Facebook’s Timelines And Your Special Needs Planning
Rob Wrubel CFP®, AIF®
Facebook has a feature called Timeline. It shows your posting and interaction history of your life on Facebook starting from now and working backward. It is a rear-view mirror of your life as lived on the social media site.
Blueprints – our financial planning process for families with special needs – is oriented towards the future – towards thinking about and making the type of life do you want to see, live and enjoy. Unlike Facebook postings, there are no pictures or funny image or stories to tell yet. There are hopes, dreams and ambitions, stress and worries, possibilities and opportunities. The stories will be written after they are lived and enjoyed.
It is up to us to make these possibilities come out the way we hope and dream. Of course, we cannot control the outcomes or ensure that they happen. We can move ourselves, our families and our behaviors in the right direction to plan and work towards the best outcomes for our families.
One step to take is to map out parts of the future with a timeline. Generally speaking, we know when certain life events will take place. Some of the timeline pieces may have passed for your family so just skip them. Add others that fit your family.
Take out a piece of paper and pencil to get started with key ages or desired life events for your family.
- First day of kindergarten
- First day of middle school/high school
- Age 18 of special needs person
- Transition programs
- Age 21
- Independent living
- Expected future education needs
- Expected future medical issues – if any
- Purchase of a second home
- Start a business
- Death of one or both parents
Certain events are crucial to helping make the right outcomes take place for your family.
Age 18 is the age when some governmental benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income, can first be used. The cash received can make a big difference for your family even as your special needs family member lives at home.
Age 18 is also the time when most families apply for guardianship if it will be necessary. Guardianship allows for a family member to be the responsible party for medical decisions, living arrangements, social settings, asset protection and for other times where important decisions must be made. Many people with special needs act as their own guardians. The choice of who should be guardian, person with special needs, Mom, Dad or someone else may be a difficult decision for your family. You will want to spend time in advance of the 18th birthday talking with other people and professionals to determine the need for guardianship and who should fill that role.
Age 21 is the time when transition services through school districts end. Transition programs allow for your family member with special needs to stay in supported programs offered by the school district. These programs are geared towards encouraging independence and may involve working, life training, social and day programs or volunteering. Unfortunately, the time after age 21 means a loss of programs, involvement and opportunities for many people with special needs. Colorado, for instance, has a long waiting list estimated at 14 years for people to be served by comprehensive benefits that open the door to government funded programs. How do you plan to cover the gap in activity and funding from age 21 to the point where benefits are available?
The timelines of special needs planning are geared towards understanding key moments and preparing for them. You will need to be ready financially, emotionally and intellectually. Events on the timeline require forethought and preparation. Take the step of independent living for example. At what age will you aim to have your special needs family live some place other than your home? Will it be in a host home, group home or truly independent? Who will provide supports? You will likely need to research which supported living and supported working non-profits in your community have the best reputations and can provide care in a way that is meaningful and sustainable for your family.
The timeline is one step in the special needs planning process. It is used to get you thinking about important future needs and goals for your family member with special needs. It helps take all those thoughts zooming around and get them down in an organized way. Financial planning, saving and investing cannot be done well without knowing what you wish to have happen. Once those goals are written down, the process of funding them can start.
Facebook’s timeline is fun – a time to look at your life or a friend’s life and see where they have been and what they have been thinking. Have fun with your Blueprint’s timeline and enjoy thinking about the future you wish to have.
Rob Wrubel CFP®, AIF®, is a Senior Vice President – Investments with Cascade Investment Group, member FINRA & SIPC. Rob is also a father of a daughter with Down syndrome. Cascade Investment Group is not a tax or legal advisor. You should always consult with your tax advisor or attorney before taking any actions that may have tax consequences.719-632-0818