O'Donnell Kerr Financial Planners
  • 13 February, 2020

When life throws a curved ball

At the end of January 2020, my youngest son got married. They had a great wedding at a delightful venue in Toowoomba, about 100 kms west of Brisbane. The bride and her party were absolutely stunning. The groom and his groomsmen didn’t look all that shabby either. The wedding was a wonderful event and went off without a hitch.

Being a quiet time of the year for my son’s business, they decided to spend their honeymoon in Europe. As it is the low season for travel to Europe, the costs are quite reasonable.

After a 12-hour layover in Singapore, they eventually arrived in Athens for the start of their holiday.

However, things were not going to be all that simple, were they?

Within hours of arriving, my son Michael was vomiting and had a raging fever. NO – it wasn’t Coronavirus (and it wasn’t from drinking too many Coronas!).

So, what do you do when you have just arrived in a foreign city for the first time, and you feel like you are about to die?

You check your travel insurance – which they had fortunately arranged.

A quick call to the travel insurer’s emergency number and Michael was on his way to an English-speaking international hospital across town.

He was subsequently admitted to hospital for a bank of tests, and a drip to replenish fluids.

24 hours, and A$4,000 (€2,500) later he was discharged from hospital, feeling much better that he did the day before.

On reflection, there are a couple of lessons that came out of this unsettling emergency:

1. Travel insurance

Never leave home without it!

My wife and I are fortunate to have a little holiday every year or so and, if travelling overseas, we always arrange travel insurance at the time of booking our trip. That way we are covered while we are away. We are also covered in the unlikely event that we suffer a health event between the time we book and the time we are due to depart that results in the trip having to be cancelled.

Fortunately, we have never needed to make a claim on our travel insurance.

Buying insurance of any kind might seem like a waste of money. After all, these disasters happen to other people – not to us!

I was reflecting on the bushfires that have ravaged the East Coast over the past few months and I am stunned at the number of times I heard reports of people having lost everything, and not being insured.

Sure, paying insurance is not one of life’s more exciting pursuits but, from Michael’s perspective at least, it was the best $300 they spent.

2. Emergency fund

I am a fan of Dave Ramsay. Dave is a US based author and financial coach. He hosts a three-hour daily show on YouTube. His channel has 1.5 million subscribers and each show regularly attracts over a million views.

Dave dishes out tough love when it comes to managing our finances.

His key message is around building financial well-being by following seven simple “baby steps”.

The third baby step is to build an emergency fund that covers three to six months of living expenses.

I have been following Dave’s baby steps for a couple of years now and we are fortunate to have a modest emergency fund in place.

When I got that first message from Michael about being sick, the potential cost of his treatment crossed my mind. We have all heard those horror stories of people requiring hospitalisation while travelling and running up tens of thousands of dollars of medical bills.

It was comforting to know that the money was there to be transferred to our son in the event his travel insurer didn’t come through.

Not having to worry about the money side of things meant that Michael was able to focus on getting over his illness

I am not suggesting for one moment that Mum and Dad’s emergency fund should be for the family to tap into, however, it is comforting to know it is there in case it is needed. Adult children need to fend for themselves financially and should be saving for their own emergency fund.

The good news is that Michael has now recovered , the insurance company picked up the tab for his treatment, and they are moving on with the rest of their holiday

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