A special perspective on planning for the future of a special needs child
Jim Gilmore is a financial adviser who knows what it is to worry about the future of a child with special needs. His son Quinn was in and out of neonatal intensive care for the first three months of his life. With Quinn in many different therapies, Jim and his wife Suzanne were introduced to families facing all kinds of special needs scenarios. Less than two years later the Gilmores had their daughter Leah with no complications, but her lack of communication and her fairly rowdy behavior soon had them seeking help. At three years old Leah was diagnosed with autism. Already aware of special needs, the Gilmores got Leah started in therapy early. She has managed to work through her condition and is doing well as a fourth grader. Quinn is a healthy sixth grader, with no serious lasting setbacks from of his perilous early months.
Jim’s experiences with his children changed his outlook on his work. He joined his childhood friend Rich Dutrisac, also a financial adviser and also a father of a special needs child (his adopted son has severe autism) at Integrated Capital Management. ICM is an independent financial advisory firm that serves all types of families and individuals, but Jim and Rich’s experience with special needs issues have made them a unique resource for special needs families.
We sat down with Jim to find out about the types of challenges families with special needs children face, and what they should be thinking about, when it comes to making a plan for their child’s future.
Marmalade: What makes planning for the future of a special needs child different than others?
Jim Gilmore: Unlike typical kids whose parents raise them then push them out of the nest, many special needs kids can’t really live independent lives, so parents have to do some special planning along with legal work to provide for the day in which they’re no longer around to provide care. They want to set things up correctly to ensure quality of life for their child.
M: That sounds like a sensitive and potentially paralyzing prospect. What do you do to help these families?
JG: We host workshops through support groups and school districts to help make families aware of what they need to be thinking about, but probably the best thing we do is offer an understanding ear and knowledgeable advice. Rich and I both understand the pressures and struggles these parents are facing, but we also understand the processes they’ll need to go through. While special needs planning is not the only part of our business, it is the most satisfying and fulfilling part of the business.
M: When it comes to planning for the future, what are the top two pieces of advice you have for parents of special needs children?
JG: First, start early; start now. With any kind of plan, especially financial, time is your best ally. Second, start with us rather than an attorney; yes, an attorney will create a trust, but you want to work with professionals who know special needs planning, because there many pitfalls to avoid. And since we don’t charge for our time, families can meet with us to get recommendations and advice before an attorney gets involved. That saves time, money and energy.
M: If there was one thing you could let special needs families know about planning for the future, what is it?
JG: You know, nearly every family faces the fear that they won’t have enough for the future, but for special needs families in particular, there’s so much that we feel like we can never get ahead of. You work on solutions and you work and work and work, then the child changes. You feel like you can never check something off the list; you feel like you are always chasing. The planning can strengthen the family relationships, because you can cross it off your list. It’s something you can actually do to provide for someone. When it’s done, you can say wow, we’ve really done it. It feels like success, and special needs families need all the feelings of success they can get.
Jim Gilmore, CFP® is a Financial Advisor with Integrated Capital Management in Irvine and may be reached at (949) 681-8421 or firstname.lastname@example.org. M
Securities and advisory services offered through National Planning Corporation (NPC), member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. Integrated Capital Management and NPC are separate and unrelated companies.