Useful Info | The Parents Adviser

Below you’ll find LINKS to organisations who Marnie and I found invaluable during our Cancer journey.

I have also included some VIDEOS of typical questions and options we encountered during Liam’s treatment, which you’ll find below the links (by clicking on the cross).

Children’s Cancer Website – A really helpful new government initiative for families of children with cancer. A great resource full of useful information.

The Centrelink Guide To Payments – gives you an idea of what government benefits are available to help with your finances. If it’s too hard to comprehend, give me a call – I’ve been there.

Redkite – provides all sorts of services to parents and kids during, and after, treatment. An awesome help, and from May 2015, have taken o the services of the charity Cure Our Kids.

Make A Wish Foundation – awesome charity that does all it can to make your child’s wish come true, in an experience they will never forget. They have had a profound effect on our whole family’s life.

MoneySmart – lots of useful financial tips and info

Financial Counselling Australia – These guys are really good if you are in a real financial bind (and is outside the scope I can help you with). Financial counsellors are non-judgmental, qualified professionals who provide information, support and advocacy to people in financial difficulty. Working in community organisations, their services are free, independent and confidential

Government Info on Private Health Insurance – helps out with a topic that I often joke is harder to understand than superannuation!

The Starlight Foundation – provides loads of services to brighten up the lives of kids while they are sick in hospital. We spent ALOT of time in the Starlight room at Westmead (even hooked up to an IV pole).

Camp Quality – their motto, ‘Laughter is the best Medicine’ sums it up really; they allow parents to come together for camps and various events. These guys have been our saviours (for some ‘normality’) after treatment finished.

What are my Centrelink options?
Centrelink (fortunately or unfortunately) plays a big part for parents who find themselves in this situation. We found this out first hand.

Eligible Centrelink Payments for Families with Children with a serious illness

Centrelink provide a range of payments and services to families with a child who has a serious illness. Centrelink legislation changes all the time, as do the actual payments; so below is only general information on the main types of payments available (this is where you will need personal help and advice). Some of you may not be eligible for a benefit, some of you may be. Payments can be categorised as:

  • Carer payments – payments to a person caring for a child with a serious illness. They included Carer Payment, Carer Allowance and Carer Adjustment Payment
  • Family payments – payments that assist with the costs of raising children. They include Family Tax Benefits Parts A and B and the Schoolkids Bonus
  • There are also other benefits that may be applicable (depending on the circumstances) such as the Child Care Benefit & Child Care Rebate.
What about childcare?

If you have other kids, the primary dilemma is who is going look after them with one of you at the hospital much of the time.

The Centrelink guide in the link above covers some basics on Centrelink benefits that relate to Childcare – or just send me an email with any questions:

How can I better manage my money?

Overnight income is affected; it reduces and in many cases stops completely. Is there anything useful that you can do in the interim?

If you need a hand with budget tips or tools, please feel free to call or email.

What are my options with work?

It’s hard enough dealing with your sick child, let alone the stresses of work. Is there anything else you can do or plan?

In the short term, it doesn’t matter as there are more important things that need attending to – but it needs a strategy medium to longer term. In these kinds of circumstances, many employers are sympathetic and ‘do the right thing’ (i.e tell you to come back when you are ready). Some don’t and some need someone in the role you fill; every scenario is different. Often emotional decisions are made without too much forward planning (which is understandable in the circumstances). This is where some careful planning, and a proper review of options you may have, can be valuable. Two (or three) heads are definitely better than one when making decisions that relate to work, especially taking into account other aspects of your situation.

What can I do with my loans and credit card?

Depending on the type of loan or debt, there are different options. My video and the article below should help.

Manage your mortgage through tough times

Most of us know someone who has been made redundant or suffered a cut back in their working hours. Hearing these stories can make you wonder what would happen if it was you. It is worthwhile taking a moment to consider various strategies that might make it easier to cope with what is probably your biggest debt, your home mortgage, if your income is lost or reduced.

Consolidate or refinance

These strategies can help you to get ahead, or keep your head above water when things are tough, by allowing you to reduce your debt commitments to a more manageable level, or to take advantage of a more competitive interest rate. But before you change your loan, be sure to check if there are any costs associated with refinancing and weigh up these costs against the benefits.

Know your rights

If you feel that your job is under threat, make sure you investigate your rights. It is important that you know how much money you will be offered and what notice period you will receive to help you prepare. In the event that you lose your job, this knowledge will enable you to map out your contingency plan.

Contact your lender immediately

Your lender can explain the options available to help get you through tough times. Some lenders make hardship provisions available to people who lose their jobs. These can include temporary reductions or suspension in mortgage payments, or conversion to interest-only payments. Always ask. We can do it for you as well.

Sources:
Aussie blog – “Recession proof your mortgage”

What about my current investments?

What should I do with any assets I have in place? What are my options?

First things first, don’t make any rash decisions. Get some advice & help before you do anything.

What about personal insurance policies?

Will they help me with where I am now? How do I find out?

I realise the below information may not help now, and the circumstances you may have with your child, but it is important to think of the future so as adults, we can protect our child’s future. The second article below is about Children’s insurance.

Plan for the unexpected now

We all hope that bad things won’t happen to us, but what if they did? These people held the same belief until…

Jordan started his own business servicing computers after working for a major company for many years. At age 38, he was enjoying the freedom and control it gave him. Unfortunately his car collided with a truck on the way to see a client and Jordan suffered a severe whiplash injury. He couldn’t work for two months and the loss of income has made life hard for his young family. He didn’t think to arrange income protection insurance to replace the workers’ compensation cover he’d had with his former employer.

By their late 40s, James and Mel had worked hard to reduce their mortgage and used some of the equity in their home for a loan to buy an investment unit. It was tenanted and had the potential for long-term capital growth. Sadly, James died suddenly from a stroke. On a reduced income, Mel couldn’t afford to keep paying the interest on the investment loan. The unit had to be sold quickly at a loss. They didn’t think to increase James’s life insurance when they borrowed for the unit.

At 42, Sarah is a successful business owner and prides herself in managing her personal finances well. She has a diversified portfolio of property and shares. Last year she contracted breast cancer and her work was disrupted with tests and hospital treatment for five months. She has now recovered but the medical bills made a severe dent in her finances so she was forced to sell a big chunk of her share portfolio at short notice. Sarah didn’t know that trauma insurance would have paid her a lump sum if she was diagnosed with a critical illness.

Three important lessons can be learned from these cases

Firstly, the unexpected can happen to anyone.

Secondly, take the time to review your insurance arrangements at least once every year. If there are changes in your circumstances – new job, new loans, family changes, etc – arrange a meeting with your insurance adviser.

Thirdly, talk to an expert. There are many different choices of insurance and it pays to have a specialist analyse your needs and find the most cost-effective solution for your circumstances.

Review your insurance policies

The last few years have been tough for insurance companies. Poor investment markets and rising claims have squeezed their profitability. As many people have discovered, premiums on many types of policies have increased. Many insurance companies are now also tougher on claims assessment.

Each time you review your insurance, check your coverage and make sure you have told the insurer all of the information they need to know. The last thing you need when making a claim is to discover that you’re not covered or you didn’t fully disclose the facts.

Checklist

  • Does your income protection policy still reflect the income you are currently earning?
  • Will your house insurance pay out enough to rebuild your house if it is destroyed?
  • Will your life insurance pay off all your debts and be able to support your dependants if you can’t work?
  • Has your car been modified in any way that could affect your policy?
  • Have you recently installed security devices or extra locking systems on your home that could reduce your premium?
  • Have you bought a $10,000 home theatre and forgotten to add it to your contents policy?
  • Did you know that undertaking “high risk activities” such as skydiving or hang-gliding could void your life insurance policies?

This list is not complete but it’s enough to get you thinking. Is it time to arrange a review with us for a complete analysis of your insurance needs?

Insuring a most precious life

A child with a life-threatening illness is a parent’s worst nightmare (if you are reading this you know this already, as do I). Affording the medical treatment should be the least of our worries, which is why many parents are considering children’s insurance.

It’s generally accepted that trauma insurance is the domain of adults – after all, we’re living longer and many illnesses previously deemed terminal are now curable.

Chronic illnesses in children are noteworthy because:

  • they threaten the child’s normal development progress,
  • costs are magnified by duration and ongoing treatment (childhood conditions often require life-long monitoring and management)
  • significant impacts on the family’s emotional, financial and psychological wellbeing.

For many, a child suffering a chronic or terminal illness is unthinkable, let alone a topic for discussion. Consequently, children’s insurance policies are not widely understood.

Children’s trauma insurance, sometimes called ‘child critical illness’, provides a lump sum to cover expenses if a child suffers a chronic illness or dies. Having access to additional funds might mean the difference between standard medical care and being able to afford top specialists, medications and rehabilitation not ordinarily covered by Medicare or private health insurers.

When children are ill, parents may take time off work and arrange alternative care for other children. This places an unplanned burden on the family budget which a lump sum paid on diagnosis, would help alleviate.

In most cases, child insurance cannot be purchased as a separate policy; it is generally offered as an option when adult trauma insurance is purchased, and in most cases the sum insured cannot exceed the sum insured on the adult policy.

Child policies cover a range of trauma events for children usually between 2 and 20 years of age, and as with other forms of insurance, pre-existing conditions are excluded. For this reason, it’s advisable to consider children’s insurance when your child is born, or soon after.

As another option, some adult trauma policies offer up to $10,000 in child cover as a premium-free benefit. Although this is only a small amount, it should be considered when looking at various policies on offer.

When contemplating insurance for your child, ask your adviser about a continuation option. This option converts your child’s policy to an adult contract when they reach a certain age – particularly relevant if the child suffers a lifelong condition.

All insurance companies maintain their own list of insurable illnesses and injuries so it pays to shop around and compare policies. Additionally, insurance companies often apply their own medical definitions and limitations to illnesses. Make sure you read the fine print on all policy terms and conditions and ask questions if you’re not sure.

All parents anticipate bumps and scrapes as children grow and explore. But no parent wants to consider something more serious. If the unthinkable were to happen, knowing you could afford the best possible care offers unbeatable peace of mind.

Contact me if you would like to know more about children’s trauma insurance.

Sources:

www.aihw.gov.au – Selected chronic diseases among Australia’s children

www.multicover.com.au – Children’s trauma insurance

www.lifebroker.com.au – Trauma insurance/child cover

www.asteron.com.au – Asteron life complete trauma cover

Can my superannuation help?

In extreme circumstances, you might even be able to access a portion of your super. There are ways to apply for some of it (normally as a last resort).

The information below talks generally about Super and how it works. There is also information on accessing Super early further down the article. I suggest you give me a call if this is something you feel you need to assess the feasibility of.

Understanding super preservation

One of the key features of superannuation is that your money is held in a trust structure. This means a trustee is responsible for looking after your money and cannot release it to you until certain conditions are met. This is the same as any trust arrangement – for instance, a trustee may look after inherited money for a child until they reach age 18. With super, the objective is to hold the money until you retire.

Preservation for your future

In superannuation terminology, your money is preserved. Most commonly, the money is held in the trust until you have permanently retired after age 55. Note that the age 55 applies to people born before 1 July 1960. If you were born after that date, the preservation age will be between 55 and 60 as shown in the table. Permanently retired means you have no intention of working for more than 10 hours a week (though you could change your mind afterwards).

Date of birth

Preservation age

Before 1 July 1960

55

1 July 1960 – 30 June 1961

56

1 July 1961 – 30 June 1962

57

1 July 1962 – 30 June 1963

58

1 July 1963 – 30 June 1964

59

After 30 June 1964

60

If you have reached your preservation age but have not retired, you may be able to access your super as a pension income stream, but not as a lump sum. This is referred to as “transition to retirement”.

There are other circumstances when you can access your super in either a lump sum or a pension form , for instance;

  • When you reach age 65 whether or not you are working.
  • If you leave a job after age 60, you can access the super that your employer has been paying into.
  • If you are totally and permanently disabled. In general terms this means you will never be able to work again & your super can be accessed.
  • If you die, your super will usually be paid to your dependants or your estate.

The rules also recognise that access to super may be a last resort for people in dire need. You can access your super if you are suffering severe financial hardship; to qualify you must have been receiving social security payments for an extended period. You may also be able to access super on “compassionate grounds”; this usually relates to severe medical problems.

Some people see their super as a “pot of gold” and a solution to their immediate money problems, but be warned, there are problems for people who try to get around the rules. The Australian Tax Office has prosecuted some advisers and their clients for breaking them. Apart from paying significant fees to access their money, the clients also had to pay tax at normal rates, not the concessional superannuation rates.

When you play by the rules, super is the most tax-effective tool available for most people.

Special access to superannuation

Superannuation is designed for you to save for your retirement. Early release of funds to a member is permitted in only certain circumstances, such as a member being diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Under the superannuation laws, a terminal medical condition exists if two registered medical practitioners (at least one of whom is a specialist in the relevant area) have jointly or separately certified that the member suffers from an illness, or has incurred an injury, that is likely to result in the member’s death within 12 months of the date of certification.

Once a member satisfies this condition of release, any benefits that have accrued in the fund up to that point of time become “unrestricted non-preserved”. These certificates are valid for 12 months and benefits can be released from complying super funds any time during the certification period and are not taxed. Any balances remaining after the certification period ends can be accessed at any time, but may incur tax unless new certification is provided.

Modern science and medical treatment mean that many people are now surviving and recovering from illnesses that once were fatal. However, after being diagnosed with a terminal condition, a person may need to give up work to undergo treatment. They often incur expenses associated with a serious medical situation, on top of their normal costs of living. Being able to access a lump sum from superannuation can greatly relieve the financial pressures that they experience during these times.

Members should seek professional financial advice before accessing their superannuation, especially if they receive any Centrelink income support as entitlements can be affected if funds are withdrawn.

If you are thinking about early release of your super, it’s a good idea to speak with us first. The rules can be complex, and some funds may be more easily accessed and attract fewer penalties than others. We can help with the withdrawal process, and also review your financial plan to ensure that there is no further adverse impact on your overall financial position.

Sources:
http://www.comlaw.gov.au
http://www.aph.gov.au – Research Paper, 2009-2010
http://www.ato.gov.au