Raven’s son, Noel, was diagnosed with cancer at age 4.
*Modified with permission from https://familyreach.org/blog/why-pro-bono-financial-coaching-is-critical-during-cancer-treatment/
Raven was a 27-year old mom in Virginia who was doing it all: raising 4 young kids on her own, working full-time at USPS, and making progress on her financial goals, including saving for a down payment to purchase her first home. In 2019, however, everything came to a halt. Her 4-year old son, Noel, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and began to undergo treatment.
As a single parent and the sole breadwinner, Raven was faced with a terrible situation. “I had to choose between my son’s health and the bills, which was not a fair decision to make. Do I leave my son with nurses while I go to work, or do I stay with my son? A mom is going to choose her child.” Noel could also no longer go to daycare since his immune system was compromised. As a result, Raven began to miss work to take him to treatments and then care for him at home. While she initially used her annual paid leave, she eventually had to take unpaid leave and start tapping into her savings. After a few months, her savings were depleted. Raven began overdrafting her account to cover rent, turning to food pantries for food, and reaching out to various organizations for assistance. Eventually, after reviewing her bank statement, Raven said, “I knew that I needed help with my finances when I saw my bank statement with all the overdraft fees I had incurred. I was giving the bank more money than I was paying toward my bills.”
While at the hospital for one of Noel’s treatments, Raven saw a flyer for FFP grantee Family Reach and its Financial Planning for Cancer Program, which helps cancer patients and their families navigate the costs of a cancer diagnosis. The hospital’s social worker connected her to Family Reach, and after learning about her situation, Family Reach paired her with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional volunteer, Robert Sharer, CFP®.
Raven and Robert began meeting once a month. While initially Raven was apprehensive, Robert quickly put her at ease. Raven said, “I was worried I would be judged. I was really embarrassed about my finances. Robert was very empathetic. He told me I was doing good with what I had and that he could refer me to additional resources that could help.” After learning about Raven’s current finances, they created a budget that would stretch her monthly income to cover her expenses and discussed different ways she could manage her debt. Robert also encouraged Raven to look for different resources that might provide additional financial aid and assistance to Raven. After researching, Raven found a home buying assistance program which she discussed with Robert during their monthly meeting. She was very interested in the program as she had been saving to purchase a home prior to Noel’s diagnosis. After learning about the program requirements, Robert helped Raven create a budget that would turn her dream of purchasing a home into a reality.
Today, Raven is in a much more secure place financially and is very grateful for Robert and the pro bono program that helped her. She says, “Financial hardship comes with a cancer diagnosis. People in my position should know that financial planning is available and will help. My finances are kind of limited, but with what I have, they really helped me get things in order to set me up for success. Thank you, Robert and Family Reach, for helping my family through such a tough time!” Her son Noel is now in remission, and while she still misses some work, she has stuck to the budget that she created with Robert and has not overdrafted her accounts in over a year. Raven also stuck with the home buying program budget and in early 2021, she purchased her first home.
For Robert, working with Raven was overwhelmingly positive. He says, “This all worked because Raven has a very positive mental attitude. Raven is dynamic and a go-getter. She has big goals and reached them through her hard work and determination.”
“My finances are kind of limited, but with what I have, [Robert and Family Reach] really helped me get things in order to set me up for success.”
- Create a budget to cover her expenses and debt, and no longer incur overdraft fees
- Find additional resources to improve her financial situation and provide for her family
- Turn her dream of buying a home into a reality