Interview with Sam Mikhail, Part 1

| podcast

In today’s episode of College Admissions Real Talk, Dr. Legatt speaks with Sam Mikhail, the CEO of Smart Track College Funding, which helps families pay for college.


VO: Welcome to College Admissions Real Talk with Dr. Aviva Legatt, a podcast for students seeking to get admitted to top-tier colleges. Each episode will feature an important tip for your college admission success, delivered with candor and love. If you’ve ever wanted to take a peek inside the mind of a college admissions officer, this is your chance. Have a question? Text Dr. Legatt at 610-222-5762. So, what’s your dream school? 

AL: Welcome to College Admissions Real Talk. I am Dr. Aviva Legatt, founder and elite admissions expert at Ivy Insight and author of “Get Real and Get In”. Today I’m honored to speak with Sam Mikhail. Sam is the CEO of Smart Track College Funding, which helps families pay for college in the most efficient manner, pay less for college, and make sure that paying for college does not negatively impact retirement for families. Sam has helped thousands of families build smart, flexible financial plans to fund college, retirement and lifetime dreams. His nationally recognized innovative financial solutions and college funding strategies have been featured on radio programs like Dave Ramsey and Dennis Prager, and he’s been featured in various media outlets like “The Los Angeles Times”. So, welcome Sam! 

SM: Honored. Thank you for having me, Aviva. 

AL: Oh, my pleasure. So I love hearing about your background. I’d love to hear a little bit about you from your perspective and what drew you to working with families on college funding. 

SM: So my background has been in finance and audit, working for companies like Disney, JP Morgan, and similar companies that we’re focused on finding solutions wherever that problem is and uncovering those. I had a friend of mine that was in the college planning space, and I had no idea what that really meant. But he said, “Sam, you’d be perfect for this. You can help a lot of families”. And so eventually I made my way into looking at it, and I did like finding the right puzzle piece. So that’s what drew me to this industry. Played a lot of the background that I had and learned a lot more over the years, and we’re able to kind of put that together to benefit families. 

AL: That’s great. So you’ve had a nice long history in this field, and I know you’ve learned some best practices. So I’d love to hear your perspective on if I have a child in 9th grade or 5, have a child in 11th grade, or maybe I have a 3-year-old like I do. What are some steps that I can take to set my family up for success financially when I know I have at least one child, if not more, who wants to apply to college and we have to find a way to pay for it? 

SM: Yeah, that’s a great question. I get that a lot. I think one of the most important things to understand about this process is that what maybe the mainstream may not necessarily be the best way to handle things. We hear a lot of parents, you know, they either got told by their accountant, the financial person, or neighbor to put money aside in a vehicle or to do something that they did themselves, and it can sometimes end up backfiring on the family. So how do we avoid that? Well, first thing to understand is it’s always a good idea to save and save early. So not waiting to when the kids are like in middle school to start putting money aside, even if it’s just a couple of hundred dollars a month that adds up over time. Just understand that putting money in an investment vehicle, whatever sort it could lose value. You can make some money, you can make gains, but you want to make sure that there’s no restrictions to access that money if needed. You want to make sure that whatever vehicle that you are considering that does not get held against you for college financial aid purposes or have penalties to access that money, it’s not used for college. 

AL: So it sounds like liquidity is a huge factor, right? In planning for College funding, would you say? So we should try to make our assets more liquid. Is that what you would recommend? 

SM: So this is where I’m getting to: when I talk to a client, you’ll be surprised how often circumstances have changed. Maybe while their kids are in elementary or middle school, their income where their business is producing some kind of income, that maybe they would consider themselves outside of realm of financial aid. And then something like a pandemic happens or something else. And all of a sudden, circumstances change. And what was probably not going to produce any kind of financial aid now that family could qualify for a ton of money. The problem is, what has happened over the years has caused them to disqualify themselves based on how they’ve invested. So just making sure that in case things do change, you have that liquidity to get out of that situation to improve your financial savings.

VO: College Admissions Real Talk is hosted by Aviva Legatt, edited by Stephanie Carlin, and produced by Incontrera Consulting. I’m Caroline Stokes and this has been your daily boost of college admissions insight. Have a question? Text Dr. Legatt at 610-222-5762. For more information on Dr. Legatt and Ivy Insight visit www.ivyinsight.com. And you can pick up Dr. Legatt’s book, “Get Real and Get In”, at major retail outlets across the world. Insight out.