Cancer! $#!% happens, now what?

When you receive confronting news like a cancer diagnosis, you have every right to become philosophical about the meaning of life and how unfair and random it can be. This article has been written based on my personal experience and the experience that comes with seeing a number of our clients go through the difficulties that you’re experiencing.

Whilst not the first thing you’ll think about, it’s important to know what items you can take control of. Some are financial, some are legal, many are personal – by jumping into action, you’ll be able to control some elements of the journey that’s ahead of you.

I hope this article helps you through this difficult time.

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My Story

Nothing prepares you for the reality check that comes from having to deal with your own personal and health difficulties.

I have received death messages, one being when my 9 year old son Jordan was killed by a car.  From that moment our lives changed forever. The drive to the scene was horrific. His lifeless body was covered with a sheet, not allowed to see his face due to his injuries. The rest I can’t write about.

The author, Brett Schatto and his dad – Sig

I watched a beautiful lady, my business partner Katie, get diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 30 just as she fell pregnant with her new husband.  I admired her struggle, drive and determination. I admired the loved ones around her. I spoke at her eulogy, she died at 32. 

I have been an executor after my dad succumbed to prostate cancer.  I know what it is like to try and find missing documents, reconstruct assets, liabilities, outstanding bills and jobs un-finished. It is a thankless task that seems to never end.

As a former serving member of the SA Police Force, I delivered death messages, covered bodies at accidents, suicides and murder scenes. I have watched autopsies, investigated rapes and broken up fights. These things live with me.

I spent many nights at a children’s hospital when my youngest son was 13.  He underwent life-saving surgery to drain his non-working liver.  He will need a liver transplant at some point. We also spent many nights in intensive care with him after he contracted a superbug infection with 40% mortality rate. Hearing a doctor say “we need to let nature take its course” is not something you want to hear.

No parent should suffer these things, but they do.

Through my suffering and experiences I have questioned and examined life, my actions and reactions.  Things within my control and things outside of my control. I have been pushed to the brink.

It is through this journey that I developed an empathy around suffering and helping those in need.  I am not afraid to talk about dying.  After all, it happens to us all.

Your Story

So, you’ve been diagnosed with cancer. 

That is hard. For you and your loved ones.

But life goes on, while you are still here and beyond.  Your diagnosis isn’t a death sentence.  You are still alive and have a lot of living to do.

The two most important things in life are the health and happiness of you and your loved ones. 

Finances are a distant third. It’s amazing, though, how much a lack of finances can impact the other two.

The goal of financial planning is to give people more choices, in spite of things that happen to us along the way.

I hope the ideas that follow, and the practical guide you can download below, provide you with some assistance. 

What to do?

#1 – Your Medical Decisions

Once you’ve done all your research to determine all options available to you, you need to focus on all the “realistic” options available and decide on what avenue you are going to take.  It can be overwhelming.

Some of your decisions are binary, some are complementary. You may change your diet while also getting treatment, but you probably can only have one treatment type at a time. Be guided by the professionals.

#2 – Consider the Financial Consequences

Where’s the money going to come from to help you through what’s ahead?

Some treatments are cheap and freely available, others may involve trial drugs which you might have to fund yourself.

While obtaining treatment, are you able to continue working? Will you feel like working?

If you have a partner, are they able to take time off work to support you? Can you afford for either one of you to take time off?

#3 – What you can do

  1. Review your Will, Powers of Attorney and consider if your Executor is still the right person (are they still alive and in better health than you?). One of your Executors may now live interstate or overseas.  Do they still need to be your Executor?
    • Complete the downloadable “Guide for my Executor” that appears below. This is a handy document which is a straightforward way to ‘catalogue’ your assets and financial affairs. Trust me – completing this sort of inventory will go a long way to assisting your loved ones after you pass.
  2. Identify the documents you have kept over the years that are not relevant. Toss them out.
  3. Transfer bank accounts and utilities into your partner’s name or, if you’re still well, at least ensure that your partner has authority over these accounts. The simple action of cancelling a bank account can be near impossible for your partner when they don’t have a standing authority on your account.
  4. Check your super – who is the super account’s beneficiary? Is it still relevant? Are there strategies to minimise the taxation on any death benefits? Can you cash out your superannuation and what are the benefits of this?
  5. Check your insurances – do you have any insurances to make a claim on? Do you have an income protection insurance policy?
  6. If you have a mortgage, do you have mortgage protection insurance?
  7. Dig up any cash you have buried in your backyard, hidden in your freezer or secured in a safe. Give some thought to spending some of it. It might be fun!

#4 – Other Ideas  

  1. Create videos for special occasions in your loved ones’ lives. Or just create them for no reason at all. When someone dies, their memories die with them. Record details of your childhood, lessons you’ve learnt. Talk about your parents and grandparents for future generations to view.
  2. Write on the back of old photos; if no-one alive knows who is in them, what is the point?
  3. Don’t forget to live: As you read this some people won’t get the opportunity to live with a diagnosis. People die suddenly every day. It is the loved ones they leave behind that have to live with the fallout. Your focus is rightly on beating this disease, but you still need to eat, sleep and breathe. You are still able to do things.
    • What have you always wanted to do that you haven’t yet?
    • If you are worried about money and how far it will stretch, go and find some answers.  Are you worrying about something that isn’t actually a worry at all (you haven’t yet determined that it is a problem, you just think it is)?
    • Get on with your life, feel the sun on your skin and the breeze on your face. Enjoy the flavours of your favourite food.
    • Find things to look forward to. Keep laughing.
    • Write your own eulogy (or at least a letter that could be read at your funeral).

You only get one life, don’t waste what you have left. 

Call Brett on (08) 8168 8450 if you need financial advice for yourself or a loved one.

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About the author

Brett Schatto – CEO

Before entering the financial services industry in 2000, Brett’s first career was with the South Australian Police Force. Having worked as a detective in the areas of Criminal Investigation, Anti-Corruption and Serious Fraud, it’s no surprise he now applies forensic detail to financial planning. In 2003, Brett established Pride Advice as part of the RI Advice Group – one of the longest standing financial planning groups in Australia with more than 30 years of history. Along with his Bachelor of Commerce, Brett has a Diploma in Global Wealth Management and he’s also completed a Strategic Management Course at the HEC in Paris. From 2010-2012, he was a non-executive director on the RI Advice Board and from 2011-2012 chaired the RI Advice National Proprietor Advisory Council. In 2006, Brett was awarded the RI Advice Group Adviser of the year and made the AFA Top 10 Advisers list nationally in 2012. Both Brett and Pride Advice have also received many awards for excellence, including the prestigious Most Trusted Advisor in 2014 and 2015.