Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Getting Your Financial Strategy Done: Who Does What? What's the Process? Don't Have Time to Create a Financial Strategy for Your Family? Afraid of All the Work Involved? Do You Simply Not Know Where to Begin? Here's What It Takes to Get It Done

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Getting Your Financial Strategy Done: Who Does What? What's the Process? Don't Have Time to Create a Financial Strategy for Your Family? Afraid of All the Work Involved? Do You Simply Not Know Where to Begin? Here's What It Takes to Get It Done

Article excerpt

Begin with the help of others

"A friend of mine who's a psychologist once shared a valuable analogy with me, one I share with many of my clients," says Mary-Stuart Carruthers, who has earned the Chartered Special Needs Consultant (ChSNC) (1) designation and is a Special Care Planner (2) with MassMutual Wisconsin (3) in Rockford, Illinois, a general agency of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). "He explained that at times, each of us feels overwhelmed by something--a decision that must be made, a task that must be completed, or simply life in general. You might feel like you're sinking in a large body of water with nothing to cling to. He tells his clients, 'I'll jump into the water with you and we'll swim together.' They'll take on one issue at a time, discussing it until it becomes a little island, a little something to hold onto. Next they'll jump in the water again and take on another issue until it, too, becomes an island, then another until all the islands come together as one large body of land.

"I like the idea of this, the idea of having someone to help tackle a big task a little bit at a time. I help my clients this way, working with them at their pace until eventually they have a financial strategy put together for their family, a large body of land that puts a strong footing under them."

Your financial team

When it comes to creating a financial strategy, you aren't alone, as the analogy above illustrates. There are a number of people who may be on your team (or in the water with you), including your accountant, banker, even social services representatives you may work with, but primarily, there are three key players--you, a financial professional trained in special needs planning, such as a Special Care Planner, and an attorney who has experience in serving people with special needs. So, who does what?

You

Your role is to carefully and honestly look at your financial picture. What's it like now, and what would you like to see change? What's your current cash flow? What do you want it to be? What are the current needs of your family member who has special needs? What will that person's future be? Be ready to pull together all your financial information. Be willing to evaluate your situation and be open to consider suggested options. And be ready to answer some tough questions.

A Special Care Planner

As part of your team of professionals, a Special Care Planner can be your advocate and help you develop a life care plan for your loved one. They can also provide referrals to community organizations and other organizations who can assist families with special needs.

The Special Care Planner will ask the tough questions, the ones clients know they must explore, but may be avoiding. "For example, a couple may have a daughter with special needs and a son with a natural nurturing ability and strong love for his sister," says Carruthers. "However, until a discussion takes place, the parents may not know the son doesn't want the full responsibility of care giver to his sister. We'll talk about the daughter's level of independence, future residential options, how to choose a guardian, her eligibility for government benefits and how that may impact the family's financial strategy, and more."

Will their daughter ever hold a job? Will a parent quit a job to stay home and provide full-time care? "Yes, we deal with finances," explains Carruthers, "but there are all these auxiliary issues to talk about. We can't do a good strategy without discussing them, because our work is client centered, not product centered."

An attorney

Most financial strategies will include elements that will need an attorney's expertise. An attorney who has experience with special needs will know how to structure wills, powers of attorney (medical or financial) and trusts so they work in conjunction with the complete financial strategy. …

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