I was diagnosed with noninvasive breast cancer in the spring of 2009, and it came as a complete surprise. I have no family history, and I was 41 at the time — relatively young for a breast cancer diagnosis. I was scared.
As a financial professional, I have often faced such crossroads with clients. Now it was my turn.
While I knew I had adequate life insurance (frankly, only because I’m in this industry), I was still consumed with worry. One of the first thoughts that went through my head when I got diagnosed was, do I have enough coverage? And if I didn’t, then what? Would my husband and daughter be okay if something happened to me, either now or if I got cancer again a few years from now? Planning for your future becomes so much more urgent when that future is uncertain.
I know there are many people who are not prepared and put off making decisions. It’s something I have seen routinely over the past 20 years of my career. I speak out about my breast cancer because I think my story can be a wake-up call. I’ve seen too many people face various circumstances and not have enough life insurance, disability income insurance or money saved for college or retirement when that surprise diagnosis gets delivered. I hope they view my story as a chance to look at their options and take action.
Many women believe that if they have breast cancer they are uninsurable. It may not be the case. I was very surprised that within a year of my treatment, I was able to qualify for additional life insurance to protect my family in the event of a recurrence or other unplanned event that could impact them.
I am fortunate to be affiliated with Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). In 2011, MassMutual revised its life insurance underwriting guidelines for people who have battled breast cancer based on a review of recent medical research, including changes to the official staging system for breast cancer. The end result: more breast cancer survivors than ever before are likely to be eligible for life insurance coverage, often with lower premiums.
If you have a client who has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer or another condition, help them apply for life insurance anyway. You never know what they may be eligible for, even with a history of breast cancer and/or other medical issues. Or ask for an informal inquiry to get an accurate idea of what they can qualify for if they were to submit a formal application.
Be sure to review the client's spouse’s coverage and make sure it is adequate. During this challenging time it is important to make sure everyone is properly protected. It might be a good time for the client to apply for life insurance on his or her children to protect their insurability in the event they develop breast cancer or any other medical issues.
It's not always easy to get clients to take the time to draw up a financial plan. But clients who know they're in good financial health have one less thing to worry about when they're caught by surprise.