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Plan for the unexpected

An elderly couple reviewing documents

Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure can help when times are tough.

I think it can be said for many people that the older we get, the more we realise our happiness comes from things that money just can’t buy… things like our family, close friends and our health.

Sometimes it can take a family crisis, a death or onset of illness to understand just how important our family and our health are. A diagnosis of dementia can be such a time.

However, the life changing nature of a diagnosis of dementia means that it is important to think about your finances and how they will be impacted by your illness.

It may not be the first thing you think of, or even the second or third, but setting aside some time to plan your financial future after a life changing event such as a diagnosis of dementia is worth the effort.

After all, you want to spend as much time as possible living your best life, not worrying about how you are going to pay the bills or put food on the table.

The first thing to note is that we should all be planning for our later years to buffer any shocks of a life changing diagnosis. Prior planning is the key. But what about after a diagnosis?

For a person living with dementia or any other terminal disease, financial planning is not often high on the priority list. There is always something more urgent or more important that needs your attention. Regular medical and specialist appointments, and time spent navigating the health and aged care system are just two examples.

For a younger person, financial planning is especially critical. Diseases such as younger onset dementia may force the person with the diagnosis to retire early. As the disease progresses, the person’s primary carer may also have to leave paid work to focus full time on their caring role.

Start by locating your superannuation, life insurance, mortgage and other investment documents. These documents are the key to determining what your financial future will look like.

Next, speak with your financial advisor, or find one who knows the aged, disability and other government financial benefits that are in place.

At Alzheimer’s WA, we have a long list of people with dementia, or their partners, who attest to the value of taking a new look at their finances after a diagnosis of dementia. Some have told me it was one of the best things they did after their diagnosis, impacting positively on the years that follow and making the dementia journey more manageable.

For us, the genesis of these experiences began three years ago, when Nick Bruining contacted me. He wanted to discuss if he could donate the skills of his team to support people living with dementia. Nick and I have known each other from around the traps for over 20 years and he’d heard me on radio talking about the challenges of living with dementia.

After some discussions, Nick and his team, in partnership with Alzheimer’s WA, commenced delivering the Managing Your Financial Future seminars to our clients with a diagnosis of dementia, along with their carers.

These seminars have proved an overwhelming success. Clients consistently tell me how attending to their finances was a critical action that has made a real difference to their dementia journey.

The experience of these people is a lesson for all of us. Prepare for the unexpected. If the unexpected should happen, and you aren’t well prepared, there are still things you can do that can make a big difference.

If you or your partner has a diagnosis of dementia and you have concerns about how it will impact your financial position in the future, then I urge you to seek financial advice or, alternatively, enquire about our seminars.

The seminars are free. Alzheimer’s WA is not paid to promote these financial advisors and, in fact, the advisors aren’t paid either. They participate pro bono as a service to the community.

Money may not be able to buy you happiness, but by spending a little bit of time managing your finances now, you will reap the reward of more quality time spent with your family later on. And that, as they say, is priceless.

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