With the rising cost of living and stagnating wages, it has become increasingly financially tricky for parents to raise their children and live comfortably. The pandemic and the consequent economic shock has made things even worse for many middle-class families.
The situation is compounded when raising a child with special needs – such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Balancing the costs of special care, educational support, and therapies with planning for the child’s future when they are an adult, and when you pass on becomes a tricky act.
In this article, we will discuss why and how to budget for your child with special needs. No, not just about budgeting but also about regular children’s everyday lives including gifts. Speaking of gifts, check here for more ideas on that.
Why should you save for your child’s special needs?
Nothing is predictable
Special needs come with their own set of challenges as each child’s conditions are unique and vary significantly. Autism, for example, is a condition diagnosed on a spectrum – meaning some children will have mild symptoms, while others will develop more severe complications. The symptoms can be physical from digestion, speech, and motor skill function-related conditions or mental/psychological, such as social anxiety, anger, etc.
The development of the disorder can be unpredictable and can happen at different ages for different children. Depending on the situation, your child may require other therapists and specialist care.
You will also require someone to advocate on your behalf to acquire the resources you need from the schools and institutions that work with those with special needs. You will need to consider the cost of legal services to acquire the resources you need to help your child.
The Specialists Care
From speech therapists, behavioral therapists, child psychologists, psychiatrists, physiotherapists, and special educators, there are several areas of expertise you will need to consult for your child with special needs.
Government or Private Insurance doesn’t cover everything
Your government or private health insurance will cover some of these services. However, you will find out not all of the services will be covered. Even of those covered, there will be a maximum amount of how much your insurer will cover for those services.
Parents will have lower earning abilities
Additionally, you have to account for the fact that one of the parents may not be able to earn to their full potential due to reduced hours or forgoing demanding career opportunities throughout the child-rearing years of your child with special needs.
What Happens When They Grow Up?
Some of these special needs will remain with your child for the rest of their life. This requires careful planning of what will happen when they reach the age of majority, and how they will continue to live their lives comfortably with the resources they need.
These are some of the reasons why you should save and budget for your child’s special needs to give them the best life they can live.
How to Save for Your Child with Special Needs?
There are several factors to consider – both external and internal – before you can meaningfully start to save and budget for your child’s needs. Not all parents’ abilities will be the same, and the resources they can acquire will vary. We hope that we will live in a society where the collective will take care of those in need – such as children with special needs. There will still be some heavy-lifting you, as a parent, have to do. Here are some tips to help you save money.
Research Your Options
First, you need to assess your jurisdiction’s services and resources for your child’s special needs. Research what government services your child can access to help them.
Most special needs services and therapies are provided by public services based on a means-tested income level. Similarly, your private health insurer will also have provisions to help with services for your child’s unique needs. Your first step will be to research and get acquainted with the processes involved in acquiring those government and insurance-covered services. This will provide the roadmap of how much of the costs you will shoulder on your own.
Save Every Month
Every savings plan starts small. When you have a confirmed diagnosis of your child’s condition, start putting away money in a reserve fund dedicated solely to the child’s special needs. Yes, this also includes budgeting for their gifts as well.
The trajectory of your life will alter once you receive your child’s diagnosis. Consider the family budget and the fixed expenses and see where you can scale back. Whether it is downsizing to a smaller home, putting off buying a bigger house, or giving up some of your expensive hobbies, even downsizing to sensible affordable cars instead of costly leases, are all steps you and your partner will need to consider. For more tips on how to save money and budget, check out our post on Let’s talk money! 6 ways to save money.
Plan For The Future
As soon as your child turns 18, they will have the right to make their own decisions about their lives. As we all know, some of their conditions will not allow them to make those decisions with a sound mind. Therefore, you need to plan for what happens when your child turns into an adult. They will have a different set of government benefits and services that their guardian (you) will need to help them access.
If you know your child will not be able to make decisions for themselves, you will need to apply for the legal guardianship order through the courts – so you become the decision-maker in your child’s life. This process takes months and thousands of dollars to complete. Be sure to plan for that.
Plan for When You Are Not Around
Depending on inheritance and the sum of money your child may inherit from you when you pass on, their government benefits might get cut off. This is why you will need to plan for when you pass on. Your child will need all the resources – government benefits and their inheritance – to continue functioning in society as a healthy adult with special needs.
In most cases, you and your loved ones can leave behind the sum of money they would inherit in a special needs trust account. Be sure to have that discussion with the child’s grandparents and relatives if they are planning on leaving behind some money for the child’s welfare. You can also purchase additional life insurance policies that will also provide the funds necessary when you are gone. For more inspirations on financial planning, check out our post on financial independence.
A child with special needs will live a very different life than you and your parents and partner. While many parents focus on the medical and social services support, the financial planning aspect is just as important. You will need to carefully plan for your children’s future with special needs from day one of diagnosis. Careful planning will leave them with the security of resources to help them live the best life they can.