Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Reader Needs Advice

Every once in a while I get an email from a reader who has a question. I'm not a finance professional in any way, so it's difficult for me to offer advice to others, but perhaps I can help by sharing someone's question so the people who read this blog can chime in:

Hi Madame X my name is K__ I have a few questions about finances. I am 30 years old, married to man that is now dying of lung cancer, I also have a 7 year old with complex Epilepsy and can not get out of debt, I am sinking farther now with my husband and his chemo treatments. I only make 11.00 an hour and can't get where I can make enough to help my family. Can you give me some advice on how with limited credit that I could somehow get ahead?
Thank you,

K__ sounds like she is in a really tough spot and I wish her the best, whatever happens. Without knowing more about the situation, all I can really suggest is to try to cut expenses wherever possible and perhaps turn to friends, neighbors, and your community or church. Maybe there are ways they offer help to families dealing with cancer, perhaps through assistance with childcare or meals, to help you get through this rough time until you're back on your feet. Does anyone else have any suggestions for K__?


Ms. M&P said...

What a difficult situation. I can't imagine how emotionally and financially taxing it must be. I'm certinaly no expert in financial advice, but I know a bit about health care issues. In most states, K__ would qualify for federal health insurance (Medicaid or CHIP). K__'s family may already be covered by one of these programs but I would suggest speaking to a caseworker at the hospital to see if there is any other way to maximize assistance. There may also be programs to help with household bills and groceries. I know that many of these programs (depending on the state) require asset tests and these are a disincentive to save, but there could be ways around it. In an ideal situation, K__ would be able to meet with an attorney to discuss all of this. Perhaps there's a pro bono attorney who could talk this through?

Anonymous said...

Madame x ... hate to be cynical, but this sounds like a scam. I think K wants donations.

mapgirl said...

I hate to say this because some of it may seem unpopular, but a few ideas:

1) I agree, try a church or faith community for help. At least someone might offer some free babysitting or assistance so she doesn't have to do it all alone. Or free up her time so she can take a second job.

2) Modest Needs.org might be able to assist her.

3) Though it takes a long time to reap rewards, blogging for money and doing surveys, etc.

4) Sell everything she can possibly sell, including her blood, plasma and platelets. Hopefully she has her own health intact.

I'd like to think she's not a scammer, but well, one can never tell with these internets who is and isn't telling the truth. K is awfully vague about how deep she's falling into the mire. There is of course, asking family. She doesn't indicate if she can or cannot do that.

savvy said...

I second anonymous, this sounds scam-like, or at least troll-like. I get these emails occasionally, and while some are genuine, some just don't seem right. People who really want help are usually very specific and have well thought out questions.

Madame X said...

I'll let everyone make their own judgments as to K's motivations, but I will just point out that she did not ask me to share her question on my blog, and when I forwarded her a suggestion that was emailed to me, she thanked me and has not asked for donations or anything else.

Josh said...

Nope. She didn't ask you to post, but she can see your full net worth!

I'm surprised you don't get tons of these emails.

In case she's for real:
Forward her on to Warren Buffet's sister, as per this article:

The Other Buffett
"Warren Buffett doesn't give handouts. But you might try his sister Doris. Sally Beatty on the charity and frugality that run in the family."

The article says she vets people carefully and gives them what they need (not what they think they need or want).

thc said...

She doesn't say, but if he hasn't applied for Social Security Disability benefits, that's a good place to start.

Anonymous said...

Has she applied for aid with cancer care yet? They have a fund to help cancer patients with their chemo treatments, etc when they can't afford it. www.cancercare.org

ChiefFamilyOfficer said...

K doesn't say where she lives, but I would think that there would be a good amount of public assistance available for at least her child, if not her husband. She should also call all of her creditors and calmly explain her situation and ask them to work with her to lower payments and/or forgive some of the debt so that she doesn't default. The usual advice about making cash by holding a garage sale, eBaying items, consigning clothes and toys, etc. also applies. Finally, I'd like to recommend a blog called Life: The Journey by Debi Taylor-Hough (http://dsimple.wordpress.com/). She has a couple of teenagers and a husband who has a brain disorder. Because of her husband's condition, they have had to separate households. Money is super tight but somehow she manages to be positive. I know her from her work on The Dollar Stretcher (www.stretcher.com) and her book on once a month cooking, Frozen Assets. I think K would find her to be someone she can relate to and perhaps get some ideas from. Good luck, K!

Escape Brooklyn said...

I'm not sure about the scam thing; why would she choose to petition a bunch of self-proclaimed frugalists for handouts?

What she can do is to examine her tax exemptions. If she gets a big refund every year, she should increase her exemptions so she gets more money in each paycheck.

She should also investigate public assistance, like food stamps and Medicaid. She may still make too much money to qualify, but it's worth looking into.

Then she can possibly find a part-time job to supplement her income and/or a higher paying full-time job.

I'd also suggest reading Amy Dacyczyn's books, "The Complete Tightwad Gazette" (3 volumes) for even more ideas about how to save money. Borrow them from your library, of course.

Chocoholic said...

I would tell her to try contacting her local cancer society and see if they have options on helping to pay for her husbands treatments, as those as quite expensive, regardless of whether you have insurance.

Go to local organizations like WIC to see if they can help. It might only be a few dollars a week that they help her with, but when you are only making $11/hr., a few dollars can help.

It may be hard for her to ask for help, but in her case, her problems are more than the average person's.

mapgirl said...

Chocoholic, if her child is 7yo, I think she won't qualify for WIC. However, like I heard this morning on the radio, she may still qualify for food stamps.

Gifex said...

she should qualify for food stamps. Of course we don't know which state she's in. I'm starting to think it migh be scam but i'm not sure. If she's genuine, i wish her the best.

Anonymous said...

Well, if he is truly dying, he should be eligible for hospice, which many medical plans cover completely - even HMOs. In order to enroll in Hospice though, one would need to discontinue chemo treatments, and any other plans to extend his life. That's something K will need to discuss with her husband and family.

As for help with her son, I know that Ronald McDonald houses help families who have sick children.

It's a bit vague, but if K is genuine, I hope these comments help.

Anonymous said...

I would recommend looking at hospice care, as mentioned above, which is covered by most insurance plans... and the care for her child may be something that could lead to eligibility for other charities, as well. It is a terrible situation, if it's all legit, and that's the tough part - there ARE people in these types of bad circumstances, just as there are people who are willing to lie about it.