Read a fascinating article the other day about a man, Frank, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and told he only had a few months left to live. Frank and his wife Wilma did what I, and what many of you, would likely do. They sold their home, canceled their health insurance, and cashed out their life savings. If your days are literally numbered, might as well make them count right? Here’s where it gets juicy.
But after spending all their money, plus several thousand dollars more, the Kiwi couple learned the bittersweet truth: Frank was just fine.
Turns out they didn’t only sell off their assets and burn through their cash, they charged upwards of $63,000 on their credit cards to fund some of their lavish lifestyle (trips around the world, shopping trips, dining out, etc).
If you’re like me, you suddenly stop empathizing with Frank, and begin to think he is a douche. Burning through your own cash is one thing, but when you start to charge your lavish expenses on credit – when you clearly don’t have the savings/assets/income – one can’t help but think Frank is taking advantage of the system. If the cards were in his name only, his wife would have no obligation to pay back his loans after his death. And since they sold off their assets, Frank has no estate in which the bank can seek compensation. Frank, essentially gets to blow $63,000 and doesn’t have to pay a penny back. Frank went from being super cool, to being a SUPER TOOL (see what I did there?).
But then I got served a big slice of humble pie. Turns out, Frank isn’t the douchetastic individual I thought he might be. His redemption came when I read the following sentence: “The pair didn’t worry about getting into debt because they figured Frank’s life insurance would cover it.”
Dang. I’m narrow minded. Our assets aren’t just the liquid and illiquid assets that we control, but also the contingency policies we’ve established outside of ourselves. In Frank’s case, via a life insurance policy. Frank and Wilma had a plan after all; They weren’t gaming the system like I once thought.
Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, Frank found out nearly two years after he was told he had months to live, he was misdiagnosed and didn’t actually have cancer. Frank was not going to die.
Sounds weird, but Frank’s initial reaction to this news was probably not complete and utter relief. The dude was broke and in debt and life insurance was no longer going to be his saving grace.
The article doesn’t make mention of a lawsuit, and I typically HATE how “sue-happy” people are. But if I was Frank, I would probably sue the doctor (and/or hospital). Who of us wouldn’t blow all our cash if we knew we only had a few months left? Who wouldn’t rack up some credit card debt if you knew your life insurance would more than cover the bill and provide for your loved ones? The misdiagnosis of a SERIOUS health condition had a significant impact on Frank’s life and the decisions he made. Do I think Frank should get millions for the mistake? No, but I’m all for him recovering his losses (the assets he had and the income he lost).
What say you?