Finances vs Health

Cancer is a beast. It comes at you from all angles. It’s like the Muhammad Ali of illnesses. There’s lots of dancing (aka doctor’s visits, blood tests, scans, infusions) and then WHAM. You get the insurance bills.

And ‘lights out’ to your finances.

Muhammad Ali drops Sonny Liston with a short hard right to the jaw on 25 May, 1965, their second bout. Photograph: John Rooney/Associated Press

Cancer hits you where and when you least expect it. I was 31 when I was diagnosed with cancer, and I had literally JUST moved to Florida for a new job. We used up most of our immediate savings on the move and I didn’t have the best insurance. Then after researching oncologists, we decided we needed to move back home…BACK cross country…to New England for treatment.

That decision was really tough. When I decided to quit my new job, ultimately ending a career that I had worked so hard for, I bawled. So much time, energy, and money had just gone down the toilet. I felt so guilty for upending our life TWICE in one year.

You can’t plan for something you can’t see coming. And our finances got stung big time.

I HATED that feeling. That feeling of squeaking by on one paycheck. Every bill was another stab wound to my heart and my wallet. I vowed that when I went back to work, we’d do things differently. I wasn’t going to leave my husband with a huge medical bill and no savings a second time around.

So while I was on the couch during my many months of treatment, I read everything I could on finances. I read Dave Ramsey. I read Tony Robbins. I read Ramit Sethi. I read Suze Orman. I read up on real estate, 401(k)s, IRAs, index funds, bonds, I read it all.

I became a sponge for finances.

At the same time, I changed my thinking about what’s important. I no longer needed ‘things’ as much as I once did. I stopped caring about shoes and purses and STUFF. Now I care about health, food, and retirement.

Yes…I’m 33 and I care about retirement. My husband is quite a bit older than I am. The one thing I want more than anything is to be able to join him in living life without work in the way.

We never know when we will leave this world. I could get hit by a truck tomorrow. But I love my husband too much to leave him in financial ruin.

So what did we do? We took a little advice from every source. We cut back on spending. Saved a couple months of a safety net. Paid off the cars and we’re working on paying off the house and my grad school loans.

We’re also maxing out my husband’s 401(k). Our latest adventure in finances includes buying a multifamily rental property and (eeeek) we’re looking at buying another!

Our humble rental property

Why why WHY did we decide to invest in real estate? Based on my calculations, we will get over 15% return on investment in cash. Every year. Forever. PLUS the tenants are paying off the mortgage, so we get to add that value to our wallets.

The best thing of all, though, is that we get to provide housing for some seriously hardworking locals. Our local area has a shortage of apartment rentals and many of the ones available are run by the kind of people who give landlords a bad name.

TRUST me – real estate is not for everyone. My husband and I agree, though, that it’s something that benefits both of us. We can see it, touch it, smell it (not that I suggest doing that 😉 ) and if something happens to either one of us, the other can handle the challenge.

Cancer taught me many things and I’m still using it as a learning opportunity. My health was the most expensive thing I’ve ever unwillingly purchased – and you can’t put a price tag on it. I hope to be prepared financially if melanoma ever rears its ugly head again. I gotta make the ‘return on investment’ worth every penny!

How has your health changed your mind on finances? Tell me in the comments!