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My Father’s Caretaker and Long-Term Financial Implications

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You know the feeling where you’re so overwhelmed with important tasks and to do’s that you can’t do anything and you end up just taking a nap?

Yeah. That’s where I’m at. Not so much with the napping part (though it sounds nice). But, hello little bloggy! Here I am “talking” to you instead of putting my head down and pushing through some pretty important to do’s.

Let’s talk about yesterday.

Longest. Day. Of. My. Life.

Reeeeeeeaaaaaaaaallllly long.

Between my 2 siblings and I (3 of us total), I totally thought I was the most mentally prepared to face my Dad’s health issues. I’m not a super emotional person. I look at things scientifically. Matter-of-factly. I’m a realist.

So I went to this appointment feeling fully prepared to hear what I thought would be “worst case scenario.” I had already in my mind an idea of what I thought that scenario would be.

Nope.

I was wrong. So, so wrong.

It’s worse.

Prognosis is not good. Again, wanting to maintain some privacy for him and not give too many of his personal details, I’m going to be intentionally vague (you may be able to figure it out – which is fine – but I don’t want to just put it all out there on a silver platter).

My dad has a progressive, degenerative disease for which there is no cure. Eventually he will die of it (or complications related to it). Not today. Not tomorrow. But his life span has just been dramatically reduced. He just turned 59 in March. Quite young, relatively speaking.

I will also tell you that the thing he’s been diagnosed with can be genetic. If one inherits the gene mutations associated with this disease, there’s a 50/50 chance of developing it as some point.

It will cut life short. Most people are diagnosed in their 50s, and life expectancy at time of diagnosis ranges from 2-10 years, with most living in the 5-7 range. My dad managed to go undiagnosed for a long time. It’s unlikely he has 5 years. Probably closer to 2. If we’re lucky.

What does this mean for me?

Well, if I have the same gene sequences, there’s a 50% chance I’ll someday have the same thing. That means my life expectancy will be drastically cut. According to here  my life expectancy is 78.7 years (white female born in 1983). But instead it might be closer to 55 or 60. 65 if I’m lucky.

What my Dad has is not curable at this time. There’s also no way to prevent it.

So I’m going to ask my doctor for a referral to a genetic counselor. I want to know if I have these gene mutations. If I have them it’s not a guarantee that I’m “doomed” (again – only 50% chance of developing the disease). But it will undoubtedly change the way I live my life. Knowing I may only be around until my girls are age 30; knowing I may not have the long retirement we all dream and plan for; knowing my life may go in a very different direction than what I would hope.

Unfortunately for this get-out-of-debt blog, many of these long-term implications are financial in nature. I certainly don’t want to leave my family in financial ruin (and I still have every intention of paying off all our debt). BUT I’m not going to put off vacations to once a decade. I’m not going to live bare bones with the hope that someday I’ll be able to live this fabulous life full of fruits and riches that may never end of happening.

Maybe I’m still in a bit of shock and some of these feelings will fade. The emotions are raw right now.

I’m devastated. For my Dad. For my siblings. For me. And for my daughters (God, please don’t let them have this gene mutation!!!)

Sorry to be such a downer today, but this is literally ALL I can think about and I always try to be open and honest with you all. It’d be completely phony to act like nothing is wrong when it feels like the ground has just opened up beneath me.

 

So emotions aside, let’s talk about genetics. And money. Specifically….money for genetic testing.

Anyone know anything about that? It’s probably expensive, huh?

I changed my insurance. I was going to do a Health Savings Account, but I had to switch to a PPO. There’s a chance my Dad may come to live with us for a bit and, if so, he’ll be my dependent and added to my insurance. He’ll need a lot of care so it makes an HSA not beneficial.

Plus, I think my PPO plan will pay for some genetic testing to be done. Remember when I had a genetic screening for the gene mutation responsible for breast and ovarian cancer? That was fully covered under my PPO and my new job’s coverage is the same plan (Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO), so I REALLY REALLY hope they’ll cover some additional genetic screening to be completed. I know this is an area of intense debate. Several commenters were against my last genetic screening. But every person is different. For me, I feel like I NEED to know.

Plus another perk, with the PPO plan a vasectomy is only $30! Remember when we had that conversation?

So I’m just chugging right along. Possible big financial changes ahead (particularly if my Dad does, indeed, move in with us. Still discussing options with the siblings right now). I don’t even know what a best case scenario looks like. There is no best case. Just a bunch of crappy, more crappy, or slightly less crappy options. Just a bunch of crap.

Is it Friday? Thank goodness for that at least! I plan to spend the weekend squeezing my daughters tightly, playing the tickle monster game all day, and just generally smothering them until they tell me to go away because I just want to soak in their sweet little toddler spirits. God bless children for being a rainbow in the midst of a storm!


Financial Priority List

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One of my new favorite things to do since signing my first full-time employment contract is to run numbers over and over again to determine our new debt-free date. 🙂

As a side-note, I ran across an old notebook from last summer (August 2014) where I’d written projected debt-free dates and was slightly heartbroken to see I’d originally hoped to have my car loan paid in full by January 2015. Crusher! Still about 15 grand to go on that one (latest debt update here). But I’ll be hitting it hard once the paychecks start rolling in.

Regarding pay, however, things are still a bit up in the air.

A reader who works in HR commented a couple weeks ago to say that I probably need to receive official permission from my new job to continue working at my online teaching job. I really hadn’t thought anything of it because I know lots of professors who adjunct teach at a community college on the side of their full-time professor gig. But as this is my first full time position and I absolutely do not want ANYTHING to jeopardize it in any way, I called HR to be safe. At first I got a casual response, “I don’t see why that would be an issue but I’ve never had the question before. I’ll check with someone else and call you back.”

So I go the rest of the day thinking I’m A-Okay until I get the call. Even though my part-time job can be completed at nights and on weekends, will not interfere in any way with my new position, and is only adjunct teaching (no additional responsibilities, etc.), the employee handbook has a little section stating that any employment for any other university or college MUST be approved by the department head AND college dean. Ouch.

I’m still hopeful about the situation. I really don’t think it will be a big deal given the parameters of my online teaching job (specifically that it can be completed any time so it won’t cause any impairment to my new day job, and it’s a simple adjunct position). BUT the bottom line is I have to ask for official permission to continue working for the online job and, if I’m told no, there goes my hopes of making serious progress on debt repayment.

Let’s step back a sec and talk numbers without actually talking numbers. Just follow me.

My new full-time job pays about 50% more than my current part-time online teaching job.

BUT

After running the numbers of all the deductions to be taken out from each paycheck, which are substantial (including: health, dental, vision, retirement, money for a flexible spending account for childcare expenses, taxes, etc. etc. etc.) I’m only going to actually be netting an extra couple hundred bucks a month. Soooo, practically the same monthly pay for my full-time job as what I make at my part-time job.

Of course, my money will stretch a lot further at my new full-time job because, unlike the part-time job, I won’t have to deduct funds monthly to pay my own taxes and health insurance. I’ll be paying for (part of) childcare with pre-tax dollars to save some money there. I’ll be paying for health care with pre-tax dollars to save some money there. I’ll be saving money toward retirement where previously I’ve saved nearly nothing. And so on.

But when you just look at the bottom line…. being able to keep my part-time job effectively doubles my take-home salary. So obviously I’m hoping I’ll be able to do that.

Cross your fingers for me. I meet with the department head the week of the 20th (exact date TBD) so I’m hoping to bring it up in our meeting and have it be no big deal.

In the meantime I have a just-for-fun list of financial priorities along with some projected dates.

Financial Priority List

  • September 2015 – Add $4,000 to Emergency Fund. With hubs’ no-income month of May and the fact that much of my paycheck was sucked up into an overdue tax bill, we basically lived on our EF for the month of June. We do have a little left (just under a thousand), but I’d like to beef it up to the $5,000 mark. If we put some aside in August and some in September, we’ll hit that goal. It’s tough to put so much toward savings instead of debt but I feel really strongly that we need to have a solid EF, if for nothing more than my own psychological well-being.
  • December 2015 – Pay off remaining car loan (approx. $15,000). This is still a bit of an aggressive goal, but as long as I’m able to keep both my jobs I think there’s a really good chance we can still pay off our car before the calendar year is over. I CAN NOT WAIT until this loan is paid because it will signify reaching the consumer debt-free mark – a huge milestone in my mind.

And here’s where things get controversial….

After the car is paid off, I definitely want to start paying more toward my student loans. But instead of diving full-force into paying off these loans with the gazelle intensity that I’ve tried to have for all of our other consumer-related debts, I want to split my priorities a bit. I still feel very strongly about paying off these loans as quickly as possible (especially the unsubsidized loans; and I plan to continue doing balance transfers to save some interest where possible, too). That being said, however, there’s something else I feel really strongly about too.

Home ownership.

No, we aren’t looking at places today. No, we don’t even know what the next year may bring (examples: (1) my dad’s scary health issues, and (2) I’ve still been in talks with the out-of-state university where I did my not-an-interview earlier this year). But all that being said, once the consumer debts are paid in full I think it will be important to start saving more aggressively for an eventual down payment. At this point I don’t know specifics (no idea the amount per month we’ll save versus the amount put toward student loans every month), and I really do want to stress that I want my student loans gone ASAP! I hate dealing with them every month. I hate the amount of interest they cost me. I hate their drama. I hate that they’re this huge, scary, black hole of debt on my credit report. So in no way am I suggesting that I’ll only pay minimums or drastically reduce debt payments. No way!

Look. It’s never been a secret that I really want to put down roots somewhere. I said it in my very first “Meet Ashley” post that I wrote when I interviewed to be one of the bloggers here. It’s important to me. The American dream and all that jazz. And the older my kids get, the more I want it.

I’m sure I’ll be talking more about this as time moves on. But for now, we’ll just say that I’ve got these two concrete goals (restock EF by September, and consumer debt-free by December), and then we’ll have to do some reassessing at that point. Either way, 2015 is shaping up to be a pretty kick-butt year in terms of debt repayment. Full throttle ahead!

 


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