Reader’s Perspective: Q&A with Dr. John Karaffa, CPA, CFP, PFS, Founder and President of ProSport CPA in Quinton, Virginia

By Paul Curley, CFA | | January 16, 2019

How does this author and accountant help his professional athlete clientele to win championships in the college financial planning process?

This article features an interview with Dr. John Karaffa, CPA, CFP, PFS, Founder and President of ProSport CPA, which is a leading tax firm for professional athletes that currently helps over 500 clients across all major sports. Based in Quinton, Virginia, John has been helping clients for over 30 years. Within his role, he currently holds the designations of Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and Personal Financial Specialist (PFS). Building upon his experience in working with professional athletes, he is the author of a newly published book titled, “Touchdown Finance: Personal Finance Tips from the Pros.” You can learn more about John at the website of Last but not least, thank you John for your time, insight and support in working with me on the article. Please read the question and answers to learn about his perspective on college financial planning, and hope that the article provides you with an opportunity to learn more from your peers.

Question 1 (Paul Curley, Editor of the 529 Dash): How have you worked with clients in the past on college financial planning?

Answer 1 (Dr. John Karaffa, CPA, CFP, PFS, Founder and President of ProSport CPA): Yes, I have helped others in college financial planning, and I have also learned about it from personal experience through my oldest son who graduated college in 2017. Since my clientele is primary professional athletes in their 20s, educational planning mostly revolves around the funding of 529 plans for very young children.

Some of the professional leagues also have tuition benefits, so some of the consultations we have are with players who left college early and who want to complete their college degrees.

Question 2: When there was still a college affordability gap with your clients, do you suggest student loans and why?

Answer 2: Yes, I have been an advocate for taking out student loans to help meet the costs of education. The rates are relatively low, compared to other types of unsecured debt, and student loan interest is tax-deductible. Moreover, a college education is very important for one’s lifetime earnings potential, so I’m a major proponent of finding a way to earn a degree, even if it means graduating with a modest amount of student debt. I also advise others to consider alternatives to lower college costs.

From personal experience with my oldest son, knowing that he would have some skin in the game and would have to take on some student loans caused him to make some good financial decisions. This was accomplished by laying out the financials of what his debt would be upon graduation in a spreadsheet. I showed him what college would cost if he went a full four years at his brick-and-mortar state school, and then I showed him how he could shave off a third of the costs through earning college credits outside of his University. He chose wisely and graduated in three years. He was able to realize significant cost savings through CLEP, summer school at a community college, maximizing his course-load during the school year, juggling a couple community college courses at the same time during his sophomore year at his University, and by receiving elective hours in recognition of the training he received through his military service.

Question 3: What do you see as the largest roadblock or blind spot for your clients?

Answer 3: For my professional athlete clientele, the largest personal financial roadblock is the lack of knowledge and experience in dealing with money. Athletes coming out of college are earning the most money they will ever earn, at the time they know the least about it! Combine that with a lot of peer pressure from family, friends, and teammates to “live large” and to take care of everyone around them, and a lot of money of their wealth evaporates. Personal financial education for young people in America needs improvement. My book, Touchdown Finance, is targeted to those, who normally wouldn’t read a personal finance book because they would rather be following their favorite sports teams. By leveraging well-known athletes, their stories, and their tips, I hope to tackle financial literacy with 7 simple rules that can help readers make better financial decisions.

Question 4: How can 529 product providers and state agencies improve from your perspective?

Answer 4: We are blessed to live in Virginia, which is a state with a lot of great colleges and universities, and who has had a strong prepaid tuition 529 plan.

Some thoughts, features, and recommendations I have for state and 529 plans are as follows:
1) Provide the ability to buy tuition in the smaller increments, such as semesters, at community colleges and/or Universities.
2) Offer income tax credits or deductions for contributing to 529 college savings plans.
3) Illustrate more the various paths, combinations, and costs thereof to attaining a college degree (i.e. four-year university vs. two-years community college plus two-years university).
4) Perhaps states can band together to offer regional prepaid 529 plans, as opposed to state-specific only. This could encourage more participation in prepaid plans, if parents and families knew there were more options down the road.

Question 5: Where can readers go to learn more?

Answer 5: My book Touchdown Finance: Personal Finance Tips from the Pros, is available for purchase now on Amazon, which covers all of the basics of financial planning from with an athletic twist. To learn more about my firm, and to contact me directly with any financial questions, visit

Editor’s Final Note: Thank you John for your time and insight in working with me on the article, and much appreciated. Also, I would like to provide a special thank you to the readers of the article for learning from your peers, for your support and your engagement. Have the college financial planning discussion with your clients today.