The Bottom Line, Part 3
While Mary's decision to step away from full-time work initially seemed risky, the family now knows it was a wise move, financially and otherwise. "By eliminating work expenses and child care, and by adding the income from tutoring, we are taking home nearly the same amount as when I was working outside the home," Mary reports. Even better, "After a year of being at home, my children take less medication and do not go to therapy as often. The emotional and academic benefits of my presence has been substantial."
Mary's Smart Moves
- Carefully considered HMOs, and chose the one that would reduce their medical expenses most.
- Asked specialists for special arrangements to reduce the cost of office visits.
- Took advantage of the medical expense deduction on the family's federal income tax return.
- Hired high school students to tutor her kids; offered to tutor teacher's kids in exchange for extra help for her son.
- Eliminated work expenses (transportation, child care, etc.), by leaving full-time teaching job; part-time tutoring now nets nearly the same amount.
Donna: Considering all her options in Connecticut
"At one point, I was shelling out $1,000 a month for various services, not including medication," says Donna, a 45-year-old, stay-at-home mother of three boys, ages 7 to 10, living in Connecticut. "Ouch, that hurt!" That was two years ago. Back then, Donna's oldest, Scott, who was diagnosed with ADD at age 5, saw both an occupational therapist and a psychiatrist weekly.
Even with the unusually generous health plan provided by husband Stephen's employer, a teaching hospital, the family's out-of-pocket medical expenses are at least $500 a month. Middle son, Aaron, 8, has not been formally diagnosed with ADD, but due to a speech/language disability that presents similar symptoms, he, like his brother, Scott, is now being treated with Concerta. Each boy visits a psychiatrist monthly and takes part in weekly social-skills boosters overseen by either a psychologist or a social worker. "We're managing," reports Donna. "Luckily, my husband makes a good living. I often wonder what we'd do if it weren't for his salary and benefits."
Taking advantage of an FSA is one way the family manages to save. (Under the provisions of an FSA, the money isn't taxed, but must be used by year's end to cover medical expenses incurred.) This year, they set aside $4,000.
They also choose to keep their boys in public school, where they are entitled to speech and occupational therapy, as well as other services stipulated by the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act. Donna and Stephen constantly reevaluate how their sons' ADD is managed, but Donna says that the cost of their care never keeps the family from focusing on what's best for the boys. "I would rather eat bread and water for a year," she says, "than not give them some service that would help them with their disabilities."
Donna's Smart Moves
- Sets aside pre-tax dollars in a Flexible Spending Arrangement (FSA).
- Opted to keep their sons in public school, to take advantage of services provided for them under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act.
All names in this story have been changed to preserve privacy.
This article appeared in ADDitude Magazine.
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