Beef It Up

Allison's 10-year-old daughter is a survivor of leukemia. As she and her husband are doing their Baby Steps, should they make any changes in case their daughter has another bout with cancer?

QUESTION: Allison in Austin and her husband have three children, and their 10-year-old daughter is a survivor of leukemia. As they’re doing their Baby Steps, should they make any changes in case their daughter has another bout with cancer?

ANSWER:I would just have an extra beefed-up emergency fund. I think you’re right because once cancer enters your family, you just don’t think the same anymore. That’s understandable. I think you’re wise. I don’t think that’s emotion. I think it’s wisdom. And it’s not that we’re wishing that or thinking negatively or anything like that. We’re just saying, “Crap, we’ve been there, man, and it takes a lot of money. The family . . . there’s costs we never even saw coming.”

I think I would just have a beefed-up emergency fund given that you have this history, then you decide what beefed-up means. I don’t mean five years’ worth of savings, but instead of a three to six months, if you want to do a nine-month or 12-month or something, I’m okay with that kind of thing.

You’ve got good health insurance, and by and large, she’s covered on that. You’ve got a good emergency fund, and we’re going to beef that up. Other than that, your family is getting out of debt and building wealth in general. So every year that goes by, you’re in better shape to take care of whatever life throws at you. It’s just that you had a couple of years there where you couldn’t breathe where you were fighting this, and the good news is with childhood leukemia—I was at a children’s hospital, children’s cancer center—a little while back, and they were telling me at that hospital that they’ve got like a 95% survival rate. It’s a miracle, but it’s also—it’s a very long two years and a very painful two years. You survive, but . . . man. What you go through to survive—that’s the part that’s real.

I’m walking through that cancer ward with all of these little bald-headed kids in there, man. But they’re going to make it. That’s the good news. So yours is a great story in that regard.

But yes, I think it’s wise of you to say, “Hey, life has dealt us a different hand, and we’re going to keep an extra rainy-day fund around,” and those kinds of things.