While Kim and I were making breakfast yesterday, this piece from CNN
ran on Headline News (Click the one that is through Yahoo!, the others have expired).
Here is where I run a little counter to other parents, and am much more in line with the financial planner. It is my opinion that you have to take the long view on your child, his/her needs, and the overall health of your family…espcially for the fact that the impact of having an autistic child in your life will be in the millions of dollars range.
Yes, every single year, Kim and I have thousands of dollars of debt due to therapies/meds/etc… Some out of pocket, some in just co-pays. It adds up. Since D’s been diagnosed, I’ve been using my annual bonus to bring that balance down to zero, only to see it creep back up. That’s just our life. That said, I’ve seen and heard of too many folks breaking the bank on one more ‘maybe’ or ‘what if’ without thinking way out ahead if the return on investment is worth it. Some of these, um… ‘potential cures’…are risky both for your child’s health and your long-term financial health.
Can you put a price tag on your child speaking…yes, and no. No, it is priceless if your child can finally converse with you – I get that…yes, it does cost. And what’s the trade offs you are making? If it is the annual trip to Maui with your sorority sisters, get over it! Or your golf trip to the Fla. Keys with your high school buds….get over it. Save the $4K and put it towards more OT & SPT to get that kid speaking….but you really, really, really need to weigh the beneifts of the $4K if it is a difference of saving for retirement or not (I simply have no patience for big time spenders to live life like when you were a DINK. I do have infinite paitence if weighing the benefits of your family’s overall long-term health).
Let me be clear, I’m not talking about retirement like Amerprise commercials want you to think about retirement: Viagra, 3 hour boners with your wife constantly smiling (because of the Viagra or 17 facelifts, who can say?), on a beach, eating lobster… I’m talking retirement in terms of not having to vacate your house and living month to month on a bet that Social Security ‘might’ be there when you are in your golden years. I’m talking retirement in terms of being comfortable and being healthy enough to continue living a life that is fulfilling, and probably helping out your special needs child.
Look, I’m not saying it is an either or scenario, so don’t get hot and bothered. I’m saying considerations about the family’s financial health have to be taken into your decisions on building a state-of-the-art therapy room or not. I still put the exact same amount of money away every year in Demetrius’ college fund, as I do Maya’s. Maya will go to college (hopefully) and maybe Demetrius will (hopefully), but if not, he’ll have a stash of cash available. Further, I always fully fund Kim’s Roth IRA. Why? Well, what if I drop dead at 45 of a heart attack? Have I put her in a position to be able to be financially flexible in the choices she’ll have to make on her and the kids behalf? (By the way hubbies – I would suggest getting the biggest life insurance policy you can also, in case that happens.)
I’ve always maxed out my 401Ks at work too. Same reasons.
We don’t get to go on all the family vacations we would like to, we don’t have the best furniture, or other things – but I can rest at night knowing I’m balancing out Demetrius’ needs along with the family’s financial goals – which is the best I can do in this life. And Maya has needs to…she’ll never not do an art lesson she really wants to take because Demetrius could get just one more (fill in the blank). Her life isn’t simply second fiddle to Demetrius’ condition.
Also remember this – at some point, you and I are going to be at an age where we simply won’t be able to work. We may go longer than some mandatory retirement age by substitute teaching, driving school buses, whatever, but if God gives us a long life, at some point we’ll simply be unable to ‘plow the field’. I don’t think most of our autistic children are equipped to take care of us in our old age…and we are burdening, indirectly and unfortunately, our other children to have to help care for their autistic siblings in their lives (thus, another reason to save as much money as you can, so the financial burden doesn’t rest on Maya’s, or your other child’s, shoulders!) – I don’t want to be a poor old person with nothing in the bank also relying on Maya.
Really, really think about the long term and your dough.
Final soapbox point I want to make – don’t forget to spend some money on yourself once in awhile. I’ve known a few folks who have tricked out therapy rooms and state of the art play areas for their autistic children. But they don’t do for themselves. Moms – go get yourself a pedicure or go shopping, or whatever floats your boat, once in awhile. You carry the load with most of these kids – guilt-wise, worry-wise and running back and forth between therapy sessions and IEP meetings, etc…us Dads? Well, often we get to go to an office and deal with other adults for 8-9 hours a day, and worry about corporate priorities, etc…that take us away from the every day battles that come with being an autistic parent. Many of you moms never get that ‘break’ daily. Fifty bucks on yourself is a good, and healthy, thing for each of you…and your family.
I could keep going, but seriously – do what they say in this piece! Talk to a financial planner!
On that note……yesterday we were doing a house clean up day….pick up the basement, clean rooms pick toys up in every room…which leads to fussing parents and grumpy kids. While Maya was picking up her markers I was sitting at the kitchen table doing the monthly bills. She looks at me and says, in that angry little kid voice: “Daddy, I’m picking up and Mommy’s picking up and Demetrius is picking up – and you are sitting at the table, writing!” “Quit just sitting there! You aren’t working!”
Oh Maya, I wonder which is more painful…paying the mortgage or picking up your markers?