For many of us, household finances and balancing income and expenditure are difficult at the best of times. However, that said, it remains an essential part of modern life and without it, people can be left seeking debt advice sooner rather than later.
Bearing in mind the financial tightrope that people have to tread from month to month or week to week, the issue of a wage-earning family member being struck ill and no longer bringing in money can send a shiver down the spine. While you shouldn’t automatically fear the worst, it does need some prior planning just in case something bad does happen and your partner, or yourself, ends up missing out on a valuable wage.
This is especially the case if you have regular payments you need to meet such as an individual voluntary arrangement, also known as an iva. Obviously most jobs will afford you a degree of sick pay if you do happen to get struck down with illness and this is well worth looking into so you know the full score. If you aren’t given this, or at least not for very long, it’s essential that you have a contingency plan to help you ease any financial worries you may have in future.
This is where the issue of insurance and savings come in. These both have the potential to help you in times of trouble with the former probably a more secure option. Savings are all well and good for a small period as they can help you get back on your feet, although most jobs’ sick pay will cover this sort of amount as well.
Sufficient health insurance will help you for a much longer duration meaning that when your sick pay comes to an end you will be able to rely on your cover to help you pay bills and make ends meet. Obviously insurance payments cost money and these need to be factored in to your general budgeting so that they don’t push you into the red but, if done correctly, these can provide a real safety net for you if a loved one falls ill.
Re-budget For Loss of Earnings
Another essential, when a family member’s earnings are stopped, even if only temporarily, is to realign your budget to cope with that loss. Take into account how much less money will be coming into the family coffers and then work out where you may need to cut expense, in much the same way you would normally budget. It’s no good sticking your head in the sand and hoping that things will sort themselves out. You need to be proactive and deal with the problem if you wish to solve it. Should you need to reduce your expenditure then consider where these cuts can be made and then put them into place, while also explaining to anyone involved why they are taking place.
As well as being assertive and tackling the issues head on, it’s also important that you keep calm. If you suddenly start worrying too much, this causes others to panic and, while you shouldn’t bottle emotions up, it’s all about finding that balance. This tightrope means allowing others to take the stress load off your shoulders while also not shying away from any of your responsibility. It’s all about keeping your head and figuring a way past the problems.
Finally, remember to be supportive emotionally because while money is obviously a major issue, you need to ensure your personal relationships remain strong too. Don’t get too focussed on financial issues that you forget about the illness itself because whoever is suffering will undoubtedly need your support.
In an article for the Guardian last year, Deborah Orr looked at what things are best to avoid when caring for a loved one who is ill, explaining that it’s invariably a difficult course of action.
“What no one ever tells you about serious illness is that it places you at the centre of a maelstrom of concerned attention from family and friends. Of course it does. That’s one of the nice things,” she said. “It’s actually the only nice thing. But it’s also a rather tricky challenge, at a time when you may feel – just slightly – that you have enough on your plate”
With some forethought and planning you can ensure all your energy is put into supporting those loved ones who are ill, rather than solely thinking about your finances.