Isn’t investing gambling?

It is understandable that we MSers, facing exceptional circumstances, want to protect any money we make from being squandered.
 
Our medications and healthcare costs are astronomical. Also, as a population, we physically may be forced to retire prematurely.
 
Like the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) says “Knowing how to secure your financial well-being is one of the most important things you’ll ever need in life.” 
 
This is especially true for us.
 
The MSer’s finances
 
Traditionally banks paid enough interest to make just saving what we could until retirement prudent. Unfortunately, not anymore.
 
How “safe” is a savings account if you leave all your money there for your working life, but the interest it earns doesn’t keep up with inflation when you are no longer working and need it?
 
This is why many people keep some of their money in savings, but look to investing to amplify their other money. For most people, the only way to attain financial security is both to save and invest over a long period of time. 
 
Generating vs. earning
 
I suggest we think about our finances as needing to generate income rather then simply earning it. Viewing it in terms of generating an income “takes the power out of (the provider’s) hands and places it into your own.”
 
It reminds us that we still have a lot of control over our future, maybe even more than this disease does.
 
I work hard for my money. It makes sense that my money should be working for me, too.  Why should investing be only considered the playground for the wealthy?
 
I resolve that it shouldn’t be. And for those of us in the U.S. with chronic disease, who live in this capitalist society, it is even more imperative.
 
Isn’t it gambling?
 
Well OK, yes and no.
 
For example, my clutter is gambling: 
“I purchased bargains with potential usefulness. I bought things as a gamble. I gambled on the chance that one day, my dreams would come true. I would turn into the kind of person who mended expensive but damaged clothing. I would be the tinkerer who repaired a lamp that made guests gasp in delight…(But) an amazing bargain that ultimately makes my life more difficult isn’t an amazing bargain at all.”
from Dana White’s book Decluttering at the Speed of Life
 
So is playing baseball:  “You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.” (Frederick B. Wilcox)
 
Thus I guess that investing is gambling too, but it’s risk that can and should be mitigated.  (You should never risk more than you can lose and still be okay.)
 
So “learn to earn”
 
While we probably aren’t born knowing how to invest, I think everyone should learn at least the basics.
 
Visit the SEC website. If you are still working, take advantage of webinars, podcasts and classes offered by your 401k provider. Be careful about the sources of your info, but you can teach yourself.
 
And ask for help if you’re scared. The MS Society offers free or low-cost consultations with experts
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I’m an MSer and a debt-oholic

Not unlike so many Americans, we battle debt but having a chronic illness in a country that does not have universal healthcare means that we are responsible for the slack on our own.
 
And all those costs like co-pays and coinsurance and medical equipment and incontinence supplies fall largely to us. 
 
How I became a debt-oholic 
 
When I was in college the credit card companies were eager to get us to sign up for a card. In our own name. How could I not? Now I recognize that as the seduction of a drug dealer. Just a little taste and then they got you.
 
Ever after, for the most part, I carried a balance and paid the interest on my credit card. I figured it was a small price to pay for the privilege.
 
I was convinced that, within reason, I could charge what I wanted when I wanted it and pay it off in installments.
 
What I should have done
 
First, amass and save a cushion, a small emergency fund, maybe $1500 in current times. Then keep empty credit cards in case of emergency, like the water main breaks or the heater goes out. 
 
(I like this idea better than accruing a large emergency fund. But another good place to stash additional emergency funds might be in your Roth 401k: although it is a retirement account, you could take back out little chunks up to the total amount of your contributions only, not any earnings, at any time with no penalty! I guess it depends on how you define ’emergency’.)
 
If you do need to use the cards, you must pay them back down to 0 again as soon as you can. That needs to go on the top of your priority list.
 
The plan in a nutshell
 
  1. Have 1-2 cards in your own name with zero balances that you can use as security when renting a car or getting a hotel room, but don’t use them to pay with! You are just showing vendors that you are good for it, that they can trust you. 
  2. If you must use a card, pay off the entire balance at the end of the month, ideally before any interest has been applied, but definitely as invoiced. 
  3. If you must carry a balance on the card, strive to pay it down quickly. And keep your eyes out for transfer offers that make sense for you.
  4. If you owe multiple loans and/or credit cards, note the interest rates of each and pay as much over the minimum payment as you can on the highest. Also I think you should never pay just the minimum on anything you owe. (And make sure there is no prepayment penalty that a lender wants to charge you for paying off the loan early. Hello? It’s your money! Not sure when that idea started, but it is definitely not consumer-friendly!)
When you pay even $1 over the minimum, it goes entirely towards just the balance, so if the agreement of your loan is that you are being assessed interest on whatever your current balance is, you can reduce the underlying balance this way: by paying extra over the minimum on all debts, even if it is as little as pennies! And as you pay one card off, you can add that payment amount to the payment amounts of the next one, and so on.
 
Opinions expressed are my own
 
Other stuff

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Add income streams

The average MSer should strive to have multiple income streams, or at least more than one.  

I came across this claim recently: "...the average millionaire has 7 different income streams." Wow.  Way to ensure financial security!
 
More relevant to us is that the average MSer should strive to have multiple income streams, or at least more than one.  
 
For example
 
If you are still working, you have your salary.  And if you are still getting a paycheck, whether or not you decide to disclose your diagnosis to your employer, you need to now seriously consider that you are ultimately self-employed. Investigate telecommuting.  Ask for a raise. Start squirreling away money for an emergency fund
 
If you have a life partner who is able to work, too, and you share financial decisions, this may be a second stream of income. Discuss amongst yourselves.
 
If you are no longer able to work but are eligible for it, get on Social Security Disability (SSDI) as soon as possible.  The goal here is to have a stable source of funds and then try to maximize it as much as possible. Save where you can. Resolve to only buy with a coupon. Stock up when items are on sale.
 
If you can no longer work, and are not eligible for Social Security, you can have a pity party for yourself for half a day at most, then dry your tears and keep reading.
 
Any savings could morph into another stream of income. Check out 401(k) rules, IRA/RothIRA, annuities, other investment vehicles. (I trust and always start my money research with The Motley Fool website). But if you haven't started to save, do it now. Start today. Give yourself some flexibility and choice in the future.  
 
Finally, consider starting a "side hustle" or two.  One of the most tempting to me right now is shopping for stuff at thrift stores to resell on EBay. Check out other ideas here:
 
 

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