Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Life Goals, Finance and Chronic Illness

Life Goals, Finance and Chronic Illness.

Occasionally companies approach me with odd offers in the hope I will blog about them, which is quite flattering really. But also makes me wonder if they should raise their standards. Lifetime unique hits to my blog is only a little over 20k.

Usually they offer me Amazon gift cards to give away, which I have always politely turned down because that's weirdly like prostituting yourself, then giving the money to charity. Mildly insulting to everyone involved.

This week Jackie from Personal Capital emailed me with a blog pot suggestion and I decided to take her up on it, because she used the magic words 'lists' and 'goals', which are basically my version of crack cocaine. Hopefully she doesn't work on commission though, because I won't be linking to their retirement planner or net work calculator. Her proposed idea was a list of 'must dos and personal goals' for your 20s and 30s. Things like travelling the world, and applying for that dream job, paying student loans and saving for retirement.

She went on to say: "Did you know that 40% of millennials don’t have current plans for retirement, and 73% don’t know their net worth? That's pretty shocking! We want to help spread the word that while being an adult is fun and independence feels great, it's always good to keep an eye on the future and have personal goals. [The blog post] could be a fun way to get others motivated to get their “grownup on”!"

I'm pretty sure my bio says my life goal is to become a dinosaur, but I AM a dinosaur that knows my net worth, so that's something.

Quick rundown of Jackie's suggestions from my point of view though:

1. My mobility is to handicapped, to travel the world.

2. I have been deemed too disabled to work the minimum 5 hours a week. So applying for jobs is unlikely.

3. I do have HECS debt, but due to the timing of my illness and my repeated failed attempts to go back to uni, I will not be finishing that degree.

4. I will not live long enough to retire.

So far, I have all those things well at hand. No further planning needed, guys. Nailed it.

I didn't actually write this blog post just to lampoon Personal Capital's researching skills, however. I actually wanted to talk about goals and finance when you are disabled. Firstly, because nearly every other disabled person I know is living hand to mouth. And secondly, because I know literally dozens of chronically ill people who have ended their own lives because of finances, or that very painful list of goals they know they will never be able to achieve.

Chronic Illness and Life Goals

The hardest, but most productive thing for a chronically ill person to accept is that this is their new normal. They have to accept that the goals and dreams and expectations they had before may be out of reach now. It's very rare to be chronically ill and 'have it all'. You're working with limitations other people just don't have, be they mobility, energy or time. So when you look forward, you have to look forward with those limitations in your mind.

It's time to re-write the list. Partner, career, family, home ownership, travelling the world—most of us hope one day we will have all these things. We look around and it seems other people do have these things and it seems unfair we never will. However all perception comes from comparison.

If you and 12 other people were tied to poles, being burned alive, and some other guy was tied to a pole and just starving to death, you would probably want to be that guy. However day to day you aren't grateful you're not tied to a pole and being burnt or starved, because no one around you is experiencing either of those things. It's simply not a frame of reference.

If you compare yourself to your peers—other chronically ill people who suffer the same limits as you—you might be doing very well. But you're still not going to be able to have all the things. You can, however, have one to two big things, if you're willing to accept you can't have the others.

I am never going to be able to travel, but I do want to own a house. So rather than dividing my attentions, I have accepted I will never be a globetrotter. If you desperately want to be a parent, maybe you will always be renting. Decide what is most important to your long term happiness and start planning.

Chronic Illness and Finance

Being ill is really expensive. Even in Australia, health care when you have to see specialist and get unusual medications is crippling. But if you don't find a way to afford these things, you'll get sicker, which is also expensive, in a different way.

Your budget is everything. You need to know exactly what you have coming in and exactly where it went, down to every last cent. You need to always be looking for things that you would be wise to avoid in future. You can get 30kgs of uncooked rice for the same price as a pizza where I am. That's more than six months supply for me, even if I was eating it every single night.

However you have to become good at ignoring the things the media (social, entertainment and advertising) says you are missing. If travelling the world isn't a goal, you don't need a holiday. If you have clothes that fit and are serviceable, you don't need new ones every season. Everyone is not eating out from lunch as often as the media would have you believe. If you have 100 friends on face book and each one of them goes out to lunch once a year, but posts a photo of the event on facebook, then you would see two people going out to lunch on your feed every week. Don't feel like you are missing out, you're probably not missing out on nearly as much as you think.

There are lots of offers and bargains around for you to get things free or cheap too. Keep an eye on sites like gumtree that let people sell unwanted goods. If you're vigilant, there is lots of free and cheap things you might be able to use or clean up and resell. Second hand charity stores have all the clothes, toys and kitchenware you could ever wear for a fraction of the cost. Be aware of community groups in your area that may offer free food—churches or co-ops.

Join facebook groups and community newsletters to stay informed of free events and go to those with friends instead of eateries. Remember to eat before you go and take a bottled drink with you.

If you can, and saying within the legal limits of any benefits you may receive, look into alternative income streams. If you have grass you just have to mow all the time, plant herb gardens and sell the herbs to local restaurants or sell seedlings at a local market. Grow succulents and sell them as wedding favours. Sell eggs if you have chickens. If you already have children, offer in home day care services. If you can sew, repair and alter clothes for money. Write books. Make art. Maintain and awesome blog and monetise it. Look after people's pets while they are on holiday. There are thousands of options, you need to find something that suits you and your unique limitations. Try and find something you enjoy, while you're at it. You don't have to suffer to make money.

Chronic Illness and Please Stop Killing Yourselves

There are some things I really want you to know, so listen up:

Sometimes life is really, really shitty when you're chronically ill. Sometimes it's so shitty we give up hope its ever going to get better. But sometimes, despite how shitty it is, we're happy anyway. A new episode of our favourite show comes out, we have a great conversation with a friend, we sit and watch a sunset, we read a fantastic book, our kids say or do something adorable, and we laugh and smile and even if we're still in pain, we're happy. Don't forget that. Don't forget happiness still happens. Sometimes, life is good.

There is support and services. Don't tell me there aren't, there are. Maybe they aren't government services, maybe they're community or church run initiatives. If you don't know about them, it's because you haven't researched them enough. Work your google-fu or ask around and find out who can help make things easier.

There are communities/finding people that understand you. The best thing about the internet is it is really easy to find people you can connect with, who are going through the same things as you. Find a group online. Find several. Be an active communicator. Make friends. Share. Support one and other through the shitty stuff and celebrate the happy days. It will make everything much, much better when you are comparing yourself to peers.

Your voice is important. Even if you don't travel the world, or have the career you wanted, your voice is important. Your experiences are valid. You have thing to contribute. Don't waste it, go out there and share yourself with your communities, online and off.

Your expectations are making you sad. Happiness is about comparison. I've said this. If you think you should be healthy, rich, successful, more attractive and dating a movie star, you're going to be much more depressed than someone who wants to have a few pot plants, a dog and someone who knows how they like their coffee. It is the difference between what you have and what you think you should have that makes you miserable. I'm not saying give up, I'm saying celebrate smaller goals. Healthy or not, most people do not have everything they envisioned they would have. The happy people are the ones who aren't always reaching for something they can't touch.

Be a dinosaur (or a writer, or whatever you like). Decide what the most important, joyful passion in your life is, and throw yourself into that with everything you have. I love writing (and dinosaurs, sometimes I write about dinosaurs and its perfect). That's what I do all day, most days. And that makes me happy. I am not rich. I am not healthy. But I am doing something I love.

Despite your limitations or your net worth, choose to do something you love.

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