SSS and Monthly Net Income

Daughter is applying to multiple day top tier schools. Monthly take home pay is about $11k ($200k annually) for a family of 6. We have one child is attending a private school (about $15k a year) and we decided to pay fully since we applied late and the school doesn’t have a big FA budget. I am feeling out our SSS for my daughter. Taking into account all our expenses (Mortgage, Tuition and other expenses including 401k savings, personal savings ) our net monthly income is around $600. Is this amount taken into account when calculating the PFS?

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ALL disposable income in taken into account, even your monthly retirement contributions and personal savings. From our PFS, the SSS decided we could be full pay even though we didn’t see how we could swing it. It meant no 401K or any other savings contributions during the four years our son was at BS and less than $600/mo disposable for us during that time. It was a grim time, but we made do.

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Thank you. We are planning to forgo the 401 contribution. Is there an income threshold above which full pay is warranted? I am not sure how we could do either if SSS decides we have to be full pay. Most schools are mentioning that SSS just provides the baseline, and they have their own algorithms to determine FA. How much is that true?

I don’t believe there are any hard and fast income thresholds at the high end. Some schools guarantee some amount of FA at a stated low income threshold. And some schools, like Choate, guarantee to meet 100% of demonstrated financial need to every student it admits. If the SSS determines you have no need, you’d be hard pressed to prove otherwise unless something was omitted from or entered incorrectly on the PFS.

The SSS recommendation is just a guideline that each school takes into account when determining FA awards. But, because each school has its own formula, you’d need to discuss your concerns with each school to which your child applies to get an idea of how they will handle your particular case.

In our case, we applied for (partial) FA, and two schools called us prior to M10 to see if, based on the SSS results, we felt we could somehow swing full freight. If not, Choate would reject but state that the reason was inability to provide the necessary FA. The other school asked if we’d prefer a waitlist or a rejection. We had 24 hours to decide.


This was very much true in our case. I was so worried after completing the form and seeing the estimate. Fast forward two months and no school came to us with a number that was near our PFS - Three schools asked us to pay around $15k less than our PFS and one school asked us to pay $20k more than the PFS. As hard as it is, you just need to wait and see. But please be reassured that it’s not necessarily the number you will see on March 10.


Now I’m confused. Was the PFS supposed to give me an estimate of my family contribution? If so, I missed that part. There was a section asking what my family thinks they can contribute, but no calculation.

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Have you submitted it and paid the fee? If so look for the link for Family Report 2022-23 on the portal. Your expected contribution will be at the bottom of the family report. Sometimes it takes a day or two to show up after you’ve submitted everything.

Thank you! I did pay the fee and uploaded last couple years of taxes along with answering all the questions. I found the family report, but the 10th page is the last page and it’s supplemental questions that one school requires. So maybe it will take them a few days to figure out the EFC? Not sure if it’s manual or computer generated.

Thank you all for your inputs. How is the balance in a retirement account viewed by SSS? Our 403(b) balance is quite high because my former employer made generous contributions to the plan. My contribution as well as my former employer contributions were close to the max set by IRS.

It’s not the balance of the fund, it’s the amount you’re able to contribute each month that counts. Some schools consider that monthly amount available for paying BS tuition.

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Could financial aid change after time? I’ll be needing financial aid for PEA as my household is 1 income for about ~120k a year before taxes, plus my other parent runs a business that has been unprofitable and only expects profit in 1 or 2 years. Another thing is that my brother is currently a senior right now, so he’ll be needing money for college if he does not get financial aid for that.

Thank you so much for the response. That does make perfect sense to me.

I believe financial aid is applied for each school year!

I never knew this existed last year LOL- wish I knew how close the SSS was to what our offer was. This year for kiddo #2 I found it and it’s exactly what I expected it would be.

What is the best way to answer this question on SSS “how much money will you contribute…”.

Honestly. How much money do you think you will be able to contribute? It’s not a trick question.


I noticed that SSS asks about retirement savings in two different sections. In one section, it asks about the annual contribution to a 401k or 403b, etc. In the monthly income and expenses section it asks about monthly retirement savings which I believe is more about after tax retirement contributions?

DH filled out the PFS 12 years ago, so I’m not sure how to answer your question as I wasn’t involved in the detail. I’m guessing that the annual contribution question is pretty straightforward. If a 401K (or 403b, etc.) is your only retirement savings program, then the first question would just be the annual amount you put into those accounts, and the monthly would be that amount divided by 12. Or, perhaps, the monthly question is meant to include any other vehicle(s) you may be using for retirement savings that are not the 401Ks, IRAs, etc. that were addressed in the annual question. :woman_shrugging:

Maybe someone else has the definitive answer.

Thank you. Yes, the annual contribution question is very straightforward because the question is clearly stated. The monthly part as you have guessed and it is also my guess is more about non-401k/non-403b retirement savings.