The leaves are falling, and the seasons are changing, but I couldn’t let the month of October come to an end without first mentioning breast cancer. If going through the checkout line at the grocery store and being asked to donate a dollar didn’t give it away, or the hints of pink on the uniforms of college and professional football players alike; October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We are talking about a cancer that affects 12% of women in their lifetime according to the American Cancer Society. That is just 1 in 8 of us.
It’s safe to say, we all know of someone that has fought for their life against breast cancer. I have close family who have, and I am thankful that a month of the year is dedicated to making people mindful of this terrible disease. My hope is that those donations, walks, Zumba classes, and free mammograms are helping raise awareness and going towards research so that maybe one day, breast cancer won’t have to be the financial burden and heartache that it is today. I say financial burden because typically after the shock, your first thoughts following a diagnosis are: Family, friends, and life… followed by financial concerns.
Some wonder how they will be able to pay for something that is so time-ambiguous. We often think that the cost of healthcare is a topic we won’t have to discuss until further down the road and not until we’re older and have a need for medications, nursing homes, and long term care. As you might guess, this isn’t always the case, as a cancer diagnosis could be closer than you think. Of course, if you were to be diagnosed with breast cancer, insurance would certainly step in. Breast cancer’s total expense of surgeries, scans, radiation, medicine, treatment, etc. could look something like this, out of pocket, after insurance:
Timing is everything. Early detection could mean less cost; as early detection provides the highest probability of success in treatment. If the cancer spreads, as it did for my friend Diana (a breast cancer survivor), it is going to take longer before the doctors can be certain that there is no longer a sign of disease, which means more co-payments and costs.
Whether you have recently been diagnosed, or are like me and want to be prepared for when/if that day comes there are some things you can do:
Update Estate Planning Documents & Get Financial Household in Order
“I need to get everything organized and put in one place where it can be easily referenced ‘just in case.’ High on my priority list was to ensure my Trust was updated and to immediately get my financial matters in order.” – Diana, breast cancer survivor.
This was one of Diana’s biggest fears, second to not being there to see her daughter get married. It’s so important to give your loved ones some direction as to where everything is, and having an updated estate plan and consolidated finances is the key to doing just that.
Review your Disability Insurance.
“I relied on short term disability for my surgical procedure where I was off work for six weeks” – Tish, my grandma and breast cancer survivor.
Review your disability insurance to be sure you understand it. Do you know what percentage of your income it covers and for how long? Will you be able to make it financially with only 60 – 70% of your normal paycheck for day to day expenses and cancer expenses?
Have Money Elsewhere
In my industry, I often see people with all of their eggs in one basket. You can’t access your retirement money until, well, retirement! The number of women diagnosed with breast cancer begins to increase dramatically after the age of 40. Both of the strong cancer fighters I interviewed were not yet 59 ½ when they faced and won their battles. In the event you are diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 59 ½, you should have money in savings, brokerage, and health savings accounts or flexible savings accounts in addition to your work retirement plans (money that is accessible and for a different purpose.)
Health Savings Accounts have a triple tax benefit and allow you to save for medical expenses. They are tax-deductible, or can be pretax if your contributions are coming out of your paycheck. HSA accounts also grow tax-free, and you can make tax-free withdrawals if the medical expenses are considered qualified (i.e. breast reconstruction surgery following a mastectomy to remove all breast tissue to treat/prevent breast cancer).
If you are like me and you’re naturally a worrier, “what-if” scenarios are for you. A what-if scenario can be added into your financial plan as a stress test to better plan for your future. If you don’t have cancer now (and maybe you never will), you can always meet with a financial planner to see what would happen to your finances if you were to be diagnosed with breast cancer or other catastrophic illness. The financial plan lets us create expenses, edit the year those expenses take place, and pick how we want to fund them. It also lets us play around with the options, which in the end can create enormous peace at mind.
If you need assistance with any of the topics I have outlined above, you don’t have to be a client to ask a question. Best of all, financial plans are free at my office!
Lastly, taking preventative steps in detecting breast cancer is the best thing you can do for yourself. Monthly self-breast exams and annual examinations with your doctor should certainly be added into your life, if not already. I would also recommend one of the many apps that are out there for your phone like B4BC – Boarding for Breast Cancer which can give you even more knowledge and helps act as a reminder to just be aware.
Check out L.I.F.T. Our newest initiative to get women more involved in their financial decision making. A safe and judgement-free zone to gain knowledge and feel confident when asking questions as it relates to financial planning and our goals for the future. Learning & Investing in our Future Together:
Categories: Educational Articles, Heather Atkins, L.I.F.T., Market Commentary