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Ask Dave

Find Another Way To Serve His Needs

Allison has a son with severe learning disabilities. She needs to send him to a specialized school, but it's going to cost $18,500. Dave doesn't think Allison's family can afford this school.

QUESTION: Allison in South Carolina has a nine-year-old son with severe learning disabilities. She needs to send him to a specialized school, but it’s going to cost $18,500, and Allison doesn’t know how they’re going to pay for it on their $60,000 income. Dave doesn’t think Allison’s family can afford this school.

ANSWER: Financially, I don’t think your family can survive that decision. You’re barely making it. You’ve been very conservative on everything. You’ve done a great job with money. It’s just very tough to say I’m going to commit a third of my household income to one of my four children and not have other things in the house really struggle. It breaks my heart with you that you guys are facing this.

Your emergency fund is definitely tagging you on a couple of issues. There’s no question about it. I didn’t realize SSI was based on household income. I thought it was based on need. I wouldn’t want to put my family in a need-based condition just to get government help. I’ll have to figure out another way to do it. Hiding the emergency fund would be lying. If you put it in your parents’ names so that you can lie to get government assistance, that’s lying. There are probably some legal things you can do. But I think I would sit down with the headmaster of the school and let him know you’re a family that makes $60,000 a year and because you’ve done a good job with your money, you’re being penalized. Ask him to go before the board and revisit the issue to help you with the scholarship—from a common- sense perspective.

I’m going to have to find another way to serve this young man’s needs instead of using up your emergency fund if this school can’t be worked with. This is a lot for this school. I want you to follow your mother’s heart and serve your young man here. I’m certainly not lacking in compassion for what you guys are facing at all. I just think you’ve got to be careful not to get caught up in the emotions and get your family in a real bind here over chasing this kind of thing.