Mistakes on CSS profile

In hopes to complete my daughter’s CSS profile as quickly as possible, I entered my 401k balance. I was then told I did not and should not include that amount because colleges may take it into consideration if they chose to and limit aid. So ultimately I think I just set us back by allowing them to calculate that money when determining our financial aid.
Is there any way to remove it from the profile? We haven’t submitted applications for the school that use the CSS profile, does that make a difference?

Technically illegal to hide 401K assets. Few years back a couple (both physicians) hide their $2M assets in IRA got sued by university and Federal government lying in FAFSA and CSS.


Did you enter it in the questions about 401k and other retirement assets, or did you intermingle it with your non-retirement assets?

If the former, then that is what you are supposed to do, and the colleges say they do not take it into consideration. I would believe them.

If the latter, then that is not where you are supposed to report it. I don’t know if you can amend the CSS Profile to move the assets to the correct area. If not, then you should contact the schools of interest and let them know that the money was reported in the wrong place.

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If you entered your retirement account balance on the question that asks for that….you did the right thing.

There really isn’t any evidence that colleges use retirement account balance in their calculations. It’s thought that this is only used to see if this is realistic. If someone’s income is very low but they have millions of dollars in retirement accounts, this could raise some questions.

But really, you do need to answer the questions honestly on the Profile…so if you put the balances of your 401 K account where it is asked for…you did the right thing.

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What are you talking about? People are allowed to contribute money to their 401k and other retirement accounts. They just need to list this on the Profile where it belongs.

No place for this balance on the FAFSA at all.

If you view your CSS on the college board site, there is the option to fix mistakes. It will ask you what and why, and then you’re able to re-access your form.

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To clarify, FAFSA no. But for CSS, all types of retirement savings are considered assets. CSS basically complete the personal financial statement.

There is a question on the Profile about retirement balances. That is where retirement balance amounts should be entered.

Other assets, like savings, checking, money market funds, etc. are listed in another question.

Your retirement account balances must be listed where they ask for retirement account balances…but they should NOT be listed with your other assets.

@MMRose would you like to clarify this further?

@BelknapPoint ?

Who told you this?

Last I knew, Profile requires reporting the balances of retirement accounts. This includes 401(k) accounts. If the form still asks for it and you included it, you did not make a mistake. Taking the information off when you know that reporting is required is worse than a mistake.

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OP said “mistakes in CSS” but later indicated intention of not reporting 401k balance because colleges may limit aid. So technically is hiding assets.

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Following up with what @thumper1 and @BelknapPoint posted.

The CSS profile requires you to report the balances of

  1. cash, savings, checking and deposit accounts
  2. the current market value of investments and
  3. Current value of tax-deferred and after-tax retirement, pension, annuity, and
    savings plans such as an IRA, Roth IRA, Keogh, SEP, 401(a), 401(k), 403(b),
    408, 457, 501(c)

These three categories are non-overlapping, and you are required to determine which assets fall into which category. If you have a defined-benefit pension plan, you are supposed to determine the cash value of that plan and include it with #3, above. And if you have money in a savings or investment account that is not one of those listed in #3, then it gets reported in #1 or #2, even if you intend that money for your retirement.

However, many (most? all?) colleges state that they do not use the value of the retirement assets when they determine your financial aid contribution. You can see that for yourself by running the Net Price Calculator for the schools of interest both with and without your retirement assets, and you should see that the amount that is calculated is not affected by that value. But even if it was, you are still required to report it.

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