“I wanted to be excited for the future of my daughter.”
The following is taken from a presentation Jessica Humphrey gave to families about her experience with a Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP).
I was asked to come and speak about the RDSP as a family member. It takes a bit of time to set up an RDSP, but it’s not hard and the resources and people available are excellent. I’m grateful to PLAN Institute who has created step-by-step guides and resources to make the process as plain language and accessible as possible (visit www.rdsp.com to learn more).
I’m a mom who lives in Victoria with my husband, Todd, and two kids, Hudson who is 13 and Sahara who is 15.
Sahara is the one who brings me here today and into a conversation I really didn’t think I would be a part of when she was born 15 year ago. But life works in mysterious ways and here I am.
Those of you who are parents of kids with disabilities may be able to relate when remembering back to those early years when you fell so deeply in love with your baby, who was clearly different, but perfect to you, and who was challenging your own sense of what is normal and successful and worth living for.
For me, those years were about wanting so desperately to be excited for the future of my daughter, but deep in my heart thinking, “Am I able to give her the best possible life… what will happen to Sahara when I die?”
When my second was born, I started to realize the world had different expectations for Hudson, who doesn’t have a disability, than it did for Sahara. And in my heart another fear started to emerge: Sahara won’t have the same opportunities for a good life as her brother. I realized family members and neighbours had different ideas about what life would entail for Sahara, compared to what it would look like for Hudson. My in-laws were generous and started an RESP for Hudson — but that wouldn’t be an option for Sahara — she didn’t need their contribution. She wouldn’t need to save money like that. The government would have paid programs for her. This is what I was told.
By the time she was in elementary school I was afraid of three things:
- What was going to happen to her when Todd, her dad, and I died?
- That she wouldn’t have the same options as her brother — that she would spend her days in programs designed to fill time with other people a service system had decided she had something in common with.
- She would be poor and seen as a burden — that she costs money and is not a valued member of her society.
I realized it would be very difficult to build a vision for our daughter with these fears weighing us down. So I went out to find like-minded families who wanted to rethink these assumptions and get excited about building a life where our kids would have the same opportunities as their brothers and sisters. I discovered amazing families doing amazing things and their sons and daughters living full rich lives.
It was during our search to find a new path and new definitions of what was possible that the RDSP opened its doors in 2008. Now, I’m not saying that the RDSP became this magic bullet that took all our fears away. Especially at the beginning when virtually NO ONE knew what we were talking about.
We started to contribute the year the RDSP opened and put in $1500. We have been lucky to be able to contribute that same amount every year.
All of a sudden this girl who was going to be a burden is 15 years old and has $40,000 in the bank. She is a customer, a future home owner, she has assets, she has options.
While it’s not the be all and end all, it is big part of helping us plan in big ways for Sahara to perhaps own her own home one day, or have the capital to start her own business. She is not a burden, she has choices and she will have opportunities not unlike her brother. And because Sahara has significant support needs and will always need full support for the rest of her life, we can organize our finances knowing that when we retire there will be help for us to set Sahara up with what she needs.
It is a long term savings plan and that is something to get your head wrapped around. Our plan is to contribute until she is 25 and assess life, what she cares about, and our own finances at that point. We could stop receiving government contributions at 25 and let it sit for 10 years so she can look at buying her own home when she’s 35, or maybe we contribute another 5 until she’s 30, let it sit until she’s 40 (by then she would have maxed out her government grants) — and by then I will be 67 and ready to really figure out how I can retire and make sure she has access to her RDSP.