Taking Financial Ownership

How cancer rocked my outlook on financial stability

by Leisse Wilcox

“You have breast cancer, Leisse, and it’s aggressive.”

These are words no one ever expects – or wants – to hear, especially when you are 37, single, self-employed, uninsured, and raising three kids under 7.

But they are nonetheless the words I heard one hot day in August that I will never, ever forget, because these words changed my life in more ways than I can count. Hearing them strung together in a sentence like that jettisoned me from a pretty responsible adult, to a “holy cow I can’t believe how reasonable of an adult I am” adult, almost in an instant.

I had never thought about how illness impacts finance. I had never had to. I come from a very healthy family tree, and it never crossed my mind that anything else would ever be my reality. Truthfully, I have been EXCEPTIONALLY fortunate within my own context, for which I’m not sure I even have the right words to convey the level of my gratitude; but that doesn’t mean I didn’t mentally go through all possible scenarios. And each possible scenario, including my now best-of-a-worst-case scenario, lead me to re-evaluating what being “financially stable” really means, and next levelled my approach to adulting from a financial perspective.

Here are top three things you need to think about and get prepared for – even if you don’t want to.

  1. Insurance is not a scam – Contrary to my own popular beliefs over the course of a lifetime, insurance actually is worth having. I call it “Goldilocks” insurance – not too much, not too little, but juuussst the right amount. The way it’s been explained to me is that your financial stability is like a tiered wedding cake: it’s not your income as the base layer, it’s your insurance (life / critical illness / disability). Insurance is what protects you, your family, your property, and everything else you own, when you find yourself unable to do it by yourself. No one thinks they’ll need to have it, until they do. Be one of the really smart ones and invest in Goldilocks insurance before you need it.

2. You need an emergency fund – This is a big one. Living paycheque to paycheque has a time and a place, and that place is not as an adult; you need to have a reserve fund to draw from when your s*** hits the fan. Even if this is a line of credit that you never touch for anything other than said fan hitting, have a reserve fund at the ready. This will help you out when you need it most, and have the least time to problem solve. Plan now, solving the problem in advance, and you will be a happy camper.

3. Your will is a necessary reality – This for me was always the hardest exercise to follow through with: who wants to think about and worse, plan for their own death? Well, no one – but it’s a reality for all of us, and confronting that by getting a few logistical details on paper, then signing it and putting it in a drawer sets your family up for success, whenever that final curtain is drawn (many, many decades from now).

You know what is wild? These three scary at first realities are so manageable; you could easily contact the right people to set yourself up for success right now, book the appointments, and have your financial house in order in one – three weeks. This is something that present me is having a strongly worded conversation with past me: do it, and if you never use it, fantastic! At least you had the peace of mind to know how thoroughly you’d protected yourself in advance.

Life is a funny roller coaster of adventure: there are highs and lows of joy and pain, and many points in between. Embracing that as a reality, and having the maturity to plan for all the joy, and all the pain elevates your adulthood to the next level and creates a feeling of true peace in your life.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of Equitable Bank. Any information provided is for information purposes only and Equitable Bank makes no representations as to the validity, accuracy, completeness or suitability of any content. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional or undertake your own research before making financial decisions.

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