Future Independence for Special Needs Linked to Technology and Money
As parents guide their children through the stages of life, there comes a point where adulthood becomes ever so real. That time usually comes somewhere between 14 and 17 years old, when parents realize their child will become an adult and will no longer be attending school. For some of those young adults, they may have some college options or some college-like options, but most will stay in high school through age 21 or 22 and then be welcomed in to the “real” world. This transition is fraught with questions such as:
- Will my child work? If so, where? Do they need supports at work to be successful and to keep the job? Will they earn enough money to support themselves? If not, what do we do?
- Where will my child live? With me? Can they live independently? If they can, do they need supports? What do those supports look like? Who provides them? Who pays for them?
These answers will be different for every individual and every family. We also know that currently many supports in this area have been provided by the government. In 2017, we saw quite a bit of conversation and action on trying to change how some of those government benefits operate, especially Medicaid. It is not surprising that the federal government is trying to change Medicaid. They know the statistics of the ever-increasing number of people on Medicaid, the growing population of adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, and the exploding national debt.
Although no changes to Medicaid occurred, it is quite apparent that the above formula and the political rhetoric points to a high probability of Medicaid not being the future backbone of supports for those with disabilities that it has been in the past. This fact, although challenging, provides families, individuals and the marketplace a great opportunity to go beyond government benefits into a better place, and that better place will include technology.
Technology continues to surge forward and can change the lives of individuals with disabilities. We already see a ride-sharing program for individuals with disabilities in Kansas City that will provide individuals with disabilities more Independence. We also know that technology exists to up-fit homes that can “communicate” with the individuals living in it to remind them to turn off the oven, text them if they forgot to lock the door or set the alarm, provide alarms to take medicine, and we even see Google Glass helping individuals being successful at work.
A young woman diagnosed with autism and considered legally blind is successful as an employee at a veterinarian office because of Google Glass. When this woman needs to know where something is, she does not have to bother a fellow employee, but instead employs Google Glass to scan the room and guide her to the item…that is AWESOME! It is this type of technology and future technology that will help more individuals with autism live on their own and work (at least part-time), but what will it take to get that done. It will take two very important elements, determination and money. Technology costs money.
We cannot avoid the fact that money is necessary for individuals with autism to be successful, and for the most part these adults are not able to fully support themselves. It is becoming increasingly critical, especially as we continue to see attacks on the benefit system, as well as assistance coming from technology, that parents need to have a plan.
It is necessary for parents to understand the cost of a lifetime of support where Medicaid may not be as generous and where technology (that costs money) is needed for their child to live a fairly independent life. This means, a plan must be in place that not only has the correct structure, but also has the proper funding (money). You can start planning with these steps:
- Write down your child’s abilities
- Write down what activities you child needs help with
- Consider your child’s intellectual age. Are you seeing progress in this area? How fast is that progress happening?
Depending on your answers to these questions, you will now be able to determine if you feel your child will be able to work a part time job or a full-time job. You will also be able to determine a level of income that can be expected. We work with hundreds of families who have children that work 30 – 35 hours per week but they are minimum wage jobs, which equates to approximately $13,000 per year in income. Is that enough to pay all their bills? Most likely the answer is NO. You will have to make up the difference.
- Determine the lifetime support costs for your child including possible technology that can help him/her be successful. This is where a professional Special Needs Financial Planner who does this work can be irreplaceable. Without this number, you will have no idea on how to plan moving forward and which financial tools you should deploy for your future and your child’s future.
- Set up a Special Needs Trust to house the money
- Create your child’s Letter of Intent. This is your child’s instruction manual, as well as a future roadmap for the type of living and job environment you can imagine your child flourishing within.
By taking action in these ways, you will be well on your way to relieving the pressure of NOT having a plan, and to providing for your child today and tomorrow!
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 is called Unleash L.I.F.E.™—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 his/her 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. A Special Needs Plan is not subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC, or its affiliated companies. This article is not a recommendation or endorsement of any products.
This article was featured in Issue 71 – Navigating A New Year