When Jolie Carnahan-Girondi was 42 years old, her life was progressing according to plan. She was busy raising 2-year-old twin daughters, leading a thriving tax planning and business consulting practice outside Pittsburgh and teaching online business courses at two universities.
Then, without warning, she was hospitalized with a serious cardiac infection. The condition — idiopathic presumed viral cardiomyopathy — often leads to chronic heart failure. It is the cause of nearly half of all heart transplants in the United States, according to the Myocarditis Foundation.
Carnahan-Girondi was given a 50 percent chance of survival. Suddenly, the woman who had helped hundreds of people develop plans to secure their business and personal finances was forced to rethink everything she thought she knew about her earning capacity and retirement goals.
From illnesses like cancer and Parkinson’s disease to chronic pain from accident-related injuries, there are many reasons why individuals might consider working less — or retiring early. So how can financial advisors help these clients make the right decisions about retirement planning during a health crisis?
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“An unexpected illness doesn’t force an individual into ‘retirement’ in the traditional sense,” says Brenda Smith, CFP, a financial life strategist in New York City. “Retirement is a time to make choices in lifestyle, encore careers or ‘rewirement,’ while planning more leisure and the pursuit of passions. A chronic illness forces many of the same decisions as those posed by retirement, but the future calls for more off ramps than on.”