This is the first in a four-part special report on special needs planning for advisors and their clients. In part one below, a new online tool for parents and caregivers.
Merrill Lynch on Thursday premiered a special needs calculator for the parents and caregivers of special needs individuals. The calculator is designed to assist in calculating the amount of money necessary to sustain a special needs person throughout life, and is a variation on the one long used by Merrill advisors who carry the Certified Special Needs Advisor designation.
The calculator, available for anyone’s use at a Merrill website, analyzes an individual’s needs based on the input of financial information and projected life expectancy. It factors in several variables, including projected income of an individual with special needs; monthly expenses that can include housing, transportation, special education and health-care costs; and also accounts for federal and state government benefits. The calculator also factors in parents’ number of years until retirement, with the flexibility to modify assumptions about return on investments and inflation rates.
In a statement, Chris Sullivan (left), head of Special Needs Financial Services for Merrill Lynch, said of the need for such a tool, “One of the greatest challenges parents of children with disabilities face is providing their loved one with financial security. Thanks to medical advancements, people with special needs are living longer, fuller lives than ever thought possible. This welcome trend has left many families unprepared to provide a lifetime of financial support while also achieving other important goals.”
With the calculator, families can identify potential shortfalls in finances intended to sustain the quality of life of an individual with special needs long after parents or caregivers retire. Based on its open-source design, the calculator can be accessed online via an iPad and other tablets and smartphones. Families can then choose whether to consult with an advisor for more in-depth analysis and planning.