Someone to turn to

Ability One's Jon Morris describes the challenges of developing and implementing a financial plan for a 19-year-old client with an acquired brain injury.

I recently took on a 19-year-old client with an acquired brain injury.  The client was catastrophically injured in a car crash when she was nine and also lost her mother in the crash. 

She received a financial settlement, so my aim was to make sure her funds last a lifetime. She requires 24-hour care and will never work – essentially she has retired at the age of 19.

The first thing I needed to do was establish a trusted partnership with the client and her father, who were understandably wary after a long legal process and anxious about how to manage their funds.

The father is elderly, so in addition to financial concerns, he is focused on issues of guardianship and ensuring his daughter’s lifestyle is maintained after he has gone. 

They didn’t really know where to turn and were understandably concerned about whether their funds would last a lifetime.

The funds are held in trust on her behalf, so in essence I have two clients: the injured girl and her father (who is her guardian) and the trustee.

The planning goals are more than just the obvious financial ones of investing the funds wisely and conservatively, and I am also heavily focused on the client’s lifestyle goals.

We need to make sure funds are available for short-term goals, such as building a suitable house and having access to appropriate rehabilitation, as well as for longer-term needs such as ongoing care.

On first glance, this strategy might seem quite straightforward and similar to that of a person reaching retirement.

The challenge however is that my client is only 19 and has extremely high annual expenses which have to be met, whilst at the same time ensuring her funds last over 60 years.

I have had to develop and implement a comprehensive financial plan to ensure appropriate levels of income are available to cover the high cost of living as well as growth.

The biggest gain for my client and her father has been peace of mind – the knowledge that they can have the lifestyle they want and that their funds will last well into the future.

They feel we have not only addressed their immediate needs but that they have formed a partnership and are confident in the knowledge that we’re in this for the long haul.

They now feel they have someone to turn to with all matters, not just financial, which is why I call myself a life planner.

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