The disabled, injured often need guidance to protect their financial futures
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
By Gena Bigler
Even as a child, Angela Luhys saw the wisdom in collecting pennies. When I asked why she was running to save a penny from the vacuum, she told me “pennies make dollars.” Angela now shares that wisdom with her clients daily.
Angela serves a unique role, as a trust administrator at Kentucky Guardianship Administrators. She works directly with trust beneficiaries, sometimes quite literally holding their hands through hard times. The majority of her clients have suffered a severe personal injury leaving them disabled.
Many of her clients have lived in such poverty they have never had a bank account. Angela helps them navigate financial hurdles as she assists them in transitioning to a new way of life. She helps them shop for a house, set up monthly deliveries for healthcare supplies and makes sure their electricity stays on.
To her clients, she is part financial coach, part friend and sometimes enforcer. When family and friends suggest “investments” or business start-ups or ask for loans, Angela is the gatekeeper. Her primary purpose is her clients’ wellbeing and, often, saying no is a big part of protecting their future.
When an injured party receives a seemingly large settlement, many family and friends think they are rich or have extra money they can spare. What most people fail to realize is that the injured person will never work again. The money they receive must last a lifetime. That is why Special Needs Trusts exist, to protect a disabled person’s future.
Asked to describe her work, Angela replied, “I’m the person that looks at the furnace while they are staring at the fireplace they never thought they would own.” Recently, while helping a woman buy a home, she strongly encouraged the woman to look at a minimum of four houses. Having never believed she would be able to buy a home of her own, the lady wanted the first one she saw. It took a little time and encouragement to help her see she had the luxury of being choosy about where she lived and where her children would go to school.
She has also checked consumer reviews and blue book values for clients who were promised an “incredibly good deal” on cars or trucks. Shopping around for the best price isn’t always second nature. For people who have never had the opportunity to shop, it is a new concept.
It can also mean a certain naiveté when dealing with sales tactics. For those suffering a brain injury, impulse control and short memory can compound financial challenges.
Much of Angela’s work is helping traverse avenues that most able-bodied middle class Americans take for granted. From explaining that mattresses must be bought separately from bed frames, to explaining intricacies in government benefits, her days are never boring.
Not all of her clients lived in poverty before their injury. For some, conserving their resources is a new challenge. Accepting that there is a finite financial well to draw from can be overwhelming and take a long time to adapt to.
Thinking about the cost of things today and tomorrow is fairly simple and anyone who pays their own way probably understands it. Thinking about the cost of things five or 10 years down the road is more daunting.
Often, Angela has a life care plan to help plan for expenses. If the client hasn’t had a life care plan completed before reaching Angela, she can arrange for one or if it isn’t merited, she will meet with a client and review their expenses, lifestyle and needs and set up a personalized budget. Whichever path they follow, Angela helps save their pennies.
Gena Bigler is passionate about public service and credits her time serving nonprofits in AmeriCorps and Volunteers in Service to America (V.I.S.T.A.) with teaching her extreme budgeting and bargain shopping. Gena is now CFO of McNay Settlement Group and serves on the board of the Lactation Improvement Network of Kentucky (L.I.N.K.). Gena would be happy to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.