Belleville, IL (Vocus) August 22, 2008
The diagnosis of a long-term degenerative disease like Parkinson's disease raises obvious fears, but patients usually have some time to make plans for their financial future, according to Allsup, which represents people nationwide for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.
"Realistically, people with gradual-onset diseases like Parksinson's, Lou Gehrig's disease or multiple sclerosis have some flexibility in their financial planning," said Paul Gada, personal financial planning director at Allsup. "They are going to try to keep working as long as possible."
Time is one asset these individuals have compared with others who are injured or suddenly disabled, said Gada. He outlined key steps for individuals making financial plans for themselves and their families during a seminar at the Young-Onset Parkinson's Network Conference in Atlanta on Aug. 7 to 9.
Degenerative diseases can provide time for individuals to better educate themselves on all aspects of their situation, including finances.
"By taking these steps early, they won't have to struggle as much with the questions they'll face," Gada said. "They need answers--What are my benefits going to be when I stop working? How do I start the SSDI process? How do I make the health insurance gap between SSDI application and Medicare eligibility?"
Five Steps for Staying In Financial Control
Gada explained five steps to help those with disabilities establish and maintain control over the issues that impact their personal financial goals.
1. Set goals. These are going to vary depending on the individual. But keep in mind two types of goals--short-term goals (for up to a year) and long-term goals (a year or more). Short-term goals might include taking a family vacation and weighing whether to allocate that $5,000 toward an emergency fund instead. A long-term goal might include allocating resources toward a long-term care policy or using it to ensure a child's college fund is in good shape.
2. Manage assets. The concept is simple, but the process does take time and homework. This step gets into the numbers--assets and net worth, current income and budget, methods for increasing income and reducing expenses, plus savings and other investments.
"Generally, this involves tallying your resources, formulating a budget and constructing a plan to make the best use of your income and assets over time," Gada said. Allsup offers more information about financial matters, including 11 interactive calculators to help determine net worth, debt strategies and spending behaviors on its Web site.
3. Seek help. Individuals should take an active role in their financial planning but also recognize they don't have to have all the answers. "It's in your best interest to assemble a team to provide you with good advice and assistance," Gada said. "This can include hiring an attorney, insurance agent and tax advisor, as well as choosing a professional representative to help you apply for SSDI benefits. You'll also need help to choose a Medicare plan. Just remember, you're the team captain."
4. Gather tools. Time may be the most valuable tool. "Procrastination is not an option here. Use your time wisely," Gada said. Take advantage of financial planning software and calculators, legal tools such as wills and powers of attorney, and evaluate all of your insurance coverage (life, medical, long-term disability and others). Important: Read the fine print for pre-existing condition exclusions.
5. Make choices. "As your situation changes, so do your choices," Gada explained. "This is an ongoing process. Once you begin financial planning, you're demonstrating the decision to stay in control of your situation as much as you possibly can."
Choosing between different options requires an active role. "Ultimately, you are empowering yourself," Gada said. "As your disease progresses, you are going to be in a better situation if you've already planned for the next steps, including having to quit work and focus on your health."
Making these decisions all at once would be overwhelming, he said. "That's why you need to use the time you have now. Ultimately, your day-to-day activities are going to become more limited and challenging with your condition. And there is such a thing as acting too late."
Allsup, Belleville, Ill., is a leading nationwide provider of financial and healthcare related services to people with disabilities. Founded in 1984, Allsup has helped more than 100,000 people receive their entitled Social Security Disability Insurance and Medicare benefits. Allsup employs more than 500 professionals who deliver services directly to consumers and their families, or through their employers and long-term disability insurance carriers.
For more information, visit http://www.Allsup.com.
(800) 854-1418, ext. 5065
r.ray @ allsupinc.com
Dan Allsup, ext. 5760
djallsup @ allsupinc.com