Managing your finances during illness and hardships

16 May 2014

By Michael Dwyer

A family member of mine recently underwent a tough battle with an aggressive leukaemia. As many have experienced, the constant hospital stays, doctor visits and general care required by such an illness can turn a family upside down. In my family's situation, the wife had to take time off from work to provide care while the husband underwent intensive treatment that also prohibited him from working.

With children still at private school, ongoing commitments to keep the household running and the mounting costs of cancer treatment, the family had to reconsider the management of their finances. As a financial adviser, this is an issue I see on a regular basis. While no one expects to go through such a hardship in their lifetime, some planning can go a long way to alleviate further stress on your family should the unexpected occur.

Below are some steps you can take that will help your family prepare for whatever life might have in store.

1. Coordinate a time to speak to your professional financial team

Your professional adviser is there to provide the assistance you need. When health complications arise, your primary focus is often on the patient's treatment. It is important to engage your team so they can focus on your finances while you care for your family. Speaking to your team can uncover various strategies, such as accessing super, that could help you through any financial hardship. If you don't have a team in place, ensure you have some referrals ready for when you decide it's time to utilise an adviser, accountant, or solicitor.

2. Understand your entitlements

In the modern workforce, loyalty to employers has taken a back seat to climbing the corporate ladder. In some cases, this rules out a big entitlement that could be used in times of hardship, such as long service leave or many years of accrued annual leave. However, if possible, the opportunity to tap into your long service leave when unable to work is a great benefit to assist with your ongoing cash flow requirements.

3. Review your insurance policies

If you have met with a financial adviser, you should have discussed having appropriate risk management in place for your family. While insurance policies can seem costly, they are essential in the event of an unforeseen medical issue. In cases like my family, income protection and trauma policies kicked in with minimal fuss, and suddenly those premiums paid over the years suddenly becomes money well spent.

4. Ask for help

Friends and family are often very willing to lend a hand during difficult times. However, some can be shy about volunteering their help, thinking their assistance wouldn't make a difference when in reality you could use all the help you can get. While the human psyche suggests we need to bear the load ourselves, asking for help is not a sign of weakness but a tool of empowerment.

While we hope we never have to face such difficult times, the reality is that unforeseen hardship can affect anyone at anytime. Don't procrastinate preparing for your future or leave it up to chance. Take the steps today to ensure you and your family are prepared for anything that life may have in store.

To learn more about Michael, view his online profile.

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