Life with MS

Healthy Finances Crucial to Living Well with MS

By MS Focus Staff
Finances are a serious part of everyone’s life, especially for people living with multiple sclerosis. Just as having a healthy body and mind are important to a good quality of life, maintaining control over your finances is also important. Having a healthy financial outlook takes planning.

Alan Segaloff, the former executive director of MS Focus: the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, discussed how small changes can make a big difference in your finances.

Being aware of your spending

According to Segaloff, the first thing you must do is to keep track of your spending. Track your spending for four or five months to get a sense of where your money goes. Once you see how your money is currently being used, you can adjust your spending with a carefully planned budget.

Budgeting is a major part of managing your finances. But budgeting doesn’t come easy to everyone. Thankfully, there are online tools that are available to help. Some are easy-to-follow apps. Others are forms or spreadsheets that list income, expenses, and savings.

Budgeting starts with recording your income after taxes, Next, list all your necessary fixed expenses (ones that are usually the same from month to month), such as rent or mortgage, and utilities. Based on that, make a plan allocating the remaining money according to your spending history. Cut back where needed. Once you have a budget planned out, you can manage what you are actually spending.

Everything is a choice

Managing your finances often involves making difficult choices. Segaloff said, “Using your past history and seeing how you are spending is really important. The worst thing that can happen is getting into debt. That happens a lot.”

The budget process is a good way to manage your financial choices. Segaloff advises using a spreadsheet that lists all your expenses based on past spending, “You know your rent is ‘X’ amount of dollars every month you know your electric bill runs so much money and you know what you spend on food. Maybe instead of going to the closest grocery, you go someplace a mile further that is less expensive, but still gives you the quality you are looking for.”

Segaloff also said, “Ask yourself -‘am I spending too much over here?’ ‘When was the last time I looked at my options for my cellular provider or my cable provider?’ When you really take a look, you realize that you may have a lot of control over your finances.”

Professional help

Depending on your needs, you may want to seek professional financial help. There are many certified financial planners available.

Financial help can include a CPA if needed to do your taxes. Financial help can also include an attorney who specializes in helping those with health needs, which is really important for a person and family dealing with MS.

Saving for a rainy day

Nobody wants surprises. Saving as much as possible is crucial, because something always comes up that wasn’t included in the financial planning.

When addressing the commonplace rule of thumb that people should have $400 set aside for an emergency, he said, “There is no set rule to put $400 away. It’s very difficult for some people.”

Segaloff noted that U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote a book on the topic of personal finances, “All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan.” She advocated for the 50/30/20 rule: 50 percent of personal finances devoted to necessities (e.g., rent, electricity), 30 percent for disposable items, and the remaining 20 percent for savings.

Many people, especially those with serious health conditions, have high expenses and don’t have the 20 percent to put away into savings. Segaloff said, “Put away whatever you can, but do put away something. You have to put something in savings. And everyone is unique.”