Advisers can help family caregivers find support

Millions of Americans care for disabled relatives or those with special needs

Nov 9, 2019 @ 6:00 am

By Charlie Nelson

The role of the financial adviser has shifted to include far more than providing clients with recommendations for retirement plan providers and investment options. Plan design, participation and engagement are of course paramount, but they are not the only things plan sponsors are seeking.

[More:A special need for financial advice]

As the demand to address the holistic financial wellness needs of employees has progressed, plan sponsors are increasingly looking for partners who can help address these needs. But "financial wellness" can cover a variety of needs under the planning, investing and protection banners.

As you consider how your ability to help clients with these frequently mentioned topics will influence your value proposition, I would encourage you to consider an area of financial wellness that is both far-reaching and often overlooked: support for people with disabilities or special needs and caregivers in the workforce.

With nearly 66 million Americans — one in five — caring for a family member or friend with disabilities or special needs, the need to prioritize how employers support their workforce in this area is clear — even if not fully recognized. According to recent research from Voya Financial, 80% of employers believe their company could be doing more to help caregiver employees and, even more, 90% of caregivers feel they lack caregiving support.

[More: Tips on special-needs planning]

As a financial adviser, you can play a critical role in helping employers to understand the full suite of concerns their employees may have, along with the ways in which they can help.

Help outside the workplace

One area of opportunity is encouraging employers to educate their employees about the benefits available outside of the workplace. For example, if a company has an employee who is a caregiver for a child with special needs who just turned 18, that employee may not be aware that at the age of 18, that child may now be eligible for Supplemental Security Income. By providing this knowledge, the employer is helping that employee's family secure thousands of dollars per year in additional income, which could be used to help offset living expenses and care costs for that child.

Tips on special-needs planning

It's also worth noting that benefits can make all the difference between acquiring and retaining good talent versus great talent. Voya's research found that 94% of caregivers are likely to recommend an employer to their peers when provided with relevant caregiving benefits and resources.

[Recommended video: Schwab conference filled with talk of "frothy" markets and possible impeachment impacts]

Growing in popularity are health savings accounts, which can be particularly important for employees with disabilities who might anticipate higher-than-normal prescription drug costs during retirement years.

Beneficiary designations are another area important for this group. While many employers know to advise employees against naming a minor as a beneficiary on a retirement plan, for parents of children with disabilities, it's especially important to know that adults with disabilities are only eligible for Supplemental Security Income or Medicaid if their total assets are less than $2,000. So if a child were to become a beneficiary of his or her parents' retirement savings, this could undercut that child's ability to receive government benefits after age 18.

Charlie Nelson is CEO of retirement and employee benefits at Voya Financial.

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