Healthcare and FIRE with a chronic (expensive) health condition

My biggest FI/FIRE fear is affording the cost of healthcare.

You see, I have Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).

With RA, sometime regular day seems like a hike up the Grand Teton.

My FIRE journey ultimately began approximately 2014.  I was diagnosed with RA 2 years earlier at the age of 40.  RA is an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the joints and other body systems.  As an occupational therapist, I recognized the importance of receiving an early diagnosis, and establishing a cocktail of pharmaceuticals to hopefully stave off the progressive deformity and disability that often accompanies this condition.   Without proper treatment, the average timespan to total disability for someone with moderate to severe RA is 10 years.  Yikes.

Progression of RA in the hands

Even as an occupational therapist specializing in hand therapy, I initially dismissed my gradually progressing symptoms until they became impossible to ignore.  I describe my Diagnosis Journey here .

The first year post diagnosis, I worked with my Rheumatologist on finding a treatment regime that worked for me.  This included a cocktail of several different medications, including a biologic medication.  You know, the ones that you see on TV.  Big Pharma Cash Cow.  And cue in $$$$ of life long health care and medication costs.

Well, ok, at least I know what I am dealing with, right?

With the RA diagnosis come extreme fatigue.  Sometimes crippling fatigue.  I suffer from this.  The fatigue is mightily helped with my cocktail of pharmaceuticals, but still ever present.  Add the underlying joint pain, with various joints taking turns competing for my attention.  I knew that I would need to pivot, and explore finding income solutions, as working full time in the healthcare grind for the next 25 years was not realistic for me.  Upon researching low cost of living areas and optimal retirement locales, I stumbled upon Mr. Money Mustache and the Shockingly Simple Math article.  Mind Blown.  That began our journey for us.

It was time to get the financial house in order.  And so our journey to FI began.

As a healthcare provider and someone with a chronic health condition, I believe there is a certain naivete in the FI space when it comes to planning for long term health needs.  I see it every day in my clinical practice – shock and awe at the costshare expense, not to mention personal care costs when someone is incapacitated.   The allure of health-sharing ministries: Quite the savings, plus the illusion of “eat right and exercises, can get generic medications at Costco;  we are all set.”   Well, I am here to tell you….  You can’t always count on that.  I also ate right and exercised.  You just never know when life is going to throw you a health curve ball.

I urge you all to hope for the best, but plan for the rainy (healthcare) day too.

In good times, happiness, and health.


Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge


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