Advisor Today - January/February 2014 - (Page 42)

PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT SPECIAL NEEDS By Mary Anne Ehlert, CFP Succeeding in the Special-Needs Market Work with a trusted team who will help you address the unique needs of this important group. T he special-needs market is no longer a niche market. It now makes up about 20 percent of the population-a far greater number than most planners realize. And since planners are typically working with the family member of the person with the disability, the percentage of clients impacted is even higher. If a family of six has one family member with a disability, how many of those persons might be clients? Five. This means that in all likelihood, each advisor has a number of clients who have family members with special needs. And since these families do not always talk about their challenges unless the planner specifically asks them, many financial professionals are caught totally unaware when they learn that a client has such a family member, sometimes from clients they have known for many years. Issues in the special-needs market If the advisor hasn't experienced living with a person with a disability, how would he know what to say or understand what the family is feeling? You don't need to be a doctor to understand the doctor's financial issues, but you do need to get up to speed on the different types of disabilities there are, and what those might mean to a family. Is the family nurturing or alienating? How will that impact the choices it makes? Learning how to relate to the specific dynamics of these clients will go a long way when making recommendations and building a longterm relationship. 42 ADVISOR TODAY | January/February 2014 You don't need to be a doctor to understand the doctor's financial issues, but you do need to get up to speed on the different types of disabilities there are, and what those might mean to a family. Most financial professionals do not also comprehend the complexity of the lives of families who have a member with a disability. While they are busy explaining "rates of return," the family is wondering about "doctor visits," "individual education plans," and "behavior modifications." Quality care and specialized services are often difficult to find and even more difficult to implement. These differing perspectives and points of concern can create communication gaps with clients and limit the depth of the relationship. In addition, the costs of care can be significant, but the families are not typically able to quantify them. As such, the client is seeking expertise to better understand the financial hurdles he faces. When the advisor understands this and can help the client find solutions, he opens the door to new business opportunities, as well. Also, many financial professionals do not have the technical knowledge to effectively plan for families with members who have special needs. There are a number of complex financial rules and requirements that demand the full attention of an advisor. Without in-depth knowledge of these problems, the advisor risks doing more harm than good. Incorrect asset titling, underestimating future needs, or incorrect or inflexible estate documents can spell disaster for these clients. Not only are the families at risk, but the financial professional is, as well. You don't know what you don't know until it is too late. The way forward So what is the way forward? A team approach. Advisors need to build a trusted group of experts that includes an experienced special-needs attorney, a financial professional who is aware of the issues and knows how to ask the right questions, and a social worker who can guide the entire process and put together a care plan that considers the needs and dreams of the individual, as well as the wishes and hopes of the family. Build such a team, and the families will be pointed to a path with a bright future. This bright future will include peace of mind for the parents and siblings, while providing a happy and fulfilling life for the person with the disability. Mary Anne Ehlert, CFP, is the founder and president of Protected Tomorrows, Inc., which enhances the lives of families who have special needs. Through its work, Protected Tomorrows addresses concerns such as future care funding, government benefits, legal considerations, education options, and family communication. Contact or visit

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Advisor Today - January/February 2014

From The Editor
New Products
It is Still All About You!
Want to Attract the Millionaire Next Door?
Beyond Improved Cash Flow
Millenial Women Interested in Personal Finance
The ROI of Social Media
What You Need to Have for a Strong LinkedIn Profile
Must-Have Features for Annuity Sales
What Sparks a Life Insurance Purchase?
When Checking the Box is Not Enough
Helping Employers Preserve Worker Productivity
The New Frontier of Long-Term Care
Succeeding in the Special-Needs Market
Navigating The Brave New World of Employee Benefits
Enhancing Your Boomer Client’s Retirement Plan
Implementing the Affordable Care Act
Two Ideas for Sales Success
Doing Business in the Chinese- American Community
Advertiser Index
Back Page

Advisor Today - January/February 2014