By Annie Aaroe
Joseph sits alone in his room for much of the day, he likes it better this way. He can listen to the music he likes, spend time looking at Facebook, and watch movies. However, at around 3’clock each day, his mentor, April, knocks on the door letting him know it’s time for the daily walk. Joseph looks forward to this time. He knows it’s good for him, and he likes getting April to laugh at his jokes. He often tells his favorite joke, it’s almost always a winner.
Joseph has Down Syndrome and he lives in his own apartment attached to his parent’s. About a year ago Joseph turned 21, and with the help of everyone in the family, the garage was refinished into a studio apartment for Joseph to move into. They had been planning the move for a few years, so they found Joseph a mentor he enjoys, to help with the transition.
Planning for a child with special needs doesn’t always go so smoothly. It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to raise a child through age 17. When a child has special needs, especially if those needs are severe, the cost can be five or even ten times higher. Not only is it expensive, but families have many balls to juggle, from managing their child’s health to navigating the government benefits system, as well as dealing with unique social and emotional issues. By developing a plan early, and understanding the unique savings techniques available for families with a special needs child, it is possible to build and achieve the best life possible.
The first thing families should do is make sure they are properly saving money so as to maintain eligibility for government assistance. The reality is that even wealthy families can run out of money. If income is not distributed properly, it can disqualify individuals from government programs, and paying for special schooling and adult care can become prohibitive. There are many options available, as well as life insurance policies that can help ensure the funds are sufficient to support a child, even after the parents have died.
The difficult part is navigating the system and formulating a plan. Even though there are more than 40 million people in the US living with physical or mental disabilities, less than 1000 financial planning professionals in this country specialize in special needs planning. At Birch Wealth, owner Iris Buczkowski, knows firsthand about special needs planning. She helps her clients identify the issues they will face in the future and helps them develop strategies to cope with whatever comes.
If families work with dedicated professionals, they can develop a comprehensive plan that ensures not only the proper resources for their special needs child, but also one that incorporates siblings into the overall financial picture. At practices like Birch Wealth, the focus is on life centered planning, which includes services; such as doctors, mentors, and living arrangements, as well as person centered goals for things like hobbies and friendships. Once families have a plan, they can begin to develop a timeline for the plan and determine which savings goals to target first.
Parents of all children feel overwhelmed at times. Having financial security for your family can help ease a lot of worry and stress. Chose to work with a professional who understands not only the big picture but can appreciate that sometimes the struggles of the day outweigh those that may come in the future. Iris is as passionate as she is fluent in special needs planning. It’s one of her superpowers, and she can help make it yours.
Annie Aaroe is a freelance writer and owner of Aaroe Writing Find her at http://www.aaroewriting.com