As a 56 year-old CFer, I am glad I have saved my money as if I had no disease. That was not always the case. By the time I was 34 and getting divorced, my net worth was negative $3000. I remarried shortly afterwards to a woman who had saved her whole life, and taught me a few things. At 35, I was not healthy at all and always spent several weeks a year hospitalized with lung infections. I worked for a healthcare organization and always had plenty of ETO(earned time off) from several years of service with them. I was very fortunate in that respect, and my wife worked for the same company. Because we had only one adopted child, we were able to save 1/2 of one of our salaries over a 20 year period, and almost contribute fully to our 401K plan. Our organization also had a defined pension plan for their 23,000 employees.
Still, as a 35 year-old person with CF, I had already outlived the median age for CFers at the time, and had no vision of ever retiring, or living long enough to retire. At 39, I was listed for transplant, and 8 years later, I received a pair of great lungs from a marathon runner in Tennessee. In effect, my life started anew at 47.
I have worked full-time since I was 18 until I retired at 51 – 33 years in total, and 23 years at my healthcare organization. I did not retire for health reasons, although retirement has positively affected my health. I rest and sleep much more often than in my working years, and this has helped me in my overall health. I had very little college education, but with hard work, I was an I/T manager my last 14 years of service. Since I retired 5 years ago, my wife and I have had no debt. Our house and cars are paid for, and our largest expense, after food, is our healthcare, but we are still able to continue to save, even though my annual income is now about $12,000(from my pension and monthly withdrawals from 72T plan in an IRA). In a 72T plan, you can withdraw from your IRA until you are 59 1/2 without paying a penalty on your withdrawal. You do still owe taxes on what you withdraw.
While we are not wealthy by any means, we are comfortable. We are frugal with money, but still spend on things we like to do(Cardinal ballgames, plays, a vacation or two a year, etc). I have been blessed by living to 56. I might even make it to 60. Many of you may too. So, from a financial standpoint, live your life ‘normally’, and save money when you can. Who knows how long you might live.
Paul Feld – USACFA Board Member