When Nadine Vogel began selling products for the special needs community, she learned quickly that this “niche” market is actually very large. About one out of every five people is disabled, and one in nine children under 18 are in special education services, she says.
Vogel became interested in the market because she has two daughters with special needs. So, in 1998, the vice president of marketing for MetLife, New York, started MetDESK, a program through which planners can become specialists in selling to people whose children have special needs.
Because of all the legislation involved in funding care for children with special needs, Vogel felt that a comprehensive program was necessary to prepare planners who want to work in this area.
For instance, according to federal law, if a person gives someone with special needs more than $2,000, they automatically lose eligibility for
most of their government benefits, according to MetDESK (The Division of Estate Planning for Special Kids).
Planners who go through the program learn the legal and financial complexities in estate planning, ranging from life insurance, trusts, taxes and other issues. In addition, there are continuing education requirements so they continually are updated on changes and developments that could affect their clients.
About 70% of the specialists have children or a family member with disabilities, so they have firsthand knowledge of the challenges these families face.
Gordon Homes, who works out of Indianapolis, has been a specialist for about three years. When his son was diagnosed as a special needs child, Homes and his wife learned all they could about how best to help their son receive the care and help he needs.
Working in this area gives Homes “the opportunity to network with other parents with a common bond,” he says.
Being a specialist is not the entirety of Homess practice, but its a significant portion and the fastest growing, he says.
In order to be a specialist, this portion has to comprise a minimum of 25% of a planners business, Vogel says.
The appeal of being a specialist for Homes is “the satisfaction that you get from making an impact upon other peoples lives and knowing the peace of mind it creates.”
The specialists travel around the country to conferences and small support groups to educate families for free, Vogel says.
Interested families then sign up for “more individualized information with a specialist,” she says.