Find a knowledgeable financial professional who can help you understand the process and design a roadmap to help you reach your goals. It's best to work with a financial professional, such as a Special Care Planner**, who has been trained in the area of special needs planning, so that the strategy you develop benefits you, the loved one for whom you are caring, and other family members. Assemble a team. Your financial and life plans could be closely tied to those of your loved one with special needs. As a result, you will need to ensure that all of your planning is coordinated with the planning being done for your loved one. You'll need access to an attorney, accountant, potentially a banker, and others, all of whom should have expertise in the area of special needs planning. Your Special Care Planner or other financial professional can help assemble a team of experts for you. Set your goals. Only by deliberately thinking about what you're trying to achieve will you be able to take steps to achieve it. Is your long-range goal to provide for yourself in retirement? To leave an inheritance for your loved ones? To guard against the possible negative impact of your own long-term illness or disability? Taking time to think about your own future is critical. Evaluate what you already have. Re-examine your existing plans, protection and savings, as well as any benefits you might receive through the workplace. Double-check to ensure that they are current, and that the beneficiaries are correct. Identify your gaps. For example, do you have enough life insurance to achieve your goals? Do you have sufficient disability income insurance protection to protect you in the event you become too ill or disabled to work? What about your long-term care needs?  Are you setting aside enough to reach your retirement income goals? Have you thought about who else can provide the care that you do to your loved one with special needs -- who will take your place when you are gone?Pick the right solutions for your needs. Once your goals and gaps are identified, it's now possible to choose the right solutions for your needs. A financial services professional can help you determine the product characteristics that are right for you. It's always important to choose a financially strong financial services company with a long track record of being there when its clients need it. Avoid conflicts. Make sure that the plan you develop for yourself does not conflict with the plan needed by your loved one with special needs. For example, naming your loved one with special needs in your will can be a mistake, because an inheritance of as little as $2,000 can make your loved one ineligible for governmental programs. Ask a specialist, such as a Special Care Planner, about other strategies, such as those involving Supplemental Special Needs Trusts.   Make your plans known. Discuss your plan with other family members, as well as the plan of your loved one with special needs. Often generous and well-meaning family members can make gifts or leave inheritances to a loved one with special needs that can unintentionally wreak financial havoc by making the loved one ineligible for governmental programs. That, in turn, can have a significant financial impact on the caregiver. It is best to communicate your plans clearly and to educate other family members about the intricacies of special needs planning. Take care of your physical and emotional well-being. Family caregivers frequently feel the strains of stress and often cite depression as an ongoing challenge. As a caregiver, you should seek out frequent respite breaks; even a short break can help rejuvenate you. Involve other family members and friends in the care of your loved one, especially of they may be named as a future guardian. Reach out for support. There are numerous governmental programs and advocacy groups that provide information, programs, and assistance to caregivers. A good first step is to visit the federal government's Caregivers' Resources page at wwwa/Citizen/Topics/Health/caregivers.shtml.

SOURCE MassMutual Financial Group