Managing finances when life takes an unexpected turn

An MS diagnosis or a sudden worsening of symptoms can be stressful both emotionally and financially, especially when we don't know what options are available. We spoke to Nicola Beswick, Senior Financial Adviser at FMD Financial, and board member of the Pro Bono Financial Advice Network (an organisation that connects financial advisers who provide pro bono advice to Australians who are going through financial hardship due to a personal health crisis) to explore the role of financial planning in making the most out of our money when life takes an unexpected turn.

Parenting-and-MS.JPGWhat is financial planning?

Financial planning is helping someone understand where they are in a financial sense and working with that person to achieve their goals and objectives.

What role can a financial adviser play in the life of someone with MS?
Financial advisers look at a person’s finances first on a holistic basis and then drill down to specific areas that are important for that person, their situation, where they want to go and the variables in between such as where they are on their MS journey. For example, someone newly diagnosed has so much going on, especially emotionally. By ensuring that a person’s assets are structured in a way that enables them to get the most out of their money and providing them with an understanding of where they are and what options (such as insurance cover) they can potentially call on when the time comes, a financial adviser can help take away the added burden of having to deal with finances at this emotional time

What advice would you give to someone who is feeling anxious about their financial situation due to MS?
Don’t try and do everything yourself - find a financial adviser that you trust and talk to about your financial position (and feelings) and share that burden. I know from the people I’ve spoken with who are going through their own MS journey, there are so many things going on, and how someone’s health is impacted creates a lot of stress. You don’t want to have that burden of trying to deal with your finances, particularly if you’re newly diagnosed, or something’s changed with your MS. It can become overwhelming, so support is one of the most important things.

Why would you advise people against doing their own financial planning?
Because you don’t know what you don’t know. For example, if you consolidate your superannuation into one account, you may lose the valuable insurances attached to the account that’s now been closed.  This is essential because if you want to reapply for insurance, insurance companies take a snapshot of your health position at the time you apply. So, if you lose insurances, that can have a considerable consequence down the track.
There are so many little things you can do that make a huge difference, and it’s about knowing what they are and making the most of where you’re at. For example, do you put a little bit extra in superannuation? And there are so many different ways that you can do that, so you want to make sure you’re making the right decisions.
 
What are the Centrelink benefits that someone with MS can access?
If you’re under the Age Pension age and meet the medical criteria, you can look at applying for the Disability Support Pension. If you’re over the age pension age, then it’s the Age Pension. Specific criteria govern both Pensions, and the amount you receive is also dependant on your assessable income and asset levels. The income and asset levels are dependant on your relationship status and also whether you own your own home or not.

Carers can potentially receive the Carers Payment and/or the Carers Allowance, and again, there are specific criteria and income & asset thresholds around eligibility.

There’s also the Low-Income Healthcare Card and the Commonwealth Seniors Healthcare Card, which you may also consider.
Nicola’s tops tips for good money management
  1. Work out what income and expenses you have so you can have a better understanding of your situation.
  2. Make sure that you know where your superannuation is held.
  3. Look at your insurances (especially within superannuation). If you have multiple superannuation accounts, don’t consolidate them yourself, get professional advice.
  4. Make sure that you look at your options from a Centrelink perspective.
  5. If you have a mortgage, make sure that you’re getting a competitive interest rate and that you’re not paying for unnecessary extras.
  6. Have a little bit of a plan or idea of where you want to go.
  7. Have a good amount of money held in a savings account because you never know when emergencies come up, so before you consider investing your extra money, make sure you have that safety net.
  8. Find someone you can trust to talk too.[PE1] 
 
Nicola can be contacted on nicola.beswick@fmd.com.au. If you’d like to speak to an adviser through the Pro Bono Financial Advice Network about your particular situation, please email probonoadvice@afa.asn.au.
If you’d like more information around managing your finances when you’re receiving the part pension, when you’re young and unable to work, or in relation to mortgages, changes in income and savings, you can access our financial planning webinars here: www.ms.org.au/living-well-with-multiple-sclerosis/practical-advice/benefits-entitlements.aspx#earlyretirement


General advice disclaimer: This article is intended to be a general overview of the subject matter. The information in this article is not intended to be comprehensive and should not be relied upon as such. In preparing this article we have not taken into account the individual objectives or circumstances of any person. Legal, financial and other professional advice should be sought prior to applying the information contained on this article to particular circumstances. FMD Financial, its officers and employees will not be liable for any loss or damage sustained by any person acting in reliance on the information contained on this article. FMD Group Pty Ltd ABN 99 103 115 591 trading as FMD Financial is a Corporate Authorised Representative of FMD Advisory Services Pty Ltd AFSL 232977. The FMD advisers are Authorised Representatives of FMD Advisory Services Pty Ltd AFSL 232977.[PE2] 
 

 [PE1]Patrick – please make this section into a nice and punchy pull-out box.
 [PE2]Patrick – please pace this disclaimer in small print at the very bottom of the article.


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