April is officially Financial Literacy Month--and before it comes to a close, we’re coming at you with 3 mental steps you can finish before May comes around.
Our first three steps are all in the mental arena--cut through the paralysis-by-analysis, improve your financial vocabulary, and pinpoint what your finances can do for you.
In our next Financial Literacy blog, we’ll cover three steps that are immediately doable--and will give you the confidence boost that you’re not just thinking about your finances, you’re creating them.
Your Three Mindset Steps:
1. Figure Out What “Rich” Will Buy You--Shoes & Vacations, Coffee & High-Rises?
Here’s a simple definition for rich: it’s the ability to afford what you actually want.
What do you actually want? Use our little sheet below to help you narrow down where you’d actually like to invest more of your money:
What's your top 3?
You may have discovered that you’re actually spending a lot of money on a cable package you don’t really use, or a large apartment that you don’t really spend any time in. Lots of things sound nice--but what’s nice to you is different, and can help you allocate moolah.
Bottom Line: Spending money on what actually makes you happy will not only help you feel rich, you’ll also be the definition of rich. (Bonus: You’ll spend less on stuff you could do without).
2. Use The 80-Something Rule--Not Just For Seniors
We call this the 80-Something Rule not because it only applies to octogenarians, but because it combines two of our favorite 80-something guidelines:
In the Age of Information, it’s easy (and all too common) to fall into paralysis-by-analysis. Financial Literacy: does that imply making an investment portfolio, or debt reduction, or picking a financial podcast? Which ones are worth our time? What if I don’t know anything about any of this?!
So we don’t pick anything.
But we forget: getting started is 85% of the way there. It’s not perfection. It’s not mastery. But it’s good enough, and it’s way better than 0%. You opened up a savings account? You checked your credit report? You saved $50? These three easy tasks have taken you light years away from 0%. And this blog will help you go further.
When it comes to going further, get cozy with the 80/20 principle. Did you know that research has found this phenomenon everywhere from allocation of resources to what personal activities actually make an impact on our lives?
In a nutshell, the 80/20 Principle states that 20% of your activities will result in 80% of your results.
So don’t expect that you have to be a full-time day trader or an experienced banker to make enough money for your ideal lifestyle. All these little things you are (or are about to start) doing will make up the largest percentage of your eventual results.
3. Create Positive Chatter--Or, A Mental Radio Station That Works For You
We don’t know what kind of background noise you deal with on a day-to-day basis, but we do know that we human beings have a tendency to anticipate negative outcomes and to worry over things we may or may not be able to control.
If you’re not ready to jump on a mindfulness or positive affirmation bandwagon, there is a simpler way to get yourself out of these poor mindsets:
And into these:
Simply put, start listening to audiobooks and podcasts. Try the self-help section. Listen to inspiring novels. Download biographies of people who lived the kind of life you want to live. We need these road maps to inform us that we’re not alone in our struggles and that, step by step, we can go further in life.
Looking for a free way to get started? Libby is a great (non-affiliated) app that allows you to borrow books and audiobooks through your local library system. All you need is the account number on your library card!
Here are our beginning book recommendations (again, no worries, all non-affiliate):
I Will Teach You To Be Rich - Ramit Sethi
Deep Work - Cal Newport
Matter: Move Beyond Competition, Create More Value - Peter Sheahan
Insurance Made Easy - Tony Steuer
Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk - Peter L. Bernstein
Bonus: One Easy, Quick Practical Step
We’ll cover more about investments, credit, and the surprising applications of insurance in our next Financial Literacy blog, but one painless step you can take today is requesting a free insurance quote.
Feel like you’re under-insured? Didn’t think you had any options outside of Open Enrollment? Waiting on retirement or dreading your 26th birthday? Here at Health Benefits Now, we’re well-versed in all the different situations and solutions that comes with our clients’ insurance needs.
So get started with a free quote today--we can’t wait to help you along your way!
A Smoker, A Diabetic, And An Asthmatic Walk Into A Bar…
When it comes to health insurance, there are certain factors we can control--and certain ones we can’t.
What can we do about our genetics and our lifestyle choices that will insure we get the best health insurance for our buck?
How Pre-Existing Conditions Affect Health Insurance
A pre-existing condition is a medical condition that existed before a health plan was in place. These conditions can include diabetes, asthma, cancer, and the like. Whether or not these diseases are congenital does not affect how the pre-existing condition is treated in the underwriting world.
Underwriting is the process of analyzing and taking on risk. In insurance, your application and medical records are examined by an individual underwriter, who compares you to a large pool of applicants. This helps them to determine how much your risk is “balanced” by the circumstances of others in the pool. Age, health conditions, weight, and even gender affect the balance. For example, a female is generally reviewed as a preferred risk over a male-- because statistically females live longer.
Within health insurance, anything besides Obamacare will typically make you wait 1-2 years before receiving any type of coverage regarding that pre-existing condition--IF they accept the pre-existing condition in the first place.
Lifestyle Changes And When They’ll Take Affect
Unlike pre-existing conditions, the factors you can control--for example, any nicotine habits or how much you weigh--can work out in your favor.
But how much change is needed to affect your risk level, and when will any changes in lifestyle take effect?
Say you want to kick nicotine and you’re already covered. On average, you’re paying $50-$60 more per month for your coverage than would a non-smoker. You can submit a change in your status, but only after you’ve been off of nicotine products for one full year.
Or, say weight is a factor. For all its flaws, underwriters still use the BMI to determine whether someone is overweight. Taking a look at the BMI index will help you determine what category you fall into. Keep in mind that the BMI is largely unisex and does not take into account the difference between fat, muscle, and bone. While some underwriters take this in strides, it’s not guaranteed.
So, let’s say you’d like to lose some weight and bring down your premium. Your first 10 pounds account for the largest change in premium, and anything more than 10 pounds will only be credited by half--unless you’ve kept off that weight for more than a year.
Take a look at it this way:
Peter weighed 300 lbs when he first had his health insurance plan. In the past six months, he’s lost 80 lbs.
But what the insurer takes into account is this:
300 - 10 lbs - 35 lbs (or half of 70, the amount of weight lost after 10 lbs) = 255
So, even though Peter technically weighs 220 lbs, the insurer will treat him like he weighs 255 lbs.
Happily, Peter is able to keep off this weight for a full year, and is then credited as 220 lbs and his premium is adjusted accordingly. The insurer, again, makes this decision based on statistics. Many people who lose weight gain it back within a short period of time, so the insurer will mitigate risk by making sure any new habits have at least a one-year shelf life.
Need A Quote?
One of the things you can control today is whether or not you request a free health insurance quote.
We’ll find out where you’re at right now and where you can be, premium-wise. And yes, we have options for you outside of Open Enrollment.
What are you waiting for?
You missed open enrollment for 2018--can you still get health insurance for 2019?
For traditional health insurance, you’ll have to wait till November 1st of this year. But thankfully, there are still a host of options available to you!
Short-term medical is a traditional insurance route designed to fill in all sorts of gaps. Whether you missed open enrollment or are simply waiting for your job’s benefits to kick in, you don’t have go a single month without healthcare coverage.
Available for installments of 1-12 months, short-term medical plans offer the same benefits as long-term plans, such as:
These plans aren’t designed to cover, necessarily, for niggling costs like doctor’s visits, but are there for true emergencies: hospital visits, urgent care, and the like. You’ll know you’re covered for the greater of risks, and all without going through Open Enrollment’s loopholes.
Ministry Health Plans
Also known as healthcare sharing ministries, these plans have existed as an alternative to health insurance for several decades but are just now experiencing a surge in popularity.
Ministry health plans are NOT insurance. Therefore they are NOT subject to the open enrollment regulations. They still operate on the same principles of insurance (pooling together resources to mitigate risk) and offer competitive healthcare packages.
The key things to note are:
Anything that covers above and beyond minimum essential coverage counts as supplemental insurance, or ancillary products.
Ancillary products like vision and dental insurance are free from the open enrollment deadline. Other products could include critical illness, long term care, and disability insurance.
These narrowly focused products offer cheaper premiums and, in the case of critical illness insurance especially, can deliver the most bang for your buck should the worst come to pass.
Our main concern with insurance is always the emergencies that fall into the “expensive and unexpected” category, and if you’re waiting for your minimum essential coverage, they can cover for some for the more extreme cases.
Our last suggestion is different from both traditional health insurance and healthcare sharing ministries. Whether you’re covered or not, patient advocacy programs can provide you their services for a simple monthly fee.
What are these services? Healthcare advocates focus on reducing your out-of-pocket costs when it comes to medical bills. They want you to receive the most reasonable charges (if any). They work with insurance carriers, doctors, and administrators to fight on your behalf and get you a UCR (usual, customary, and reasonable) charge that is UCR.
A Game of Zeroes: Why You Shouldn’t Go Periods of Time Without Health Insurance
You’re in transition. Whether voluntary or not, whether you lost your job or chose a new one, whether you’re going freelance or waiting for Medicare, the bottom line is: you need health coverage.
Your first option might be to just ignore your other options. You’ll just wait it out. What’s a few months without health coverage, especially if you’re not prone to vertigo-inducing hobbies or any clutch of deadly diseases?
The answer is simple, and we’ll illustrate it with what we like to call the “game of zeroes.”
Say you have a $100 medical emergency. Not the end of the world. You might have preferred pocketing that Benjamin but a bill like that isn’t about to break the bank.
Let’s add a 0 to that sum. Now you’ve got a $1,000 emergency. A set-back? Yes. But again, not enough to bankrupt you. Even if you don’t have that kind of money ready in the bank, paying off $1,000 is not unheard of.
Time to add another zero. Now you’ve got a $10,000 medical bill--equivalent of a few days in the hospital. This hurts. This can turn into a long-term credit nightmare. Still smaller than the average college debt but at least it’s not bigger than your yearly income.
Well, another zero then. Let’s contemplate a cool $100,000. Not a reasonable sum by any stretch of the term, but you know the price of catastrophes can be high. It’s prices like these that health insurance was designed for. And exactly the kind of unexpected sums that can bankrupt the uninsured.
The odds of such catastrophic cases are always low, but it’s their possibility that created the necessity for insurance in the first place. Insurance is the analysis and mitigation of risk, and we all enter into insurance contracts because we know life comes as a bit of a bet. Accidents, allergies, asthmatic attacks--and these are just what’s listed under the letter ‘A.’
If you don’t believe us, just read Steve’s story here.
If you’re ready to look at what options you have besides waiting, we’ll guide you through our short-term solutions (for those who simply are in a transition), long-term solutions (for those who want a bit more control over their health coverage), and alternative solutions (for those who want to supplement or replace traditional health care coverage).
Current Trends in Healthcare Coverage
Let’s take the broad view first: presidential mandates. Obamacare is in effect for the next foreseeable future, but the penalty fee for non-insured has currently been waived by President Trump. While that decision has not yet made its way out of the courts, the fee is not currently a slap-on-the-wrist that the average consumer needs to worry about.
Now, the average person will probably receive health coverage through their place of work. Group policies typically create more affordable premiums, which is why this model became so popular in the first place. However, this may not always be the case.
Before the 1980s, health insurance worked a lot like car insurance--you paid out-of-pocket for smaller expenses like doctor’s visits, but you were covered for hospitalization and the like (similar to how you pay out-of-pocket for oil changes but your auto insurance is there for you in the case of an accident). However, health insurance morphed into what it is today: a full package deal that covers for doctor’s visits, specialists, prescription assistance, hospitalization, telemedicine, and the like. And the more services a company provides, the more they’ll charge. Premiums have continued to rise since the 80s--but will this be the model for the future?
While IRAs, 401(k)s, and other retirement plans are still a large factor in employee benefits, it’s important to think about the needs of the next generation and technological breakthroughs like telemedicine will affect the cost and demand of healthcare coverage. It won't always be one-size-fits all; with demand for personal customization in everything from frozen yogurt to health policies, do you have a good idea of what you want/need going into the next 10 years?
You don’t expect to be out of health coverage for more than a few months. You’re simply waiting. Waiting for your next job’s benefits to kick in, waiting for your retirement check.
Waiting can be a dangerous game--did you know that three-fifths of Americans don’t have enough money saved up for a minor medical emergency (averaging $1,000)?
Thankfully, there are options outside of locking into another long-term health coverage plan. The most straightforward of these is the concept of short-term medical.
Short-term medical plans allow members to choose coverage from anywhere between 1-12 months. Members pay a monthly fee to have access to the same types of services available to them in their traditional health care coverage plans, including:
And what’s a temporary monthly fee compared to a $10,000 medical bill?
In this scenario, you need a long-term solution. The strategies we list here are for those who A) want to keep their current health plan but add to it, or B) want to replace their current health plan (or lack thereof) entirely.
Where do you find yourself?
Let’s return to the game of zeroes. Can you afford a $75 doctor’s visit? Can you afford a $100 gaff or a $1000 accident? Yes--you may not want to, but these aren’t unreasonable emergencies. What we want to avoid--what insurance was really designed for--are these large, unreasonable sums, like $10,000 or even $100,000 medical bills.
There are plans that cover specifically for these types of emergencies. And yes, you can apply for these policies without having to give up your current health plan. Typically broken up by types of medical calamities, the four most popular types of coverage plans are:
Accident insurance: Designed to help pay for out-of-pocket and medical costs that may incur due to an accidental injury. It can even cover for transportation and lodging needs in addition to hospitalization, exams, and the like.
Critical illness insurance: Otherwise known as a dread disease policy, it was initially designed to help elders afford the privilege of growing older--even at the risk of such catastrophes as stroke, heart attacks, organ transplants, coronary bypasses, etc. In addition, critical illness insurance can cover for costs not typically included in traditional health insurance coverage.
Cancer insurance: Sometimes cancer is not included in a critical illness policy (see above) and may be listed under a separate coverage plan.
Disability insurance: Provides income during transitional periods when you might be missing work or making less money because of a narrow set of circumstances.
Because these policies are designed for very specific circumstances, and not as a catch-all where everything but the doctor’s sink is thrown in, they can be very affordable. Not only that, but they account for the emergencies that can truly lead to bankruptcy. They make for great supplements or even affordable replacements for traditional health coverage.
Bonus Solution: Patient Advocacy
A patient advocacy program is available for the uninsured, underinsured, and just plain old insured alike. For a monthly fee, you have access to a network of professionals who will work with carriers and hospitals alike to reduce your out-of-pocket costs incurred due to hospitalization or other patient services. Find out more here!
And don’t forget, every Health Benefits Now quote is quick, free, and painless!