To get a fix on your financial situation, and how it could change because of your health condition, take the following steps:
Step 1. Start by gathering your current financial information. (Once you're got your information together, stay organized. It's easy. Being organized can be a major time saver. For a simple way to be organized, click here.
- Financial planning starts with pulling together information about all your income, expenses, assets and debts. (If you are part of an economic unit such as husband and wife or committed partners, do the planning for your entire unit.) For guidelines about pulling this information together, including government benefits to which you may be entitled, click here.
- Once you have the information together, keep it organized. Organization saves precious time. It also saves stress of looking for something you need right away, particularly when you're not feeling well. Organization can be as simple as keeping documents separated in inexpensive manila folders which you can store in a drawer. A cardboard box will do if a drawer isn't available. (For tips about staying organized, click here.)
- Keep originals of important documents in a place that is both secure from loss and easy to get to. To see guidelines for where to store important documents, click here.
Step 2. Create a financial snapshot of your net worth and how you spend your money ("cash flow").
- A financial snapshot shows your financial situation at a given moment in time.
- Your "Net Worth" is your assets minus your liabilities.
- A "Cash Flow Statement" includes all your income and all your expenses.
- We provide free tools to help you calculate your Net Worth and your Cash Flow with the confidence that we do everything we can to protect your privacy. You can then store your statements and return to them whenever you want, 24/7. Start by completing the statements with ballpark numbers - numbers that are in the ballpark of reality rather than being precise. You can always go back and refine the numbers. Click on the appropriate statement.
Step 3. Plan ahead to find out how much money you are likely to need because of medical costs, as well as a loss of income if your health takes a downturn and you become disabled. At the same time, look on the positive side. Think about your personal goals and how much money you will need to meet them.
- People with a serious health condition often think the only financial planning to do is to figure out what could happen financially because of the health condition. However, with people living longer and longer, it is also important to think about how you will finance the personal goals you had before your diagnosis and will hopefully live to achieve.
- We provide a worksheet, "Budget on Disability," to help you get an idea of what your income and expenses will be like in the event that you become disabled.
- When it comes to setting financial goals:
- Step 1. Define your goals. Include how much money will be needed to achieve the goal. We provide a worksheet to help you think about how to achieve your goals. (Click here.)
- Step 2. Prioritize your goals. We provide a Prioritizer which lets you list your goals, then reorder them into your order.
- Step 3. Think about how to achieve your goals.
- NOTE: For information about creating and living with a budget, click here.
- Also see:
Step 4. If there's a shortfall, consider which of the variety of available techniques can help close the gap.
- The steps to take when facing a potential future financial gap are the same as if you are facing a financial crunch today.
- See How To Deal With A Financial Crunch Or Crisis.
Step 5. Last, but not least, take a few minutes to find out how much you really earn compared to what you think you earn. "Real Earnings" include such things as expenses you would not have if you didn't work at your job. Calculating Real Earnings can help you see how to increase the number. It can also help you focus on the balance between work and whatever fulfills you which often takes on greater importance since your diagnosis.
- Real Earnings takes into account such practical matters as what you spend to keep your job as well as the income you receive. It only takes a few minutes to calculate your Real Earnings if you use ballpark numbers. You can refine the numbers as time goes on.
- For guidelines to help determine your real earnings, click here.
- If you are likely to need long term care and don't have insurance or the resources to cover, consider taking steps to qualify for Medicaid. See Government Benefits.
- To round out your financial planning, consider planning ahead to get the legal paperwork in place to assure you are in control of what happens to you medically if you become unable to speak for yourself. It also takes care of what happens to your assets if you become unable to take care of them yourself, or if you die. This is generally referred to as Estate Planning. (See "To Learn More.")
- To learn tips about spending less, click here. For tips on saving money, click here.