About me and my journey
My Dad was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) at the age of 55. While dealing with the devastating diagnosis and an uncertain future, Dad discovered he was eligible to receive an income protection payout. That discovery changed the course of his life and mine.
I realised how important it is to educate people about the often-complex world of finance. Because the smallest changes can make the most significant difference. I said goodbye to my nearly 10-year career in intellectual property law, and I committed to helping people plan for a financially secure future.
I have now been in the financial planning industry for just over seven years. During these seven years, I have spent time learning from many various professionals in conjunction with many years of industry-specific study. I have completed my Certified Financial Planner®, Accredited Aged Care Professional™, and SMSF Specialist Advisor™ qualifications. And if that wasn’t enough, I am currently undertaking a Master of Financial Planning (thanks FASEA!).
My Dad’s MS Journey
It took Dad’s medical team years to settle on a diagnosis because Dad didn’t fit into ‘the box’ of those who are commonly diagnosed with MS.
Dad’s symptoms manifested in his inability to use his right arm. Dad, like most of us, is right-handed. Take a moment to think about all the things you do with your dominant hand – the everyday things in life you don’t give much thought to like writing, shaving, getting dressed, doing your shoelaces…the list goes on. All these things became a challenge for him.
As Dad’s MS got worse, he was unable to use a lot of his right side. The positive news is that since that early deterioration, Dad’s MS has remained dormant. Others aren’t so fortunate, with their deterioration concentrated over a short time. The nature of this insidious disease means that no one knows how or when they will be impacted. There is no cure for MS, so all you can do is control the symptoms with an array of drugs.
Giving back to the community through the Pro-bono Advice Network
My experience with my Dad not only changed my career direction; it inspired me to look at the bigger picture and find other ways to assist the 25,600 plus Australians living with MS through both fundraising and advocacy.
I started providing pro bono financial advice to individuals and families going through a health crisis first as a member, and now a Board Director of the Pro Bono Financial Advice Network (PFAN). I have also been honoured to be collaborating with PFAN’s Board and the MS Educational Team to prepare and present a series of webinars targeted to individuals with MS, their carers and their families, about the benefit of obtaining financial advice. Following my Dad’s diagnosis, and the events that surround his journey, this is and always will be a cause very close to my heart.
The webinars’ purpose is to highlight to the MS community the value and benefit of consulting with a financial adviser to ensure adequate current and future financial plans are in place. Using real-life examples of individuals that came directly from the MS Connect Support team, the webinars explained the role and scope of a financial adviser, outlining how an adviser assisted the individual in the example provided.
Two of the many case examples include:
I am 45 years old, I had been diagnosed with MS about 15 years ago, it has been a slow progression up to now, and I had to cut back on my work. My two kids are in their late teens. I am a single mother, my ex-husband is not involved with the children or me. I am finding that I can no longer work as I make mistakes and cannot stand.
I was let go three months ago after ten years of working in insurance; I am 55 years old. Even though I am “looking for work”, I know I cannot hold on to a job, my memory is just not there anymore. I live with my wife, who works and also is my carer. I feel like I am not contributing, and that is a problem for me.
While these are only basic pieces of information, we developed fictional financial situations to show the difference a financial planner can make to someone’s long-term position. Such as outlining the insurances someone has within their superannuation and how a successful claim on these can materially improve their ongoing cash flow, or what strategies can be employed to maximise someone’s Disability Support Pension payments.
Some success stories
There have been so many positive experiences through the work I do with the MS community.
I’ve had the privilege to provide pro-bono advice to a 63-year-old lady whose primary concern was the loss of her Centrelink Pension, and what had been her only source of income for many years. The loss was as a result of an inheritance from her late mother. As her MS impacted her attention span, all concepts had to be explained slowly and in basic terms. Fortunately, her son had financial power of attorney and was able to assist in all decision-making processes. I prepared an advice document to invest her funds to receive a higher income and mapped out how to maximise her superannuation contributions over time.
Another example is a couple with two teenage children. They were after an understanding of their overall position. The husband had been living with MS for around seven years and had recently reduced his working commitments. His wife, a self-employed bookkeeper, managed the family finances. I prepared a roadmap of their current position, the timeframe around repaying their small outstanding mortgage and provided an overview of their superannuation and insurances for their future understanding (should the need arise). This provided much-needed comfort to them, as they gained security and peace of mind around where they were headed.
These are only two of the countless people I’ve met along my journey so far. However, this work a privilege. Not only has it equipped me with a deeper understanding of financial planning, but it has also given me a humbling sense of perspective.
To reiterate an article recently written my fellow PFAN board member, Niall McConville, giving back to the community provides a sense of fulfilment through positively impacting the lives of others and their families. It also helps increase the positive value that obtaining financial advice provides within the community, further expanding an appreciation for the work we all do. I encourage you all to consider joining PFAN. It’s a beautiful way to support those, at a time when they need support the most.
By Nicola Beswick
Senior Financial Adviser, FMD Financial