For most of us, financial security is built on a foundation of employment and savings.  We work to pay the bills and set a bit aside for rainy days and our retirement.

For Zachary and his family, the path to financial security is a bit more complicated.

Zachary is the comedian of our family:  he does a mean Irish accent and loves to crack jokes.  He keeps his father, younger brother and me laughing.  Which is good, because some days contemplating the future for someone with a disability can be frightening.

We have learned from Zachary how to be good parents for him. But as Zachary turns into a young man we are contemplating the next phase of life:  adulthood.  This is not an easy process.  What will Zachary’s life be like as an adult?  How will he be supported?  Where will he live?  Where will he work?  Will he have a partner?  Who will his friends be?  What will happen after we die?  I don’t know the exact contours of his future, but I do know that we want for Zachary what we want for our other son:  happiness, friendship, meaning, comfort, and security.

One step to help secure our vision for Zachary’s future is to secure his financial future. We can save money in an RDSP for Zachary that won’t jeopardize his access to social assistance.  It also allows other people to contribute towards Zachary’s future. However, an RDSP alone will not create a good life for Zachary.  We need to work to realize our vision for Zachary, including involving groups like PLAN to create a network of friends, engaging with other parents to explore housing options, and saving funds in a trust. The tools exist and our task is to weave the fabric for a safe and secure future for Zachary.

As Zachary’s story illustrates, financial security for people with disabilities requires a more diverse and creative approach, involving four streams:

  • Employment– both family and individual
  • Disability benefits– provincial and federal
  • Building assets– savings, RDSP, trusts and home ownership
  • Contributions from family and friends– will and estate planning, RDSP, gifts

When planning for a secure financial future, take some time to explore each of these areas to create a whole picture.