(844) 845-4219 » Tough Talk: Terminal Illness And Your Finances

Tough Talk: Terminal Illness And Your Finances



For two decades, Dean Sperantsas managed investments for a wide range of clients, handling millions of dollars. But his toughest job involved far smaller sums – caring for both his parents and his wife before they died, while also managing their money.

Sperantsas is what’s known as a “chartered financial analyst,” which means he passed three rounds of tests and put in many years of work in the financial field. So he knows intellectually what needs to happen when loved ones are dying. But he also knows personally.

“The aim is to create a financial buffer for the extended experience to come,” says Sperantsas, who lives in South Florida, adding this intimate advice: ““As a caregiver, it’s important you find strength and respite for yourself.”

Here’s what else he suggests…

1. Hold onto life insurance

“Avoid liquidating a life insurance policy, which is an extreme and costly step,” Sperantsas advises.

2. Re-allocate to meet current needs

In investing, one can take on risk in proportion to time horizon, Sperantsas explains.

“For the terminally ill, time horizon is relatively short,” Sperantsas says.

“Funds invested in volatile assets, for instance, retirement funds invested in equities, should be re-allocated to low-risk, low-volatile assets to meet current needs and wants,” Sperantsas says.

Use funds to enhance a patient’s quality of life.

“If funds are available the patient should be permitted to enjoy the gift of life that remains,” Sperantsas says.

3. Reconsider current expenses.

“There may be expenses that can be eliminated in light of the diagnosis, creating additional financial flexibility,” Sperantsas says.

4. Speak openly with loved one about care options

Speak kindly, openly and compassionately with your loved ones about their preferences for care.

“Great care must be taken by the caregiver,” Sperantsas says. “Beware of communicating pessimism or anticipation of death to a patient already coping with a terminal diagnosis. Do it with discretion.”

5. Revamp investments and prepare for care

“There’s an old adage in finance. Don’t compound operating risk with financial risk. You now have risk on the family prospectively, including loss of one income,” Sperantsas says. “Consider reducing investment risk.”

Families are prudently investing for the future, 10, 20, 30 years. A terminal diagnosis typically is much shorter than that, Sperantsas explains.

“The goal should be to focus on the patient you now have,” Sperantsas says.

“The decisions about what kind of treatments to accept and how long have important quality of life and financial implications. Financial resources are part of the consideration. For example, medical and long-term care insurance availability, savings and family income.”

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6. Avoid these common mistakes

When asked about common mistakes for caregivers, Sperantsas listed many:

“Trying to do it all themselves, folding under pressure, hiding from the problem, failing to anticipate that there will be a funeral, failing to solicit the sentiments and preferences of the patient.”

Often there seems to be two extreme responses to caregiving, failing to cope or hyper-coping, being super capable, trying to be super man or super woman, Sperantsas observes.

“The trick is in the balance,” Sperantsas says.

7. Include the patient in decision-making

He encouraged caregivers to include patients in decision-making whenever possible.

“Let them do what they can. They want to be in charge of their own lives,” Sperantsas says. “My mother wanted to open her own mail.”

8. Don’t shy away from sensitive subjects

“Here’s another example of a something that requires sensitivity, one’s funeral arrangements,” Sperantsas says. “You can have a calm, levelheaded discussion, well in advance of any health event. It will be a relief to all to have this issue in order.”

Once discussed, a funeral director will be able to give you a detailed quote for funeral arrangements preferred by your loved one. And you will be able to compare potential costs with your financial resources.

9. Begin estate planning

“Consult an estate attorney promptly. Talk about priorities with your loved one. Have them committed to writing. Have the attorney draft documents as appropriate. Don’t forget to include a power of attorney and health proxy authorizing a trusted person to make decisions when the patient is unable,” Sperantsas says. “When the inevitable occurs, the caregiver is free to cope and grieve without having to deal with practical considerations and that’s a major bonus.”

10. Set an example

Set an example for other family members for how you would like to be treated when your time comes.

“Lastly, every action you take now in full view of your family members and perhaps children is setting an example for how you will be seen and cared for in time,” Sperantsas says. “Make it your mission to set a memorable example.”

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