Reporting Assets on the FAFSA

The FAFSA requires you complete sections regarding your family’s assets and net worth of investments. Many families are confused about what they should and should not include when responding to these questions. Here’s a simple breakdown of what you should and should not include.

Cash, Savings & Checking Account Balances

When asked to list your (and your spouse if applicable) and your parents’ (if applicable) current cash, savings, and checking account balances...

DO respond with the combined amounts as of the date you are filing the FAFSA. They ask you to report cash because some families actually keep sizable amounts of cash in safe deposit boxes or otherwise outside of banks.

Net Worth of Investments

This is where the FAFSA gets tricky and sometimes confusing.

DO include the following investments:

  • Real estate other than the home you live in
  • UGMA and UTMA accounts
  • Money market funds
  • Mutual funds
  • Certificates of deposit (CD’s)
  • Stocks
  • Stock options
  • Bonds
  • Other securities
  • Installment and land sale contracts including mortgages held
  • Commodities investments (gold, silver, etc)
  • Qualified educational benefits or education savings accounts such as Coverdell savings accounts, 529 college savings plans, the refund value of 529 prepaid tuition plans

DON'T include these investments:

  • The equity available in the home you live in
  • The value of life insurance
  • The value of retirement plans such as 401k plans, pension funds, annuities, non-education IRAs, Keogh plans, UGMA and UTMA accounts for which you are the custodian but not the owner

You will also be asked about the value of your businesses and investment farms. Business and/or investment farm value includes the market value of land, buildings, machinery, equipment, inventory, etc. However, business/farm value does not include the value of a small business your family owns and controls more than 50% if that business has fewer than 100 full time or full time equivalent emmployees. Also, the value of a family farm does not include a family farm you (your spouse and/or your parents) live on and operate.

Remember also that the FAFSA is asking for net worth of investments–the value of the investments minus any debt owed against them. Debt here means only debt owed against a particular investment or in the case of a business or farm where the business/farm was used as collateral to secure the debt.