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Get REAL: Financial Planning

November 19, 2009


Mary Anne Ehlert

Welcome to Real Economic Impact’s Get REAL (Reliable Experts, Answers & Lessons) series: reliable advice re: your economic concerns from leading money, legal, and financial experts from around the country.

This week’s Get REAL expert is Mary Anne Ehlert, CFP®, President and Founder of Protected Tomorrows. Her sister, Marcia, was born with cerebral palsy.

Q: Why is it important for individuals with disabilities, parents and family members, teachers, support coordinators, and rehabilitation counselors to know more about financial planning

A: Every individual needs to have financial security in order to allow him/her to have a safe and fulfilling life. An individual with a disability has more to think about when developing their financial plan.

Financial planning starts with understanding cash flow needs. What are the expenses to support the required lifestyle? What are the additional needs to provide support to the person with the disability, such as transportation needs, accessibility supports, living arrangements, additional education, recreational programs, and any other supported living arrangements?

Understanding income needs, as well as limitations on income, is critical to meeting the expenses. And even more important is the need to understand how needs will change in the future. Not only do expenses change over time but government benefits change as well. Understanding how these all fit together is critical.

Tying this planning together with government benefit applications, special needs trusts created and funded by other family members, and the proper use of income from each source is an integral part of planning.  Add on top of this the need to have knowledge of tax rates on trusts, utilization of the earned income credit, and effective asset management within the trusts.

If a person with a disability is employed, it’s also important to understand the corporate benefits and how they will impact the overall financial plan, as well as government benefits. Understanding health insurance, Medicaid and Medicare, disability insurance, life insurance, and other corporate programs that might be available to a person who is able to work is very important as well.

Moreover, working with the entire family ensures that all family members understand the need to implement proper estate planning. Very often, a person with a disability cannot totally support their living needs. The entire family needs to be educated and work together to prepare a total family plan.


 Our Get REAL blog series welcomes your questions. Simply e-mail us at


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