Going the distance to educate people with MS on financial planning

Martin Shenkman, CPA, MBA, PFS, AEP, JD, and his wife, Patti Klein, MD, log not only hundreds of hours but also thousands of miles in educating people with MS and other chronic conditions about the importance of making wise financial decisions.

When Dr. Klein, an anesthesiologist, was diagnosed with MS in 2006, her husband was shocked to learn how little financial information was tailored specifically to the needs of people with multiple sclerosis or, for that matter, other chronic illnesses. An attorney specializing in estate planning who also is licensed as a certified public accountant, Shenkman set out to fill that void.

One approach was writing. Drawing on his professional expertise, Shenkman has written several books and numerous articles on the subject, including Estate Planning for People with a Chronic Condition or Disability, Demos Health, 2009.

The other route – literally – that he and his wife decided to pursue was to travel across the country, speaking about financial planning as volunteers. When Dr. Klein’s condition made air travel too difficult, the couple purchased a recreational vehicle and started driving cross-country for a total of up to two months each year, conducting free workshops on financial planning for people with disabilities and their families, as well as educating professional advisers on helping clients living with chronic illness.

“Just as a diagnosis of MS or a similar condition requires a person to make informed decisions about treatment, there’s a pressing need to understand – and address – the financial implications involved. By providing this education, and delivering it from the perspective of people who understand what it’s like to deal with MS, we hope to provide people with the information and motivation needed to be well prepared for whatever the future may hold,” Shenkman says.

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