7 Financial Steps to Take if You Have a Special Needs Child

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Having a child with special needs changes everything, including financial plans. While other children are expected to eventually become self-sufficient, a special needs child may need care for the rest of his or her life.

“The one thing that keeps us up at night is who is going to fill in for me,” says Kelly Piacenti, head of SpecialCare for MassMutual and the mother of a special needs child. Without proper plans in place, it could be the state that steps in to manage care, and for many parents, that isn’t necessarily reassuring.

Andy Schwartz, a certified financial planner and principal with Bleakley Financial Group in Fairfield, New Jersey, doesn’t have a special needs child, but he is a father. “I would be very uncomfortable with the idea of leaving that child in the hands of the government,” he says. His clients with special needs children often feel the same way.

However, that doesn’t mean these parents don’t get some help from government programs. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid may all provide services that help lighten the load. The key for parents is to find a way to set aside money for their child’s care without inadvertently making them ineligible for government assistance. Here are seven ways to prepare for the potential costs of a special needs child:

Step 1: Find the right expert. Before getting too far into the planning process, parents should seek out experts who have experience in the area. Piacenti says MassMutual has 600 planners who work with special needs families, and there is a Chartered Special Needs Consultant designation available through The American College of Financial Services. Families can also find attorneys who specialize in special needs planning. “They have an incredible vantage point because they work with so many families,” says Christopher Krell, a certified financial planner and principal with financial firm Cassaday & Company in McLean, Virginia.

Step 2: Select the right planning vehicle. In order to remain eligible for government benefits, special needs children need to be practically destitute, Krell says. For some programs, having as little as $2,000 in the bank is enough to disqualify a person. Fortunately, there are two ways to set money aside for a child’s care without disqualifying him or her from government assistance.

  • Supplemental or special needs trust. Money from an estate, life insurance policy or other source can be deposited into a trust. The trust owns the assets, and a designated trustee controls how they are spent.
  • ABLE accounts. Named for the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014, ABLE accounts allow parents to set money aside for their child’s future needs. While there is no tax deduction for contributions, money withdrawn from the account is tax-free so long as it is used for qualified expenses.

Trusts are the less restrictive option, but ABLE accounts are inexpensive and don’t require a lawyer to set up. “The ABLE [accounts] are so great because they are so simple,” Krell says.

Step 3: Carefully select a trustee. Parents setting up a trust need to be thoughtful about who they choose as the trustee. This person will control the assets, so they must be trustworthy above all else. Some parents may prefer to have the trustee be the same as the child’s anticipated caregiver. That way it will be simple for the caregiver to access money as needed.

However, parents shouldn’t assume one of their other children will want to step into that role. “We’re hearing more and more that siblings don’t want to take over and be involved,” Piacenti says. Before naming anyone to be trustee, the family should have a meeting with all involved relatives to determine what roles people are willing and able to play.

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TFS Scholarships Launches Online Toolkit to Provide College Funding Resources

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SALT LAKE CITY— TFS Scholarships (TFS), the most comprehensive online resource for higher education funding, has launched a free online toolkit to provide counselors, families and students with resources to help improve the college scholarship search process. The toolkit, available at tuitionfundingsources.com/resource-toolkit, provides downloadable resources and practical tips on how to find and apply for scholarships.

The launch comes in celebration with Financial Aid Awareness Month when many families are beginning the FAFSA process and researching financial aid options.

“We hope these resources help raise awareness around TFS and the 7 million college scholarships available to undergraduate, graduate and professional students,” said Richard Sorensen, president of TFS Scholarships. “Our goal is to help families discover alternative ways to offset the rising costs of higher education.”

The resource toolkit includes flyers, email templates, newsletter content, digital banners and table toppers which are designed to be shareable content that counselors, students and organizations can use to spread the word about how to find free money for college.

The newly revamped TFS website curates over 7 million scholarship opportunities from across the country – with the majority coming directly from colleges and universities—and matches them to students based on their personal profile, where they want to study, and stage of academic study. By tailoring the search criteria, TFS identifies scholarships that students are uniquely qualified for, thus lowering the application pool and increasing the chances of winning. By creating an online profile, students can find scholarships representing more than $41 billion in aid. About 5,000 new scholarships are added to the database every month and appear in real time.

Thanks to exclusive financial support from Wells Fargo, the TFS website is completely ad-free, and no selling of data, making it a safe and trusted place to search.

For more information about Tuition Funding Sources visit tuitionfundingsources.com.

 

About TFS Scholarships

TFS Scholarships (TFS) is an independent service that provides free access to scholarship opportunities for aspiring and current undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Founded in 1987, TFS began as a passion project to help students and has grown into the most comprehensive online resource for higher education funding. Today, TFS is a trusted place where students and families enjoy free access to more than 7 million scholarships representing more than $41 billion in college funding. In addition to its vast database that’s refreshed with 5,000 new scholarships every month, TFS also offers information about career planning, financial aid, and federal and private student loan programs as part of its commitment to helping students fund their future. Learn more at tuitionfundingsources.com.

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How the new £10 note is helping the blind

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Royal National Institute for Blind People

The new £10 note, which entered circulation last week, features special design elements that will help the blind and partially sighted.

The Bank of England note includes clusters of raised dots in the top left corner that will help people with poor vision to identify its denomination.

It also features bold numbers and raised print.

The central bank said it introduced the braille-like raised dots following a consultation with the Royal National Institute for Blind People.

“These new characteristics should help people living with sight loss distinguish between denominations,” said Steve Tyler, an official at the RNIB.

People with poor vision previously relied on variations in size and color to tell notes apart.

The new note is different in other ways: It features the image of a woman who is not the Queen.

Celebrated author Jane Austen has replaced Charles Darwin as the face of the £10 note following a public campaign that pressured the Bank of England to put a woman on the country’s money.

Men remain on the other notes: Former Prime Minister Winston Churchill is on the £5, economist Adam Smith is on the £20 and steam engine pioneers Matthew Boulton and James Watt feature on the £50.

This is the second British bill to be made out of plastic instead of traditional paper materials. The £5 plastic bill launched in September 2016.

The plastic bills are considered by the central bank to be “safer, stronger and cleaner.”

But the new bills are controversial because trace amounts of animal fat are used in their production. The bank considered switching to a different material, but ultimately decided to stick with the current formula.

The bank plans to distribute just over 1 billion of the new £10 notes across the country. The old £10 bills will be taken out of circulation.

The U.K. launched a new £1 coin earlier this year. It is made of two metals: an outer ring of nickel-brass and an inner ring of nickel-plated alloy.

The old and new £1 coins have very different designs but both feature Queen Elizabeth.

Source: money.cnn.com

PNC CEO: Don’t Overlook Workers With Disabilities

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By Bill Demchak

Nearly one in five Americans lives with a disability. Here in the Pittsburgh region, where my company is headquartered, that works out to about half a million of our neighbors, family, friends and coworkers who face a physical or mental challenge. More than 300,000 of those individuals are working-age adults, yet fewer than 20 percent participate in the labor force and, for those who do, the unemployment rate is more than double the rate for people without disabilities.

That’s just Pittsburgh; the story is the same in the other 35 markets where PNC does business – places like Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago, St. Louis, Birmingham and Minneapolis.  It’s true, as well, in New York, Los Angeles and virtually every community in between.  It’s an issue that doesn’t get nearly enough attention, yet it has far-reaching implications for employers, civic and community leaders, social services providers, and families all across the country.

Tens of thousands of individuals with disabilities who have dropped out of the labor force are capable of working.  But misunderstanding, stereotypes and a lack of access to opportunity have made it difficult or impossible for many to find employment.

Among those who are employed, many worry that their opportunities for advancement will be limited by perceptions about their disabilities and their capacity to make meaningful contributions. And many of those whose disabilities are not obvious — whether they suffer from a disease like multiple sclerosis or a mental disorder such as clinical depression — fear that if they are open about their disabilities with their employers, they will see their career progression grind to a halt.

Those concerns are not unfounded. Misperceptions about disability have given rise to dozens of stereotypes and myths that groups such as the American Association of People with Disabilities have been fighting for years to debunk.

Here in Pittsburgh, I’m proud of the work we’re doing to shine a light on this issue.

In recent years, we at PNC have partnered with other local business and civic leaders to host multiple forums focused on the importance of opening pathways to employment for people with disabilities. A three-day Disability Employment Awareness Summit brought together employers from across the region to hear from national experts and talk about best practices. The Summit also featured a career showcase where individuals with disabilities and their advocates met employers, learned about the industries that make up our regional economy, and could explore potential job opportunities and resources to support their career development.

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Additionally, PNC and other local companies have continued to raise awareness by hosting students with disabilities for job shadowing and mentoring with an eye toward preparing our workforce of the future. It’s been rewarding on a number of levels, and I’d go so far as to say that we learn as much from them about their capabilities as they learn from us about their career options.

Disability employment is personal for me. My older brother, Brian, was born with a disability, but with support from ACHIEVA, an organization that serves more than 14,500 individuals with disabilities and their families here in southwestern Pennsylvania, he was able to live a full and mostly independent life. Brian passed away last year, but during his life, ACHIEVA helped Brian to join the working world; he knew he was making a meaningful contribution, and his life was richer for it.

So, this is an issue about which I’m personally passionate, but that’s just one reason I believe so strongly that we must do all we can to enable people with disabilities to reach their full potential.

From a workforce planning perspective, this is a critical effort for the economic well-being of our regional economies. Employers in Pittsburgh and in many other markets are struggling today to find the skilled workers we need to fill the jobs we have available. That problem will only become more pronounced as baby boomers continue to retire in the years to come.

As chief executive of one of Pittsburgh’s largest employers and one of the largest banks in the U.S., I can’t stress enough the importance of this discussion. It is imperative that business leaders recognize the capabilities of individuals with disabilities, that we commit to making reasonable accommodations where necessary, that we work to eliminate – once and for all – the stigma attached to disability, and that we clear the way of barriers that have previously prevented so many qualified individuals from making the contributions they are capable of making in spite of their disabilities.

Anything less is a disservice to our communities and, ultimately, to our shareholders as we work to field the best, most-capable teams of talented employees to compete and win in the marketplace.

Bill Demchak is chairman, president and chief executive officer of The PNC Financial Services Group. For more information about PNC, visit www.pnc.com.

8 Ways to Stop Worrying about Money

LinkedIn

By Cameron Huddleston

Are worries about money keeping you up at night? You’re not alone. According to a survey conducted by GOBankingRates, money is one of the top concerns of Americans.

“Everybody worries about financial decisions, in-decisions or consequences,” says Scott Bishop, the director of financial planning at STA Wealth Management. Worrying won’t solve your money problems, though. In fact, he says it can lead to even more stress and mistakes.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent your financial problems from overwhelming you. Here are eight ways to stop worrying about money and get your finances on track.

1.  Understand Your Money Situation

“You can get a better understanding of your money situation by identifying what your assets (house, investments, savings) are and what your liabilities or debts are,” says Michael F. Kay, a financial planner and president of Financial Life Focus. Once you know what you have and what you owe, you can identify what your biggest problem is and assess what needs to change. “For most, it’s too little savings and too much debt,” he says.

“Before you can stop worrying, you need to know where you stand financially,” Bishop says. “The best way to do that is to get a handle on or snapshot of your current situation.”

2.  Know Where Your Money Is Going

“Once you know where you stand financially, you need to know how you got into that position. This means figuring out where your money goes each month,” Kay says. First, identify your necessary expenses — mortgage or rent, utilities, transportation and anything else you must pay for each month. Then, look at your bank and credit card statements from the past month to see how much you’re spending on discretionary items — things you want but don’t need.

“If you’re spending $1,000 on discretionary items, ask yourself what else you could do with that money,” Kay says. You might be worried about living paycheck to paycheck or not making ends meet, but tracking your spending might help you realize that you actually have the cash you need to boost savings, pay off debt or get ahead — if you cut back on unnecessary expenses.

To keep tabs on where your money is going in an ongoing basis, Bishop recommended using an app such as Mint, which lets you track all of your accounts and spending in one place as well as creating a budget. You also could use software such as Quicken, or even give yourself an allowance of cash to limit your spending, he says.

3.  Get a Handle on Your Debt

If you’ve taken the first step to figure out your assets and liabilities, you should have an idea of how much you owe. “It is important to see how much this debt is costing you, and draining your cash,” Bishop says.

List your debts and the interest rate on each of them. You should focus on paying off your highest-rate debts first—likely credit card debt—so you’ll pay less in interest over time. If you’ve taken the second step to figure out where your money is going, you should know what discretionary expenses can be cut so you can put more money toward your debt.

“However, before you start paying down debt, understand why you have accumulated it,” Kay says. Was it because you had a major medical expense or borrowed heavily to cover the cost of college? Or are you simply using debt to cover your spending? “If this is your normal way of living, it’s time to take stock and think about why,” Kay says. “You might need to work with a counselor to figure out what is triggering your spending, and how to get it under control,” he says.

4.  Set Financial Goals

To stop worrying about your finances, it’s not enough to know where your money has been going. You need to give it a place to go, which means setting goals. “Look at what must happen for you to feel like your finances are on track,” Kay says. It might mean being debt-free, having a certain amount in savings for retirement or building a college fund for a child.

In addition to covering your necessary expenses, your money should be going to these “musts” before your wants. Then evaluate whether your career and other financial choices you’ve made will help you meet those goals.

What are your options if your current income won’t get you where you want to go? Bishop says, “You might need to get a second job, go back to school or look for other sources of income to reach your goals.”

5.  Educate Yourself about Personal Finance

“You might be worrying about money because you feel like you don’t know enough about personal finance. However, gaining mastery of your finances doesn’t mean you need a degree in finance,” Kay says. But you do need to know what’s creating fear or discomfort for you.

Perhaps you’re worried because you don’t understand how your credit score affects your ability to get credit. You can learn the basics at a site such as myFico.com, the consumer division of the company that invented the FICO credit score.

If you’re confused about how much to save for retirement, check with your employer to see if you have access to financial advice through your workplace retirement plan or visit one of the numerous personal finance websites to learn money basics.

6.  Plan for the ‘What Ifs’

“You can alleviate some of your financial worries by identifying your worst-case in money scenarios, and preparing for them,” Kay says. For example, if you consider losing your job to be the worst thing that can happen financially to you, ask yourself what you should do to prepare for a job loss. Creating an emergency fund to cover expenses while you’re out of work is a good place to start.

“If you have people who depend on you financially, you need to have enough life insurance to help support them when you die. If you become disabled, you need to make sure you have enough disability insurance coverage to replace your lost wages. Consider everything that could derail your aspirations, and cover all of your bases,” Kay says.

7.  Stop Trying to Keep Up with Others

“You need to be honest with yourself about whether your money woes stem from tying to keep up with what others have—whether you’re spending to impress others or belong,” Kay says. Ask yourself what you’re working so hard for. “Is it a label on a shirt, a certain watch, a vacation in Tahiti? Or are we working for something else?” Kay says.

To avoid falling into the trap of trying to keep up with others and worrying that you can’t, write down what you care about. If you’re married or in a relationship, ask your partner to do the same. Then agree on what you both want and let those values guide your spending decisions.

8.  Get Help from a Financial Advisor

If you’re worried about your health, you’d likely visit a doctor. If it’s your financial health that has you concerned, you can get help from a professional too. You can hire a financial planner to help you with any of the above steps—from understanding where you stand financially, to setting goals, to creating a plan to reach those goals.

Kay recommends looking for an advisor who is a fee-only fiduciary and will work in your best interest rather than try to sell you financial products that might not meet your needs. You can find one near you through NAPFA.org, the website of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.