The Longos' Story
Mike and Leslie Longo were busy raising three young children in the Boston area and enjoying their active lives together when their world changed: At age 29, Mike was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
“We didn’t know anything about cancer,” Mike says. “We didn’t know what was to come. We didn’t ask for help.”
During Mike’s initial six months of treatment, the Longos’ bills “went through the roof.” In desperation, they accrued credit card debt to pay the mortgage on the home they’d recently bought and renovated.
“I thought I’d be able to pay off debt and move on with our lives when I got better,” Mike says. But after a brief remission, the cancer came back in a more aggressive form. The treatment — which included heavy doses of chemotherapy and a stem-cell transplant — often left Mike, a heavy equipment operator, unable to work even after he switched to a desk job. The family’s debt snowballed as new medical bills arrived. Things reached the point that, with $78 in their bank account, Mike (who once had built a hockey rink in the backyard for his children) and Leslie had to decide whether they could afford to sign up their son for baseball.
“Everything we worked so hard for came crashing down,” Leslie recalls. “We had medical decisions to make, and the last thing we were thinking about was paying the bills, but they were still there. They don’t go away. We were overwhelmed.”
Through a collaboration with FFP and the nonprofit Family Reach, the Longos connected with Yusuf Abugideiri, a CFP® professional. Yusuf confirmed the family’s thinking that they’d gain little by refinancing their mortgage; meanwhile, he offered new ideas for improving their cash flow. For example, because the child tax credit under the 2018 tax law completely offset the Longos’ tax liability, Mike could reduce his federal withholding and increase his take-home pay. “Yusuf gave us answers to questions that we wouldn’t have known the answers to,” Leslie says — “and getting answers to even the smallest questions makes a huge difference.”
While Yusuf provided the structure of the financial plan and offered his skillset, it was Mike and Leslie who ultimately drove the work. Not only did they display a willingness to embrace the process, but they also took significant steps, during the engagement, to improve their financial situation. Mike transitioned to a new job that pays significantly more than he’d been earning, and Leslie also started a new job.
“Working with the Longos made me appreciate the role I play as an objective advisor,” said Yusuf, “dedicated to instilling confidence in a family faced with many difficult and sometimes overwhelming financial decisions.”
“We didn’t know anything about cancer. We didn’t know what was to come. We didn’t ask for help.”
Mike and Leslie Longo experienced first-hand the financial toxicity of cancer and have since become advocates, speaking out to help other families. They shared their story at the Financial Planning Association’s annual conference in 2018.
- Received input on key decisions, such as whether to refinance mortgage
- Increased cash flow by reducing pay withholding after advice on taxes
- Planner compiled data to create comprehensive financial picture