Unexpected Leave Of Absence: Are You Prepared?

By Kathy Hosler

Groomers are some of the hardest working people on the planet. From morning till night, you multi-task—and then, you do it all over again the next day. Do you need a break from your hectic routine? Do you find yourself wishing you could take a little trip and get away from it all?

Well, I took a quick trip earlier this year—but it wasn’t one that I planned. I was walking in my brother’s yard when my toe caught on a tree root, and the root wouldn’t let go. Down I went. I twisted as I fell, and I heard a ‘snap’. I tried to convince myself that it was the tree root that snapped, but I knew better – and the x-rays proved it. I had broken my ankle (my distal fibula to be exact), and I injured some tendons and ligaments as well.

As I sat in the hospital emergency department, I was painfully aware that I would not be able to groom for some time. I went home on crutches and was instructed not to put any weight on my broken ankle. I had never been on crutches in my life, and it was certainly a challenge to learn how to navigate on them. Suddenly, simple things like getting a glass of water or making a cup of coffee became monumental tasks—and hopping into the shower took on a whole new meaning.

That unexpected little ‘trip’ was much more than an inconvenience, but it was not a tragedy either; because I was prepared for it. I have health care coverage. I opened my grooming salon more than 40 years ago, and had never missed a day of work because of illness or injury—until I broke my ankle. I sometimes wondered if I really needed that medical coverage. The premiums weren’t cheap, but month after month, year after year, I paid them. I decided it was a lot like my car, homeowners, and salon insurance; you pay the premiums and hope that you never have any reason to file a claim.

As I was cared for in the emergency department and by several doctors and their staff all during my recovery, I knew that my medical bills would be covered. I didn’t have the huge burden of wondering how I could afford them when I couldn’t work and had no money coming in.

Because I am self-employed, I knew that it was up to me to protect and provide for myself. That’s why I set up an emergency fund. I regularly put away money to prepare for future unexpected expenses. Because of my emergency fund, I did not have to return to work before I was healed and ready. I had enough money in reserve to ‘keep the lights on’.

Although I would have much preferred to spend my little ‘break’ from grooming in some relaxing, fun destination instead of the emergency room and on crutches, being financially prepared and covered medically made all the difference.


Are You Prepared for a ‘Trip’?

• Any injury or medical problem that puts a groomer out of work can either be just an inconvenience, or a total financial disaster. It all depends on how well you prepare before the ‘event’ happens.

• Everyone needs to have medical insurance. No matter how healthy or young you are, accidents and illnesses happen. You simply must have coverage to protect your health and your financial well-being.

• Today medical debt is the number one reason people file for bankruptcy—yes the number one reason! It will affect almost two million people this year.

• Just one visit to the emergency room could cost you more than a year’s worth of medical insurance premiums. In 2013 the average cost of a visit to the ER was $1233.00 and that did not include diagnostic tests or lab fees. And, we all know, medical costs have skyrocketed since then.

• Disability insurance is also very important to have, especially if you are off work for an extended period. It will help you replace the income you lose while you are unable to groom.

• If you are an employee and you are injured at work, you should be covered by workers’ compensation. But, don’t rely solely on that coverage. It won’t help you if you are hurt at home or if you develop a medical problem that keeps you from working.

• Every groomer should have an emergency fund. If an illness or injury happens to you, you still must pay the mortgage and utilities, put food on the table, and you probably have other expenses like a grooming van payment or shop rent, and car lease and insurance payments. The bills don’t stop just because your income does.

• Beginning very early in your grooming career, you need to put aside money every week for your emergency fund. Even if you start with small amounts, over time it will grow. Experts suggest that your emergency fund should have an amount equal to 3-6 months (or more) of living expenses.

• Being financially secure means that you will be able to pay your bills and living expenses while you are not working, and it will allow you to complete your recovery before returning to work.

• If you are not prepared, you could lose everything that you have worked so hard for. The peace of mind that you have when you are ready for the unexpected is invaluable.

Now I’m back to work and happily replenishing my emergency fund. And, I’ve also started a REAL trip fund…and this time it is a good one. The trip I’ve got my eye on is the next Pet Pro Cruise. Bon Voyage! ✂