Why gym memberships can be a smart investment

Photo illustration of a woman using a gym membership

I've just come from the gym. My arms are so spent I can barely type. My glutes are killing me as I sit on my wooden chair. I am guzzling ice water and still sweating a little. An hour of concentrated exercise with a trainer -- part of my gym memberships -- has left me feeling both exhausted and accomplished. I love my gym.

My gym membership costs us $158.46 per month. I can hear the gasps of horror from the frugal corner: that's 1,901.52 a year! Over the next 10 years, that's almost $20K I could be putting into my Roth IRA. That's $5,704.56 we could be putting into the 529 college account for our second child (you remember him, the one we call Hope He Gets A Soccer Scholarship)! I could use that to open a stock investment account and invest in electronic-traded funds. I could purchase corporate bonds!

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What’s the Cure for the High Cost of Prescriptions?

Photo Illustration: The dramatic rise in the cost of Epipens

The recent uproar over the cost of EpiPens, the life saving self-injection device that contains epinephrine, a chemical that narrows blood vessels and opens airways in the lungs to offset an allergic reaction, has garnered tremendous media attention and consumer outrage. Through massive marketing and outreach efforts by the manufacturer, Mylan, EpiPen has become to the go-to device for anyone facing a potentially serious or life-threatening allergic reaction. It is a brand that has “become” the device, like Kleenex has “become” tissues, and Jet Ski has become the catch-all for personal watercraft.

The EpiPen price has been raised 17 times in 11 years. When Mylan bought the device from Merck KgAA, a German company, in 2007, it cost $124 for a two-pack. Today, a two-pack costs more than $600. And there is no real competitor in the market, as Auvi-Q, a similar product launched in 2013 by Sanofi, was withdrawn in 2015 because of dosing issues. Mylan controls 94% of this market.

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How to spend FSA money

Doctor image to illustrate article on FSA funds

Do you have FSA funds left in your Flexible Spending Arrangement? If you overestimated your medical expenses for 2016, you might lose that money under the use-it-or-lose-it rule. That means you have to spend all your FSA money by Dec. 31 unless your plan allows you to carry over a small amount into the next year.

The maximum you could have put toward a flexible spending arrangement is $2,550 for 2016, the same amount as 2015. The FSA maximum amount for 2017 is expected to rise $50 to $2,600.

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Open Enrollment 2016 dates and how to shop for health insurance

Nurse checking on patient

Have you started shopping yet? No, I'm not talking about shopping for the holidays; I'm talking about something more important — your health insurance.

It's that time of year when many employers have their open-enrollment period and the federal and state health insurance marketplaces are open for business. Open enrollment is your annual opportunity to review and make changes to your health insurance plan so you end up with the best plan for your needs. Continue reading...

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Medical identity theft: The identity theft no one is talking about

When the oral surgeon recommended that our daughter have her wisdom teeth removed, we thought we knew what to expect both medically and financially. Morgan's two sisters underwent this procedure in the past, and we adopted a brave “Let's get this over with!” attitude as we scheduled her operation.

We expected the least painful part of the procedure to be the surgery bill because the girls are covered under both their parent's dental insurance. It was an unpleasant surprise to learn from the oral surgeon's billing manager, “After checking with your insurance, we estimate that your daughter's surgery will cost you about $1,200 out-of-pocket since she has exhausted nearly all of her benefits this year.”

Something was wrong!

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When to use intermittent FMLA

Disclosure: I am not an attorney or HR specialist. This is just my experience with, and understanding of, FMLA.

According to the United States Department of Labor (DOL) website, "The Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") provides certain employees with up to 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave a year, and requires group health benefits to be maintained during the leave as if employees continued to work instead of taking leave." The whole point of FMLA is to promote work-life balance by taking a reasonable amount of leave to deal with personal or family issues.

Because many situations requiring use of FMLA are health-related, the law also requires that your health insurance be maintained as if you continued to work. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) allows employees to stay on a former employer's health plan for a limited time after job separation, provided they pay the full premium (employer share and employee share). Unlike COBRA, if you are on FMLA, then your employer still pays their share of the premium for your health plan, even if you are not being paid a salary during your leave.

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How to save money on dental bills

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, around 108 million Americans go without dental insurance during any given year. And since paying the full weight of dental care is often out of the question for those living on low incomes, many people simply choose to go without or get by with as few cleanings and check-ups as they possibly can.

However, if you do have out-of-pocket funds with which to pay, you already know how quickly cleanings, fillings, and basic dental care can take a bite out of your budget. After all, a typical dental filling can cost anywhere from $100 to $200, a cleaning can cost upwards of $200, braces can cost $5,000 to $6,000, and so on.

Obviously, one of the easiest ways to save on dental care is to have a dental insurance policy for your family. The bad news is, many employers don't offer dental coverage to their employees, even at a cost, and the dental plans commonly sold on the open insurance market can be of questionable value.

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Get a good workout without a gym membership

Recently, my sister and I were discussing our love/hate relationships with exercise when she told me something that struck me as funny. Apparently, she has trouble convincing herself to jog as long as she should, so she devised a plan.

"When I know I'm not very motivated, I'll have my husband get in the car and drop me off a few miles from home," she said with a snicker.

Once dropped off, she had no choice but to push through whatever issues she was trying to overcome that day, she explained.

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Cold and flu season: Stock your medicine cabinet for less

Though our family has already had one sneak peek, cold and flu season is about ready to really get started.

Because I would like avoid as many sick visits to the doctor as I possibly can, I decided to check out our medicine cabinet and make sure it is ready for this winter -- and beyond.

What you should include in your medicine cabinet

Obviously, what you should include in your medicine cabinet depends on your needs, but here is a list to get you started. Oh, and I am not a doctor. Obviously. Read the labels. Use common sense.

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My experience with alternative health insurance to Obamacare

A few months ago, I shared about how to survive without health insurance. To recap, I belong to a healthcare sharing ministry (HSM) called Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHM), just one of several ministries that are ACA-approved alternatives to health insurance. But I also want to share about my experiences with alternative health insurance to Obamacare.

What we belong to is not healthcare insurance; therefore, we don't pay a premium (although we pay a "gift" each month or what amounts to a deductible, except it's called a "personal responsibilty"). We chose this option because neither my husband nor I have access to an employer-sponsored plan. The most important consideration for us was cost, followed by coverage options. We opted for the most expensive level, which means that we have a $500 personal responsibility for each medical event that each of our family members experience on an annual basis.

Family of Five Pays $450 per Month for Health Insurance

At the time of the previous article, I was the only member of my family to belong, and I paid $150 per month. Now our entire family of five belongs for $450 per month. Even if our family size were to double, that is the maximum monthly contribution we'd have to make.

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