No matter how financially responsible you are, illness and tragedy can decimate your finances
You never know what’s around the corner when family finances are concerned. Met a couple last week who retired early at 53, with guaranteed pension income of $74,000 between the two of them. And when they hit 65 (earlier for CPP if they so choose) their OAS and CPP will also kick in.
They had a $400,000 home bought and paid for – no mortgage. Savings in their RRSP’s. The epitome of fiscally responsible Canadian Citizens.
Then she got sick, diagnosed eventually with Leukemia. They have scoured the world for cures and treatments that will retard the insidious development of this killer disease. Last year, they paid $250,000 to a medical facility in the USA for a radical treatment – however, nothing changed.
They have now refinanced their house twice; depleted their savings completely, and are desperate for money in their quest for a medical miracle. If there is in fact no cure, it will all be for naught – and the husband will be left with a boatload of grief and a mountain of debt.
Could they have avoided this? Medically, I am not qualified to answer that question.
Financially, they may have had options with their life insurance policies – some companies will pay out an early death benefit while the insured still lives, if the illness is truly terminal.
Or, they may have chosen not to chase the ‘Hail Mary’ cure – and at least left all the fruits of their hard work intact.
Who is to say what is right and what is wrong – until you’ve walked in those shoes (and let’s hope none of us ever do), who knows what lengths we will go to save the life of a loved one.
Another couple I know well were devastated to learn last June that the husband (also a youngish man of 50 or so) had advanced lung cancer. (It had already metastasized to his vital organs when the diagnosis was made)
There was an initial flurry of similar activity as they sought alternative medicine treatments in Europe, but after a month or so of this program, they subsided back to the reality of their circumstances. Now they are fighting the illness with chemotherapy, lots of love, prayer and positive thinking. My prayers are with them.
In the meantime, the ill husband has gone to great lengths to restructure his finances to ensure he leaves behind the most optimal situation possible for his wife and two children. We all hope these precautions won’t be necessary.
Life is a bitch sometimes. Enjoy each and every day with the ones you love – value your health and happiness above all else, and pray that tragedy never darkens your family’s doorstep.
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Ross Taylor is recognized by his peers as one of Canada's pre-eminent difficult mortgage specialists. His ASKROSS blog and column in Canadian Mortgage Trends are focused on the intersection between mortgage financing and personal credit.
For more information, visit About Ross Taylor.