Financial Strategies Tips – After Parkinson’s Diagnosis

Jim Cantrell Jim Cantrell June 13, 2019

According to a recent study, nearly 60% of Americans feel they have not done enough financial planning and 34% have done nothing at all. I have been in the financial planning profession for 30 years, and I am not surprised. It seems to me that very few people have done a thorough job planning for their financial future.

Even if you are the exception, and have done extensive financial planning, changing life situations can play havoc on your plan. What happens if a job changes, or a loved one passes away, or if you are diagnosed with Parkinson disease? How can this impact your long-term plans?

My father was diagnosed with PD in 1975. As an 11-year-old, I wasn’t much help. I didn’t know anything about Parkinson’s and even less about financial planning. Over time, my dad could no longer work. This disrupted everything for our family. I don’t want that to happen to you.

If you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, here are some things to consider:

See your financial planner.

Your financial planner needs to know your situation. They should know where you are now and should help you address changes you may need to make.

If you are still working, consider the possibility of early retirement.

Early retirement may become necessary, so maximize your retirement plan contributions now. If you become unable to work in the future, you will be glad you stored away some extra money. This would include 401(k)’s, IRA’s, and Roth’s. I especially like Roth’s. Roth IRA’s allow you to grow money tax deferred and remove money tax exempt. If you are eligible, put money in a Roth. Also contribute to an HSA if you are eligible. HSAs allow you to deduct contributions, defer tax on growth, and remove money for qualified medical expenses tax free.

Consider the maximum pension benefit for your spouse.

Most of us don’t get pensions anymore, but if you do, think about your spouse’s need with or without you. A spousal benefit on your pension is often an inexpensive way to provide income after you are gone. It isn’t fun to think about, but none of us will live forever. Unless your spouse has plenty of money, consider the maximum spousal benefit.

Get your estate plan in order.

As long as we are talking about the inevitable, we might as well talk about estate planning. This could be an article in itself, but for now, let’s just say it is vital to know how your assets will be distributed after you are gone, and maximize the efficiency of the distribution of your estate.

Work as long as you can.

Working is good for us. It exercises our minds and bodies. The longer we can work the younger we stay. And the longer we work, the better our finances will look. If you are working now, and you can continue to work, then keep working.

Apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) if you are unable to work and you are under the full retirement age.

Although SSDI will not provide enough for most people to live on by itself, the monthly benefit can be of great help. If you are able to receive benefits, they will be equal to your full retirement benefit as if you were at full retirement age. Approximately 70% of applicants are turned down the first time they apply for SSDI. If you are turned down for SSDI, don’t give up. Consider hiring an attorney, and appeal.

Stay active, even if you are not working.

We all know the benefits of staying active. It is good for our brains and our bodies. Having enough money to do the things you love to do is an important part of staying active. Planning for expenses like travel, hobbies, gym memberships, etc. is imperative.

Do the things you want to do while you can enjoy them.

Maybe you have a dream vacation you always wanted to take. Maybe you always wanted to take a class in music, or car repair. Do it now while you can enjoy it.

I had clients that always wanted to take a special trip together. After the husband retired, I encouraged them to take the trip. Year after year I would ask if they had taken their trip. The answer was always, “No, we’ll do it next year, and save the money now.” Eventually, the husband got sick and couldn’t travel any more.

We get into saving mode when we are preparing for retirement, and it is hard to get out of that mode. Don’t save it all for the future; spend some of it now, unless you are saving it for your kids to take a great trip.

I hope these financial planning tips help, but all the financial planning in the world won’t mean a thing if life is not enjoyable. Remember to keep a good attitude. Watch a funny movie, the old kind where comedy was clean and wholesome, go to church, spend time with friends and family, tell a joke, say a prayer, sing a song, tell someone you love them, listen to your favorite music. An ancient proverb says, “A cheerful heart doeth good like a medicine.” Don’t let the troubles of life defeat you. There is great reward for those who overcome.

I will always miss my dad, he was a very strong man. I hope I can be more like him. Even when the illness seemed to be winning, I can honestly say he never gave up. That is my best advice for you, never give up, and live life to its fullest.

Jim Cantrell is a Certified Financial Planning Professional with 30 years of experience. He is the president of Financial Strategies, Inc. a Fee-Only, comprehensive, financial planning firm in Brookfield, WI. He has been a member of NAPFA (National Association of Personal Financial Advisors) since 1996 and has served as Chair and President of the NAPFA Midwest Regional Board and served on NAPFA’s national board of directors. Jim currently serves as president of Wisconsin Parkinson Association’s board of directors.

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