There’s no doubt advising people with health problems can be an extremely complex and challenging area, with solutions that are not always simple or straightforward.
The key thing is to listen, empathise and then (if necessary) challenge the client response, to ensure that I can help them properly.
Clients with a terminal illness
I have advised clients, in a variety of capacities, for 25 years, and in that time, I have encountered a wide range of health issues. Personally, I find that understanding the extent of the illness is the most important thing to get right. Sympathetically establishing the prognosis allows me to start producing a plan.
Most terminally ill people want to make sure that their family is financially secure after their death. I work toward this goal by using cash flow modelling, showing how and when any potential shortfalls will occur and then offering solutions.
It’s crucial that the cost of care is included in the financial model. Especially if the illness is relatively long-term in nature. Cash flow modelling will show the impact of these costs, and I can then recommend how assets should be arranged to pay for care, while having one eye on the future financial security of the client’s family.
Clients with disabilities
In some ways, the complexity of dealing with clients suffering a disability is higher than for those with a terminal illness. Assessing the period and level of care they will need, and consequently the cost, is extremely hard.
This makes producing a financial plan challenging and the need to review it regularly imperative. For example, I have a client who has been using a wheelchair for many years. He was previously told by doctors that he would be lucky to live past 25. He’s now 65 and very much alive and well. That clearly demonstrates the planning challenges, especially as he doesn’t know how quickly his health will deteriorate, if at all.
We’ve put a financial plan in place for him. It’s flexible; as his needs change, the plan is adapted.
This approach allows him to live a life that is as happy and healthy as possible, such as investing in a custom-built van, while being flexible enough to accommodate changes to his condition.
The van was a large expense, but our careful planning and regular reviews, meant that he could proceed confidently with the purchase, safe in the knowledge his cash reserves could cover the cost.
Clients with recently diagnosed illnesses
Empathy and understanding are vital when you are helping somebody who has just been diagnosed with a life changing condition. A client of mine was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. This came as a shock to both of us as she’d previously been fit and healthy for the five years I have been working with her.
Upon diagnosis, she called me, and we discussed the waiting times she had been given for her surgery. The NHS couldn’t accommodate her for four weeks; a delay that distressed her. I suggested looking at private treatment, which she hadn’t considered, and within ten days she was out of the operating theatre and on the road to recovery.
Advising clients with health issues requires an extra level of sensitivity, understanding and skill, which is why I find it so rewarding when I get to make a difference.