Factor state of health into financial planning, says a doctor-turned-adviser

| 16 Mar 2023

Someone in poor health or with medical problems should have an entirely different plan from a person who is healthy, said certified financial planner Carolyn McClanahan.

Founder of Life Planning Partners and physician McClanahan said while expenses on premiums matter, your health should influence far more than a single-line item in a financial plan.

“A healthy person needs a totally different [financial] plan from someone who has health issues,” said Ms McClanahan who also is a member of CNBC’s Financial Advisor Council.

For example, someone with significant medical problems — and therefore lower life expectancy — likely doesn’t need to plan to stretch out their retirement savings until age 100. “That’s asking them to save too much, and they’re missing out on life now,” she said.


Insurability can become a problem

Additionally, there are types of insurance that can be hard to get – if not impossible – once you have a health condition, she said. 

“A person with health issues or at risk for them needs to think more deeply about their insurance,” she said. 

For instance, if you are young but have, say, a significant risk factor for diabetes, life insurance generally would be less expensive now than it would be if you were to apply after developing the disease.

The same goes for short-term and long-term disability insurance, which replaces lost income if you experience a health event that makes you unable to work. Even if you can get this insurance after developing a medical problem, insurers sometimes impose coverage exclusions for pre-existing conditions.  

Additionally, many people who consider long-term care insurance don’t do so until they are near or in retirement, she said. Long-term care involves help with everyday living activities, such as bathing and dressing, which many older people end up needing later in life. 

However, by that point, they may have developed a health condition that makes such insurance coverage cost prohibitive or impossible to get. It’s best to think about those possible expenses further in advance – ideally in your 40s or 50s, she said.


Estate planning is crucial if you have health issues

Also, while everyone can benefit from having an estate plan so that your wishes are carried out, a person with health issues needs to prioritise end-of-life planning, she said. 

In addition to having a will that says who gets your belongings and other various assets – and confirming beneficiaries on accounts are the intended recipients – an estate plan should include a living will. This document outlines the health care you want and don’t want if you become unable to communicate those desires yourself. 

You also should have powers of attorney assigned to trusted individuals for health care and, separately, your finances. Those people would make decisions on your behalf if you were to become incapacitated. 

“Everyone needs those documents, but especially if you have significant health issues,” she said.


Your use of health care should be considered

As for budgeting for expenses directly related to tending to various aspects of your physical and mental well-being, it helps to think about what type of healthcare user you are.  

“You have people who rarely go to the doctor about anything, but then you have people who go to the doctor for everything, so that [use] drives healthcare costs more than anything,” she said. 

“If you know how you use health care, you can better build that into your cashflow projections,” she said.


This is an abridged version of an article which appeared on CNBC.