Cancer survivor helps others consider the "what ifs" in life.

Position:BUSINESS: A solid financial plan can help you respond to whatever life brings

Driven by a passion to live life fully, Robert Ornelas often felt invincible, whether climbing the corporate ladder as a banker or chasing the ball as a soccer player.

"I spent many years believing I was immortal," he said.

Then Ornelas heard the words he never expected to hear: 'You have testicular cancer." Suddenly, the 27-year-old wasn't feeling immortal any more and he and his wife of one year started thinking about all the "what ifs."

Ornelas considere himself an even-keeled person able to handle whatever comes his way, including four cycles of chemotherapy in six months to treat the aggressive cancer. But the treatment paled in comparison to the solemn realization his wife would face financial struggles if he passed away. His life insurance policy would cover their condominium mortgage, but not much else.

"I hadn't planned for the unthinkable," he said.

Although the chemotherapy was successful, Ornelas couldn't buy additional life insurance until he was free of cancer for five years. By then, the couple had a daughter. "I bought more life insurance the minute I was eligible," he said.

Planning today for tomorrow

Today, Ornelas draws from his life experience to help individuals from all walks of life with their personal and business planning needs as a financial representative with Northwestern Mutual in Los Angeles, California. Anticipating the "what ifs" in life is crucial to successful financial planning, whether you're thinking about paying for college, funding retirement or building a business.

"If you wait until you need a plan, then it's too late to plan," he said.

A liberal arts major at California State Univereity Fullerton, Ornelas worked as a bank teller to pay for college. He moved up the ranks during his college years and after graduation, eventually becoming a branch manager. But he grew frustrated after a decade when he realized that any future advancement depended on other people retiring, rather than on his own achievements.

That's when a Northwestern Mutual recruiter called. "I had never heard of the company," he said. But the more he heard, the more he liked the prospect of coming on board.

"I'd spent my whole career until then working for a business rather than running my own business. I liked the concept of building my own business rather than building one for someone else. I didn't want to wait for my turn to get ahead. I wanted to earn it," he said.

Ornelas is so passionate about Northwestern Mutual and the...

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