Financial Independence isn’t always about Retiring Early, after several years of planning for an Early Retirement, life threw us a pretty big curve ball.
Mrs. FoF and I have been on the Financial Independence path for a few years and have been saving towards a normal retirement for many more. Like many other people pursuing FI, we had our spreadsheets and tools to calculate all our numbers. I even created my own Retirement Simulation tool. If you have read some of our prior posts, we were within range for an early retirement, even discussing the possibility as soon as early 2019.
A little background first. Mrs. FoF and I are in our mid-late 40’s. We had planned to retire in my early 50’s, possibly as soon as I turned 50. Mrs. FoF is 4 years younger so our plans do account for her earlier age. We even started some short trips to look at potential retirement locations. We thought we had it all figured out! So with all those well laid plans we never accounted for what happened over the past few months.
This post is a little different from our other posts and is a little less numbers focused, since recent events have made our “Number” less of a focus. We have not posted much in the last few months since our plans have been disrupted.
In August of this year Mrs. FoF was going through her routine physical and had her mammogram. The first test showed something suspicious so they asked her to come back for a second scan. We were a little worried but since there is no history of breast cancer in her family, we thought this was just routine. She took the second mammogram and the results came back with no issues found, Great News!
As a guy, I have never experienced a mammogram but an analogy Mrs. FoF used was imagine taking my testicle and squishing it between two plates. Not something I plan to test out! Given she had two tests in a short period of time, it was not a pleasant experience and caused a little discomfort. The next day after the results, Mrs. FoF was checking the “sore” areas and noted something she had not felt before in her breast.
Mrs. FoF called her doctor and since the mammogram came back clear his first response was tentative but he offered for her to get examined by a specialist. We really thought this was just bruising due to the mammogram but wanted to check just in case.
Mrs. FoF met with the specialist and they did an ultrasound of the area of question and it did show something unusual. Next step was a needle biopsy to get a definitive answer. At this point we were still thinking this was not an issue but were getting more concerned.
It was a Thursday evening when Mrs. FoF got the results and the biopsy was positive for cancer. That was the worst weekend of our lives. Its really hard writing this on the blog even after a few months.
After an MRI, Bone scan, and CT scan the medical staff determined she had stage 3 triple negative breast cancer. It sounds as scary as it is, but luckily we caught it before there was any sign of it metastasizing.
Treatment started in October and Mrs. FoF is close to completing her first round of chemo. I won’t dwell on the treatment further but its been the most scary and stressful time of our lives. Mrs FoF seems to be responding well to the first round of chemo.
All the women reading this make sure you get your annual exams! All the men reading this make sure the women in your life get their exams!
We live near Columbus, OH and there is a great facility for breast cancer treatment , The Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center . If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, we highly recommend them. The majority of the services needed are in one building and they use a team approach with all the specialties to ensure the best treatment plan. Mrs. FoF and I are following a ketogenic diet, and she was even able to consult with a team at OSU running a trial using keto as part of the treatment process.
Why Financial Independence goals are so important!
Since this is a FIRE focused blog, I wanted to comment about how Financial Independence has helped make this process easier for us to deal with. We have had to make some adjustments but unlike so many others dealing with this situation money is one stress we don’t need to worry about.
Since we are still working, we have decent health care. Our doctors and hospital were we felt we would get the best treatment are all in network. Having good health coverage is so important, its crazy how much medical services cost.
This was a big wake up call how important good health insurance is when you need it. We had been toying with some creative ideas in retirement for alternative health insurance options but based on our recent experience it something we will revisit and plan to ensure we have good coverage in the future.
Mrs. FoF is a master “black-belt” in budgeting and using YNAB. Mrs. FoF has a high deductible plan at work and we quickly moved money and budgeted her maximum out of pocket expense. When bills came in it was no issues where the money was going to come from. Our out of pocket will be around $6k. Charges look like the may exceed $50k and Mrs FoF still has another round of chemo and surgery planned for next year.
Interestingly, in planning for next year we found even for Mrs. FoF situation one of the higher deductible plans with HSA still made sense even with her high medical expenses planned for next year. The plan changes actually lowered her maximum out of pocket and work contributes to the HSA making it very attractive. We plan to let the HSA ride for future use in early retirement and cover medical expenses out of savings. It’s nice to have this flexibility.
Having such a large financial buffer thanks to our Financial Independence goals made this stress free. This will adjust our plans for Early Retirement slightly but small price to pay to have peace of mind. Mrs. FoF is on several blogs and forums and it is disheartening how many people struggle with money when dealing with such a stressful situation.
Mrs. FoF health is our number one priority, putting our retirement plans on the back burner. Work has been very cooperative for both of us and Mrs. FoF is continuing to work. Luckily, Mrs. FoF has a position where she can work from home when needed. Mrs. FoF may need to take some short term disability in the near future depending on her treatment plan. We are still saving but a little less than 50% saving rate to ensure we fully fund her medical needs.
We still plan to Retire Early but instead of one year we are looking out at five years. We don’t hate working and want to keep our health insurance. We want to ensure Mrs FoF has a Complete Response for several years before we officially retire. A minor adjustment to our plans in the grand scheme.
Thanks to the FI Community
I started following the FI community back in 2014-2015 and Mrs. FoF really got on board the last year. We really appreciate all the help and guidance the community provided to help us get to our current financial situation. It has allowed us to focus on Mrs. FoF’s treatment without worrying about money.
Financial Independence isn’t always about Retiring Early!