Financial hardship is one of the major impacts that may be experienced by many who have been off work for a long period of time following an injury, medical condition or personal family crisis.
When your health has taken a turn for the worst and you are not able to work for a considerable amount of time, the impacts are not only restricted to your physical health.
In many cases, the financial burden of not being able to work for an income can be detrimental to a person’s recovery both from a health and a mental wellbeing perspective. In addition to this, it can also apply unwanted stress on personal relationships which add to the burden already being experienced.
Whilst some people have either saved for a rainy day, have some level of income insurance and/or are covered by Workers Compensation, such protection only lasts so long before the pressure of finances raises its head again. Depending on the level of savings, insurance cover, assets and debt level a person has, will determine whether you can sustain an extended period without income or not.
In relation to my personal experience, it has been another part of my rehabilitation journey that I would not want to go through again and would certainly not wish this on my worst enemy.
Following my collapse in 2013, I returned to work after 3 weeks’ recovery and continued trying to work on and off for the next 24 months.
In 2015, I left the company that I was working for to undergo Cognitive Rehabilitation in Perth Western Australia on a full-time basis. During this time, I received 12 months Workers Compensation and was successful in my application for a 12-month extension given the supporting medical evidence provided.
Once Workers Compensation funds and personal income protection had been exhausted to the allowable limit and time frame, we had to rely on our savings. My wife during the first year was not working for she was assisting me during what was a difficult time for me. After draining our bank account of life savings on mortgages, medical specialist bills, lawyers’ fees and all the day-to-day expenses that we all have these days, my wife Donna returned to work in order to meet our financial commitments. Whilst Donna was now bringing in a weekly wage, without sounding ungrateful her salary was not going to cover all of our expenses. I remember how low and ashamed I felt with having Donna returning to work which included working Saturdays and yet I was at home or attending medical appointments. Not being able to contribute by working and bringing home an income was very degrading for me personally and my self-esteem was at rock bottom. Even though Donna was always supportive for me to just take the time to heal, rehabilitate and recover, I still felt like I was not contributing to the family needs. I love her to death for the support she provided me during this period and continues to provide me to this day. What a woman!
With daily expenses not going away and specialist medical appointments still requiring my attendance (some were $3,000 for a 3-hour session to give you an example), our savings had diminished and one wage was not going to be sufficient. We had only two options, either I return to work or we start selling our assets off. My specialists that were providing my rehabilitation were advising me that I was not mentally and physically ready to return to work in which my wife Donna also agreed. I had travelled so far already in my rehabilitation journey and therefore returning to work to potentially “crash and burn” again was not an option. My health and wellbeing was at stake! One thing in my rehabilitation journey that I have learnt is to be kind to myself, listen to what my body is telling me, listen to those closest to me including those who are providing me with the rehabilitation service and importantly understand how I am feeling and do not push through. I agreed that I was not ready to return to work and needed to be true to myself and the specialists that were advising me. At the end of the day, assets were just an object that could be replaced where as my health was not. Once bitten, twice shy as they say.
So, the day came where Donna and I had to have the hard conversation about selling our assets in order to control our own destiny. Without going into specifics of dollar amounts, I can share with you that we sold our boat, a car, our family home and our investment property. The boat and the car were simple transactions for we owned these outright however selling our houses was somewhat more complicated. Whilst the majority of our equity was tied up in our family home, it would be smart to sell our investment property and keep our family home. Unfortunately, with the property market being the lowest it has been for many years we would be selling our investment home at a loss so we had no other option other than to sell our beloved family home for we needed to access some of our equity in order to live.
Our second plan was now to move into our investment property a week prior to settlement of our family home however yet another spanner would be thrown into the works. Five working days prior to settlement, our bank contacted us to advise that to assist us through such financial hardship times given our circumstances, they would “help us out” by drawing down our investment loan so we wouldn’t owe as much money. This was very nice of them (I’m joking) however it just put us into another position of having all our equity transferred from one property (family home) to the next property (investment property).
Our third plan was now to rent a property for us to reside in the interim whilst we sold our investment property. This was the most logical thing to do for it would be unwise to move into a home that we intended to sell within a short period of time. Once this property had been sold it would finally free up our equity…right? Wrong! You guessed it, we were to come across another hurdle in our path. Unbeknown to Donna and I there were a couple of factors that would prevent us from being able to obtain a rental property;
- You need to provide rental history – because we hadn’t rented a property since the dawn of time (90’s), we had no rental history (Strike 1)
- Two wages are preferred when applying for a rental – we only had 1 wage (Strike 2)
- If there is only one wage in the household, the rent needs to equate to no more than 30% of the net wage – we only had 1 low income (Strike 3 & your OUT!)
Our fourth plan was to now move into our investment property whilst we placed it on the market. This was the last thing we wanted to do given that we would move from our family home and then have to move again upon the sale of the investment property. It was an extremely stressful time for all of us…but a necessity. We did manage to sell our investment property after moving in 3 months prior and so we were off moving house yet again. Yeehaaar!
From here we managed to secure a rental property by offering 6 month’s rent in advance thanks to now being able to access our equity from the sale of our family home. A bit of a waste paying off someone else’s mortgage but at least we had a roof over our heads. Happy days!
Our 8 Month Timeline…Nightmare
- Placed our family home up for sale September 2016
- Sold our family home November 2016
- Moved into our Investment property December 2016 (because we couldn’t obtain a rental property)
- Placed our investment property up for sale February 2017
- Sold our investment property March 2017
- Moved into a rental property April 2017
So why have I been so transparent about our financial situation?
Whenever anyone has spoken to me about themselves being off work with a long-term injury, medical condition or personal family crisis, it is very rare that that person will come forth and share their financial hardship position with others for it is an extremely personal and private matter. It can also be very embarrassing…I know because I was for quite some time. My Dad for example didn’t understand either how we had “got into this position”. I believe his words were to me after I told him that we were selling our family home (after we had already sold our boat and one of our cars), “how do you work for all those years and get into this position”? I know Dad didn’t mean to be nasty to me when he said this and to be honest it was a good question however his timing was out…by a mile. Ever heard of the saying “don’t kick a dog when he’s down”, well that’s how I felt. As I explained to Dad, Donna and I did set ourselves up for our future however what isn’t considered into the equation is falling ill to the level that you are left with a “Total & Permanent Disability” and this incidentally coincides with a property market that is at an all-time low. If only I sustained a brain injury when the property market was high, I would have been so much better off…heehee. I couldn’t resist, I had to let a little bit of my sarcasm in to make comment at the end to cheer myself up. The fact of the matter is, none of us schedule an injury or an illness to align with a specific date and time that suits us financially for it happens unexpectedly.
Now some would read this and say, “well they just didn’t set themselves up well enough” and this may be true compared to how others have financially secured themselves but we actually lasted 2 years living off our savings, supporting our family, paying for my rehabilitation, paying our debts and never defaulted on any of our bills. All in all, I’m proud on how we handled our situation. We controlled our destiny the best we could given our circumstances at the time.
So, I decided that I would share our financial situation with you all for I hope by sharing my circumstances with you all, it will provide you all with a more REAL and TRANSPARENT insight into other contributing factors such as financial hardship as a result of falling ill. Financial hardship is real, is harsh, is extremely stressful and in my case affected my mental health significantly. By mental health, I mean I had a down-on-my-luck type of feeling, couldn’t focus on writing any new posts (8 months), couldn’t focus on many things at all apart from how we were going to get through this next challenge that this life has presented to us.
During my rehabilitation journey I have learnt many skills to get through situations that pose a threat to my mental health and wellbeing. The combination of Meditation, Progressive Muscle Relaxation, Exercise, Healthy Eating, Reflection, etc. assists towards having a positive mindset in order to get through times where you think you couldn’t take any more negative hits. In hindsight, we did well to be in a position where we had assets that we could access. So as you can see, life goes on and that’s a positive outlook upon reflection.
Donna and I have been through a 4-year rollercoaster ride that keeps surprising us every day but we have come out the other side again and we are ok. I have everything I need, my family!
Hope – Hold On, Pain Ends