Friday, December 05, 2008

Full Disclosure

I have a confession to make. I have not been fully honest with you. When I said this was the reason I wanted passive income, that isn't the only reason. There is another reason: I have multiple sclerosis. The majority of the time, you would never be able to tell. I typically have no symptoms. Occasionally, however, I will have a flare-up, or "exacerbation," as they are called, where symptoms appear for a while and then eventually go away. This is known as the relapsing-remitting form of MS. The bad thing about MS, apart from the fact that there is no cure, is that it is a very unpredictable disease. I have had no flare-ups for over 2 years, but a couple weeks ago I started having some, probably brought on by the stress of being laid off. Currently, I have little fine motor skill in my left hand. Since I am left-handed, I cannot handwrite, my printing looks like my five year old daughter's printing, and typing is a bit of a chore. On the plus side, it gets me out of doing the Christmas cards his year. I am currently on a 2 week course of steroids, which should return functionality to me.

I was originally diagnosed back in 1999 or 2000. I was on a business trip and gradually started losing all vision in my right eye. When I returned home, I saw an ophthalmologist (although not in stereo vision - ha ha, a little humor for you) and was told I had optical neuritis, which is a typical symptom of MS. My vision mostly returned, although it is not 100% in that eye and probably never will be. I had some other episodes where I felt numb on parts of my body, again typical MS symptoms. After meeting with a neurologist and a battery of tests, I was diagnosed.

So why do I mention this? Because last March, Crystal left a comment on my blog saying she was in Section 8 housing because she had MS (and presumably it was affecting her ability to work). Since I saw that comment, I've been meaning to bring up my situation here, but there never seemed to be a good time. I've realized there probably never will be a good time.

Because MS is so unpredictable, I have no way of knowing how long I will be able to work. Hopefully, a very long time. However, I am attempting to plan for the possbility that someday I may be forced into not working, and to prepare for that, I want passive income.

Most people try to obtain passive income to get out of the "rat race," their nine to five job. To do so, you need your passive income to be greater than your expenses. For me, my passive income needs will be higher than most. If I did not have insurance, my medicine for controlling MS would be almost $2,400 a month. This is on top of my mortgage and other living expenses. And when my wife and I retire, assuming no cure has been found by then, I will need to buy my own medical insurance, which will probably cost more than that. So passive income is something of a necessity for me if I want to retain the standard of living I am accustomed to.

Crystal, if you still read this blog, I hope things are going well for you, both in your housing situation and with MS. You've always been on my mind these past nine months. Sorry it took so long for me to write this.


Anonymous said...

I'm really sorry to learn about your affliction. I have followed your RE journey and its has been inspiring to me. I pray that you can continue to stay positive and strong. All the best.

Barbara said...

I'm interested in advertising on your blog. At the moment, I'm looking for intext links. Do you write paid posts? How much does it cost?
My website provides information on credit deals and ways to manage one's finances.
Waiting for your reply.

Shaun said...

Anon - thanks for the kind words.

Barbara - I do not write paid posts. I do accept advertising here, but not intext links. Leave a comment with your email. I'll be the only one who sees it and will email you with more details.

tim's wife said...

I too have been investing in RE to
make passive income, on a much smaller scale than you though. My hubby owns a contracting biz that
is VERY demanding physically. It is not something he would be able to do till 67. So I sold our 1 family rental and took some time to buy a 2 family that did not need
a complete re-hab. We bought it
on 2/23/07. 10 days later, my hubby wound up being raced to the
emergency room at 3 a.m. with a deadly strep sepsis infection and we found out 3 days later he also
has cancer. He had just turned 43.
We did the work to the rental while he was on chemo and steroids
and have had nothing but headaches
with tenants ever since. Have another jerk breaking a lease and
living out security that will leave
this Sunday owing us money. This is SO NOT WHAT I
EXPECTED to happen the day we closed on this property. Life is what happens while you're making other plans.

Another Investor said...


I noticed on your profile that you are a database administrator. That's a skill that is readily transferable to almost any environment. Because of your condition and your lack of insurability, you might consider taking a similar position with a stable government agency that has a good retirement system and access to group health insurance for the retirees. Most government agencies have trouble hiring really good IT professionals, so it could be a good fit for you with some opportunity in the future.

I worked for two such agencies at various times and I collect a pension from each one, although I only worked a little over 10 years at each. Had I stayed with the first agency, my entire health insurance premium as a retiree would be paid. Because I "retired" from the second agency, I receive a portion of the premium, and I pay the difference out of the pension.

The key to this for someone in your situation is these policies are group policies. You cannot be excluded or charged a higher premium when you retire. With careful research, you should be able to find a good job with an agency where the group health insurance does not exclude your pre-existing condition.

One of the advantages of working for the government is you can retire with a pension (one of your multiple streams of income) at an early age. A good agency will offer a 457 plan as well as a defined benefit plan. Depending on your total family income, it might be possible to invest in a 457 plan and IRA's as well as the pension plan. Add your rentals and your passive investments, and you should be in a very comfortable position when you retire.

I'm sure you are paying a breathtaking COBRA premium plus coming out of pocket for at least some of your medication. That has to be hard on your savings and on your stress level. I wish you the best and I hope you find a suitable position soon.

Shaun said...

Yeah, my insurance is actually through my wife's employeer, who is the state of Arizona, so that's good. It also means no cobra for me right now. Thanks for the tips!

Anonymous said...


I have been following your blog for several months now and have enjoyed reading about your experiences. I am sorry to hear about your affliction. Wishing you the best... Matt

Starsky said...

Hey Shaun,
Thanks for writing this post, in light of the recent economic happenings & other factors I felt burdened to comment very similar to yours on my blog here

Thanks for your honesty & hopefully one day we will run into each other in Las Vegas.


Michael said...

MS is a bitch!

On the bright site your intellect and investing "savvy-ness" is above average - keep on trucking and i hope you will get better.

I love to read your blog I think I have read all your posts from the very beginning.

Raleigh Real Estate said...


I commend you on being able to talk about your diagnosis. I volunteer once a week at a library, and there is a young man there who volunteers and has MS. I think it's really brave of you to have such a positive attitude as well as to be smart about things by planning for the future. Too often we look for excuses to be lazy or pass blame on others, not realizing how much we already have to be grateful for. I hope that there is a cure for MS one day.

grande dunes said...

great post. Passive income is something we should all attempt to obtain.

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