A Passion For Planning
By Rob Wrubel, CFP®
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Recently, someone asked me to tell my story about my family and why I specialize in financial planning for families with special needs members. Readers of my monthly newsletter know that I discuss a wide variety of topics in this newsletter but I do not think many of you know my personal story.
Financial planning is my second career and I started it shortly after my son was born nine years ago. I wish I had started earlier. From the very start, I saw that I could help people sort through the overload of financial information, budgeting, insurance and investment products and help them focus on a realistic, achievable plan to meet their personal goals.
My first year was exciting as I began working with clients, many of whom I still work with today. I was also getting my financial plan together—increasing my retirement savings, reducing debt and investing for the future. I started a college fund for my newborn son, made sure we had term insurance and got our wills in place. We were on the path that so many people go down when they start a new family and planning for the future. My wife soon was pregnant with our second child. Sarah is 18 months younger than our son Benjie. She has Down syndrome.
Sarah also had an “exciting” start to her life. She was in the hospital seven weeks before coming home, and then had heart surgery at six months and pneumonia at a year. Now she is in great health, doing well and incredibly active and engaged. Her first year was long for her and us. We discovered that life with a person with a developmental disability would likely have some differences than life with our typical son. We were introduced to the need for therapy—speech, occupation, physical, music. We learned about the public benefits and how to engage local organizations. We found non-profits that could help in many different ways.
A funny thing happened. We discovered that many of our friends and acquaintances had a brother or sister, mother or father, or someone with Down syndrome or other developmental or emotional disabilities in their families. An invisible population jumped out at us in a flash. We thought we were in a new world alone, and we were wrong. It turns out that close to 15% of the families in the U.S. have a disabled family member.
I also discovered that our financial and legal planning needed to change. It needed to incorporate the available government benefits, our likely need to be able to pay for additional support for the rest of our lives and Sarah’s and to be able to find ways to enrich the quality of her life today and in the future.
Still, many aspects of our financial life did not change. We have to save for our own retirement. That means putting as much as we can into my 401(k) and other accounts that might be open to us like IRAs and Roth IRAs. We now have three children and will save for college education for them. Right now, there are a number of higher education opportunities for people with development disabilities. We do not know if Sarah will be able to attend these but we sure hope she has the opportunity. We have increased our life insurance coverage as time passes and reviewed and updated our estate plan. There are some significant differences in planning in our life. All of our financial decisions must be done with Sarah in mind. Savings for her cannot be done in a traditional education vehicle or in her name. She cannot be the beneficiary of our life insurance or retirement accounts. The estate plan includes provisions for her, but not directly to her like with my other children.
The journey as a parent has been incredibly rewarding and taken me and my family down new roads personally and professionally. We have close friends now we never would have met. We have learned to handle our fears of the future (to some degree) and focus on each day. We have found that the work we do with our children, especially Sarah, pays off. Last week, she came home with her spelling test and she had spelled every one of her five words correctly. Last year, she struggled to even write the words and follow the letters on the page.
Professionally, I have dedicated myself to working with special needs families and the non-profits and professionals that serve them. Families with special needs children have significant additional stresses in life. They are busy with appointments, school and often the additional time it takes to live life with someone who needs help. I have become even more passionate about financial planning and advisory work for family and organizations with special needs. The impact is immediate when I start working with a family. Those who take action feel an enormous sense of relief. Working together, we help those people align their investments, savings and legal plan with their long-term goals of caring for themselves and their special needs family member.
We have enough worries of the future. We want our family members to have a social life, to be cared for in a safe and healthy environment. We want them to be fulfilled and happy. A friend told me that I would learn more from Sarah than I would ever teach her. It didn’t take long for that to be true.
Last Chance To Register For The Fall Workshop. Call today to take part in the next Special Needs Workshop on October 14 in Colorado Springs.
Rob Wrubel is available for individual appointments. Call 719-632-0818 to get started today.