Financial aid after retirement

My husband is thinking of retiring. He’s 53. We have the resources for him to do so. Right now, with his income and our savings, we do not qualify for any FA even with two kids at private colleges. We’ve been playing around with NPCs, though, and it looks like we might qualify for some grants from the schools if our income is lower or zero.

My question is this - is that really true? Is there anywhere on the CSS that would question a 54 year old and why he has no income but considerable savings? Would a school not give FA after looking at the whole CSS (as opposed to the quick NPCs) and realizing that the parents aren’t bringing in any income and are retiring early? Seems a bit too convenient that he could retire and we would pay a little less for college.

We have never filled out a CSS because NPCs always show full pay and our EFC is very high, so I’m not familiar with the questions asked or how colleges interpret the answers when deciding about granting aid.


If your husband retires, where will the money come from to pay your living expenses and support retirement activities? For example, will it come from regular bank accounts (checking, savings, CDs), regular investment accounts (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.), qualified retirement accounts (IRA, 401(k), 403(b), etc.).

I don’t think schools will view you as having zero income. How would you pay your bills and daily expenses? Wouldn’t that money be viewed as income?

My situation is a little different, but may give insight. I retired early (40) and my spouse still works. A lot of private schools assume (correctly) I could work and pay for college, so the contribution is close to full pay. At a few privates (HYPS for example) they assume I can’t work and our predicted COA is around $35k.

I hope that helps.


Correct. We would live off of savings. And @twogirls I was thinking the same thing. If we take money out of investments, does the CSS count that as income?

Hm. So it was on a school by school basis and you wouldn’t know until you received the FA package? Obviously, S19 is already in school so I wonder if we could reach out and ask his school how they would view a younger retired parent.

Do you remember if you ever answered any questions on CSS about why you aren’t working? I just wonder, if one enters no income from a job, if a question is then prompted and it asks why.

Ok, but what kind of savings? Some people refer to money in a qualified retirement account as “savings,” just as they would refer to money in a bank savings account as “savings.” But to answer your questions, knowing exactly what kind of accounts hold the “savings” is important.

We used the NPCs for each school and made a spreadsheet. Because of the difference in costs and my desire to remain unemployed we prioritized cost when comparing colleges. It’s definitely not easy to turn down full pay schools that offer a great experience.

It might help if I explained a little bit more about how our finances “look” to colleges. We live off of my spouse’s income and there is a W2. We live in an expensive location, but appear to be barely getting by. No money in savings or anything like that, but our house is almost paid for, retirement accounts are well funded, and cars are all paid for.

ETA: I do a little bit of consulting but I legally structure that so I don’t get a W2.


I remember there being general questions about disability, but nothing pointedly asking about why I don’t work. We did talk with a few private schools when my D was being recruited and those FA officers suggested nicely that I could rejoin the workforce.

I have seen the same thing as AlwaysMoving experienced; that is, a non-working parent resulted in a higher EFC, because the school assumed that the parent could work and therefore was able to contribute toward the EFC. At the time, there was no Profile question triggered asking why the parent was not working. I don’t know how this is treated now. You can always contact the school’s FA office and ask how their EFC formula handles this situation.


Depends on the school for sure. We have one income by choice and are the beneficiaries of extraordinarily generous financial aid. No questions on the CSS about why we only have one income…

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We would use non-retirement accounts to live off of. We wouldn’t dip into retirement accounts until we are much older.

Well, we are one income now. Just H! But, if there is no one working and assets are high, I have to wonder how that is seen.

They can’t possibly put you in the same category as a family who truly has no income and struggles to make ends meet. My guess is that you would have to report the money you are living off of as income.

Isn’t your youngest a high school senior now? Or am I confusing you with someone else? I thought financial aid was calculated using the prior-prior year. So if he retires this year then that would affect just the last 2 years of financial aid. Retiring when your child is in college may be viewed as a choice. I don’t think I’d count on them making up the gap with need based aid if your husband leaves his job voluntarily.


I understand. But we put lower income into Bowdoin’s NPC to see what would happen. Listed our non-retirement account balances as well. And got a small grant.

You would not be using the current year. FA info goes back to prior years, as noted above.

Correct. We are just wondering what happens for 2022 school year. We’d have three semesters of overlap with two kids in college. S19 will graduate Jan 2024.

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Financial aid is reviewed by real people. I wouldn’t trust a net price calculator. The best way to find out what Bowdoin would do is to contact them and ask if you’ll be eligible for need based aid if your husband decides to retire.