Advisor Profile: Michael Scott, CRPC® & Brendan Sheehan,
Many families will face an unanticipated event or
circumstance at some point that might require a financial
change of plans. For those who have a child with special
needs, this change is long-term and can greatly impact a
family's financial and lifestyle goals.
Having a child or children with special needs can be
rewarding in many ways, but careful planning for the future
is critical. Ameriprise financial advisors Michael Scott
and Brendan Sheehan focus on working with clients who have
a family member or members with special needs, and have
witnessed the challenges that come along with it. "These
families need to plan for uncertainty - and that can be a
very difficult thing to do financially and emotionally,"
says Michael, who is a board member for the National
Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
One in four families have a loved one with mental illness,1
but unfortunately it can be difficult to find professionals
that are familiar with the hurdles these families face.
Michael recommends that families ensure the professionals
they work with are aligned. "Your psychologist or
psychiatrist, attorney, financial advisor and any other
professionals you work with make up a team," he says. "I
often act as a 'coach' to bring everyone together to
discuss and coordinate plans for a family's overall
situation. No aspect of planning for the future - whether
it's financial, legal, or related to healthcare - can be
completely considered without the other parts."
Many parents find it difficult to balance their own
financial needs with those of their child, so taking an
objective perspective is key to effective planning.
"Naturally, a parent tends to put the needs of their child
before anything else, but this can become problematic if
they neglect to plan for their own long-term situation,"
says Brendan. "The basic question to ask yourself about
ongoing care or financial obligations for your child is,
'Can we really afford this and for how long?'"
To help answer these questions and establish a balance, he
suggests visualizing each need as a "bucket" and then
dividing one's assets to fund each one. Some of the
categories the family can begin with are their own
retirement, their child's education and future care,
healthcare expenses, an emergency fund and other
A person with special needs may never be financially
independent, which can be emotionally difficult for a
parent of a special needs child to consider. "One of
the hardest things that parents must do is to plan for how
their child will be cared for after their family members
are no longer able help physically or financially. I find
with new clients that many families are unaware of all the
options available to them as they plan for this," says
Michael. "Doing the research, creating a written financial
plan and ensuring that all the proper documents are in
place is absolutely crucial to the financial security of
you and your child. It may take some time and resources,
but you likely won't regret it."
1 Source: Nami.org
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