Needed: Financial Medicine

moneyPeople with chronic health issues are often also chronically financially challenged. It’s no secret that a catastrophic health event is the number one reason for bankruptcy in the U.S. It’s not just the bills, it’s the lack of earnings.

Many people with CI’s (that’s shorthand for chronic illnesses) can’t work as much as they’d like to, or at all. If they fall down the rabbit hole of the disability system, they find themselves in an underground maze of dead-end tunnels when they try to get back to work — if, and how much they can earn without losing their health coverage and/or disability income.

The system right now makes it very hard to get off disability once you’re on it, or to even try to work while  trying to get your health back.

The problem with most of the general financial advice out there, from Suze Orman to Money magazine, is that it assumes a certain amount of existing wealth and savings, and a normal working life span. For people with CI’s, it’s often just not the case. We can’t bump up our retirement savings by maxing out our 401k if we don’t have one. We can’t contribute to an IRA if we’re trying to stay in our apartment and out of the homeless shelter. We can’t pay for $600 a month in uncovered medical expenses by cutting out that daily double latte – because we could never afford it in the first place.

I’d like to create a clearing house of information, remove the smoke and mirrors that make it so hard for us to move forward financially.

I worked healthy for 15 years, sick for nine, and had to stop full-time fifteen years ago. I was a business writer with a specialty in personal financial planning. I soon found out that I knew more about working with a chronic illness, and managing financially, than any of the career coaches, books and services out there.

I was and remain shocked and dismayed at the bad advice well-referred therapists, life coaches and career coaches handed out to me. It was often financially dangerous, sometimes unethical and possibly illegal. Above all, it was useless.

I thank God for what I learned in the financial industry every day. But so far, I’ve found no push-button solutions to either the health of financial challenges of living with a chronic illness. And if I do find that magical cure, I promise to share it immediately, rather than bury it in some pyramid scheme.