What chronic illness taught me about preparing for the unexpected
By Oyelola Oyetunji from Phrased with Purpose
When was the last time you were surprised by an unexpected event? A time when things didn’t quite go as you’d planned.
Chances are, it wasn’t that long ago.
Life is full of the unexpected. From losing your job to losing a loved one, surprise proposals to surprise pregnancies, life is characterised by a series of unplanned moments. Moments that catch us unaware, that make us wish we were better prepared. For me, it was being diagnosed with systemic lupus.
The timing couldn’t have been any more inconvenient. I’d left the security of a corporate job in pursuit of something more fulfilling, took a pause from working, then freelanced for income without the commitment of a permanent job.
In the first few months, I could still manage to work through the pain. There were good days and bad days. Then the new year clocked over and the bad days began to outweigh the good more and more.
During that season, there were past financial decisions that had saved me and others I wished I’d done differently. As women, we tend to have a resilient mindset, ready for anything life throws at us! Even so, it’s easy to forget that a fighter mentality isn’t enough to get us through all adversity. It also requires practical preparation.
It took being thrown a monstrous curveball for me to learn how to prepare for the unexpected. It was a little too late for me in some respects but I’m sharing my lessons learned to save you from the distress and hardship that comes with being financially unprepared.
Lesson #1: Emergency funds are your friend
Savings will literally save you! I’ve never been more grateful that I’d developed a habit of saving during the early years of my career. Though my goal was for a down payment for a home, that money in the bank was still cash I could use to fund my zero-income lifestyle for a few months.
Saving your hard-earned cash might seem like a bore, especially when that lush loungewear set is whispering sweet nothings into your ear. I’m with you, though seen by no one, I’m still going for the work-from-home chic look!
I speak from personal experience when I say that saving even just 5% of each pay check will have you cheering in the long run.
Lesson #2: Private health insurance is more than ticking a box
I’ll admit, the only reason I initially took up private health insurance was to avoid the Medicare Levy surcharge because of my level of income. Don’t judge me. I couldn’t see the value in the amount I was paying in premiums compared to the benefit I received in return.
Little did I know, later I would exhale the deepest sigh of relief after landing myself in hospital from a severe lupus flare!
Whether your income exceeds the threshold or is a mere few dollars short, private health insurance is more than just ticking a box to avoid additional tax. It could be the very thing that saves you from being hit with a $10,000 bill from the hospital after an emergency surgery!
It’s as easy as starting with basic hospital and extras cover and figuring out your needs from there.
Lesson #3: Insurance through super, the underrated safeguard
This is one lesson I learned the hard way. Remember those emergency funds I mentioned earlier? Well, between rent payments, groceries, and medical bills, they dwindled quickly. It was difficult to watch the funds that had taken so long to accumulate, diminish rapidly before my eyes. That was a hard one to swallow.
Now, after previously working in the super industry, I understood the value of having insurance through super. Timing was where I went wrong.
I left a job where my employer covered insurance premiums and decided to cancel my insurance since I wouldn’t be earning an income. Once I started earning an income again, because it wasn’t a permanent job, I reasoned that it wasn’t yet necessary.
I made one excuse after another for why I didn’t need to apply for insurance with my super fund. Sound familiar? Then when I was chronically ill and unable to work for half a year, I realised I had made a mistake. I was ineligible for any government support given my accumulated savings. Ideally, I should have been receiving Income Protection insurance payments. Instead, I was eating into my emergency funds, worried that I would have nothing left for any future emergencies!
Have a look at your last super member statement. Do you see an amount for insurance cover? If not, pick up the phone, call your super fund and have a chat about what options are available to you.
The last thing you need when faced with an unexpected life event is the added stress of financial struggle. Don’t make the same mistakes I did, start preparing today!
If you need some support, contact the brilliant team at LFC to point you in the right direction.