Author Topic: Long COVID = premature FIRE?  (Read 2335 times)

moonpalace

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Long COVID = premature FIRE?
« on: January 17, 2024, 12:16:06 PM »
Summary:I'm 48, spouse 46. Two kids, 18 and 14. I work in government, she runs a home business solo. She is happy to continue working for a while. I was generally planning to work until about 2028-2030, but then I contracted COVID and am having severe long COVID symptoms that frequently prevent me from working a full schedule. My current role is quite demanding and stressful, and one option would be to find a less demanding, lower-paying role, either part-time or full-time.

I'm not entirely sure what I'm asking here. Mostly hoping to tap this incredible hive mind for thoughts about what I might consider, and what's financially reasonable. Sabbatical to see if the long COVID gets better? PT work? Some kind of coast-FIRE?

Assets/NW: House = $600k - no intent to sell, and spouse needs it for her business
Deferred comp (457) - $156k
Solo 401k - $200k
401a - $290k
No debts other than mortgage ($260k @ 2.875%)
NW = basically $1M

Current income: Me = $145k, spouse $70k.
All benefits (health, dental) are through my work.

Expenses are relatively high - we live in a NE state, relatively high property and income taxes. But we've been saving between $50-70k / year for the last seven years, and we could easily cut expenses to fit within my spouse's income. One kid in college right now - annual cost about $25k. That cost would presumably go down at a lower income (currently getting $0 financial aid). We'd be eligible for some social programs at that income level, too.

Future stuff:  Other kid likely to attend college in 3.5 years. MIL&FIL are well-off, and we will very likely inherit low-seven-figure amount when they pass. BIL is severely disabled and will live in institutions for life; there is money set aside for this, but if it is not adequate this will fall to us.

If I work for the state for about 4 more years, I will have lifetime health coverage on the same terms as state employees (80/20 cost split for very good coverage). If I retired before that it would be lifetime 60/40 split. The difference between those two splits is about $500/month currently (will be less once the kids are off our plan).

Thoughts?

nouseforausername

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Re: Long COVID = premature FIRE?
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2024, 12:28:17 PM »
Given that you're a state employee, sounds like you can seek a personal accommodation for health reasons? My govt. employer has a lot of flexibility there, and it comes down to whether employees are willing to assert their rights to request an accommodation (100% work from home, etc.).  If you're covered by a union, might help too.

As for sticking around for health insurance, I'd suggest calling up your state's health exchange to see if it would be really worth it. At least in my NE state, a couple making 50 to 70k a year with two dependents would not pay a lot any way in health care costs obtain through the public exchange. Just a thought.

c-kat

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Re: Long COVID = premature FIRE?
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2024, 12:50:32 PM »
Do you have sock leave/disability through work? If so, can you go on that until you get better?

moonpalace

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Re: Long COVID = premature FIRE?
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2024, 01:29:36 PM »
Given that you're a state employee, sounds like you can seek a personal accommodation for health reasons? My govt. employer has a lot of flexibility there, and it comes down to whether employees are willing to assert their rights to request an accommodation (100% work from home, etc.).  If you're covered by a union, might help too.
Yes, I can do that for sure. Not covered by the union, but I benefit as an exempt employee from a lot of the same policies. I think the challenge is that the accommodation I need is something like "time off whenever I feel awful, which is entirely random and can happen without any notice." Maybe that's possible - I have to admit I haven't explored this and I should.

Quote
As for sticking around for health insurance, I'd suggest calling up your state's health exchange to see if it would be really worth it. At least in my NE state, a couple making 50 to 70k a year with two dependents would not pay a lot any way in health care costs obtain through the public exchange. Just a thought.
Thanks! I did look at our exchange and it looks like we'd pay about $1k/month for a family plan. So it's about the same cost as the 60/40 split, but worse coverage. But yes, it's definitely something to keep in mind!

moonpalace

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Re: Long COVID = premature FIRE?
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2024, 01:31:24 PM »
Do you have sock leave/disability through work? If so, can you go on that until you get better?

Yes, I can. I already took about 3 months over the summer/fall of working basically half time. That helped and I felt okay for a while on that schedule, and even for a while after going back to F/T.

LifeHappens

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Re: Long COVID = premature FIRE?
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2024, 02:00:04 PM »
Given that you're a state employee, sounds like you can seek a personal accommodation for health reasons? My govt. employer has a lot of flexibility there, and it comes down to whether employees are willing to assert their rights to request an accommodation (100% work from home, etc.).  If you're covered by a union, might help too.
Yes, I can do that for sure. Not covered by the union, but I benefit as an exempt employee from a lot of the same policies. I think the challenge is that the accommodation I need is something like "time off whenever I feel awful, which is entirely random and can happen without any notice." Maybe that's possible - I have to admit I haven't explored this and I should.
One possibility is to explore your options for going on long term disability. Instead of trying to work around your health, what about taking leave for 3-6 months to see if you improve?

Shuchong

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Re: Long COVID = premature FIRE?
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2024, 02:21:14 PM »
Given that you're a state employee, sounds like you can seek a personal accommodation for health reasons? My govt. employer has a lot of flexibility there, and it comes down to whether employees are willing to assert their rights to request an accommodation (100% work from home, etc.).  If you're covered by a union, might help too.
Yes, I can do that for sure. Not covered by the union, but I benefit as an exempt employee from a lot of the same policies. I think the challenge is that the accommodation I need is something like "time off whenever I feel awful, which is entirely random and can happen without any notice." Maybe that's possible - I have to admit I haven't explored this and I should.
One possibility is to explore your options for going on long term disability. Instead of trying to work around your health, what about taking leave for 3-6 months to see if you improve?

I also suggest exploring long-term disability.  I have a chronic illness and have a long-term disability benefit through my employer.  When I took a look at it, it turned out that they offered some income replacement for partial disability.  So now I work a part-time schedule (as low as I can work and still keep health insurance), and my income hasn't taken as much of a hit as it otherwise would.

It took me longer than it should have to look into disability, because I didn't *want* to be disabled and I kept thinking I should just be able to push through.  I was an idiot.  Don't be like me.  Take all the disability benefits you are entitled to!  As a wise person once told me, you own no one, including yourself, an apology for being sick. 

moonpalace

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Re: Long COVID = premature FIRE?
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2024, 02:29:41 PM »
I also suggest exploring long-term disability.  I have a chronic illness and have a long-term disability benefit through my employer.  When I took a look at it, it turned out that they offered some income replacement for partial disability.  So now I work a part-time schedule (as low as I can work and still keep health insurance), and my income hasn't taken as much of a hit as it otherwise would.

It took me longer than it should have to look into disability, because I didn't *want* to be disabled and I kept thinking I should just be able to push through.  I was an idiot.  Don't be like me.  Take all the disability benefits you are entitled to!  As a wise person once told me, you own no one, including yourself, an apology for being sick. 

Thanks. I really needed to hear this. I've been an athlete all my life and I am having a hell of a hard time adjusting to this reality.

SunnyDays

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Re: Long COVID = premature FIRE?
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2024, 03:07:43 PM »
Take the time you need to optimally recover now.  Whether thatís LTD, sick days (I think these likely have to be used before LTD), or unpaid time off, donít push yourself to work when youíre unwell.  It sounds like you have the potential to recover fully due to your past experience with time off - you donít want to end up permanently disabled if you can help it.

I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 7 years and had to work through it because it was barely recognized as an illness back then.  I think I ended up with some permanent health issues due to that and donít recommend it to anyone.  Without your health, you have nothing.

lhamo

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Re: Long COVID = premature FIRE?
« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2024, 06:23:50 PM »
Are you eligible for FMLA?  Legally you should be able to take that intermittently.  Might be another option to add to the pot for consideration.


BallSachary

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Re: Long COVID = premature FIRE?
« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2024, 07:31:22 PM »
In a similar boat re: Long Covid. I was able to get Full time telework + flexible work schedule as Reasonable Accommodation. Had to fight for it and go through arbitration, but eventually got it.

I wish I had more useful advice.I do wish you well and hope that you recover. It is definitely hard to come to terms with. I went from deadlifting 420+lbs to needing help changing the cat litter. Definitely feel your pain.

moonpalace

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Re: Long COVID = premature FIRE?
« Reply #11 on: February 05, 2024, 02:14:36 PM »
Hey, I just wanted to say thanks to everyone for the kind words and sage advice.

I'm now officially taking the entire month of February off (through at least March 4). I'll be paid at 100% for that time, and the boss said if I need more time after that, just ask. Feeling very lucky about that.

Appointment with neurologist this Wednesday - maybe there will be a breakthrough but so far, it really seems like the only treatment that works consistently is complete rest.

Thanks again - always appreciate this thoughtful community!

Shuchong

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Re: Long COVID = premature FIRE?
« Reply #12 on: February 10, 2024, 10:11:50 AM »
Hey, I just wanted to say thanks to everyone for the kind words and sage advice.

I'm now officially taking the entire month of February off (through at least March 4). I'll be paid at 100% for that time, and the boss said if I need more time after that, just ask. Feeling very lucky about that.

Appointment with neurologist this Wednesday - maybe there will be a breakthrough but so far, it really seems like the only treatment that works consistently is complete rest.

Thanks again - always appreciate this thoughtful community!

That is great to hear!  I hope you're resting and relaxing like it's your job:) 

moonpalace

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Re: Long COVID = premature FIRE?
« Reply #13 on: April 03, 2024, 09:22:00 AM »
Just wanted to check back in - and thank everyone again for the wonderful advice earlier this winter!

After taking all of February completely off, and working 8-15 hours/week in March without any real improvement in symptoms, I started looking more seriously at long-term disability.

It turns out that as a non-union state employee I benefit from an LTD insurance policy that pays out up to $7k/month, potentially until I reach age 67. I had not known about this before and given that my symptoms aren't improving it is really tempting. I would really hope I wouldn't be on it for long, but it would be a load off my mind while the symptoms persist.

Does anyone have any experience being on LTD for a condition that comes and goes?

ixtap

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Re: Long COVID = premature FIRE?
« Reply #14 on: April 03, 2024, 01:35:26 PM »
Just wanted to check back in - and thank everyone again for the wonderful advice earlier this winter!

After taking all of February completely off, and working 8-15 hours/week in March without any real improvement in symptoms, I started looking more seriously at long-term disability.

It turns out that as a non-union state employee I benefit from an LTD insurance policy that pays out up to $7k/month, potentially until I reach age 67. I had not known about this before and given that my symptoms aren't improving it is really tempting. I would really hope I wouldn't be on it for long, but it would be a load off my mind while the symptoms persist.

Does anyone have any experience being on LTD for a condition that comes and goes?

We got absolutely nowhere with DH's disability insurance when he didn't have a diagnosis. He probably should try again, but part time with full benefits is working for him for now. Another benefit of LTD is that they will help you apply for SS disability,, which will qualify you for Medicare regardless of age.

Shuchong

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Re: Long COVID = premature FIRE?
« Reply #15 on: April 03, 2024, 03:47:27 PM »
Just wanted to check back in - and thank everyone again for the wonderful advice earlier this winter!

After taking all of February completely off, and working 8-15 hours/week in March without any real improvement in symptoms, I started looking more seriously at long-term disability.

It turns out that as a non-union state employee I benefit from an LTD insurance policy that pays out up to $7k/month, potentially until I reach age 67. I had not known about this before and given that my symptoms aren't improving it is really tempting. I would really hope I wouldn't be on it for long, but it would be a load off my mind while the symptoms persist.

Does anyone have any experience being on LTD for a condition that comes and goes?

Kind of.  I mentioned above that I am on partial LTD -- it's for an autoimmune condition that comes with "flares" where symptoms are worse.  I'm dealing with one right now (caused by getting Covid in February and probably not helped by trying to work through it), and am likely to take some time completely off in the coming weeks.  The plan is to go back to part-time when I feel better.  I took partial LTD after taking a significant amount of time completely off for short-term disability, which got me stable after my initial diagnosis.     

I'm sure LTD policies vary, but with mine, they do periodic check ins and have my doctor fill out forms, etc. saying that I am still disabled. 

If I were you, I would absolutely look into LTD.  The benefit is there for situations like this!  I totally get the thought of "I haven't lost a limb or anything, and I can't give you an objective test saying that I feel like death, so it feels wrong to take this benefit." But 8-15 hours a week and no symptom improvement does not sound sustainable.  Continuing to muddle through seems unwise when there is an alternative of complete rest that might result in actually being able to go back to work (not to mention do other life stuff) at a higher level.

Also, rough estimate, that 7k a month combined with your wife's salary will cover all your expenses (based on your earlier post about your salaries and how much you save each year) while your stash continues to grow.  And, this may be premature, but worth knowing that most LTD policies require you to apply for SSDI if you've been on them long enough, and will give you help in doing so.  SSDI comes with a host of potential benefits that may further ease the family budget, including Medicare coverage for you (after a 2 year waiting period) and potential tax benefits (many states will give a break on property taxes, for example).  So if part of the concern is that LTD vs. muddling through will put a real crimp in your savings, know that it might not be as bad as you think.     

moonpalace

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Re: Long COVID = premature FIRE?
« Reply #16 on: April 04, 2024, 08:01:46 AM »

Kind of.  I mentioned above that I am on partial LTD -- it's for an autoimmune condition that comes with "flares" where symptoms are worse.  I'm dealing with one right now (caused by getting Covid in February and probably not helped by trying to work through it), and am likely to take some time completely off in the coming weeks.  The plan is to go back to part-time when I feel better.  I took partial LTD after taking a significant amount of time completely off for short-term disability, which got me stable after my initial diagnosis.     

I'm sure LTD policies vary, but with mine, they do periodic check ins and have my doctor fill out forms, etc. saying that I am still disabled. 

If I were you, I would absolutely look into LTD.  The benefit is there for situations like this!  I totally get the thought of "I haven't lost a limb or anything, and I can't give you an objective test saying that I feel like death, so it feels wrong to take this benefit." But 8-15 hours a week and no symptom improvement does not sound sustainable.  Continuing to muddle through seems unwise when there is an alternative of complete rest that might result in actually being able to go back to work (not to mention do other life stuff) at a higher level.

Also, rough estimate, that 7k a month combined with your wife's salary will cover all your expenses (based on your earlier post about your salaries and how much you save each year) while your stash continues to grow.  And, this may be premature, but worth knowing that most LTD policies require you to apply for SSDI if you've been on them long enough, and will give you help in doing so.  SSDI comes with a host of potential benefits that may further ease the family budget, including Medicare coverage for you (after a 2 year waiting period) and potential tax benefits (many states will give a break on property taxes, for example).  So if part of the concern is that LTD vs. muddling through will put a real crimp in your savings, know that it might not be as bad as you think.   

Thank you so much for this, Shuchong. Really can't express how helpful this is.

I do have a diagnosis of post-acute COVID syndrome and various other things (POTS, chronic fatigue, post-exertional malaise, etc.) so hopefully I won't run into the eligibility issues ixtap mentioned [knock on wood!]. So sorry, ixtap, that you had that experience!