Paying for special needs

  @Money April 22, 2013: 9:12 AM ET
special needs costs

Finn Howe is in occupational therapy now. He's likely to need some kind of therapy, as well as full-time care, for the rest of his life.

NEW YORK (Money Magazine)

Having a child with a disability means planning for an extra retirement.

Start building a financial safety net with these steps:

Tap your local resources.

Every state has a federally funded Community Parent Resource Center to help special-needs parents obtain services, understand their rights, and connect with local resources.

Visit to find your local center.

Get your estate plan in order.

Work with a planner who specializes in special-needs families (find one using the specialty filter at to determine how much insurance you'll need, and look into a second-to-die whole life policy, which can be as much as 30% cheaper.

The high cost of autism

Ask your planner to recommend a lawyer (or find one at, and work with her to draw up a will specifying a guardian for your child through adulthood.

Set up a needs trust.

Once your child reaches age 18, and assuming he has assets of less than $2,000, he can get benefits like Supplemental Social Security ($500 to $700 a month) and Medicaid to cover residential care and work programs.

Related: Paying for Finn: A special-needs child

Setting up a special-needs trust will ensure that any inheritance from you or other family members stays out of his name.

"You want to make sure that nothing you do limits their eligibility for government benefits," says Greg Zibricky, author of The F.A.M.I.L.Y. Autism Guide: Your Financial Blueprint for Autism.


Raising a special-needs child is frustrating, chaotic, rewarding -- and very, very expensive. In "Paying for Finn," the author shares his family's challenges caring for their severely autistic son. To top of page

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