Finding Stability

A Transition to Retirement Strategy for Cancer Survivors

Your transition to retirement strategy may need some adjustment after treatment. Putting off your major travel plans for a few years might help you retire a bit more confidently after surviving cancer.

Financial and emotional stress doesn’t stop once your cancer is treated. For many cancer survivors, unexpected situations pop up years after treatment ends. Your transition to retirement strategy, for example, might not be as smooth as you planned before you had to beat cancer. While your retirement plans may require a bit more work, you can still retire with confidence by considering these tips.

Challenges to Your Transition to Retirement Strategy: Financial

If you’re a cancer survivor (or the partner of one), the nest egg you have been diligently saving since your 20s may be smaller than you had hoped. As with many cancer survivors, treatment expenses and time off work may have led you to dip into your retirement funds to cover the cost of living with the disease. This dwindling savings account can leave you feeling emotionally deflated and stressed out. Before you make a decision on your retirement strategy, talk with a financial advisor you trust to talk about your options. Your healthcare options may change if and when new policies come into play. The financial coordinators at your hospital can help you sort it all out and let you know what benefits to expect from the government.

For some cancer survivors, a few extra years of full-time work can make a major difference in their retirement income. Your financial advisor may also recommend working part-time or seeking out freelance consulting work that will supplement your decreased retirement income. If you’re able to make these occupational changes, you may find that delaying your full retirement for a few years pays off quickly.

You may also find you can recuperate your financial deficits by adjusting your retirement lifestyle accordingly. Talk to a real estate agent to see if selling your home and downsizing could be a financially sound option for your situation and family. Or, put off your major travel plans for a few years in order to save up for the expense.

Challenges to Your Transition to Retirement Strategy: Emotional

Financial concerns aren’t the only possible challenges for cancer survivors entering retirement. For survivors who are forced into an earlier retirement because of cancer or the side effects of the disease (or who worry about insurance concerns if the disease returns), emotional distress is a real concern. If you’re feeling like retirement is a life transition you weren’t prepared for, consider talking to your oncologist to get a recommendation for a therapist. Working with you on a regular basis, a therapist can assist you with coping with your new reality, as well as give you healthy ways of making the best of your “new normal.”

Retirement is a major life transition for everyone, but it can feel a bit more challenging for cancer survivors. Work with professionals you trust — and consider making a few adjustments to your plans — in order to make the transition successful for you and your family.

UVA Cancer Center has financial services for cancer patients that can help you wrap your head around the financial implications of cancer.

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Haley Burress
Haley Burress