Welcome. Why I do what I do.
Life is more complicated when you have a child with a disability.
Not simply because of the disability, but because our society is not built for people with disabilities. If it were, then half of all people with disabilities would not be unemployed, special education wouldn’t be so “special” and government programs and supports wouldn’t be so difficult to understand, navigate and secure.
I do what I do because life becomes so much more challenging when you have a child with a disability.
Individuals with disabilities are marginalized in society, often ignored or treated as objects of charity. And so are their families. A family’s finances can be severely impacted, forcing them to do much more with less. While other families expect their children to eventually support themselves financially, parents of children with developmental disabilities are faced with constant uncertainty as to how their children will support themselves. How will their son or daughter fare once they are too old or frail to parent? How do they arrange their affairs and make sure their child will be okay after they die?
Parents worry about more than the safety and financial security of their children; they also worry about their emotional well-being. When they find out their child has Autism or Down Syndrome or Fragile X or Cerebral Palsy, many parents mourn the loss of the life they dreamed of for their child. That life was about more than safety and security; it was about making friends, falling in love, having children, succeeding in education and career, and contributing to society.
Many people with disabilities go on to lead satisfying lives, but many are marginalized and isolated.
Marginalization is due, in part, to limited financial resources. It is difficult to play an active role in society with little money to support yourself. Couple that with a disability and life can become that much more isolating.
What I have seen many of the families I work with accomplish for their children is quite remarkable. They have learned to advocate for their children in schools, in the healthcare system and in the community at large. They have accomplished more than the average family and often they have done it with less.
Parents have enough to deal with on a day-to-day basis without having to figure out how to tackle the complex financial and legal maze that has been set before them.
I do what I do so that parents have more time and energy to focus on advocating for their children.
If they can worry less about financial challenges and feel confident that the financial resources will be there to provide for their child, especially after they’re gone, then I have provided real value.
The reality is that, while there are government programs like ODSP, tax saving opportunities like the disability tax credit, and savings opportunities like the RDSP, they are far more complex than more traditional programs. My focus is two-fold:
- Advise families to maximize the benefits government programs offer,
- Supplement government disability income benefits, without jeopardizing program eligibility.
Each day, there are adults with disabilities in Ontario losing their government disability income benefits because they have “too much” money. The Ontario Disability Support Program – the arm of the provincial government administering disability income benefits – maintains strict limits on the amount of assets a person can have and the amount they can receive. But ODSP also provides exceptions to these rules. And yet, too many people are not aware of the exceptions, are not told about them when they really need them, or they are too confusing to navigate. Ironically, programs created to support people with disabilities who face so many barriers everyday, are so complex, they present additional barriers for the very people they were meant to assist.
I do what I do so that individuals with disabilities and their families have more money, better lives and more say.
Those with financial clout are listened to. Accommodating people with disabilities will not happen simply because accommodations are legislated. This is not simply about ramps and wider doorways. It is about business, government and average individuals realizing the value of designing a better world, a different world, one that produces products and services in virtually every industry that can be used by everyone, including people with disabilities. This is not just a money game, but it is part of the game.
I don`t have a disability and I don`t have a relative with a disability, but I do know something about marginalization. I worked in the long-term care and non-profit sectors before becoming a financial advisor. I have seen how the young, the old and the disadvantaged struggle. In the end, I wanted to provide services where there were serious needs that are largely left unaddressed.
I know a lot about the RDSP and ODSP and how to structure one’s assets to take full advantage of these savings and assistance programs. My work is more than that, though. It is about providing advice and counsel for the whole family. Family members are intertwined in so many ways, including financially. You can’t provide solutions for only one member of the family without addressing the needs of the others. Parents can’t simply address one child’s needs and ignore and possibly sacrifice their own standard of living. My work takes a holistic approach because it must. Otherwise the chances for success are compromised.
Very few advisors understand the needs of people with disabilities and their families. Traditional financial solutions and strategies often don’t apply. And yet, in many ways, these families – just like any other family – come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of affluence. They just need financial advice that is made for them…that accommodates them.
I would say people with disabilities and their families see life differently because their lives are different. Working with these families has helped me to see my own life differently and for that I am grateful.
~ Ron Malis
P.S. Working with me starts with a discussion about your situation and if it makes sense to work together. If it does, we take it from there.