Special needs families face complex retirement planning challenges

Mary Anne Ehlert

Mary Anne Ehlert

Mary Anne Ehlert came by her expertise in financial planning for special-needs families the hard way: she has lived through the challenge herself.

Ehlert, a certified financial planner based in Lincolnshire, Illinois, has a sister who was born with cerebral palsy, and a son who suffers from blindness and mental illness. Both of her parents developed disabilities later in life. “I started out by asking my parents about planning they had done for my sister, and found out what they had done really was wrong.”

When she left behind a career in corporate finance and launched her own planning firm in 1989, she focused on serving families with disabilities. Today more than half of her clients have a special-needs family member.
The financial planning challenges for parents of special-needs children are complex. One of the toughest for these parents is planning for their own retirement, and balancing that with the long-term needs of a disabled child, who may outlive them.

Key challenges, according to Ehlert, include creating a plan for the family member’s care, projecting cash flow needs well into the future, and making decisions about management of investment allocations for assets dedicated to the family member.

Learn more in my Reuters Money column this week.

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