04 January 2019
In the last financial year, Megan Hodge has been involved with Cancer Council SA’s Pro Bono Program, volunteering her financial planning services to people with cancer who are not in a financial position to pay for them. This work typically includes helping people manage debts, apply for Centrelink, and access super and insurance benefits.
It’s a way for me to combine what I do for work with my desire to give back, ensuring my clients have one less thing to worry about during such a difficult time.
A cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment can cause an immense amount of stress which permeates every aspect of life—finances, relationships, as well as mental and of course physical health. And in fact, none of these stresses exist in isolation.
It might be that a client has taken on a significant amount of debt while they’re physically fit, happy, and ready to embrace what the future holds. That’s what our society tends to normalise, and even celebrate. It’s only when something significantly changes, like they’ve received a cancer diagnosis and have to stop working, or have to start paying for expensive treatments, that they realise that debt can be really difficult to manage. That transition from financial freedom to debt is confronting.
From there, it might be that they reach out to family and friends for help, which can place pressure on relationships. When we consider financial strain, we have to address the bigger picture so we can help to relieve the burden.
When I work with pro bono clients, we’ll set both short and long-term goals. First, we’ll look at their fixed and flexible expenses to outline a budget. I might also work hand in hand with a lawyer within the Program who can offer assistance with extending or pausing loan repayments due to hardship. Then I will research any insurance benefits that my client may be entitled to, before having a conversation about their prognosis and when they might expect to return to work. Once income is flowing in again, we can then work on rebuilding their finances and laying a solid foundation for the future.
Trauma insurance and income protection are so important, but for many people, it’s not until you’ve had a personal experience, or spoken with someone who has, that it hits home how important that safety net is, and how life changing services like the Pro Bono Program can be.
I would encourage others in my position to consider volunteering their time. I am lucky that I have not yet had to turn away a client, and I would not want to. On top of planners who donate their time, it’s really the funding from Cancer Council—which covers promotion, training and management of referrals—that makes the Pro Bono Program possible. Every time I’m able to help a client, I feel grateful for the donations that made it possible.
Cancer Council SA referral
Cancer Council’s Pro Bono Program is designed to help people affected by cancer with legal assistance and financial planning, if they cannot afford to pay for advice. If you or someone you know may benefit, please reach out to the experienced cancer nurses on Cancer Council 13 11 20.