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The Program for Wellness Restoration, The Houston Buyers Club, and the LIVE Consortium will co-sponsor a seminar with Per Larson, well-known financial guru to gay and HIV-positive individuals.

Financial workshop with Per Larson for people with HIV in Houston on March 22

by Rich Arenschieldt

 

The Program for Wellness Restoration, The Houston Buyers Club, and the LIVE Consortium will co-sponsor a seminar with Per Larson, well-known financial guru to gay and HIV-positive individuals.

The seminar will be held Tuesday, March 22, 6:30–8:30 p.m. at the United Way Community Center located at 50 Waugh Drive, Houston, 77007.

A graduate of University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School of Business, Larson’s knowledge of the specific financial issues facing individuals with HIV is encyclopedic.

Many corporations, including American Brands and Bell Helicopter, have relied on his expertise in managing workplace healthcare issues. Larson is also known outside of the gay community, having appeared on 60 Minutes, MSNBC, and Money Works. He’s been quoted in Forbes, Kiplinger, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and the New York Times.

“I was a very typical graduate of the Wharton School in the early ’80s; I did a lot of corporate work providing consulting services, coordinating conferences, and eventually opening and running my own company.”

Larson’s career path then shifted, largely as a result of events that affected people close to him. Two decades ago, HIV took a serious physiological toll on those infected. Larson realized that the financial impact of the diagnosis was equally devastating.

In 1997 Larson wrote Gay Money, which reframed financial decisions specifically for gay individuals. “Most traditional assumptions in the financial world didn’t fit the unique needs, opportunities, and risks faced by the gay community,” Larson said. He became a prolific writer publishing articles covering everything from viatical settlement fraud to the financial implications of unsafe sex. As a past columnist for the Advocate, OUT, Positively Aware, Body Positive, and POZ, he’s written more than 100 articles on monetary issues.

Larson created a curriculum to prevent “physical illness from turning into financial catastrophe” which was utilized by the Association of Financial Planners and is now part of the curriculum of the College of Financial Planning.

“As the decade progressed, I was losing many friends. For the first time in my life I felt powerless over what was happening. I did what many people did—I retreated. During this time I wrote two books and numerous shorter pieces. At that time I had an HIV-positive friend who was an accountant and wanted to become a financial advisor. His goal was to help HIV-positive men stay financially “well” throughout  their illness. We decided to work on this together and founded Affording Care, an organization whose mission was to give financial advice to disabled individuals. We created financial workshops for New York’s Body Positive, and in a very short period of time I was inundated with people who needed help.”

Though Larson is often featured in large venues where his knowledge is disseminated to a wide population, his most valuable work relates to what he accomplishes for individuals. In addition to macro-economic issues, Larson has specific expertise in helping gay men with HIV prevent their disease from “plunging them from high incomes into living on welfare.” Larson has an excellent track record obtaining and keeping long-term disability benefits for more than 800 clients.

With typical candor Larson says, “Everybody dies of something. There are a lucky few who just drift off in their sleep, but most of us have to contend with something much more complicated.” According to Larson, contrary to popular belief, very few people in the general population actually have a chronic debilitating illness. “If you know you may be at risk and eventually become disabled, you will need to plan for that.”

People at risk are also important to Larson. “You can’t ignore this population when you are addressing the financial concerns of gay men. I’ve written articles aimed at those who aren’t playing safe. Here I focus on the actual cost to the individual, in real terms, of acquiring HIV.

Larson’s main focus for his Houston presentation will be on what he calls “claim protection.” “People must be aware of the tactics that insurers use to prevent individuals from accessing disability insurance. Often patients don’t realize how a random notation from their physician in their medical record will cause cancellation of benefits or disallow a claim. You have to remember that these statements are often taken out of context and used against individuals.”

Retirement planning issues are also crucial to Larson. “HIV infection accelerates  the aging process and, consequently, the rate at which people retire. Since medical costs comprise a greater portion of a retiree’s expenses, and the rate of inflation for those expenses is high, the cost in real terms is tremendous. How do we plan for that when a person’s investment horizon may be shorter than normal? We know that people with HIV now have normal life expectancies, but the key question is: “what kind of life is that person going to have?”

Topics to be discussed include:

 

• How to make a disability application succeed the first time—and stay OK.
• How to get physicians to effectively support disability claims and reviews.
• What 20 dirty tricks are used by insurers, and how best to beat them.
• How can financial measures to protect claims improve health as well.
• If employed, how best to cope with the dangers of job and benefits loss.
• How to minimize the loss of long-term disability benefits at age 65.
• How can savings occur, and how should investments be managed now?
• What financial pitfalls lurk as a result of premature aging and cognitive impairment?
• What financial costs increase as the need for treatment increases?
• Must a normal life expectancy be accompanied by impoverishment?
• How can a long-term survivor prepare to supplement Social Security after 65?
• Is it safe to apply for back-to-work programs?

 

The seminar will be held Tuesday, March 22, 6:30–8:30 p.m. at the United Way Community Center located at 50 Waugh Drive, Houston, 77007.

LINKS:

http://positivelyaware.com/2009/09_05/financial_fallout_of_hiv.shtml

http://www.thebody.com/content/art60472.html

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Rich Arenschieldt

Rich has written for OutSmart for more than 25 years, chronicling various events impacting Houston’s queer community. His areas of interest and influence include all aspects of HIV treatment and education as well as the milieu of creative endeavors Houston affords its citizenry, including the performing, visual and fine arts. Rich loves interviewing and discovering people, be they living, or, in his capacity as a member of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers, deceased.

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