Dealing with a Spouse’s Illness and the Impact on Your Financial Plan

Investing & Retirement

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[Host] When a serious illness or injury strikes, financial pressure can weigh heavily on a marriage. Yet, before you can tackle these rational discussions around money, you need to get a good handle on your emotions.

Joe Sicchitano, Head of Wealth Planning and Advice Delivery for Truist Wealth, lays out the first steps to take when a couple is facing a health issue.

[Joe Sicchitano] Illness can sometimes be more complicated than say an unexpected death because it comes with an extra facet of uncertainty that can create anxiety and fear, which can cloud decision making. So, as with any unexpected event, you know, surrounding yourself with people who can help you through that cloudiness is very helpful.

I think one of the most often overlooked pieces with an illness is that very often there are really good support groups that are actually organized around that specific illness, and it collects and connects people who have similar issues, concerns, and anxieties. So I would not overlook that as an important support mechanism if you're dealing with this kind of situation.

[Host] Focusing on your well-being first lets you be a better caregiver and helps you make better financial decisions. When you're ready to focus on financial logistics, Sicchitano says you should start by considering what timeframe you're dealing with, how your loved one will be cared for, and what the ultimate impact of these two factors will be.

[Sicchitano] In terms of the timeframe, looking at the illness and saying, "Is this going to be a short-term, a long-term, or a catastrophic event?" helps frame the issue. I think the second thing in terms of caring for the one who's ill is, you have to prioritize that. So, rallying around that individual and making sure that they're experiencing the appropriate level of care and expertise that they need is another good starting point.

And lastly, after I've taken care of framing the issue of timeframe, taking care of the ill partner; third, finally, now I can really take a look, and step back and say, "What's the impact of this going to be both short and long-term?"

[Host] Next, it's time to get a clear grasp of your new financial reality. For example, determine whether your income has changed. Then, revisit decisions you've already made by pulling out key documents, such as your will, trust information, medical directives, and legal filings. Once you've taken these steps, Sicchitano offers tips on where to turn for help.

[Sicchitano] Now, where can we find assistance? That really encompasses looking at three sources. The first is, looking at what my insurance options are. So, what's going to pay for care? If there's a gap in paying for that care, what's the source going to be that's gonna cover that cost and expense? Do we have long-term care insurance? Is it a disability situation? What's my medical insurance going to cover and not cover? And looking at those variables in terms of your spouse or partner's condition.

After that, there's a series of other benefits that may or may not be helpful. So, does the spouse qualify for benefits on a state level? On a federal level? Are there social security benefits that may come into play? Are there retirement plan considerations that, in the event of that illness or disability, frees up some of that capital without a penalty?

So, knowing those benefit programs through your employers or private plans would also be important. And I think what can't be understated is, there's a lot of moving parts here. So the last piece of assistance would be, assembling our advisory team. Where can we get expertise that's specific to this kind of situation? We talked about support groups in the past, but what about tax, and legal, and even the HR representatives that an employer can offer some assistance in this regard?

[Host] For more information, contact your Truist Wealth Advisor or visit us online at

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