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Disability Insurance

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A reader asked how much time I have off in paid disability leave from the state of California. Well…

The short answer?

None.

The state of California does provide disability insurance – to those who pay into it. My employer chooses not to contribute.

Fortunately, I discovered this fact shortly after becoming pregnant and was able to stash as much cash as possible. I feel badly for other employees who are not aware of this until it is too late.

The lesson? Ignore what your friends and relatives say about your coverage. ASK YOUR EMPLOYER! Don’t assume you are covered and don’t assume you won’t need it if you are male. Accidents can happen at any time.

I do have a short term disability policy that covers a small percentage of my salary for 6 weeks but that’s it. But it’s better than nothing!

Go TODAY and get a short/long term disability policy. You never know when you’ll need it.


Let’s talk about life insurance…

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I’ve never looked in to life insurance before but I’m at the point in my life that an unexpected death could ruin the finances of those I love. After a few months of nagging from my husband, I finally made the call to our agent.

If you haven’t searched for life insurance before, here’s a quickie…

My insurance agent now knows more about me than my husband. Yup, it can be that personal.

They asked questions about medications, smoking habits, age, height, and weight. When I answered the weight question, my agent replied, ‘According to our system, you are 13 pounds underweight.’

‘I’ll buy it!’ I shouted.

Hmm. Perhaps computer generated flattery isn’t the best reason to purchase insurance…but I won’t judge you if you consider it part of the equation.

Once we sign the paperwork later this week, our agent will send a nurse to our home to ensure the accuracy of the information submitted and to run tests on cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure. While my blood pressure has always run very low, I’ve never had my cholesterol or blood sugar measured. I guess this means I will be eating spinach and blueberries while running for the next 5 days.

Things you should consider before getting life insurance:

1. Have a goal – it will help you figure out how much you need. Know what you want to fund with your insurance proceeds. Do you want to pay off your mortgage? Fund your kid’s college? Provide income replacement for your spouse?
2. Buy it sooner rather than later. Life insurance makes significant jumps in five year blocks. If you are about to hit 30, 35, 40, 45, etc, get it before you do.

3. Research the type of insurance you need. My husband and I settled on Term life insurance with a fixed premium for 30 years. It’s cheap, especially for those in good health, and will provide the peace of mind we need while we are trying to reduce debt.

4. Quit smoking. You should quit smoking for lots of reasons, but smokers pay exceptionally high premiums.


Ways to get by while on unemployment…

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My budget was already threadbare but living with 50% less salary and on unemployment benefits has forced us to find ways to somehow reduce more.

First, we cut our dental and vision insurance. This is something that can easily be re-instated but the $25 a month can help me now.

Second, I cancelled all my appointments health related or otherwise. None of my appointments were an emergency and I requested that my doctor renew my prescriptions without the annual check-up since the last 6 years have been clear of any problems. These appointments and tests run in the neighborhood of $500.

Third, I called my cable company to cancel our cable, reduce our internet speed, and reduce our phone service. I explained our situation and was surprised when they offered reduced internet costs, reduced phone costs, and added free services and free channels for a 12 month period. I would tell you how much I’m paying – but I’m afraid they’ll figure out they made a huge mistake and ‘correct’ the discount… or fire the guy who gave it to me. I would have cut out the internet and phone entirely but my husband needs internet for school purposes and job searching late at night when he gets home (free internet at the library is closed) and I’m uncomfortable without a home phone for emergencies.

Fourth, I contacted my student loan company for a deferment.

Fifth, my husband and I contacted friends and family and let them know we’d be available for odd jobs. Since unemployment doesn’t start for nearly a month after a job loss, my husband has done everything from pulling weeds to insulating walls. I have been helping a company with paperwork at night after work. We use this money for groceries and for the important bills like electric and water. At no time should you feel you are ‘too good’ for any type of job.

Sixth, we cut off all our subscriptions and memberships. If you’re like us, you may not even remember you have some of them since they are automatically billed to your credit card and you may not look at each item on your online statement. Some examples: gym memberships, club memberships, magazine and newspaper subscriptions (some automatically renew unless you cancel). Savings – $50 a month.

Seventh, we’ve been using more public transportation. It takes twice as long to get somewhere, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s far from fun, but it saves $50-$75 a month.

It’s not a lot, but each item buys us a little more time.


Dental Debt and What I Want

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Some people have good teeth.

Some people have bad teeth.

And even still, some people have teeth that make Steve Buscemi look like a Colegate smile model.

I’m in the last category.

Oh, you can’t tell to look at me. I have a beautiful smile – but I’ve spent more on my teeth than most people spend on their first home.

Either:

A) My dentist was an elephant poacher in her previous life and she can’t rid herself of the desire to create enough pure ivory piano keys out of my teeth to furnish a grand piano… or two.

Or

B) My tooth enamel is as effective at preventing cavities as a double fudge cake is to weight loss.

I brush, I floss, and I rinse twice daily. I avoid soda and sugar. BUT… according to my dentist, some people are destined to have bad teeth.

And I am destined to pay her dental school loans.

Obviously my dental woes affect my ability to pay off debt. I recently finished paying off a $1,500 dental loan, but there is always more work to be done.

I also recently interviewed for a job with one of the most inclusive dental plans I’ve ever seen.

They reviewed the information with me at the end of the interview and I’m hoping they didn’t notice I had stars, exclamation points, and highlighted sections around the ‘Dental Benefits’ section.

Ahh. To be free of dental debt – past and future – would help a lot.


So How Much Did My Physical Therapy Cost?

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I still haven’t received my bill from my physical therapist yet for my knee problem. But, I did get my explanation of benefits from my insurance provider so I know how much my bill is going to be. I cannot believe how much it cost!

$222/visit

The first visit I had, I can understand that cost and I’m okay with that cost. My condition was evaluated and that was some real one-on-one time. The second visit, well, it was cut short for one so it was less than an hour (50 minutes). Then I spent 10 minutes on an exercise bike while the trainer sat and pedaled next to me. Then I was given an ultrasound treatment (which did feel nice for a few hours after the visit) and the trainer taped me knee (only to have it unravel by the time I went to bed). The last five minutes were spent reviewing my homework exercises. To me, it wasn’t worth the continued visits since the trainer said they would be the exact same thing.

After my insurance, each visit cost almost $65. Let’s say that I stuck with the program for the rest of the five weeks at two visits/week. That would have been $650. I knew I had to fess up to my doctor since I saw her again a little bit ago. Her response? She asked if I received some exercises to do. I told her that I did and I have been doing them and I am also trying to be more active overall. I also said I was concerned about the cost. She understood and gave one of those smiles like, “Yeah, I know they are pretty ex-pen-sive!” but she couldn’t say that LOL. But she approved.

A few changes have made a huge difference. My weekends are basically pain free now. During the week is a different story, though, since I still sit for long periods and it hurts my knees. Inactivity has taken a toll on my body and it is going to take some time to reverse it but it can be done. I am making progress, though 🙂


Health Insurance Issue Partially Resolved

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I noticed online today that my health insurance provider received the manual check that I wrote to them. I sent it Wednesday – they cashed it Friday. Whew. We are now officially covered and I can begin the claims process to get paid for things we paid out-of-pocket. I’m not looking forward to it, but at least it will be a learning experience.

I also found out that the original online bill payment that my bank sent did make it to Blue Cross and it was cashed on the 12th. I really goofed with how I handled everything, because now that check will bounce on them since we put a stop on it. That could result in a fee. I tried asking the customer service rep about it and he didn’t know. I guess we’ll see.

What I should have done was let that first check go for a while longer and then cut a check from my checkbook. I got really flustered, though, during this whole thing and didn’t think too clearly. I also seem to forget that I have a savings account I can pull from. You live…you learn.

With all of the information that I have, I believe my bank did its job and sent out the payment as they should have. I believe that the delay with everything lies with Blue Cross and I will confirm that when I call next week to find out when they cashed the second bill pay check from my bank. I believe that they are a company that is not equipped to handle online bill payments. Even though all of the necessary account information is included on the check, they delay the payment processing unless you have the voucher from your bill with the payment.

Now that this is somewhat resolved, I can dig into our finances and see if we can squeeze out some money to our savings account. I still would like to get that balance increased to $4,000.


June is Keeping Me On My Toes

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After everything that has been going on with our health insurance lately, guess what I got in the mail today? It was my next health insurance bill. That’s not very unusual for this time of the month. The $1,200 showing as due by the first of July was the unusual part. I think my heart skipped a beat.

My eyes scanned that bill as quickly as it could to figure out what the hey was going on. I am supposed to be billed $400/month (roughly). Ah, I found it. I was being charged for three months. Three months! Due by July! Are they wanting me to need the health insurance?

The initial shock wore off quickly and I went straight to the phone. It turns out that their system had a glitch and “randomly sent out three month invoices to some customers.” The customer service rep went on to assure me that the only amount that will be due is a one month payment.

That seals the deal. I will never, ever, give my health insurance company my banking information to automatically withdraw payments. I am also not paying them through my bank’s online bill pay since it didn’t work too well. I am going back to doing things the old fashioned way with writing my own check, paying for a stamp and sending it off in the mail.

As for continuing to use online bill pay for everything else? I’m still on the fence with that. We only send out a few checks a month and I’m thinking of going back to the old fashioned way for all of them. I liked the convenience of online bill pay, but I really miss knowing that my checks cleared the bank. The other option is to get a new bank with a better online bill pay system. I still have to think about it some more.

What an interesting June so far. I guess it’s keeping me on my toes! 🙂