Putting Together a Financial Plan after Diagnosis – Where to start?
There are so many things to consider after a cancer diagnosis and, understandably, personal finances may not be on your mind. But taking steps early on to set a budget and put together a financial plan can help ease financial burdens later on, protect your family, and save you money through tax and debt management strategies. Planning ahead also makes it easier for you to focus on what matters—taking care of yourself and spending time with those you love.
Most cancer patients focus on the cost of care and look for available resources to help navigate healthcare options and treatment plan costs. However, another important financial step after diagnosis is talking with someone who can look at all elements of your finances and help guide you through all the important considerations to help protect and manage your finances. This is important for everyone, whether you only have a checking account or if you already have a long-term financial plan.
Financial Consultants generally will set up a free initial meeting to learn more about your current situation and then discuss how their process works, including any fees.
There are many financial professionals, often referred to as Financial Consultants, who specialize in helping people put together financial plans. A financial plan is a document of some sort that outlines all of the recommended strategies and steps to take for your unique financial situation, including establishing a budget.
Talking with a Financial Consultant may sound overwhelming, but after your free initial meeting, the Financial Consultant will help you:
Navigate Your Income Sources and Options: What resources do you have to cover your treatment and support your family?
Medical expenses for treatment can overwhelm the family budget and sometimes households are reduced to one income during treatment and recovery. Understanding your income source options may prevent debt accumulations. Options to consider:
- Apply for Disability: Certain types of cancer qualify for social security disability, depending on cancer origin, extent, response to therapy, and other factors. For breast cancer, most diagnoses are covered, except DCIS (ductal carcinoma in-situ). If the cancer has spread in any way beyond the original tumor location or you will undergo lymphedema surgery, you may qualify for disability. For more information and to apply, visit ssa.gov/disability or call toll-free 1-800-772-1213.
- Withdraw Social Security with Early Retirement: Early retirement results in a reduced benefit, but could be an option if you are 62 or over and have worked in a social security-covered job for 10 years. The Social Security website is a great resource for understanding your benefits.
- Access Your Retirement Accounts: Retirement savings accounts include 401k’s (from your current or previous employer), Roth IRA’s and Traditional IRA’s all can be drawn from. The resulting penalty for a withdrawal before retirement age varies or may be subject to an exception depending on a variety of factors. Employer sponsored retirement plans, such as a 401(k) plan, have requirements as to when you can access your retirement savings. Check with your retirement plan administrator for information on taking distributions from the plan.
- Cash Out Investment Accounts: If you happen to have stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or CD’s, they can be cashed out. Factor in the applicability of any costs or fees before you take any action over your investments and/or your financial accounts.
- Take Out a Home Equity Loan: A home equity loan is a type of loan that is secured by your home
- Apply for Medicaid: Colorado expanded coverage to low-income adults and may offer a solution to cover medical expenses. Your health care home can assist you with applying for Medicaid, or you can contact the Colorado Medicaid program at 800-221-3943.
Prioritize Expenses and Set a Budget: Thinking ahead to plan for the coming weeks and months.
Understanding how to prioritize your expenses, discerning which debts and financial obligations should come first, is very important. A financial professional will help you establish a household budget if you haven’t already and help you understand which major debt obligations, like credit cards and your mortgage, may allow for payment postponement under certain circumstances.
Incorporate Tax Strategies: Other ways to reduce the financial burden of a cancer diagnosis
Understanding tax strategies and deductions may help reduce your tax burden. Almost all out-of-pocket medical expenses have some tax deductibility. Medical equipment, pharmacy, and cost of care (what you pay doctor offices and hospitals) are a few examples.
Develop an End of Life Plan: Long-term planning for your family
Even if not facing a terminal diagnoses, an important part of any financial plan is determining where you want your assets to go after you pass away. If you do not specify a beneficiary, your assets and debt could go to your estate and be overseen by the government. Incorporating end of life planning into your financial plan ensures all of the necessary legal documents are in place to protect your assets. With this strategy in place, more money will likely be left with family and charities and less paid in taxes or legal fees.
Although you can certainly navigate the above resources and put together your own budget and financial plan, a Financial Consultant can help to ease your load and develop a plan designed to save you time and money so you have one less thing to think about.
- 5280 Associates is an independent practice of Thrivent Financial.
- Thrivent Financial is not affiliated with Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.
- Not legal, accounting or tax advice. Consult your attorney and/or tax professional.
- Thrivent representatives have general knowledge of the Social Security tenets. For a complete details on your situation, contact the Social Security Administration.
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