A woman waves goodbye to her money flying away

Financial Planning for Cancer Patients

A cancer patient must be focused on healing and fighting their disease. However, due to spiraling medical expenses, especially drug costs, many cancer patients may worry about paying for expenses of “day to day” living without ending up in debt.

Due to my incapacitating fatigue, I could no longer work as a nursing instructor while undergoing chemotherapy. I was placed on a medical leave of absence and my household income was significantly reduced. Fortunately, we had a friend who was a financial advisor who gave us sound advice during this most difficult time.

The role of a financial consultant

A financial consultant can help a cancer patient and their loved ones put together a plan that outlines steps to take in order to improve and manage these financial situations. We consult healthcare professionals for treatment decisions for medical care. We should consider speaking with financial and legal experts for addressing finances and other important matters.

Financial planning can be a journey. When one becomes ill, the focus must be on healing. Putting finances in good shape can reduce stress and worry for the cancer patient. When I was first diagnosed, I was worried about financial concerns, paying bills, the cost of chemotherapy, and my ability to work. It was a very stressful time but it helped to have someone to talk to.

Strategies for managing legal and financial considerations

The following strategies may help in managing financial and legal issues when faced with cancer:

Organize your records

I am the bill payer and finance person in my family. My husband trusts me to handle these issues. How would he manage, as I was weak and fatigued? Fortunately, I had organized all our financial, legal, and insurance documents in one place.

Understand your income sources

Medical expenses can overwhelm a family budget. Options to consider may include:

  • Apply for disability through the social security administration. Explore SSA.gov/disability.
  • Investigate your social security benefits with early retirement.
  • Consider your retirement account. Check with your retirement plan and financial consultant to evaluate investment decisions and considerations if you need an early distribution.

Prioritize expenses and set a budget

Getting a handle on our regular expenses and setting a budget can help you feel more secure when unexpected expenses arise.

Tax considerations

Explore tax strategies and ways to reduce the financial burden of a cancer diagnosis. Talk with your tax advisor or a financial expert as some medical expenses may be a tax deduction.

Plan for your wishes to be carried out

No one wants to think about who should inherit our assets or prized possessions. I can remember buying greeting cards for all the upcoming events in my granddaughter’s life and included which piece of jewelry she would receive. When she made her Confirmation this year, I was delighted to have the card already prepared and grateful that I would be here to celebrate.

Review your will

In addition to creating your will, you want to keep your will updated to reflect your wishes.

Consider completing a living will or healthcare proxy

A living will or advance directive allows you to specify your treatment if you are unable to make healthcare decisions on your own. A health care proxy allows you to select a person who would ‘step in your shoes” and make your healthcare decisions if you are unable.

A cancer diagnosis is a tremendous challenge with overwhelming effects on all facets of one's life, including financial and legal aspects of daily life. The above strategies should be considered to help address these issues and reduce the stress of managing finances when ill.

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