For a parent having a special needs child to care it’s a difficult task to set priorities. All goals associated with child care looks to be important. It might be easier with traditional goals like retirement, education or marriage. But with special needs child, the continuous and life-long care makes it difficult to identify the goals.
Goal setting with special needs child care is important because parents need to provide funds for a lifetime. It takes time to create wealth. If you miss accumulating it then there are very fewer options to find resources to fulfil the financial requirement for the child.
Setting life goals is one of the basic elements of financial planning. If goals are SMART then they really help you in achieving your financial freedom. To discuss how to set goals with special needs child lets touch upon a bit about SMART goals.
What is a SMART Goal?
The goals you set in life should decide what you wish to achieve and when. Many a time the goal setting is such vague that reaching them is ones beyond means. Goal setting also gives you a clear indication of how you are going to set your finances. You may have to make necessary changes in your current financial situation if your goals are not reachable. Or sometimes you have to draw strategies fin later years of life if your current situation does not allow to make any changes.
Here is what SMART goals mean:
How to set goals than with a special needs child?
We understood why setting SMART goals in life is important. You can easily apply it to traditional planning by dividing into short term, medium term and long term goal. Here short term goals will include buying a new car, going on a vacation, credit card payments etc. Medium-term goals may be buying a house or child education expenses over 4-6 years. The long term goals will include members’ own retirement or if there is a second child then education and marriage. If you follow these steps, it becomes easier to prioritise goals.
For a special needs child, another set of life goals needs to be established. Here there is no 3-4 year graduation course or a higher education study programme. Rather goals to be fulfilled for a special needs child will include regular expenses on therapies, inclusive schooling, vocational training, transportation etc. Even with a special needs child these goals can be divided into a short, medium and long term.
The short term goals are generally the immediate expenses which the family needs to incur. So, expenses on therapies over the next few months, medication, transportation or purchase of special equipment for the child is what needs to be planned. Similarly, a medium-term goal will include expenses over the next 5-7 years. This may include on the purchase of support equipment, vacation or bigger goals such as buying a house to fulfil residential needs for the child or improvement in the current house. Long term goals could be provision for childcare after parents retirement. This can also include buying a residential house or provision for paying costs of an institution where the child may live.
The other way to establish special needs goals is to identify today’s expenses and the expenses for long term care, which makes things much simpler. Add any additional expense which can be incurred on support equipment, legal provisions etc. Monetising these expenses will identify the future financial requirements for the child.
Prioritization of life goals
Once life goals have been identified the next step is prioritising them. It’s only then that you can provide for the necessary ones from your limited resources. Prioritising goals for members other than the special needs child is simpler as you have more accurate assumptions and the goals can be age specific such as children’s education or own retirement. But with a special need child prioritisation is a challenge as there are no age-specific goals and when you draw life stages of the child, everything seems important. Many families are confused about what to address first and avoid planning altogether. That’s not the right approach.
Although prioritisation is difficult, some estimation will help identify what is needed for childcare. On the basis of this estimate, it will be easier to prioritise what is achievable with ease. When therapy sessions have to be started within the next few years or the child starts going to special school or even if a house is to be bought in the next three years, then all these can be treated as short term goal.
Similarly, change in schooling or change in therapies or any other expense which may arise after 5-7 years can be defined under medium-term goals. You may even want to renovate your own house to accommodate the child with a disability. This too can be a short, medium or long term goal based on when you plan to do it. But you may need a lump sum amount for meeting these goals, rather than recurring ones. And finally the long term goal of setting up the corpus for your own retirement, sibling education or as required for the care of the special needs child post-retirement. The retirement goal will include the corpus for the child and your own retirement.
Thus, setting life goals with a special needs child is a tough task but achievable. If you understand the life stages of the child then you can easily prioritise and set goals to achieve them.