Coping With Unexpected Health Issues

Even the best laid plans can go terribly awry when one must deal with the unexpected. At 44, Rodd Herbert says he has done so much right, such as living a debt-free life, faithfully saving for retirement, successfully flipping real estate, and calling a million-dollar house home. But now everything could be in jeopardy.

“When you’re 40 and the doctor tells you that you may not be able to work to retirement age, everything changes,” says Herbert, who lives in Palos Verdes Estates in Southern California. “I didn’t plan on health issues that could possibly wipe out everything.”

For the last 16 years, Herbert has been plagued with back troubles as a result of degenerative disc disease. After three surgeries, the prognosis is not good. “In the next seven or eight years it may be that I can barely walk or work,” says Herbert, of his condition.

Herbert, a national performance excellence manager for an automotive finance company, says his employer spent $10,000 renovating his office to accommodate his limitations. Adjustments were made to his keyboard so that he is no longer straining or pulling his arms away from his body. And his computer screen was changed so that it would be at eye level. The height of his desk was increased and he was given a specially designed desk chair. Herbert has coped with these changes because his job is such an important part of his life. “My friends wonder why I don’t take a lot of vacations. I love what I do.” Herbert says his doctor suggested he go into real estate if he ever had to leave his job. He has sold real estate in the past and could work out of his home and go at his own pace, and not have to be at desk for hours at a time.

The thought of not working has been a financially and emotionally devastating experience. “I do not want to give up my house,” says Herbert, who owes more than $800,000 on the three-bedroom, three-bathroom house he purchased in 2004.

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