I love hearing the personal finance stories from my Women’s Personal Finance Facebook group. The members all have such different life experiences, and I’ve learned a ton in the two years since I created the group.

With this blog, I realize I have a rare opportunity to amplify women’s voices in the personal finance and financial independence space, and I put out a call to the group just before the holidays asking for stories from the women in that group. The first of those posts I shared was from Nadia, and today’s is from Cassandra, who isn’t a blogger.

Clearly, bloggers are special to me (I’m one too!) but I feel especially honored when someone who doesn’t regularly write about their personal life online decides they are comfortable with me sharing their story. Cassandra’s story of her family’s life over the last few years is deeply personal, and a darn good example of why to save seriously even if it feels like you don’t need to at the time.

Life can change in an instant, and financial stability and money in the bank can help you weather those changes. When you have less to worry about on the money end, you can allow your focused to be where it really matters, whatever that may be. Her story follows now. I’m so honored that she wrote this post and is allowing me to share it here. I’m certain it will change someone else’s story simply for being shared.

Cassandra’s Story: When Your Child Has a Medical Emergency, Money Matters, and Your Outlook Changes

When I saw Angela’s recent request on a Facebook group for guest posts, I was eager to share my family’s story in the hopes that it would inspire someone else to save more and start on the journey to financial independence.  My husband and I are in our mid thirties, and live with our three young children in Colorado.

I’ve always been on the frugal side and as a CPA with 12+ years of tax experience, I’ve consistently given attention to my personal finances.  I had previously vaguely heard of the FIRE movement, but never really gave it too much thought before a couple of years ago. I saved the recommended 15% for retirement and made many of the financial moves you are “supposed” to make in your twenties and early thirties.  

When Life Changes With Medical Emergencies

However, about two years ago a series of medical emergencies happened with my oldest child that caused me to more deliberately prioritize how my family and I were spending our time and money.  Over the course of a little over a year, the following events took place with our previously completely healthy young son, when he was about four years old:

-Totally out of the blue, he had a long seizure requiring sedation, intubation, a helicopter ambulance ride and intensive care unit stay at the closest children’s hospital where he was kept completely sedated and intubated for several days.

-He contracted ruptured appendicitis which involved another ambulance ride and children’s hospital stay, as well as weeks of follow up medication via an intravenous line, weekly visits from a home health nurse, a follow up surgery, and a post surgical infection. 

-Weird instances kept occurring where he would seemingly become “out of it” and not be able to respond to us when we talked to him.  This ended with him being diagnosed with a seizure disorder.

-Many doctor visits as well as a barrage of medical tests and medical procedures including MRIs, EEGs, CT scans, blood draws, EKGs, X-Rays, and lots of IVs.

These few sentences about that year don’t in any way give justice to the terror as parents my husband and I went through during that time.  Our son had previously been pronounced “perfect” by our pediatrician many times. How could this “perfect” child all of a sudden have a body that seemed to be fighting against itself? 

We felt like we had no control whatsoever over our day to day lives…is today going to be a normal day of working and parenting or will we end up in the hospital? I’m sure any readers who are caregivers for people with health issues or if they have health issues themselves can relate to the feeling.

Financial Independence Gives You Control (When You Can’t Control Much Else)

Luckily one thing we did feel like we had some control over during that time was our finances.  We have been consistent savers since we both graduated from college, and have generally saved at a minimum 15% of our income.  For a lot of people, these medical events could have been a financial disaster; for us, we were so fortunate to be able to pay the medical bills but keep the attention (and worry!) on where it needed to be…getting our son healthy and taking care of our family.

Going through that trying period led me to reconsider how I was spending my time.  I had invested many years and a lot of effort in my career as a CPA working in public accounting but the events of that time made me realize the cliche is true… your life can change in a moment.  After facing multiple life threatening emergencies with my son, I decided to spend time being a full-time stay at home mom. This is something I never in a MILLION years would have predicted I would do!  

Transition to Staying Home and Refocusing on Finances

I also wanted to refocus on my family’s finances.  My husband and I have always been thrifty but our attention had definitely slipped while we were doing the big life things…buying a house, having children, growing our careers.  My son’s random medical issues made it crystal clear the importance of having our financial house in order.

My family and I are enjoying the benefits of having one parent spending more time focusing on our household finances.  I’ve been able to save us thousands by doing things like reviewing and switching all of our insurances, reinvesting our retirement funds in investments with lower expense ratios, maximizing the benefits of our memberships and insurances, and much more.  I’m a nerdy CPA and love doing stuff like that! 

I’m a big fan of the FIRE movement and what it stands for.  I love that financial independence means the freedom and flexibility to choose the who, what, where, why, when, and how of the work you do.   I do think you need to enjoy the journey to get there though.

My family is on track to reach financial independence before typical retirement age, albeit a slow track.  We could get there faster if I went back to my career full time, but we are sincerely appreciating the ability to take life at a slower pace with a stay at home parent while our kids are young.        

Takeaways:

-Don’t assume because you and your family are healthy now, that is the way it will always be.  Yes, there is a lot you can control about your health with nutrition, exercise, and wellness but sometimes life just happens.  I read people on online groups talking about purposefully going without health insurance and it horrifies me. We have had literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills (before insurance paid them) over the past two years.  Prior to that, we had barely needed to use our health insurance at all.  

-Be open to shifts in mindset as changes happen in your life.  I’m a pretty Type A personality who has typically needed a lot of structure, planning, and of course, loves spreadsheets!  I had ingrained in my mind that I would NEVER take time off from work to care for our children full time. Having my children see me work outside of the home was extremely important to me. 

But things happened in my life and my family’s life that I couldn’t have foreseen. While I of course wish my child would not have had to go through those medical issues, one of the positives that came out of it was it ended up being a great personal growth experience for me…everything doesn’t always go according to your plan and that’s okay!

-Save money even if you don’t have a detailed goal yet as to what you are saving for.  I was fortunate that my husband and I have always saved. When we started socking away money over a decade ago, we didn’t have any big aspirations as to what we were saving for; we certainly weren’t thinking about retirement or some imaginary future children running into health problems! 

Having money in the bank gives you so much flexibility to deal with whatever comes your way in life.

-Cassandra

Interested in more stories from non bloggers? Find them all here. Interested in writing one? Please email me!

10 thoughts on “Making Saving a Priority Gives You Options and Stability When Life Goes Sideways (Guest Post from a Non-Blogger)

  1. Wow! Thank you (Cassandra) for sharing your story. I’m so sorry you had to go through that but I’m glad it didn’t cause you financial ruin as well. Money gives choices in life. That’s why its so important

  2. Thank you for sharing your story, Cassandra. It’s hard to plan for difficult times when everything is going smoothly but things can change so quickly. I’m glad you had the financial peace of mind to help you focus on the important family issues. Hope your son continues to do well and that you enjoy being a SAHM– your family is fortunate to have you 🙂

  3. Thanks for this great series Angela and Cassandra thanks for sharing your story. I’m so glad you didn’t have to worry about your finances while your family was going through this. I hope your son is doing good now. Your story is a great example of why there are many very good and important reasons to save money and have our finances in order, not just for retirement. Take care, Amelia

  4. Really thought provoking. I share a lot of your tendencies 😉 and it’s important for us ‘over planners’ to realise that life not going to your plan all the time is indeed OK and you need to go with it! Money does indeed help lessen the stress. As I am in the U.K. I thank the heavens regularly for our amazing NHS but the theory is the same for job loss, divorce etc etc. Thanks to you for sharing, hope your son continues to heal.

    1. Oh health care… pretty awful that the leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States is medical debt.

  5. Ok, that is intense and I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through…. 8 or so years ago our dear neighbors’ daughter started going through seizures etc and it was so difficult for them and I witnessed how scary as a parent it must feel (good news, she is off all meds and has been seizure free for 5 or so years now). They have great health insurance but the time, energy, etc was exhausting.

    You are so right about having that peace of mind and control over your finances because it helps you stay grounded and focused on the task at hand instead of stressing over one.more.thing.

    I’m proud of you for making a big life pivot. I’m sure it was a difficult decision especially after investing so much effort into your career!

    I’m hope your son (and all the rest of your family) stays healthy and thanks for sharing your story with us!

  6. Wow. That’s so incredibly scary! But I’m glad you’re choosing the path you are now. Trading more time with family now instead of later sounds like the right choice. Reaching FIRE sooner isn’t worth it if it means less time with family now. You’ll never get this time back, and who knows what the future holds anyway. Best wishes to you and your family for a healthy and bright future! Thank you for sharing your story.

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