Special Needs Financial Planning
It's Spring Break in Wisconsin, a highly anticipated time where some families head to the airport for a flight down to warmer weather. It's the time where we bridge the distance between winter and spring and hope to bring the sun, sand, and warmth from the South back to Wisconsin! Most of the time, the arrival back home is a few weeks of gray skies, rain showers, and the anticipation of May flowers.

Those who travel by airplane experience the safety directions read by flight attendants in preparation for takeoff:

"Oxygen and the air pressure are always being monitored. In the event of decompression, 
an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the
mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth. Secure the elastic band behind
your head  and breathe normally. Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the
mask. If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, 
secure  your mask  on first, and then assist the other person."

I use this analogy often in my practice when working with parents as I attempt to put this in terms that are more easily understood. In taking care of your children, those with special needs and without, one of the most important things you can do is make sure you are taking care of yourself first.  Of course, I am writing this from the perspective of a financial advisor; therefore, my focus will be on financial health and wellness.
Your Financial Health First...
1) Retirement Planning
There never seems to be enough dollars to go around, especially while  raising a family. Even if you think you are going to work forever, you may not be able to. Prioritizing retirement planning for you and/or your spouse are a must if you are going to have the means to care for your child with special needs while in retirement.
  • Are you saving for retirement?
  • Do you know which is the most appropriate vehicle for saving? 401(k) vs. IRA vs. Roth IRA?
  • If you have any type of retirement account, do you know how the beneficiaries are listed? Will the assets go to your child with special needs directly?

If you are employed and work for a company with a retirement plan consider enrolling if you have not done so.  If your employer offers a matching contribution, make sure to contribute up to the match to take full advantage of this "free money".

If you are not working outside of the home, but your spouse is, consider contributing to a Spousal IRA. 

2)  Insurance Planning
Managing for the what if's in life are necessary when you are a parent and supporting a family. Your paycheck that pays the bills, puts food on the table, and keeps the lights on is an important one. What if you were injured or sick and unable to work for a period of time?
  • Do you understand what your employer offers if you were not able to work for a period of time?
  • Do you have the means to continue to pay your monthly obligations if you missed several weeks or months of your paycheck?
  • Do you have others in your life who could take over the needs of your loved one with special needs if you were not able to care for them because of an illness or injury?

According to the Council of Disability Awareness 1 in 4 of today's 20 year old's will become disabled before they die.  Accidents are not usually the culprits;  back injuries, cancer, and heart disease cause the majority of long term absences.  Disability Insurance is an important part of your financial well being, do you have any?

3) Investment Planning
Almost all of us are "investors" whether we know it or not. We need the opportunity to invest in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds to allow for the potential of our savings to grow over time. With this opportunity comes risk. After 8 solid years of strong investment performance in the S&P 500, there are some who are asking when the next market downturn will be, and what can be done to prepare for this?
  • Do you understand how you have your accounts invested?
  • Have you evaluated your risk tolerance and made sure that your investments match your tolerance for the ups and downs that can occur while investing?
  • Are you nearing retirement and thinking of beginning to use your investment accounts to replace your paycheck when you retire? Do you understand the sequence of return and how taking money out when the market is down could impact how long this money may last?

Brinson, Hood and Beebower completed a study which noted that asset allocation—not investment acumen or market timing—accounts for more than 90 percent of an investment's return.

Asset allocation is supposed to limit the downside by spreading risk around. When some asset classes falter, others rise, the thinking goes.  Consider completing a review of all of your investments to determine if you have proper diversification and asset allocation to manage your investment risk. 

So what does this all mean?

It is OK if you have not necessarily put your financial well being first. You aren't alone, it can be difficult for parents to manage all the financial obligations in the 21st century. I know that sometimes it's easier to live in the day-to-day, to focus on the moment, and enjoy the present! Our loved ones who have special needs have helped to teach us this life lesson.

But it's also important to have a BALANCE and make the time to manage and monitor your financial health. It gets complicated when you are saving for 2 generations, and taking the appropriate steps to manage your financial life to meet this need should be a priority! The investment will pay dividends in the future...

As a Financial Advisor, I help parents and families each day manage, prioritize, and get things done! If you are looking for that extra help to take control, identify your goals,  and understand your financial needs, then I am here to help.  Contact me for a Complimentary Discovery Meeting, so we can get you on track to taking care of your Financial Health First.
                 ABLE Accounts, Policy and Wisconsin Employment Initiatives @ GE Healthcare
Thank you to Jennifer Janowski @ GE Healthcare, and Robbin Lyons with WI Upside Down and the Wisconsin Down Syndrome Advocacy Coalition for their hard work in organizing this special event.  I enjoyed the opportunity to both attend and participate in this presentation.          The main speakers were:
  • Sara Weir - President of the National Down Syndrome Society in Washington DC.  
  • John Macco - Wisconsin State Representative
  • Lisa Pugh - State Director of The ARC Wisconsin. 

Each of these individuals are doing amazing things for the disability community and it was an honor to be in their presence and learn from them.  

My Upcoming Speaking Events

April 6: ABLE and Special Needs Trusts - What can ABLE do for you?

  • 6:30pm
  • CESA 1
  • Pewaukee, Wisconsin

April 26: ABLE and Special Needs Trusts - What can ABLE do for you?

  • 7:00 pm
  • GIGI's Playhouse - Down Syndrome Achievement Center
  • Milwaukee, WI 
  • Co-presenting with Sumeeta Krishnaney
    (Attorney @ Law with Petrie & Pettit)

May 15: Special Needs Financial Planning Through the Lifestages
  • 7:00 pm
  • Resource Night - Cedarburg High School
  • Cedarburg, WI
  • Includes Grafton, Cedarburg, and Mequon-Theinsville Schools

* All entities are separate and not affiliated with LPL Financia

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