Being broke when you have a chronic illness isn’t uncommon. In fact the disability employment rate, including invisible disabilities, was 6.5% compared to a rate of 3.5% for those without a disability in 2020. It’s another kick in the teeth on top of the chronic illness you didn’t ask for. Yet I don’t often see advice for the chronically ill surrounding money. Depending on your health, times are always uncertain, arguably even more so now because of the pandemic.
After recently having to take a month off work because of a big increase in seizures, I realised just how easy it could be to fall into financial trouble through no fault of your own.
Being broke when you live with a chronic illness is the absolute last thing you want. Another stressor is not going to help your health, especially when that stressor is money. Your income determines if you have a roof over your head, food on the table and in some countries, whether or not you can afford to pay for the drugs that are keeping you alive.
I see so many people on social media struggling to get government assistance because of their health. Especially when it comes to epilepsy considering it’s an invisible disability. It’s time to take a different approach and be proactive. We can’t rely on anyone but ourselves to support us financially if our health takes a turn for the worst.
Why we need to be financially prepared for fluctuations in chronic illnesses
Being prepared financially for if my seizures ever prevented me from working was never brought up to me. As I’ve already mentioned, I’ve had to take time off work after a dramatic increase in tonic-clonic seizures. This time really woke me up to the importance of managing my personal finances when living with epilepsy. Seizures don’t care if you’ve just bought a new house, that you have bills to play or that any more time off work might cause you to lose your job.
It all sounds very doom and gloom so far, but I just wanted to illustrate just how important this is. We have to be even more prepared financially when we live with a chronic illness like epilepsy. Even though we are entitled to government assistance, because no one asks for a chronic illness, there’s no guarantee you’ll get that support. But we can make sure that money won’t be an obstacle if our health puts our careers on pause. It’s just about being proactive where you can.
Before diving into how to stop being broke when you have a chronic illness, I want to stress that I’m not a financial advisor. I’m simply sharing what I’ve learnt so far on my journey to financial freedom. The journey to ensuring that money is never a stressor when it comes to health.
How to stop being broke when you have a chronic illness
Create an emergency fund
An emergency fund is something I was inspired to create a while ago. Unsurprisingly, my recent time off work has only emphasised its’ importance. If I didn’t have a good employer, I could’ve been dropped in financial trouble at one of the most difficult times in my life.
An emergency fund generally consists of 3-6 months of your living expenses. This means that if a flare-up or an increase in seizures halts your income, you’ll still be able to afford to live for the next 3-6 months. It’s like a giant safety net.
Get yourself out of debt
Debt alone can be stressful enough, never mind debt on top of a chronic illness. Interest builds up, companies chase you and it can become incredibly stressful. Adding stress to your life in this way can be detrimental. Especially considering that stress is one of the most common seizure triggers.
Let me be clear, I’m not a finance professional so I’m not advising you on how to get out of debt. Some useful places for advice are the Citizens Advice Bureau, Money Saving Expert and The Humble Penny.
Make a budget and stick to it
Budgeting is a tried and tested method you’ll see all over the internet. There are some amazing stories out there about how budgeting has changed people’s lives.
Budgeting is a skill I’m still trying to perfect myself, but I’m well aware of its’ power. You’ll know where every single penny of your money is going, where you’re overspending and how to reduce unnecessary costs. It can make you review your finances and spot unnecessary subscriptions that instead could be going towards supporting your health.
There are so many budgeting models out there that could with being broke when you have a chronic illness. There’s the traditional budget, the 50/30/20 rule, the 80/20 rule and plenty of budgeting tools and apps out there that will automate all your money.
Understand your rights and entitlements
Rights and entitlements can differ greatly depending on where you are in the world, but they’re definitely worth looking into.
Your rights to work is something worth being clued up on when you live with an unpredictable illness like epilepsy. The Equality Act 2010 protects your rights to employment in the UK. This means that reasonable adjustments must be made for any job, and you cannot be discriminated in the workplace because of your disability, whatever that may be.
For financial support from the government, your access to this can vary based on where you live, how your health impacts your day-to-day life and how your application is viewed. Yet there are subsidies out there that could help you on your journey to not being broke when you have a chronic illness. For example, I’m allowed free travel on public transport within my local area because my epilepsy prevents me from having a driving license.
Educate yourself in personal finance
One thing I’ve learnt since starting my journey to financial freedom is that understanding your finances is the way forward. As we all know, education is power. So let’s use that power to stop being broke when we already live with a chronic illness.
There’s an unlimited number of resources to help you in financial education. There are countless YouTube videos, blog posts, books, courses, you name it. Recently I’ve invested in the following books and I’m learning a lot from each:
You can stop being broke when you have a chronic illness
Life throws enough curveballs and being broke when you have a chronic illness doesn’t need to add to them. Personally, my health is a big motivator in creating financial freedom. If you have epilepsy or any other chronic illness I’m sure you can understand why.
Having a chronic illness isn’t easy. Why not make life a little easier so we can handle any tough times that come our way? Hopefully, our health is improving in small ways every day. But if there ever comes a point where we can’t work, we can be prepared for it.
Until next time,