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

Ask the Readers: What benefits have you seen from the Affordable Care Act?

The healthcare landscape has certainly changed in the two years since J.D. asked “What Do You Want to Know About the Economics of Health Care?” back in August 2012. Now that the Affordable Care Act is being implemented, we'd like to hear what your experience has been so far and what benefits you've seen.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently updated “How the Health Care Law Benefits You,” a web page detailing the benefits of the law, offering four main goals as the benchmark: better value, a stronger Medicare program, better health, and better options. According to the site, “Millions of Americans across the country are benefiting from the stronger coverage and consumer protections made possible by the Affordable Care Act.” Here's how the benefits break down:

Better Value

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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.

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More about...Insurance, Health & Fitness

Ask the readers: High-deductible health insurance: yea or nay?

Last week reader David posted a question on Get Rich Slowly's Facebook page, asking what our thoughts are on high-deductible health insurance plans. We turned to Barbara Marquand, staff writer at, to answer his question. Here's her answer:

High-deductible health plans (HDHPs) have become more prevalent in the last few years, but whether one is right for you depends on your health care needs and financial situation.

The reason we're seeing so many of these plans boils down to one thing: cost. Generally the higher the deductible, the lower the health insurance premium. As health care costs climb, employers seek ways to save money on benefits, so a growing number are turning to high-deductible plans.

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Ask the readers: Would you let your insurance company monitor your driving for a discount?

Privacy is a big issue for people these days, what with every website able to see where you go, what you're searching for and serve up ads. With the NSA looking at emails and phone calls from regular folks, the issue is bigger than ever. But would you elect to be monitored if it would save you money?

You've probably seen the commercials for Progressive insurance's Snapshot pay-as-you-drive device. State Farm has a similar program called In-Drive. If you opt for these programs to save money on your car insurance, you have to remember that it also means your car insurance company is tracking you.

Among the driving habits that Progressive's Snapshot monitors are how hard you apply the brakes, how many miles you drive each day and what time of day you drive (if you drive a lot from midnight to 4 a.m., that will be recorded).

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More about...Insurance, Transportation

That time I got hit by a drunk driver

I've never liked Sundays. Especially Sunday evenings. They feel like denial to me. It's like I'm clinging on to the last bit of weekend, and sometimes I actually convince myself that Monday isn't just a few hours away. But then the shops close early, I realize I can't stay up late, and there's no escaping the inevitable: the weekend is over.

Sundays are the worst.

But one particular Sunday evening, two weeks ago, really sucked. Brian and I were hit by a drunk driver -- something I was surprised to learn has happened to a handful of people I know. Perks of living in a big city, I guess. Thankfully, aside from some dull body aches, we were able to walk away from the accident with only the headache of the clean-up process.

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More about...Insurance, Transportation

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.

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More about...Insurance, Home & Garden

Ask the Readers: 4 options for the next step

Ken is sending his financial situation into the GRS ether to see what you have to say. Here's a snapshot of his finances:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article "What Next" and the "Ask the Readers: What is the Next Step?" because that is my situation. I have been struggling for the past year to figure out where to focus my attention.

  • I am married with no children. My wife and I are 43 and 40 (respectively).
  • We own a home (a duplex, with my mother-in-law in one side and us on the other). We have $188,000 with 25 years on a 30-year mortgage. My current estimate is the house is worth about $205,000.
  • We own a second duplex. This was our first home bought about eight years ago. We tried to rent it out at first, but we had too many renter issues and gave up being landlords (currently have a relative living on one side who pays $300 rent and takes care of the property and utilities). We owe $142,000 on this property, and current market value is around $100,000. (There have been several units similar to ours sold at $95,000 to $100,000 in the past few years, dramatically bringing the market down. We have been making double payments trying to get the principal down to sell it.)
  • We currently have about $50,000 in the bank, which is about six month' worth of expenses.
  • We have three cars (one of which my mother-in-law drives) -- all three are paid off.
  • I have a student loan with a balance of $7,000 at a 2.5 percent rate.
  • I max out my 401(k), but my wife's employer does not offer a 401(k) (and we make too much to do tax-free IRA contribution for her or to do a Roth IRA).
  • I have recently converted a term life insurance policy to a universal life policy with a paid-in-advance (PIA) rider (so I am paying $500/month premium) and was looking to do the same with my wife.

I have thought about doing a few things financially, but have been a little stuck with what to do.

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More about...Insurance, Planning

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?

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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:

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