In the United States one out of every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point during her life. As a woman gets older the chances of her developing the disease increases. Some factors that increase the risk of the disease are genetic alterations, family history and radiation therapy.
Not only is breast cancer an emotional burden, but it can also weigh heavily on the finances of many.
The financial impact of treating breast cancer can be costly even for people with the most inclusive health insurance plans. Oftentimes, sufferers have to dig deep into their pockets in order to pay for their treatments.
According to research published in the Journal of Community and Supportive Oncology out-of-pocket expenses totaled to an average of $1,455 per month and varied widely. Only 3% of the women in the study were reimbursed by their insurance company for their out-of-pocket expenses.
So it’s easy to see why breast cancer can dig many into a financial hole. One of the ways to prevent a large financial burden after a person hears the words, “it’s cancer” is to develop a plan before the diagnosis happens.
“You need to have properly funded and properly structured lifeboats before you get that cancer diagnosis,” said Kevin Cahill, a certified financial planner and the president and founder of Canadian Legacy Builder.
Nevertheless preparing for a life changing illness is not something many people do. However, there are also a few steps that cancer survivors can take after they’ve gone into remission to reevaluate their finances.
1. Look for the Right Advisor
After surviving breast cancer, the perspectives of the survivor can change. Choosing a financial advisor that reflects those changes is imperative. A financial advisor that understands the emotional and financial burdens of breast cancer might be better equipped to help a client understand their finances better, Cahill said.
“The biggest trait to look for is someone who has walked in those shoes. Whether they’ve had cancer themselves, their loved one has had it, or they work with clients who have had cancer. You need someone who has empathy — it brings an emotional aspect to the planning,” Cahill told ThinkAdvisor.
Look for referrals from family and friend, Cahill added. He also said that it is helpful to reach out to other professionals such as lawyers or accountants to seek referrals.
2. Make a List of Priorities
Keith Klein, a certified financial planner with Turning Pointe Wealth Management says that the priorities of many change after they’ve survived breasts cancer. “You want to make sure that your current goals reflect your financial portfolio,” he said.
He says that monetary allocations to different organizations “might have changed” after a life changing experience. “You might also want to give more money to the person that stood by your side through your recovery, so make sure your finances reflect that.” Klein said.
3. Plan Ahead
A cancer-free bill of health after a year does not necessarily mean a cancer-free life, of course. According to BreastCancer.org, a person’s chances of cancer reoccurring decreases after they’ve reached the five-year mark, but before that point the risk is still there.
“You’re going to have treat your diagnosis like you’re going into early retirement,” said Lucinda Alden, senior vice president and wealth management advisor with Beverly Hills Wealth Management. “When you get breast cancer, especially if it’s in the later stages, you’re not going to be able to work.” Alden advises restricting your finances even after remission in case there is a relapse.
Cahill also advised to make sure all of the legal documents are in order. He said that sometimes clients will call him just after they’ve relapsed. “I get calls all of the time to help with short-term planning, but sometimes it’s just too late to get anything signed,” Cahill added.
— Check out: The Cost of Cancer on ThinkAdvisor.