Financial Planning For Cancer Patients

White and blue polka dot piggy bank looking at a stack of coins.

By David Baruffi, DipFP B.Ec MTax, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Director, Blueprint Wealth

In my experience, people diagnosed with cancer immediately start to stress about their financial position, particularly how they will continue to pay their mortgage or rent.

Here are some tips on what you should do if you are diagnosed with cancer or any other traumatic illness.

Step 1:

Contact your financial planner. They will help you make an insurance claim. As your financial planner is the one who has put your personal insurances in place they will know what you can claim and how to go about it. They can also advise you on how to use the money effectively to pay down your debt or invest for the future.

If you do not have a financial planner, then here are some steps you can follow:

Step 2:

Superannuation is often the only sizeable asset most people have. You can access your super (and insurances inside super) under a limited number of circumstances. Please note that being diagnosed with cancer is not in itself a condition of release that allows you to access your super. You can access your super under the following circumstances:

  • Temporarily Disabled – Some super funds provide Temporary Salary Continuance Insurance. This insurance pays you a monthly amount to make up lost wages while you are sick and unable to work. To qualify for this payment you have to be off work due to illness or injury and under medical supervision. A note from your doctor will be required to enable you to make this claim.
  • Totally and Permanently Disabled (TPD) – You can access your super balance, including TPD Insurance, as a lump sum if you are Totally and Permanently Disabled, that is you can never work again. A TPD claim has to be supported by medical specialists.
  • Terminally Ill – Some super funds provide a “Terminal Illness Benefit” which will pay you out all of your super balance including insurances if you are diagnosed with less than 12 months to live.
  • Hardship Conditions – If you have been on Government Benefits for 26 weeks and you are about to lose your home you may be able to get the Trustee of the super fund to release a small amount of your funds.

Note: Not all super funds are the same. The level of insurance cover varies from fund to fund. There is a basic level of Life and TPD Insurance that all modern funds carry. In some funds the insurance cover stops when you stop contributing to the fund, while other funds continue to hold insurance even after you stop contributing to the fund. In either case it is worth contacting the fund to see if you can access your super.

The process of making a claim can be arduous so be patient, persistent and engage help if you can.

Step 3:

Update your Will. Updating your Will is not a sign of giving up; it is a wise thing to do as you don’t want your family going through the courts for their inheritance.

Step 4:

Have an enduring power of attorney established. This will allow your family to look after your affairs while you are undergoing treatment.

Step 5:

Contact your bank and see if they can provide some reprieve from your mortgage repayments while you are ill.

Step 6:

Some employers carry Income Protection Insurance (temporary salary continuance insurance). Contact your employer to see if there is such a policy and get them to assist you in making a claim.

Step 7:

You may be able to draw down on the equity in your home to support your living costs in some very limited circumstances by using a reverse mortgage.

Step 8:

Apply for Disability payments – You may receive Disability Support Pension if you have a physical, intellectual, or psychiatric condition that stops you from working or being retrained for work within the next two years or if you are permanently blind and meet the eligibility requirements. To receive this pension you will need to meet the assets and income tests. For more details view the Australian Government Disability Support Pension here.

This is not an exhaustive list of things you can do to help relieve the financial stress of suffering a traumatic illness. All of these steps will consume your time and energy when you are physically least able to cope. Engaging a close family friend or relative to help is an advantage.

David Baruffi is a Director of Blueprint Wealth and has been a Financial Planner for over 15 years. David’s personal philosophy is founded on the notion that knowledge is the key to success. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER ® who holds a Bachelor of Economics and a Master of Taxation. David is also recognised as an SMSF Specialist Advisor™.

David Baruffi is an Authorised Representative and an Accredited Mortgage Consultant of AMP Financial Planning Pty Limited.

Blueprint Planning Pty Ltd ABN 78 097 264 554 trading as Blueprint Wealth is an Authorised Representative and Credit Representative of AMP Financial Planning Pty Limited ABN 89 051 208 327 Australian Financial Services Licence 232706 and Australian Credit Licence 232706

Disclaimer: Any advice contained in this article is of a general nature only and does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person. Therefore, before making any decision, you should consider the appropriateness of the advice with regard to those matters.