Financial Planning for Special Needs Families

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Ask any parent what their number one priority is and they’ll all have the same answer. Our children—their health, happiness and well-being—come before anything else. It makes sense that much of our financial planning is centered on giving them the best life we can.

Raising kids isn’t cheap, but many families also face additional costs they perhaps never anticipated. More and more children are being diagnosed with emotional challenges that require a significant amount of time, energy and resources to manage. For many parents, it’s a full-time job that has very real financial implications.

Lifetime care for someone with autism affected by an intellectual disability comes in at $2.3 million. Similarly, raising a child with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is five times more expensive than raising a child without the diagnosis.

Numbers like these will likely make you flinch, but we help families continue to grow their wealth in the face of all kinds of challenges. All it takes is a little preparation, forethought and expert guidance. If you’re raising children with emotional challenges, you certainly aren’t alone. Shoring up your finances begins with understanding the financial reality.

The Cost of Therapy and Medication

Every condition, and child, is different. Some of the most common pediatric mental health disorders include ADHD, anxiety and behavior disorders. Autism spectrum disorders make up another large piece of the pie, affecting one in every 59 children in the U.S.

Interventions vary from child to child. The first step is having your child evaluated, which costs some families anywhere between $700 to $2,000. The kicker is that insurance doesn’t always foot the bill. if you aren’t sure where to begin, your pediatrician is a great starting point for resources and referrals. From there, check with your insurance company to see what’s included in your coverage.

Different types of therapies may be part of your child’s routine, from speech and play therapy to occupational and physical therapy. Again, insurance plans are unique in terms of what they’ll cover. Some services are provided free of charge within the public school system, but some children benefit from more frequent visits, which parents have to pay for out of pocket.

You may be able to get some financial relief when it comes time to file your taxes. Qualifying medical expenses that exceed 10 percent of your income are tax deductible. This includes insurance premiums, therapeutic swimming and more.

The Potential Loss of Income

Your child’s health care costs don’t paint the whole picture. For many families, one parent is forced to either scale back at work or leave the workforce altogether in order to care for children with emotional challenges. One study found that mothers who have an autistic child, on average, earn 56 percent less income. This loss of cash flow can change your family’s financial dynamic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t adjust and adapt.

Any trusted advisor can tell you that financial planning changes as we move through different stages of life. The earlier you can sit down together to make a plan, the better. Beyond your monthly cash flow, how will a change in your work life affect your retirement contributions? And, most importantly, how can you tweak your financial strategy to accommodate your new income level?

Planning for Your Child’s Future

We all know that parenting doesn’t end when your child turns 18. Our love for them lasts a lifetime. Children with special needs often require additional supports well into adulthood. Will your child need long-term care as an adult? Or any other long-lasting supports or resources?  This is a long-term savings goal that isn’t unlike preparing for retirement—the earlier you begin, the better. And no matter what, it’s never too late to start planning.

While none of us can fully predict what the future holds, we can certainly take life’s challenges and use them to shape our financial planning. At JJ Burns & Company, we work side by side with families to understand their unique expenses, then customize a wealth management plan that’s designed to help them thrive and grow; no matter what life throws their way.

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