Managing your money

Recovering from a heart attack can put stress on your finances. Find out ways to manage your money after a heart attack, how to get help if you've got into financial difficulty and where to get advice on legal matters.

Any changes to your weekly income - big or small - can lead to money problems. Having a serious health event like a heart attack may result in a drop in household income, either in the short term while you are recuperating, or in the longer term if you are unable to return to your previous job.

You may also face extra or new expenses such as:

  • the cost of traveling to hospital or doctors appointments
  • hospital parking expenses
  • prescription charges

These changes can cause money worries and financial hardship.

It's important you take a look at your finances and plan how you'll manage them during your recovery. While this may feel stressful, it's better to address your finances sooner rather than later.

  • Contact your local Work and Income New Zealand Office to check if you are entitled to financial support
  • Consider ways to increase your income, for example, do you have a spare room available in your house that you could use for homestay or to rent out?
  • Is there anyone in the household that can contribute a little more?
  • If you have health insurance, income protection, or critical illness insurance contact your provider to see if you are entitled to a claim.

Do you know where your money is going?
Take a good look at your bank statements and think about where you are spending your money. Are there any areas where you can make savings?

Talk to the people, companies or organisations that you owe money
Whether it be your bank about your mortgage or credit card repayment, a landlord about your rent payment, a power company about your power bill or a private lending company about a hire purchase payment. Explain your situation and together come up with a realistic payment plan.

If you don’t feel confident to have these discussions yourself, ask a trusted family member or friend for help or contact a local budgeting service.

Avoid using your credit card
It can be easy to spend money what you haven’t got.

Get budgeting
The website sorted.org.nz provides lots of advice and tips for managing your money. It also has a budgeting tool that you can use for free.

If the problem feels too large to manage on your own, the National Building Financial Capability Charitable Trust (NBFCCT) can give free advice to help you manage your finances. The advice is available in person, over the phone or via the internet.

People often feel embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help when they have money problems. However, seeking help sooner rather than later is a positive and sensible thing to do and can help to avoid sleepless nights worrying about money. Remember, even if you've left the problem for a while, it's never too late to ask for help.

Heart attack treatment costs

Doctor visits and medication

You've probably already paid out for doctor's visits and medication and you will probably face ongoing costs in the future. The prescription charges will vary dependent on the type, brand and dosage of medications that you are on. The cost of a GP visit can also vary from practice to practice.

Depending on your circumstances and your condition, you may be eligible for a reduction in GP and prescription costs through a:

Ambulance costs

If you're in the greater Wellington region or the Wairarapa, ambulance rides are free. Anywhere else in New Zealand, you pay for both emergency and non-emergency ambulance services if the journey is for anything other than an accident (which will be covered by ACC).

Even if someone else has called the ambulance for you, you will be invoiced for the ride. You can pay a small annual cost to cover all your emergency trips in an ambulance.

Hospital fees

You wont have to pay for your hospital treatment or future hospital appointments (secondary care treatment), unless you choose to be treated privately. The conditions of your individual insurance policy will determine whether or not you're covered for private treatment.

If you have health insurance, it's worth checking your policy or talking to your provider to see if any other treatment costs, such as GP visits or ambulance rides can be claimed for.

Legal matters

If you're lucky, you will have a supportive employer who will assist with a gradual and phased return to work. But many people worry about the safety of their job after a heart attack.

It's not legal for your employer to dismiss you immediately after a heart attack, without any consideration of your condition and your contract.

Employers are required by law to make fair and reasonable decisions about your employment and they must take into consideration:

  • Your condition and your prospects for recovery
  • The nature of your role and how it could be covered in your absence
  • The terms of your contract including sick leave
  • Your length of employment.

It's important you contact your employer as soon as you can to discuss your condition, your recovery and how it will impact your role and return to work.

If you feel that your job is under threat or that you have been unfairly dismissed, you can get free advice from the Citizen's Advice Bureau by calling 0800 FOR CAB (0800 367 222) or visiting a local branch.

There are a number of employment law services who will offer an initial consultation for free to discuss your case.

You don’t have to wait for a life changing event or a health scare to write your will, but if you haven’t done so already you may wish to think about what you would like to happen when you die.

Your will can include funeral plans, how your dependent children will be provided for and what you want to happen to your property or possessions you may have.

A will is basically a document that describes what you want to happen in the event of your death and lists any instruction you want carried out.

If you want to find out more information on how to write a will contact the Citizens Advice Bureau on 0800 367 222.

If you have other legal concerns following your heart attack, the Citizen's Advice Bureau provides a number of services for free.

The Law Society also provides advice on how and where to find a lawyer.

It's common to want to get back to work as quickly as you can after a heart attack, so you can get back in your normal routines. Being at work is beneficial to your mental and physical recovery. However, it's important not to push yourself to get back to your normal routine too quickly as this can make your recovery longer.

Plan your return to work