Families with special-needs children face a complex, fast-changing set of options. About 14 percent of the school population, or 6.7 million students, are using special services. That’s up 20 percent from 10 years ago, according to U.S. Department of Education statistics. Diagnoses range from dyslexia to bipolar disorder. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act says that the federal government will fund up to 40 percent of costs for disabled students; in 2007, it contributed less than 18 percent. Congress, the courts, local districts, and parents are debating how to deliver the best special education.
Lorraine Saari had spent 20 years in classrooms, principals’ offices, and school board meetings, advocating for her own four kids (now grown), all of whom had special needs. Her epiphany a few years ago: Why not use that hard-won savvy to help other parents — and earn a living? "I wanted to help families be families rather than case managers," Saari says. Her firm, Safe Harbor Family Solutions, in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, now has three employees. Most clients are parents, but Saari also consults for school systems. Advocates can work solo, in small practices or for law firms that supplement their ranks with nonlawyer advocates. Two good routes in: teaching and social work.
Pay and Perks
An advocate working for a nonprofit can earn up to $60,000 a year, depending on her experience and the organization, says Susan Henderson, head of the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund. Independent consultants can charge a lot more, up to $100 an hour, she says.
Kids, parents, teachers — and bureaucrats.
To Find Out More
Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates
8. Financial Adviser
Help clients plot their financial future.
With people in their 50s and up holding an estimated $8.5 trillion in assets, there’s a built-in and growing clientele. Firms are eager to hire female planners who can relate to their customers; independent practitioners also do well.
Women make the switch from careers as varied as teaching, engineering, or insurance sales, says the Financial Planning Association’s Heather Almand. Just about anyone can hang out a shingle as an adviser; getting credentials as a certified financial planner will give you access to more and better clients. That requires several steps, including practicing for three years and passing the exam given by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. (Almost 70 percent of those certified by CFP are between 40 and 59, says Carol Lee Roberts of CFP.) Employers will sometimes cover the cost of training and continuing education. To sell financial products as well as advise clients, a planner must fulfill licensing requirements. Gail Nickse, 51, started in the business designing brochures for Putnam Investments and opened her own practice in 2005. "I listen well and get to know each of my clients personally," she says. "I’m pleased by how many are willing to tell me their secret dreams and aspirations."
Pay and Perks
Earnings vary widely. According to a 2006 survey by the College for Financial Planning, the average salary for a first-year financial planner is about $120,000. As a bonus, Nickse says that her own nest egg has grown more quickly as she gains experience helping others plan and invest.
Fluctuating interest rates and stock prices.
To Find Out More
Financial Planning Association
9. Online Professor
Prove that you can not only do but also teach. In the process, help advance the frontier of higher education.