Dealing with illness

Looking after yourself and your finances

Dealing with illness can be stressful - both financially and emotionally. Money may be the last thing on your mind, but it's important to consider your finances and make sure you get what you are entitled to.

Take care of yourself

Finding out you have an illness can be incredibly emotional and traumatic. Be kind to yourself and make sure you seek support from family and friends. Search online for support networks and community health organisations for your particular illness.

Don't be afraid to seek emotional support from a professional. If you are a Centrelink customer, find out about the Department of Human Services' social work services or phone 13 17 94.

You can also contact:

You might also like to contact a financial counsellor who can provide information to people in financial difficulty. Free, independent and confidential counselling services are available through Financial Counselling Australia.

Video: Rob explains how a major illness affected his finances

Video about managing your finances if you face illness

High school teacher Rob talks about the financial impact of dealing with a major illness.

Make sure you're getting what you're entitled to

From your employer

Check with your employer to find out how much paid sick leave you are entitled to. To find out more about your rights at work see the Fair Work Ombudsman's Sick and carers leave information. 

From your insurer

Check your insurance policies to see whether they would cover your bills or replace some of your income.

Types of insurance include:

Make sure you claim as soon as you can because there is often a waiting period before the policy pays out.

Early release of superannuation

There are some very limited circumstances in which you can access your super before you retire. These situations include if you suffer incapacity, on compassionate grounds or if you have a terminal medical condition. More on early release of super.

Government assistance

If you're unable to work because of your injury or illness or because you are caring for someone, you may be entitled to a government payment. Check with the Department of Human Services by completing the payment finder to see what you are entitled to.

Ask for a hardship variation to your bills and debts

If you are finding it hard to pay bills, credit cards or loan repayments, the first step is to talk with your provider and let them know you are experiencing financial hardship.

Many companies have hardship officers who can assess your situation and work out what help is available. Hardship officers can also help you work out an affordable payment plan such as paying bills in instalments or temporarily altering your loan repayments. See our information on financial hardship.

Financial counsellors can help you negotiate payments and apply for a hardship variation. Find a financial counsellor near you.

You can also contact Kildonan Uniting Care who offer a financial counselling for families with children and young people living with cancer through their WeCare service.

Get back on track

Illnesses can have a significant impact on your finances, as you will typically have extra costs and potentially less income. When you are ready it's important to do a stocktake of what money is coming in and what's going out.

See how much you are spending and how much you can save.

Budget planner

If you don't have adequate insurance, you can apply for a new policy even when you are unwell. More information about insurance.

Case study: Felicity gets back on track

Lady On ComputerFelicity is a 40 year old school teacher. About three years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which meant she underwent several medical treatments including chemotherapy. During this period, the pain meant that Felicity could not work or care for her young children.

Felicity's partner, Tom, had to take time off work to care for Felicity and their kids. Both Tom and Felicity had very understanding employers and were able to keep their jobs despite extended periods off work. Tom managed to speak with the bank about delaying their mortgage repayments for six weeks. However, with both Felicity and Tom not working they were really struggling to pay bills and household costs.

Luckily Felicity had income protection insurance which even provided a partial income for Tom in his caring duties. Felicity is now in remission and enjoying being back at work. 

While it may be the last thing on your mind, sorting out your finances can help to make you feel more secure and in control.

Related links

Last updated: 29 Mar 2018