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Parent of Down syndrome child pens book on financial planning for special needs family members

January 4, 2016
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Rob Wrubel helps his daughter, Sarah,12 spell a work in a letter as his two other children, Benjie,14, (left) and Annie,9, work on a holiday craft at their home Thursday, December 17, 2015. Wrubel is writing a book to help families with financial planning. His plan is out of necessity, his daughter, Sarah has Down syndrome, so he needed to come up for a plan to financially support her for the rest of her life. CAROL LAWRENCE/THE GAZETTE

Rob Wrubel started writing his book-writing project in the middle.

His book, "Protect Your Family: Life Insurance Basics for Special Needs Planning," is actually the seventh of nine steps in a book he is writing on developing a financial plan for families that have a member with special needs.

Wrubel, senior vice president of Cascade Investment Group, developed his nine-step process out of necessity - his 12-year-old daughter, Sarah, has Down syndrome, so he needed to come up with a plan that could financially support her for the rest of her life, which could extend beyond the death of him and his ex-wife.

"Most parents expect their children to live and work on their own, but with a special needs child, that is sometimes not the case," Wrubel said.

"The biggest thing I find is that parents of special needs family members hear a lot of legal, technical and financial advice but don't act on it because of fear of making a mistake. People in this situation are overwhelmed by the day-to-day needs of the family member with therapy, medical appointments and other responsibilities, and their ability to focus and take time to develop a long-term plan is often lacking."

Wrubel wrote the 58-page self-published book based on a call he received last spring from the mother of a baby with Down syndrome about what type of life insurance she should buy for herself to make sure the child's financial needs would be met after the mother died.

As a result, he wrote and published the book about life insurance as he was working on a much longer book - 400 pages before editing - on his nine-step financial planning process that he hopes to publish this year, though he also might break out other steps into smaller books.

The caller "was overwhelmed by the choices between term, whole-life, universal life and other types of life insurance, and the book is the answer I gave her," Wrubel said.

"She was working with a(n insurance) agent in Florida and wanted to know if she was making the right decision. I don't think she was since she was being sold whole-life insurance that she could afford now but might not be able to afford if there was any financial hiccup in her life. In that case, she would have lost the coverage and all of the premiums she would have paid up to that point."

Wrubel's advice for many clients is to buy term life insurance that typically carries a much lower premium than whole-life insurance and invest the savings from what the premium would be for whole-life coverage into a mutual fund or other investment that would earn a reasonable return. Any proceeds from life insurance or investments should be placed in a special trust for the special needs family member so they will not lose eligibility for government assistance when turning 18, a common mistake many parents of special needs children make.

"The life insurance question keeps coming up, so I wanted to give people in this situation a tool that they could use right away, which is why I started with this book instead of the entire (nine-step) process. The idea was to give people a simple tool to make a decision that can be complex," said Wrubel, who specializes in doing financial planning for families with special needs and has conducted many workshops and presentations for families with special needs members. "Parts of this book will be incorporated into the larger book," including a variety of worksheets.

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Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234

Twitter @wayneheilman

Facebook Wayne Heilman

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