It’s the big day: the FAFSA is here! So, you need to file it right away, right? Not exactly.

First, schools generally won’t do anything with your FAFSA until they have an application from your student, so the earliest you need it done is the end of this month if you’re applying Early Decision or Early Action. Remember that the main factor that you can influence at this point in the FAFSA is your assets, since income is from 2018’s tax return and assets are on the date you file. So here are some factors to consider:

  • When do you make big monthly payments such as your mortgage, rent or credit card bill? You want to file after those funds have left your checking account.
  • When do you get paid? You might file the day before pay day to minimize the balance in your checking account.
  • Do you have any stock options or RSUs vesting or ESPP shares coming in in the near future? If so, you’ll want to file before those are yours because all are counted as assets.
  • Expecting a bonus? If so, file before that hits your bank account.
  • Will you be making IRA or charitable contributions for 2019? If so, make the contributions before filing the FAFSA to keep those dollars off your balance sheet.

The FAFSA is not the Avengers: You don’t have to be there on opening night.