A month of reduced income (and the risk that comes with trading time for money)

The risks of trading time for money

While I’m usually all for writing about what’s going on in my life, for some reason I didn’t really want to write about what happened last month while it was going on.

A couple of days before we headed off on our two-week campervan trip, T strained his arm at work and got sent home. If you’ve got an elephantine memory, you might recall he sustained some nerve damage in a mosh pit over New Year’s. This was a flareup of the same thing.

He had to have all sorts of scans, which obviously had to wait until our return. (Thanks to public healthcare, we only had to pay $37 for one of the tests.) It took a few weeks to get all those appointments done and dusted, only to return with no conclusive results.

A month of no income

When all was said and done, he’d been off work for a solid month; they wouldn’t take him back till he was cleared as his job involves heavy lifting. I covered all our expenses, meaning no savings for October. (Embarrassingly, even though keeping an eye on our money was more important than ever at the time, I avoided it as much as possible. My slacking off led to a slide into overdraft at one point – and yes, the sting of accompanying fees.)

In the end, the doctors’ findings were inconclusive. And while ACC is meant to cover your lost income, up to 80%, as we found out, ACC won’t fork out without a defined cause.

Back at work, T’s boss was MIA to start with, due to his own health concerns. It took a few weeks, but eventually HR got up to speed with the situation. At this stage, the gist of it is: the company won’t pay him for the time off. (And in terms of both legislated sick leave and annual leave, T is currently running on empty anyway.) They will back him up against ACC, however, and will go in to bat for him. Fighting ACC is not something I could be bothered with, quite honestly (if you’re in New Zealand, you’ve probably lost track of all the awful ACC stories that’ve been in the news this year), but if the company is going to spearhead it, we’ll go along for the ride.

So at this stage, will we see any money for October? Quite possibly not. I’m not counting on anything. Always be prepared for the worst case.

And while we’re on that note, the IRD owes him $500 odd as a tax refund. We got the notice a couple of months ago, but no cash has eventuated (and two online queries have gone unanswered). Anybody else still waiting on their tax refund for the 2011-2012 year?

Protecting your income

That got me thinking: even for the well-insured, severe or chronic health problems can really impede you, especially taking a longer-term view. (Funnily enough, T’s bank called him up, concerned about the distinct lack of money coming into his account. They also tried to pitch him on their income insurance policy, which apparently offered 50%.)

For example, another friend (our heinous ex flatmate) recently had knee surgery and basically can’t work for a year. It’s not just you who’s affected. Your family, spouse, kids are all impacted if you’re off work for some time, both financially and in terms of other kinds of support that you might need. Your skills can stagnate and time out means missing out on retirement savings and puts you on the back foot for future pay rises.

T’s job is somewhat physical, but by the same stroke, he’d hate to have a desk job. He’s a big guy but his body is way older than it should be. A 24-year-old should not have so many aches and pains, but I suppose years of sports take their toll.

As much as the trades are necessary and even lucrative industries, there’s so much risk involved. You’d really need good income protection insurance to feel secure.

If I sprained my ankle or broke my leg, I could still work. Maybe not so much if I broke my arm (I’d be very much slowed down, if not more or less out of action) but as a desk jockey/knowledge worker I am not automatically excluded from work until I fully recover.

The thing about trading time for money, as most of us do, is that if you can’t work, you can’t earn money.

7 thoughts on “A month of reduced income (and the risk that comes with trading time for money)

  • Reply Cassie November 22, 2012 at 02:43

    That’s just terrible. I hope that the flare up goes away quickly for him, and they find the cause. That’s a horrible predicament to be stuck in.

  • Reply Jane November 22, 2012 at 03:41

    I’m really sorry that happened. I hope T feels better soon.

  • Reply plantingourpennies November 22, 2012 at 12:00

    Timely as I have “look at our disability coverage” on the list for this holiday weekend.

    Do you guys not have ST or LT disability coverage in NZ?

    • Reply eemusings November 22, 2012 at 12:24

      As I say ACC is meant to cover that kind of thing, but as we found out, not without a definitive cause.

  • Reply My Money Design November 22, 2012 at 14:01

    That’s too bad. That would really stink to go without income for that long. This is why you can never have too many side hustles or other income streams working for you in addition to your normal job.

    You bring up breaking your arm and being a desk jockey. One of our good customers is completely paralyzed from the neck down, yet he still manages to go places, send emails, take calls, and go to meetings. Its pretty incredible what he can do!

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