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Painful financial mistake I made 8 weeks before my cancer diagnosis

·4-min read
(Images: Supplied).
(Images: Supplied).

Read part one to find out how doctors nearly missed Briony’s cancer diagnosis, and how it took her parents to save her life.

When Briony Benjamin was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in late 2017, she was forced to take nine months off work.

She was lucky she had a solid bank of savings and a supportive family to see her through that period, but if she hadn’t made one financial mistake just months before, she would have had much more.

“I was quite good with saving at the time, which put me in good stead,” Briony told Yahoo Finance.

“But [if I had my time over] I would have saved a bit more and I would have set up income protection insurance.”

What is income protection insurance?

Income protection insurance is a safety net often offered with your superannuation. If the worst happens, it will pay you a regular income for a specified period. 

This is generally up to 85 per cent of your regular salary and is paid for up to five years. 

Under new laws, insurance isn't automatically provided to Australians under 25 unless they choose to opt in.

If you want to check your insurance in super, you can simply call your superannuation fund, check your fund's product disclosure statement or check out your super account online.

If you're young, your earnings are likely your biggest asset

Briony thought she was too young to think about income protection insurance, but she now understands that her earnings potential was the biggest asset she had.

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“I would have investigated that [insurance] more, and had that set up. I had also just switched my super over and my new super didn’t come with the default income protection insurance,” she added.

“That was a real bummer. I’d literally just changed that over two months before I got diagnosed and I lost my default cover that I’d had with my previous product.”

She said that this is an important message: be aware of what cover your superannuation has before switching to a new product.

“Make sure you look at the insurance options that come with it, and what you’re going to lose if you switch over.”

What else Briony learnt about her money during chemotherapy

Briony Benjamin has since written a book about her experience, describing it as the book she wished she'd had at the time. (Image: Supplied).
Briony Benjamin has since written a book about her experience, describing it as the book she wished she'd had at the time. (Image: Supplied).

While Briony took nine months out of work, six months of that was due to the post-treatment recovery. Then when she did return, it was on a part-time basis.

All up, she believes she lost close to $100,000 in lost income.

“Then, after all the Medicare kicked in and private health insurance, [I spent] probably another few thousand.”

She went through the public health system, which she says she couldn’t rate highly enough.

And while her direct medical costs were relatively low, Briony also had to relocate to Queensland to be with her family.

She believes she spent as much as $15,000 on the relocation costs and appointments with physiotherapists, psychologists and other specialists.

Briony’s pool of savings also meant she couldn’t access Government support services.

“I was obviously very fortunate that I had amazing parents that I could move back in with them at the time,” she said.

“I don’t know what you’d do if you didn’t have that. I suppose you’d be relying on the kindness of friends. It would be really tough for people.”

Can you work during chemotherapy?

Briony spent most of her treatment and recovery either resting, journalling or going about her daily life.

The first few courses of chemotherapy left her feeling better than she expected, but when she began her third round she began to feel severely weak.

And with the near constant chemotherapy nausea and excruciating pain from the bone marrow injections, she knew there was no way she could have continued working.

However, she knew other people who did have to work throughout their cancer treatment.

“It would be the worst thing I could imagine. It would just be awful,” she said.

“You just need to put all of your energy into resting, recuperating and allowing the chemotherapy to do its job really.”

The only variable would be if a job was a real outlet and something that brought joy into a cancer patient’s life. Outside of that, Briony believes there’s no way you can work during therapy.

“I think anyone who is going through chemotherapy should be supported by the Government.”

Now in remission, Briony is on a mission to encourage other Australians to take their health and their finances seriously.

Briony Benjamin shares more about her lymphoma journey in Life is Tough But So Are You. Pre-order your copy here.

Read part one to find out how doctors nearly missed Briony’s cancer diagnosis, and how it took her parents to save her life.

- Are you a woman with a great money story? Get in touch here.

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