rQuestion: “My father is going through early onset Alzheimer’s and I am watching the financial and emotional stress it is taking on him and my mother. I can only imagine if that happened to my wife and I while we trying to care for our son with autism. What can we do?
Your concern is becoming more and more common due to the fact we are all living longer, and with long life usually comes the need for caregiving. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, almost 70% of Americans turning 65 today will need some type of long-term care (LTC) as they age. And 20% will likely need care for five or more years. Given that the annual cost of that care can extend into six figures, that’s a daunting prospect for many retirees and their families. The question becomes, “How do I plan for this unknown, while I have the known needs of my son for his lifetime?”
For most parents, having a child with autism means you must not only plan for your lifetime of needs (including your retirement and long term health care needs), but also the lifetime needs of your child with autism. This can seem like a daunting task, but with a step-by-step plan, it can be done in digestible stages. We suggest the following steps:
- Define your vision and needs and your son’s needs for the rest of your and his lifetime.
- Attach a cost to those needs
- Determine where the resources will come from. For instance, your assets or insurance, Government benefits, family help or inheritance
- Select the legal and financial tools you will need to make your vision and your son’s a reality
It can be quite a financial challenge to pay for your own long term care needs and then ensure your son has enough assets to live on for his lifetime. In the past, there was only one choice for Long Term Care Insurance, which was a long term care insurance policy that covered the cost of care in a nursing home, assisted living, or in your home (care was provided by a licensed home health care professional and overseen by a physician). However, over the past few years, more options have arrived that should also be considered.
Due to the fact that most families do not have an endless supply of financial resources, it is important to choose your spending and savings carefully. This is where many “Hybrid” long-term care tools need to be researched. For instance, annuities with long term care features exist that can be used as a future savings tool for parents, and if long term care is needed, these annuities will provide a multiple of the value of the annuity to pay for long term care. Life insurance with Long Term Care riders is also available. This can be an attractive tool because if the parents do not need the long term care benefit, then the life insurance death benefit is still used to fund the lifetime needs of your child (most likely funding a Special Needs Trust in order to protect needs based Government Benefits.)
As with all areas of planning, please research thoroughly before moving forward, and consult professionals. Due to the intricacies of this type of planning, it is critical to have a qualified special needs advisor create a plan, and then educate you on all the options that make sense for your family.
For more information on how to prepare for the future, be sure to contact a financial advisor who specializes in serving families with special needs. A Special Needs Plan is driven by what they call Unleash L.I.F.E.™—L.I.F.E. meaning Lasting Independence For Everyone™. This is accomplished with education, action, and support in the creation, implementation, and continued monitoring of a specifically-designed lifelong and integrated plan for your family of parents, caregivers, your loved one with special needs, and their siblings.
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Ryan F. Platt is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory, and financial planning through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC (www.sipc.org). A Special Needs Plan is not subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or it affiliated companies. This article is not a recommendation or endorsement of any products.
This article was featured in Issue 54 – Surviving Family Challenges