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When a sudden illness changes the face of financial planning

November 23, 2012 — RBC has made a cumulative donation of more than $1 million to Wellspring, a supportive centre for individuals and families battling cancer since 1993. In honour of RBC's contributions, Wellspring has named the main programming space at their new headquarters facility in Toronto, Ontario after RBC Foundation.

"We are particularly honoured to receive this recognition given the vital role that Wellspring plays in helping those in our communities affected by cancer," said Ms. Fukakusa. "Since 1993, RBC has worked with Wellspring to create a variety of free educational and informational programs, and this new centre will ensure Wellspring is equipped to provide the necessary support for patients and their families who are dealing with the everyday realities of cancer."

Every day you get up and go to work, your mind focused on the task at hand. You assume you'll be healthy enough to complete your day-to-day tasks. But what if one morning, that reality changed? One of the biggest challenges patients diagnosed with a serious illness encounter is the financial challenges that stem from a health crisis. Do you have a plan in place?

No matter what the illness, a diagnosis causes a number of serious challenges, including the potential for a prolonged absence from work. To help navigate through the maze of income replacement programs, resources like the Wellspring 'Money Matters' program, funded by RBC, can help.

"Through the 'Money Matters' program we help diagnosed cancer patients navigate the system and find the financial solutions that work the best for their needs," said Pamela Bowes, Wellspring program manager and developer of the 'Return to Work' Program. "Many patients have recounted how stressful a cancer diagnosis was, and how money worries were even more stressful."

Money Matters is a specialized resource that gives cancer patients the tools they need to identify and apply for government programs, understand long-term disability benefits, deal with legal and tax issues and use their financial resources effectively when dealing with a cancer diagnosis. The program has been so successful, Wellspring has been called upon to educate hospital social workers, community agencies and other professionals.

"Reports have shown that most people lack the skills or knowledge to access the income programs they're entitled to. Applications forms are complex and challenging, and the bureaucracy can be daunting," said Pamela. "We know that we only pay attention to things when it matters to us. Most people we meet at Wellspring didn't think an illness would result in a financial tumble."

If you're thinking about planning for a rainy day, here are five important things to remember:

  1. No government program will replace pre-illness earnings. They are all partial income replacement programs.
  2. What you receive from one program will likely be deducted from another.
  3. In Canada, the present state of social security means that people need to rely on their own resources first. While valuable, government resources are often not enough.
  4. The worst time to think about money is when you're sick. Rather than putting it off, or assuming it won't happen to you, consider making some plans. Research what is available and what your needs would be if you couldn't work. If you have short term or long term disability, make sure you understand your policy. Also, consider other financial products that might be helpful, like critical illness insurance, a private long term disability plan or putting money into a tax free savings account or RSP.
  5. Try to save a bit that you can turn to quickly in an emergency. If that rainy day happens, and we hope it doesn't, you'll be glad you did.

In 1924, RBC developed our first budget book, the first of many money management tools created to help clients organize their finances. In the years since, RBC has continued to promote financial literacy - an understanding about credit, debt and savings - to clients, prospective clients and the public at large. We offer a number of financial literacy tools including:

  1. The RBC Advice Centre
  2. The RBC retail store, a new approach to retail banking that offers customer-centric solutions to help increase financial literacy.
  3. Client credit counselling, which we undertake with clients who face financial difficulties.

The tips provided in this story are courtesy of the Wellspring Money Matters program.