This past weekend, I said a sad final farewell to a friend.  Just a few months shy of his 50th birthday, he passed away after a long battle with Machado-Joseph’s Disease. The symptoms remind me of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, only in slow motion, with a very slow progression of muscle control. 

Looking back, we started to see early signs even in his twenties, and as it is hereditary, both of his brothers are also losing the battle to this incurable disease.  The prevalence in the New England area is an astonishing 1 in 4,000. At the funeral, one couldn’t help but wonder how many of his children, nieces, nephews, and siblings carry the gene.

Whether a health issue is inherited as my friend’s was, brought on by poor diet choices or lack of exercise, or just bad luck of a sudden accident, we can all learn by some advance actions he took early on in his life.  Since he had a wife and children, he made sure to get a life insurance policy in place before he was ever diagnosed with the disease and he had a good disability policy through his employer.  That disability policy meant the difference between having the freedom to choose the type of care without worrying about the cost (which eventually was the closest nursing home to his family) or being a burden on the financial well-being of his wife and kids. Another option that also would have provided him with a similar safety net would have been a long-term care policy, but he started to show symptoms, which made him uninsurable, before he considered that type of coverage.  Along the way, I had always been there to provide financial guidance to his wife, who I’ve known since elementary school.

Who do your employees have to provide them guidance?  Your workforce, especially your younger employees and new hires, need the financial education necessary to be able to determine what types of insurance they have available through their benefits package that can provide them with the same safety net that my friend had.  Once a year during annual enrollment or at time of hire may not be enough, since many employees rush to make the deadline and may not consider what fits their own financial needs.  It may take a 1 x 1 personalized consultation or a benefits planning workshop (when there is no pressure to turn in any paperwork) to help your employees understand the full value of their voluntary benefits.