Almost one in four (23%) people living with cancer in the UK – almost 700,000 people – have found it easier to talk about their cancer itself than the impact it has had on their finances[i]. This is according to new figures released by Macmillan Cancer Support and Virgin Money as part of their new three-year partnership to help people living with cancer to get the financial support they need.
This experience of discussing finances is stronger among many working age adults, with one in three (34%) of those living with cancer aged under 60 finding it easier to talk about their diagnosis over the impact it has had on their finances[ii].
Difficulties associated with talking about finances while dealing with cancer come as further research from Macmillan highlights the challenging financial situation many people find themselves in. Figures released last month show that more than four in five (83%) – almost 2.5 million people across the UK – are hit by a ‘cancer price tag’, which reaches almost £900 a month for those affected[iii].
The impact of Covid-19
The financial impact of Covid has created additional challenges for people living with cancer over the past 18 months. In fact, those who have found it easier to talk about their diagnosis than its impact on their finances were around twice as likely to have seen their household finances affected by Covid-19 in recent months (20% compared with 11% of all people with cancer in the UK)[iv] And a third are more likely to have felt stressed, anxious, or depressed because of Covid-19 (32% compared with 23% of all people living with cancer)[v].
While under this significant financial strain, its important people have someone to talk to, yet the pandemic has had an impact here too – the charity’s new research shows seven per cent of people feel they have no one to talk to about their worries because of Covid-19[vi]. Richard Manson, Financial Guidance Specialist at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “At a time when people living with cancer should be focused on their health, we know that many are faced with extra and often unexpected costs; from higher heating bills to keep warm when going through treatment, to paying for travel to get to and from appointments. We’re urging anyone concerned about their finances to get in touch so we can help, please don’t keep your worries to yourself. Macmillan’s specially trained teams are on hand, every day, pushing to make sure people get the support they need and deserve.” Fergus Murphy Group Chief Customer Experience Officer at Virgin Money said: “It’s time to normalise the conversation around cancer and money. Many people living with cancer don’t feel comfortable talking to people around them, and they may even avoid talking to their bank through fear of being penalised. But there is support out there to help people take control and make good financial decisions. Our team of in-store and over the phone Macmillan Guides are specially trained by Macmillan and are ready to offer practical support to help anyone affected by or living with cancer.”
Mum-of-three Jenny Powell from Hertfordshire was diagnosed with breast cancer a month before Christmas 2020 in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 37-year-old says: “My diagnosis was such a shock and having to struggle with my finances on top of worrying about the cancer was a lot to take on. At a time when childcare responsibilities and the pandemic meant I was without employment, there was just no time to budget for the added expenses of cancer that came my way, including the wigs, clothing and other items that would help me retain some comfort and dignity through my illness. “I really struggled to talk about my financial situation until I spoke to Macmillan. My Macmillan Welfare Benefits Adviser, Debbie, literally did everything for me – from arranging a one-off grant, to applying for benefits. In the end, opening up about my finances was the best thing I could have done and gave me one less thing to worry about”.
Here are five top tips from Richard Manson, Financial Guidance Specialist on Macmillan’s Support Line to help people get their financial house in order:
- Complete a budget - A budget can help you stay in control of your finances; if your spending is higher than your income, you may need to think about making some changes. It can also be useful if you need to contact your bank because they will want to know as much information as possible about your financial situation before seeing what support they can offer.
- Check your insurance - Some insurance policies, such as critical illness, will make a payment for a cancer diagnosis and a life insurance policy will often include terminal illness benefits, which may allow an early claim if your doctor expects a prognosis of less than 12 months. Even if you’re unable to claim, some policies will include additional benefits that can be accessed after a diagnosis, such as waiver of premium which will pay the insurance premium if you cannot work because of illness or disability.
- Contact your bank - Whilst the support you may be offered can vary between banks depending on your personal situation and their policies, it’s helpful to contact them and find out what they can do for you.
- Ensure you have an up to date will - Everyone should have a will regardless of their age or health. A valid will ensures that the right people inherit and that your loved ones don’t suffer unnecessary hardship. A will can also be used to arrange affairs tax efficiently and to appoint people to sort out an estate following a death.
- Review your private or occupational pension - If you need to retire or leave work due to ill health, thinking about your pension options is useful for many different reasons. If you haven’t already, you may be able to access your pension because of your age or health circumstances. It’s also important to make sure that you have filled out an expression of wish form. This tells the trustees of the scheme where any death benefits should be paid if the worst happens. Pension scheme rules vary and the decisions you make will affect your family’s financial future so it’s important to get financial advice before you make any decisions.
For financial guidance and support you can contact Macmillan’s Support Line (0808 808 00 00), seven days a week, 8am-8pm, or you can get in touch with a Virgin Money Macmillan Guide today in store, over the phone or via webchat.
Virgin Money Macmillan Guides, a first of their kind in the industry, are customer-facing Virgin Money colleagues, who have volunteered to be Guides. Each person has received bespoke training from Macmillan to help them support people affected or living with cancer. Guides offer emotional support, information and signposting at Macmillan, Virgin Money and beyond and the service is available to anyone, regardless of whether they are a Virgin Money customer or not. For further details, please visit: