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Managing Financial Stress During a Health Event


Money is one of the hardest topics for people to talk about in a relationship. During a health crisis, practicing good money habits isn’t at the front of anyone’s mind. But, in times of uncertainty, it’s one of the most important conversations couples should have after a major health situation occurs.

27 million people were uninsured for health coverage in 2021 according to the U.S Census Bureau. Without the protection of health insurance, fixing a broken leg can cost up to $7,500, a weekend hospital stay is about $30,000, and cancer care treatment can cost thousands of dollars.

If a relationship is strained from the effects of financial stress, the added burden of healthcare costs can feel insurmountable. Here are some ways couples, therapists, and relationship counselors can use Money Habitudes to cope with the added financial stress a major health event can cause.

Impacts of financial stress

The United States saw a record high increase of Americans putting off medical care due to costs in 2022 – up 12% from 2021 according to Gallup’s annual Health and Healthcare poll. Lower income households, women, and young adults reported higher rates of postponed medical treatment for a serious condition.

When you combine money stress with other types of stress, communication can break down. This causes more stress and feeds a perpetuating cycle of conflict and miscommunication. Like other forms of stress, financial stress can feel overwhelming and can affect many areas of a person’s life, including their physical and mental health.

If the stress becomes intense or chronic, other health problems like anxiety, depression, or heart disease could occur. With the majority of Americans experiencing some kind of financial hardship, the anxiety and worry about medical bills on top of a health concern can make it hard for a couple to cope.

How can people manage money and an illness?

Medical expenses can fluctuate in their price and occurrence, which makes it harder to manage money in both the short and long term. When tensions are high, the emotional triggers of financial stress can cause people to make poor or impulsive spending decisions, making the financial stress greater.

To help couples manage their money habits, emotional wellness, and health, therapists and relationship counselors can use Money Habitudes as a tool for identifying people’s emotional financial triggers. Knowing a person’s emotional financial triggers will help when deciding on future strategies to combat negative spending habits. Here are some ways Money Habitudes can help manage money stress and start finding stability while dealing with a medical condition.

Have a conversation

When a person experiences stress, the body responds by activating our natural fight-or-flight response to prepare the body for the challenges ahead. This can be great in the event of immediate physical danger, but when stress becomes a chronic problem, our bodies never leave that fight-or-flight mode. The energy of managing physical, mental, and financial stress makes it hard to communicate in a relationship.

If a partner has a poor relationship with money, it can be hard for couples to spark healthy conversations in a positive, collaborative way. Having a conversation with the help of professional marriage or relationship counselors can help couples work on their communication skills. Once a couple can deploy proactive, rather than reactive discussions, they will have more control over their emotions and understand their spending habits.

Analyze money habits and behaviors

Trying to budget your money and stay financially afloat can be especially tedious during a health event. Unfortunately, no amount of budgeting can save a person from their own biases or emotional spending triggers if they aren’t aware of them. When a couple can start communicating in a relationship, it’s important to understand the root cause of each other’s emotional associations and behaviors around money. If you don’t understand your spending habits and behaviors, you’re not going to be able to make effective changes. The Money Habitudes personality assessment can help you set goals and bring awareness to challenges you might not be aware of.

Money Habitudes help partners navigate challenging financial situations by deconstructing habits and emotional responses to money in a fun and stress-free way. The Money Habitudes results provide couples with rich, user-friendly insights based on a person’s money personality in a way that allows them to see their spending patterns and the motivations behind them.

Take a financial inventory

Regaining a sense of financial control can feel like an uphill battle for couples dealing with high medical debts. The good thing is, once people become aware of their emotional connections with money, they can manage money more easily. But, to get out of the cycle of debt, a couple needs to know where their money is going. This is where a budget becomes a handy tool for detailing monthly income, debts, and expenses.

Once a financial inventory is in place, couples can plan ahead of time for recurring or unexpected medical expenses, like cancer treatment costs, copays, prescriptions, or emergency room visits. Having a financial inventory in place will give you more ownership of your finances and will allow you to plan for the moments that are impossible to plan for in life. With over 50% of Americans lacking the savings to handle an unexpected emergency, taking inventory now should be a priority.

Gather resources and support

The cost of a medical emergency is expensive whether you have health insurance or not. For people without healthcare coverage, the out-of-pocket costs of medical bills are extremely high, where you’re expected to pay everything from lab and service fees to specialty services and other medical costs. Thankfully, it’s possible to negotiate medical bills with a hospital by setting up a payment plan or receiving special discounts as an uninsured patient. Working with the hospital’s financial department can help adjust bills around a person’s ability to pay to help ease financial burden.

Establishing healthy spending behaviors takes time. In times of crisis, people often find help to address their immediate needs for food, shelter, medical care, and safety within their communities. Once the initial crisis is over, money issues can still go unresolved. Depending on a couple’s situation, financial assistance and additional resources could be a helpful option for help with bills or managing a chronic illness.

In some cases, it might be beneficial for a couple to get advice from a professional who can help them manage their illness and their finances. Alongside other resources, Money Habitudes puts a positive spin on how to think and interact with money and helps manage financial struggles easier when health issues arise – Helping couples pave the way to financial freedom, one step at a time.

Cara Macksoud, owner of Money Habitudes