Bad advice about having a baby I’m glad I followed

Last week I was out walking with a friend when she admitted she was scared she would never have kids.

"We'll never be able to afford them," she said as we made our way around the block and up the next street. She and her husband are about our age (and not getting any younger), and I could tell she was worried.

"Oh, I'm sure you'll figure it out," I said as I tried desperately to change the subject. That was terrible advice and I knew it, but it was the same advice someone had given me several years before. (And probably for the same reasons.)

Continue reading...
More about...Planning, Economics, Insurance

Looking out for your finances as a renter

Landlords and property owners have their fair share of problems: They have to manage, accommodate, repair, etc., their property. It's a lot of responsibility, and with great responsibility comes great headache.

But it ain't all roses for renters, either. We've got rent increases, security deposits, and unannounced, inescapable construction. Last Saturday, I woke up to the sound of drilling on the wall next to which I sleep. It was 7:30 in the ever-loving morning!

As a renter, there are a handful of important laws and considerations that many of us overlook. At least, I know I've overlooked them. So I figured they were worth sharing. Here are some money-related things to keep in mind if you are a renter.

Continue reading...
More about...Home & Garden, Insurance, Planning

One expense you have control of in ways you never thought

What do you spend most of your money on? For most people, their two biggest expenses are their home and car(s). If you remember the post comparing expenses in 1913 to 2012, you might recall the three things that Mr. Average spent most of his "raise" on were:

  • Housing (36 percent of the raise)
  • Income taxes (28 percent), and
  • Transportation (24 percent)

A majority of the increase in transportation has, arguably, to do with that wonderful instrument of freedom -- the automobile.

The choices we make

Our spectrum of choice in cars is, of course, wider than a mile. Egotistas spend big on the latest model of the coolest car. Hollywood celebrities once flaunted their beblinged Cadillac Escalades at the annual Oscar ceremony. That was before the 2002 recession. When that hit, it suddenly wasn't cool any more to be seen piloting a behemoth slurping down rivers of Mother Earth's precious resources. That's when the curtain went up on the eco-friendly Toyota Prius, which Cameron Diaz and other stars rode to the 2003 big event in their sipply little Priuses. Overnight, saving the planet with the Prius became California Cool.<

Continue reading...
More about...Credit, Insurance, Transportation

One year later: The benefits and tragedies of self-employment

Almost exactly a year ago today, I quit my full-time job to pursue my passion -- writing. It was one of the proudest moments of my life, but it was also terrifying. I had spent the last six years working alongside my husband, a mortician, in the funeral industry. My job certainly wasn't perfect; but it was stable, well-paying, and sometimes fun. I also loved the people that I worked with and was extremely attached to a few. On the other hand, I knew it was time. I had been working full time and writing on the side for so long that I no longer knew what a "real life" was like. In fact, my "real life" was a mess.

Everyone talks about how lucrative and exciting having a "side hustle" can be, but no one talks about the toll it can take on your life. Since I worked 9 to 5 and had two small children, the only time I could write was at 5 a.m. before work or at 8 p.m. after the kids went to bed. This meant that I was working 16 hours a day at times -- actually all the time. And the weekends? I worked those too.

But, like I said, one year ago today was the day I finally snapped. It was a Saturday afternoon and I had worked over 70 hours that week, yet I was stuck working late at my job … again. I called my bosses and asked if I could talk to them. And when I showed up at their home, I nervously put in my three weeks' notice and hoped they would forgive me. Then I called my husband. Continue reading...

More about...Side Hustles, Insurance, Taxes

One way to survive without health insurance

When I was considering leaving my full-time job, I had some concerns. My main concern? Health insurance. And it wasn't just me. Since my husband didn't have health insurance coverage through his job, he had been covered under my policy for years. Plus, we were going to be adding kids to our family, so we needed to think about them too.

First, we took care of my husband's needs. About a year ago, he started looking for a private health insurance plan -- and since he is a healthy guy, he found an inexpensive one rather easily. And once we adopted the kids, they could also go on his plan with no problems.

So that left me. If I quit my job, I had a few options: 1. Find my own private health insurance plan 2. Go without insurance 3. COBRA 4. Find a non-insurance alternative.

Continue reading...
More about...Insurance, Health & Fitness

6 ways to lower your home insurance

As a new homeowner, I recently had to buy a homeowners insurance policy. And as a personal finance writer, I tried to take my own advice and "shop around."

To be honest, it was a pain, and the rates I was getting on my own were way too high. Maybe it wouldn't have been so bad if I wasn't also trying to close on a house. In the end, I found an independent insurance agent, and she saved me hundreds of dollars and lots of headaches.

But I also learned that there were things I could do to help her keep my premium low year after year. For instance, I had planned to install an ADT security system, which I later learned would lower our premium.

Continue reading...
More about...Insurance, Home & Garden

Insurance: An easier way to comparison shop

I had procrastinated until I could procrastinate no longer.

I was in the middle of buying a house, and one of the many, many things on my ever-growing to-do list was to find a home insurance policy. My
It's not easy to shop around
Every money expert says to shop around for your insurance policies every year. Just call three or four insurance companies, get quotes, and pat yourself on the back for saving hundreds on your insurance policy. Ta-da!

But how many of us actually do it?

Continue reading...
More about...Insurance

HSA pros and cons

HSA pros and cons

Lately, my dad's been praising the benefits of having a health savings account. This year, he had the opportunity to get the most of his HSA -- bad news for his health, but good news for his wallet (side note: Dad is now doing OK health-wise). If you have one or are considering one, here are all the HSA pros and cons to consider.

But first, if you are looking for the 2016 and 2017 annual contribution limits for HSAs, here you go:

Continue reading...
More about...Planning, Health & Fitness, Insurance

Preparing for the inevitable

There are few occasions in life that anyone dreads more than the death of one of our parents. After all, our parents gave us life. They most often raised us. As most of us grew and had our own children, our parents became grandparents. We have watched them age and grow...and no matter what we say, or do, or day they will die. It's inevitable and there is nothing that anyone can do to change this unfortunate fact of life.

Still, there are steps that we can take now in order to make this unavoidable event easier. Planning ahead can lighten the burden when the time comes. Being prepared and knowing what the next steps will be can give a person peace of mind and security. Having a plan can reduce the incredible stress you may be under when the time comes.

Working in a mortuary has helped me to see planning ahead can truly make this unfortunate experience easier to digest. While it may be a difficult conversation to have, it is important to talk to your parents about their wishes. Having this conversation can prevent surprises from arising when the time comes. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen a family scramble to put together the pieces of their parent's finances, all while trying to grieve their loved one. The truth is that failing to be prepared for a parent's death can create a lot of unneeded stress and grief when you are the least equipped to deal with it. Make things easier by finding out some details ahead of time. Although you don't need to know everything, here are some things that every child should know as their parents age.

Continue reading...
More about...Insurance, Planning

HDHP with HSA: Friend or foe?

This is a guest post from Joanna Lahey, an associate economics professor at the George H. W. Bush School of Government and Public Service and a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. The opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of the aforementioned institutions. This is the final article in her series on health insurance. Here are the first, second and third articles.

Remember way back when in my first post when we talked about what the "ideal" health insurance would look like given human beings' unfortunate tendency to moral hazard? Basically, the idea was that health insurance would not be complete: There would be strong cost-sharing early on, but it would protect people from a catastrophic loss of money. (Note: This is "ideal" only from a certain theoretical efficiency standpoint -- there are many ways in which it is far from ideal.)


High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) follow that basic model. The idea is that the client is responsible for all health care costs up to a certain high deductible, at which point the insurance kicks in, either with a coinsurance amount or paying 100 percent, depending on the plan. Frequently preventive care is provided for free prior to meeting the deductible (and under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, we will be seeing more free preventive care). The size of the deductible is what makes it a "High Deductible" plan. In 2013, the minimum deductible for a HDHP is $1,250 for a single participant plan and $2,500 for a family plan. There's also an out-of-pocket maximum requirement for in-network providers, $6,250 for a single participant and $12,500 for a family. So a single plan at the legal limits would force you to pay $1,250 of your medical expenses upfront, and then a percentage of any remaining expenses until you hit the $6,250 out-of-pocket limit, at which point they pay the rest. Each year these numbers reset and you have a new deductible to meet and a new out-of-pocket limit.

Continue reading...
More about...Economics, Insurance