholarship, he added.