Financial independence is something that is important to most people. However, it also seems like it is becoming more difficult to ensure financial stability over the long term, given the volatility of the global economy and other factors. Having multiple sclerosis as part of the picture can really complicate things, as we may need to quit or change our jobs, require expensive medications and tests or have to take time off in the case of a relapse or symptom worsening.
Part of this article is adapted from my book, The Multiple Sclerosis Manifesto: Action to Take, Principles to Live By.
I really don’t like budgeting. I am the kind of person who will get all excited about a subscription or service, saying, “But it’s only 80 dollars a month!” and be stunned and dismayed when my husband shows me how that seemingly-reasonable amount magically transforms into an annual cost of almost a thousand dollars. However you feel about budgets, it is a really, really good idea to figure out what your situation is and what your financial future might hold.
Discussing financial planning and financial independence in detail is beyond the scope of this article (and my fiscal acumen), but what I would recommend is visiting with a qualified financial planner who could help you figure out where you stand and what your goals should be, as well as steps to take to get there.
First, Educate Yourself
You can start your education with a book jointly produced by the National MS Society, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the National Endowment for Financial Education, titled Adapting: Financial Planning for a Life with Multiple Sclerosis. This 72-page book covers all aspects of the impact that MS might have on your finances, including health insurance considerations and estate planning, as well as helpful worksheets, spreadsheets, and checklists for figuring it all out.
The MS Society also has a program called “Money Matters” to provide expertise to individuals with MS, both for people needing immediate financial advice, as well as those who are planning for the future.
What Can a Financial Planner Do for Me?
A financial planner can be an amazing resource. You have to put in some effort and supply certain documents and come up with your goals, and the financial planner can help you formulate a plan to reach them.
Among other things, a financial planner can help you decide:
- How much you need to be saving every month
- What type of mortgage is best for you
- What kind of insurance is right for your situation, including life insurance, disability and health insurance. They can also help you with long term care insurance.
- How to maximize the use of your retirement accounts (or how to set up new ones)
- How much risk you should take with your investments
- What kind of "emergency funds" you should have at your disposal, given all factors
- Changes or improvements to your tax situation
- What you need to do to create a sustainable plan to meet all of your goals
But I Am Doing Okay Right Now. Why Do I Need to Worry About This?
We all know how quickly things can change with MS. A relapse can knock us off of our feet for awhile and we may need to dip into some savings to hire help. Symptoms like fatigue or cognitive dysfunction can lead to the decision to change professions, which may require additional training or some time without an income. We may lose our jobs and need to decide the best approach to health (and other) insurance.
The bottom line is that pretty much everyone should have a good financial strategy, but for people with MS, it is crucial that a sound plan is laid out and followed so that we can stay in control as much as possible, regardless of what surprises this disease tosses in our path.