Cancer & Finances: Thinking Outside the Box

By Michael Wolfe, Fifth Season Financial

Your cancer doesn’t own you, but when a diagnosis is coupled with financial stress, sometimes it may feel that way.FLAG logo with tag

If you’re struggling to keep your finances in order after your cancer diagnosis, you are hardly alone. The numbers can be staggering:

  • New research from the University of Wyoming revealed that family income declines by an average of 20% in the first year after diagnosis
  • Work hours among that group declined by about 200 hours, or five full weeks
  • At the same time, costs for cancer medications have skyrocketed, with newly-approved drugs costing more than twice what they did only a decade ago
  • As a result, cancer patients are more than 2.5 times more likely to file for bankruptcy than the average individual

Experiencing financial stress is a huge impediment to treatment and recovery. An important first step after a cancer diagnosis is to do a complete financial assessment. It may seem easy to put off with so much happening with your medical condition, but understanding your assets and the costs that are to come will benefit you in the months ahead.

Later this year, Triage Cancer and Fifth Season Financial will be releasing a new guide, “Navigating Finances After Cancer,” to help people deal practically and efficiently with the financial stress associated with a cancer diagnosis. The guide will help you assess your current situation and find options for assistance that are right for your individual needs.

But why wait? Making a budget spreadsheet is something we always think about but rarely make the time for. Now is the time to get your finances in order!!

Here are items to consider as you put your assessment together:

  • MONTHLY INCOME – include your gross monthly salary, and the salaries of your spouse or other working family members that may be supporting you during your treatment. It’s especially important to talk to your doctors or social workers about what to expect moving forward, and how it might affect your ability to work. If you anticipate an impact on your monthly income, best to factor it in now.
  • NON-MEDICAL BENEFITS – include anything that you currently or may ultimately qualify for in the immediate future: public assistance, unemployment, social security, alimony, disability, etc.
  • MEDICAL COVERAGE – make sure you’re talking to a social worker (or a financial navigator if you have access to one) to ensure that you’ve got the best possible coverage for the treatments and drugs that you’ll need. There may be changes you can make that could dramatically change your medical expenses moving forward.
  • YOUR EXPENSES – be thorough in understanding your true monthly costs. Make sure to include mortgage or rent, gas & electric, car payments and insurance, food, telephone, education and any other expenses that you can expect. Be honest about your spending and account for quality of life needs that can help you through your treatment.
  • LIFE INSURANCE – there are sources of real funds that you may not realize you can access. Did you know you may be able to receive some of your life insurance benefit early? Companies like Fifth Season Financial (through their FLAG – Funds for Living And Giving program) can provide cash advances to patients based on the face value of their life insurance policy, regardless of type of policy (group, life, whole, FEGLI, etc.). These advances are not repaid during their lifetime…instead, the advance is repaid later out of the remaining proceeds in the life insurance policy. But in most examples (90% of Fifth Season’s cases to date), funds still remain to pass on to beneficiaries. So your life insurance policy can be an important item to have on your asset list. Contact Fifth Season Financial to understand if this option might be right for you.

Understanding your assets and expenses is often the first step to minimizing the financial toxicity of a cancer diagnosis.

Our guide, Navigating Finances After Cancer, will be available for FREE download here:

Triage Cancer will also be hosting a webinar on Finances & Thinking Outside the Box on January 20, 2016.  More information can be found at