Matt and Yi were in a good place. They had recently transitioned to a more stable financial situation and had begun to accumulate some wealth. They had even purchased their first home together.
And then they received devastating news.
In December 2018, 41-year-old Matt was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. It was something the couple never saw coming. “At the time, we were like, ‘OK, finally we can start to enjoy our life and plan for the future,’” Yi said. After the cancer diagnosis, she said, everything became more difficult.
Yi began to worry about the couple’s finances and how to navigate them, knowing that she would likely need to take time off work to care for Matt while also figuring out how to afford his treatments. Yi and Matt (who did not want their last names used) both knew that cancer could be financially devastating for them.
The couple’s worries about the financial impact of Matt’s diagnosis were justified. One in three families reports depleting their savings as a result of a cancer diagnosis. Twenty-four percent of families said they had to borrow against their retirement funds as a family member was treated for cancer, according to the Foundation for Financial Planning. In addition, some cancer patients even see poorer health outcomes as a result of their financial stress.
Seeking resources that would help them, Yi found the Financial Planning for Cancer program, a collaborative effort between the Foundation for Financial Planning and the nonprofit organization Family Reach. Not long after finding the program, Yi and Matt were soon connected with Craig Cohn, a financial planner in San Diego.
Cohn knew that Matt’s diagnosis would change the couple’s financial picture. Cohn worked to realign the couple’s investments to free up funds for short-term use. He also adjusted their 401(k) investments, while avoiding penalties, to bring down the risk factor and ultimately make adjustments for what was going on in their life.