Gonna die? Spend everything!!!!!

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?

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23 thoughts on “Gonna die? Spend everything!!!!!”

  1. Nope, can’t sue for medical misadventure in NZ.. No one really sues for anything.. And also not many people carry health insurance here either, Public Health Service – some delays but you free healthcare..

  2. My opinion may be different and that is because right now my aunt is dying from brain and lung cancer they didn’t find it til’ it was already in Stage 4, and they literally gave her less than 6 months to live and we don’t know if she will make it the weekend. So from her standpoint did she go out and blow all her money…NO. Instead she set up 2 trust accounts one for each of her children, she also set up 2 trusts one for each of her grandchildren and the money is to be used for college or they can’t touch it til’ they are 30. She sold her rental property and split that money between her two kids. She is having her house prepped to be sold after she passes away and that money will be split between her two kids and put into the trusts as well (they are not allowed to touch the trusts til’ they are 45, they are both in their mid 30’s right now). She has no debt as her house has been paid off for the last 10 years, her car is paid for, she has no credit cards, and thankfully 2 years ago she signed up for Cancer Insurance because they offered it at her work. So thankfully she is not racking up medical bills either. Could she have blown her money, yes, but she wanted to make sure her kids (even though they are in their 30’s) and grandkids were well taken care of after she was gone. She has also prepaid for her funeral costs as well, and has that planned.
    After watching my aunt go through this time, I would most definitely say that if this ever happened to myself I would hope that I could do those same things as she has done. Because you can’t take it with you when you are gone. However…I would maybe take one last great trip with my husband and kids just so they have those memories as well.

  3. Frank’s an idiot.
    A: He should have gotten a second opinion. : If after two years of being told he had two months to live, didn’t it occur to the pea brain that he might have been misdiagnosed?
    B: Did he give any thought to Wilma’s situation once he died?

    • Article said they planned on life insurance covering the costs. They coulda had a million dollar policy on him. It seems to me they had at least a tentative plan.

  4. As for the lawsuit, Frank has no legal grounds whatsoever. Even if malpractice were proven (and from the article, it sounds like his was a complicated situation to diagnose), the doctors’ error did not in any way compel Frank to become financially irresponsible.

  5. That must have been some heck of a life insurance policy if it was going to cover the credit card debt and make life alright for Wilma who would be left with absolutely nothing after he died….

    • Yeah, that was my thought in all this — why would they be so ridiculously irresponsible knowing the wife was still going to live and have to still pay to live. Why would SHE cancel her health insurance? The whole things just seems irresponsible to me. Sure, I would do a lot of things if I thought I was going to die, but leave my spouse high and dry? Never.

  6. As I understand it, life insurance proceeds generally flow outside of your estate. Thus, they would generally not be subject to creditors’ claims.

  7. No, of course I wouldn’t blow through my money – I’m married, as Frank is! As other commenters have stated, Frank and Wilma were being totally reckless with Wilma’s future. I definitely would take a vacation with my husband if I were feeling up for it and able to leave the vicinity, but we would keep it modest so as to not compromise my husband’s financial security post-me.

  8. ALWAYS get a second opinion on significant medical diagnosis. ESCPECIALLY when they say you have ‘X’ number of months/years to live.

    Frank is an idiot. But I bet he had a very fun two years!

  9. I wouldn’t blow all my money. I would spend a little more freely. I would do my best to set up my surviving family so they might not have to worry about money as much. I know there are pros and cons to this. If I didn’t have any surviving family I would probably try to endow a scholarship.

  10. I’m not a very litigious soul either (Canadians don’t sue each other much either-must be similar to the Kiwis) so this is more of a “devil’s advocate” type of comment, but if the situation were reversed, that a physician had missed a significant diagnosis, there would definitely be a claim of malpractice or negligence to be considered.

  11. I wouldn’t blow all my money, but I would probably live a bit more loosely. It’s interesting how the world works though. My BF’s father passed away very suddenly from a massive heart attack. He and his wife had just taken out a construction loan on a paid for house to pay for repairs for hurricane damage to the home (they live in FL). They had also purchased some new appliances. BF’s mother is paying off the construction loan, but when she called to pay the appliances, Sears refused to take a payment from her because he was deceased and the card was only in his name. She tried for months to make a payment and they wouldn’t accept it. Finally she just accepted it and enjoyed her new washer, dryer and dishwasher.

  12. Wow dude, I don’t know. Man, it’s not like those doctors said he had cancer but he didn’t. Those doctors said he had terminal cancer and he didn’t. And doctors are usually careful about making big diagnoses like that. I wonder if the cancer regressed. ?? Hard to say without more facts. But this whole story just makes me think…what would I do in a similar situation? If diagnosed with imminent death, woudl I blow it all?? I actually don’t know. I’d defintiely quit my job though, that’s for damn sure.

  13. With the exception of dropping the spouse’s health insurance, yeah, I might do the same thing depending on the circumstances. Assuming he had a large life insurance policy ($1m isn’t that expensive depending on when you got it), the surviving spouse would have had plenty of money to pay off the debt and live in relative comfort after his passing.

    For those saying “leave it to the kids.” Why should they? It’s their money, he only had a little while to live, they should enjoy it however they want. They can have her money (from the insurance policy) when she passes. They may not even have kids. Besides, these people are only in their 60s (I looked up another article), and he was a business owner. He likely never got around to doing many of the things he really wanted to do in life and here was his last chance to do so and still leave his wife in good financial shape. In that scenario, I’d do the same thing.

  14. I’m in a bit of a different boat. I have two boys, that my wife would have to take care of. I would actually just stay around the house and lived in peace until it was time to go. Just my two cents.

  15. Suing doctors for this creates an incentive system for doctors to NOT TELL YOU how long you have to live. It’s already hard to get estimates out of most doctors, because they aren’t psychic and people want certainty medicine can’t give them. The societal cost of this is a transfer of money from patients and doctors to insurance companies and lawyers.
    In contrast, for spending money that isn’t yours via credit card, the societal cost of this is a transfer of money from credit users to lenders.

    Given the costs of healthcare, compared to historical norms, and the costs of borrowing money (with interests rates very low), compared to historical norms, at this point in society, theft from credit card companies is actually MUCH less sociopathic than theft from other patients and doctors.

    • Actually, many physicians hesitate to give prognoses about how long someone might live, for fear it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy (there have been studies that show people who are given prognoses die close to the timeframe their given). Generally, termimally ill people are given broad ranges to consider until they are so ill that is realistic to say they wil likely pass on within a few days.

  16. If there’s a lawsuit, I hope Frank loses, and here’s why: when diagnosing a fatal cancer, false negatives are worse than false positives. If you treat a fatal brain tumor that isn’t there, there are side effects and costs. But if you don’t treat a fatal brain tumor that is there, the guy dies.

    If Frank wins, doctors will be on notice — if you err on the side of caution and you’re wrong, you just bought the guy a boat. They’ll be less aggressive in treating what looks like cancer. Maybe they hold off on telling him until next month’s appointment when the 5th round of test results come back.

    “Defensive medicine” is a problem

  17. I think it’s easy to say he’s a douche when we weren’t the ones who were told we only had 2 months to live. I don’t think that’s being taken as seriously as it should: he was told by a doctor that he had 60 days of life left.

    Would I run up $63,000 in credit card debt? Probably not. But I can’t guarantee that. There’s a lot of stuff I want to do still and a lot of of it costs money.

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