CASH – SPENDING THE CHEESE
“If one asks for success and prepares for failure, he will get the situation he has prepared for.”
-Florence Scovel Shinn
I know, for some money is as exciting as an orgasm, and for others it’s about as fun as digging dirt from under your toe nails. It’s not the money that brings you happiness, but the lack of it sure is stressful. No matter your situation (single, married, one child, 8 foster kids) you need to be in control of your money….rather than it controlling you.
First on the agenda, check out your debt! Do you know where your money is going each month - to the penny? I’ll be honest, I hate penny pinching, but it needs to be done because therapy, wheelchairs and surgeries cost money and I hate debt more than I hate watching nickels. Keep a spending diary for 2 months and see where your money is going. “I don’t remember buying the kids books last week” is a phrase often heard in my house. (of course, with my lack of sleep I’m lucky I remember where I live most days). I should have bought Kleenex and Target stock.
Once you know where your money is going, work on getting your debt eliminated! Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman have great books! Dave’s is more Christian and couple based, and Suze’s latest book is straight talk just for women. Both are easy to understand and follow so you can pick pieces from each that are comfortable to you, as long as you are following a plan to move forward. Both have TV/radio shows you can listen to if you are short on reading time, but we moms who have used them think the books are worth it.
For those with a partner, you’ll need to have some money that is all your own, in your own name only. This means a bank account and credit card. Put your allowance in it, any gift money, and money you get from selling your own stuff (not his prized baseball cards, but YOUR stuff). This is where Dave and I don’t agree, but to each his own. I’m just being practical here and Suze hits it right on. The account doesn’t have to be kept a secret from your partner, but they shouldn’t have access to it either.
Which brings me to “allowance”. Everyone should have spending money of their own to piss away in any way they choose, no questions asked. And it shouldn’t depend on how much money you bring into the budget – as in who has the greater paycheck. Whether its $20 a week, or $20 a month, you need to have some fun money!! This is important to your independence, to visibly show your kids that responsible budgeting includes taking care of one’s self, and it brings some positive “yippee skippies” to your daily duties because you know, in the back of your mind, that you have money and therefore you have options. Put the hospital on a payment plan and carve out some fun money for yourself. Your mental and physical well being are top priority!!
If you need a bit more help (and who doesn’t?) you can get FREE financial planning from the Special Needs Planning Center. They work with parents of SPED kids all over the country, giving clients a nice 3-ring binder full of the essentials of legal and financial advice/accounts/crap to protect you and your kids. They are super at explaining everything in the binder without being snotty know-it-alls. And, if you really don’t want to know that stuff (me!), they’ll just take care of it for you, as their customer service is outstanding. Even if you don’t have SPED kids, you can use their services for a reasonable fee. Contact them at www.specialneedskc.com and to read their newsletters you can look at www.specialneedsplanning.blogspot.com.
And what about money for your kids if you aren’t around? Your death isn’t something you want to think about, but who will take care of your children and how will they do it (do they need a new wheelchair equipped van, or house, do they need to move closer to your child’s hospital, do they need to quit their job) are things you need to answer today! If it’s not legally taken care of, you’ve left your kids to the court system. (Did you know that in some states, if you adopt foster kids, then die, they go back to foster care rather than to your family unless you have the legal papers stating otherwise? Scary!)
Do you need a Special Needs Trust? What is your back up plan for getting your child health insurance if you aren’t employed? What if you are in an accident but don’t die? Who will take care of you and the younglings? These questions really suck ass big time, but if you love your kids you’ll be a grown up and face them with confidence.
A non-profit organization is now doing their part to help distribute this information to parents. The Gifted Learning Project has developed an educational DVD, Financial Planning for Special Needs, and has made it available to the public. The DVD was created to help parents gain a basic understanding in how planning for their child with special needs is different. www.giftedlearningproject.org
REMINDER: neither I, nor my friends, are worth suing if you don’t like Ramsey, Orman, The Gifted Learning Project, or the SNPC. We aren’t endorsing here!! You have a brain and can use your own judgment. There are probably some financial advisors and estate planners in your community if you’d rather meet face to face. You’ll just have to do some searching. Get recommendations from family and friends. There are financial planners at all of the investment companies who sell their company’s investment products. There are also some stand alone advisors who are brokers that can invest your money for you with many different companies. The important thing is that it gets done ASAP!!
I know the stock market tanked, and we aren’t in a trusting mood, but that doesn’t take away everything else that needs to be done legally. I personally love the guys at SNPC because, honestly, they take care of me and it’s something I can take off my plate and not worry about. Who can ask for more…..well a winning lottery ticket would be nice.