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Open Enrollment

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First, thanks so much for the many thoughtful (and kind!) comments on my budget post. When I saw the comment count shoot up it made me nervous to read through them, but almost everyone was really very kind and forgiving (and generous in offering support, tips, advice, etc.) THANK YOU!

Speaking to one of the common comment themes I saw – many people asked about my take-home pay. For a $95k salary, my take-home ($2440/biweekly) is pretty low. The reason for this is that I have a LOT of things withheld and/or paid from my check pre-tax. This list includes the following (all numbers from my most recent paycheck):

  • Medical insurance ($125.50/check)
  • Dental insurance ($52.28/check)
  • FSA – Health ($68.37/check)
  • FSA – Dependent Care ($136.75/check)
  • Retirement account (required and already investing at the lowest amount so no chance to reduce – $256.91/check)
  • Parking permit ($38.45/check)

Plus, of course, all my taxes as well ($552.13 from my last check).

If I added this all up correctly, that comes to a whopping $1230.39 taken from my check before it hits my direct deposit! WHOA! That’s a third of my check!

So the question came up – can I change some of these things so I can get back more money per paycheck. And the answer is – YES! Right now is my open enrollment period and I’d LOVE to have some help with figuring things out! Let me address things one at a time.

Taxes

I can likely lower my tax withholdings per check, but have opted not to make any changes right now. Taxes are not part of my open enrollment, so I can change those at any time. Based on what feels best to me (and many comments/advice I’ve received), I’m going to do our 2017 taxes ASAP once the new year hits. That will give us a better feel for how much we really owe and we can make adjustments accordingly. Given our huge tax debt (that we’ll be paying on for what feels like a lifetime), we’ve opted NOT to reduce our withholdings for the time being. We’re likely over-paying a little this year, but we feel okay with that – any extra money can go to help reduce the tax bill and we can re-adjust after the CPA has gone over everything.

Retirement, Dental, Parking

These are all pretty well “set” and cannot be changed. We have limited options for dental – I can decline the insurance, but we use it and need it. So it stays. In terms of parking, I live too far to walk/bike and don’t have anyone living nearby to ride-share with. So unless I switch up my Mom car for a motorcycle (never happening), this bill is pretty much “set” too. Retirement is required by my employer. I used to invest a full 10%, but have reduced down to the minimum (7%) already. No way to make this any lower.

Medical 

So here is where I could REALLY use some advice. Currently, we have a PPO plan and this entire year I’ve been thinking that, come open enrollment, we’d switch to a HSA. But when I started really doing some research to compare the two options, I think we’d end up spending MORE with the HSA. Yes, we’d save on monthly premiums, but the out-of-pocket costs and deductibles are much higher.  Here are some side-by-side comparisons I put together. What do you think?

Health Savings Account PPO 
Per-paycheck Premium $61 $150 (note: this is more than listed above because premiums are going up)
Overall Deductible In-network:

$1300/employee; $2600/family

In-network:

$500/employee; $1,000/family

Other Deductibles Non-preventive prescription coverage:

$1300/employee; $2600/family

None
Out-of-pocket limit In-network:

$2,000/employee; $4,000/family

In-network:

$1,000/employee; $2,000/family

Not included in out-of-pocket limit Premiums and health care not covered by the plan Premiums, drug co-pays, and health care not covered by the plan
Annual limit on what the plan pays None None
Costs for common services with in-network providers.

Primary care to treat illness or injury

Specialist visit

Other practitioner office visit

Preventive care /screening

Diagnostic (x-ray, blood work)

Imaging (CT/PET/MRI)

Mental health

Generic drugs

 

 

10% co-insurance

10% co-insurance

10% co-insurance

No charge

10% co-insurance

10% co-insurance

10% co-insurance

non-preventive: 100% until deductible is met. Preventive: $10 copay

 

 

$15 copay

$30 copay

$10 copay for OB/GYN

$15 copay primary care; $10 OB/GYN

No charge

No charge

$15 copay

$10 copay

 

I receive biweekly pay (26 checks/year). So the HSA annual premium is $1586. The PPO annual premium is $3900 (a difference of $2314). But if we’re having to pay $2600 for our family health deductible + $2600 for the prescription deductible (compared to a $1,000 deductible for the PPO plan), I think it’s just too much money out-of-pocket! (though, caveat, I’m no expert with healthcare – does the out-of-pocket max only apply to healthcare, or would that also include prescription coverage??)

My thought is that we’d be better to stay in the PPO. It also scares me to think of paying 10% of any imaging, diagnostic, etc. We’ve been lucky thus far (knock on wood), but we have young kids – broken bones are a given at some point, right?

Those more experienced than I am – thoughts?

Flex Spending Accounts

The dependent care account contributions will decrease in 2018 and even moreso in 2019. Right now, we still have hefty monthly bills. Our girls are in kindergarten and, though half-day kinder is state-subsidized, the state does not cover the costs of full-day kinder. We pay that. The total was actually right about $1,000/month, but we paid out of our FSA a huge chunk for one of our kids’ entire semester of tuition (for which we received a discount). We’ve been paying the remaining costs out-of-pocket (the dependent care FSA was depleted months ago).  For next year, we’ll only have one semester worth of full-day kinder costs (the second half of the year they’ll advance to first grade – totally free!), plus the costs of care for summer and after-care, as needed. (Note: several people have suggested that hubs take over childcare so I just wanted to address that here:  hubs does handle the bulk of childcare. Where we live, half-day kinder is 8:30-11:30am. Hubs is in classes full-time that extends well beyond that timeframe. The full day kinder program is 8:30-3:00pm. Currently, hubs gets the girls at 3:00pm every day except Wednesday – his long day – so we pay very little in “after care” at the present time. Just one day per week. This arrangement is unlikely to change for the rest of the academic year).

Bottom line, we should be able to lower the amount of FSA money withheld for dependent care for next year, thus increasing the size of my take-home pay.

The health care FSA is entirely dependent upon whichever medical plan we choose. If we get the HSA, we’ll use the health savings account. If we keep the PPO, we’ll keep a flex spending account for medical expenses. This year, we put $1750 in our health FSA and it was not nearly enough. If we keep the PPO, we’ll increase our health FSA contributions probably to about $2250-ish (though I’d need to crunch numbers first).

So the big question is…..HSA or PPO (with a FSA)? Pros and cons? What are your thoughts and why?


Free Family Fun!

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I love this time of year because it always seems to be jam-packed with free things that we can do together as a family! Our area hosts monthly movies in the park, live music in the park, fall festivals, and more!

This weekend we took the girls to do something I’ve been wanting to do with them since they were babies….I took them to compete in their first race!

I love running. It’s my therapy of choice (False. I actually go to “real” therapy, too. But you know what I mean). I do compete in some races – typically one or two per year – but otherwise most of my running activities are nearly free because I already own plenty of running attire and it’s totally free just to run around outside in the neighborhood and/or on neighborhood trails! I figure it’s much cheaper than a monthly gym membership and I enjoy being outside much more than pounding out miles on the dreadmill (oops, I meant treadmill).

This weekend was the TMC Get Moving race series. I have serious history with this particular race. It was my first EVER 5K run nearly a decade ago. It was also my first post-baby half-marathon (my second half-marathon overall). It’s a very family-friendly race and this year we decided to “compete” in the FitKidz Family 1-mile run. Best of all, it was 100% FREE!

We registered the kids so they had official race bibs and received kid t-shirts. Parents were permitted to join kids on the course (also free), but no shirts or bibs for us. 🙂

The race was so well done, I was quite impressed! Hubs and I did the divide and conquer approach: he stayed with one kid and I stayed with the other. I didn’t think they’d finish the whole mile but, to my surprise, they both ran the entire way! I was so impressed and proud of their hard work (though to be fair – there’s no way the course was an entire mile. I didn’t map it on my Fitbit, but I’d guess it was closer to .6 or .7 of a mile. Either way, it was perfect for kids!)

At the finish line, all kids received a finishers ribbon and were treated to snacks (bags of chips or pretzels, water bottles, and eegees < a Tucson thing kind of like a slush/snow cone hybrid). They also had a big bounce house set up and a clown doing face paint and balloon animals. And again – all 100% free! I was seriously shocked at the number of amenities for this event! (Note: the race series also included a 5k and half-marathon as well < not free).

Hubs and I split up during the mile race because one child was naturally running a little faster than the other. I stuck with the leader and hubs stayed behind. The smile on my kids’ face as everyone cheered her on toward the finish line was absolutely priceless! I was running with her (and going much faster than I’d thought she was capable!!! I was impressed!), so I wasn’t able to get a picture of her, but after finishing we stood together at the finish line to cheer on Dad and sis. The smile on her face says it all. Proud mom moment here, folks!

Running is such a passion of mine, so it’s extra exciting to be able to share it with my kiddos! We will definitely be looking into this race again in the future! Most of the fun runs I’ve seen are not free, so the fact that this is offered (and so well organized! plus so many amenities!) totally free is a real perk!

Plus, look at these smiles! You can tell how proud they are of themselves! I love the confidence-building aspect of the race!

And a good weekend was had by all! 😉

What kinds of free Fall events are offered in your area? Do you have any annual favorites you look forward to?


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