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Puzzle pieces

Complete pictures help solve puzzles

My family and I spent some time working on puzzles over winter break. We had time, it was cold outside and needed something to do. Have you ever tried putting a puzzle together without looking at the picture on the box? Don’t. Even a simple puzzle comes together quicker, easier and is more fun if you have the picture in front of you than if you stumble blindly through it. What if you covered up three quarters of the picture and went to work? It would still be hard to finish. One corner might come together well and then you would struggle through the rest.

The Blueprints Process for Special Needs Planning Starts by taking some time to write down dreams and goals. At my last workshop the parents in the room started to make a list of those dreams. I gave one direction – write down anything and everything that comes to mind. Do not set limits. This part of the planning process is not a time to restrict or censor the dreams – it’s the time to dream big. Later in the process this list gets narrowed down and some timelines are put in place.

Families then took a few moments to share some their life dreams. Some were focused on travel and experiences. Many were about providing the best life possible for family members with special needs (this was a special needs planning workshop after all). Some talked about retirement and other looming financial goals.

As we shared our dreams, one Mom said that her entire list had to do with her daughter with special needs. She did not include any goals or dreams for herself. This was a natural, caring response as her main priority is to build a thriving, secure and meaningful life for her daughter today and in the future.

She had one corner of the puzzle looking pretty good but did not spend time thinking about the rest.

Good planning means thinking about of all members of the family – not just the person with special needs. Good planning includes taking care of ourselves as we look to create the best life possible for our family member with special needs. Good planning means we have to write down goals and dreams for ourselves and not just our family member with special needs.

Blueprints is a series of planning Building Blocks that take place over time. Some Building Blocks, like pulling together documents, getting a trust in place or buying life insurance, happen quickly. Others, like funding retirement accounts, getting out of debt or investing to fund a trust, take place over years. Building a support network for our family members with special needs and addressing medical and development issues never go away. These Building Blocks require stamina, patience and attention to our own health, energy and well-being.

We need to stay sharp.

We need to stay motivated.

We need to connect to goals and dreams that make us happy, reduce stress and fulfill our souls.

We need to balance the difficult and worrying parts of future planning with those that bring joy and comfort.

Review your financial and life plans. Did you include “bucket list” items or only goals that have to be done? My financial planning meetings always cover the “have to be done” goals – retirement, debt reduction and more. We review portfolios, income statements and balance sheets. We talk about the economy, oil and trends.

My clients light up and engage when the discussion moves from balance sheets and market statements to what they love and want. Travel. A new car. Taking a pottery class. Going to sporting events or theater. These are the goals that make saving, investing and planning exciting. These are the conversations that keep people going through the moments in life when they feel beat up by schools that do not respond or filling out Social Security forms.

Make sure to cover all aspects of your life when putting together your Blueprints plan. Include the fun and enjoyable as well as the necessary. Have a big, beautiful and colorful image in your head as you work on all the Building Blocks of taking care of your family and to provide for the best life possible for your family member with special needs.