Wednesday, May 25, 2011

May Miscellany

1. Back to the subject of health care, I was appalled to read this Politifact article wherein it turns out that Newt Gingrich was correct in pointing out that a substantial number of folks making at least $75,000 a year (21% of all Americans with no health insurance) nonetheless do not have health coverage. Notwithstanding the families like the Dubinskys who cannot get health insurance (or, at least, cannot get it easily), that still leaves a whole lotta folks who don't see health coverage as a primary budget need. What planet are they on?

2. I've got a post in this week's Carnival of Personal Finance, hosted by My Personal Finance Journey. Lots of good reading, and a glimpse into some hotel rooms where Grace will NOT be staying any time soon!

3. It's Memorial Day week-end coming up, so the likelihood of me making another post before next week is not high. I hope everyone enjoys the holiday.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

May Wrap-Up--Lookin' Good

In terms of paying off debt, May is my best month so far this year. A grand total of $1845.09 bit the dust. Of course, this means that there is still $93,446.11 (including my first and second mortgages on my residence) remaining, but I'm feeling very good about this.

With summer on the horizon (not that you would know it from all the rain we're having in the Pacific NW), the chances are not high that June will look as good.

But for now, I'm enjoying the feeling!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Not-So-Extreme Couponing

This has been a financially tight week me.

For one glorious day last week-end I had over a hundred extra dollars.

Then, on Monday, I discovered I'd somehow forgotten to make my $162.00 car payment. It was, at that point, two days overdue with attendant late charges.

I was once again, behind on my budget. When that happens, the only two places to make up the difference are with the gas money or the food money. We all know the story about gas prices, so I was looking forlornly at my food budget and wondering if now was the time to start a starvation diet.

But then I hauled out my coupon stash, stuffed not-so-neatly into an ecologically correct but seldom used reusable grocery bag.

Therein, I found salvation.

For readers who never let fast food darken their palate--STOP READING NOW!

As it happened, my bag held a coupon for a free Arby's chicken salad sandwich and another for a free McDonald's frozen Strawberry Lemonade. Great! They took care of one night's dinner. And isn't it lucky that my neighborhood Arby's is next to the McDonald's?

My handy Entertainment Book had a Jack in the Box coupon for two free tacos. And the newspaper insert was giving away free Lara bars. As it happens, my neighbor always gives me her coupons from the Wednesday paper, so make that TWO free Lara bars. Voila! Another balanced meal!

I was signed up for a two-day educational conference, which took care of breakfast and lunch both days, and, in fact, provided extras for yet another dinner. But wait! There's more! Included in our materials were two coupons for free Starbucks drinks.

So while I don't have shelves full of couponed freebies hidden in my garage, I'm still proud of how I managed to both eat and not spend money this past week. Though maybe next time, I'll just keep a closer eye on that car payment!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Healthcare in Retirement? What Are We Thinking?

There's an interesting new study out from Sun Life Financial that looks at how we currently think about healthcare during retirement.

The study doesn't pretend to give us answers. Its purpose is to see what or how we're approaching retirement healthcare issues.

At least we ARE thinking about it, or at least those of us coming up on retirement are.

But I have to admit, with my retirement date 7.5 years away, the only things I know for sure are that I will be eligible for Medicare (since I expect to retire at age 69, well beyond the date Medicare kicks in, at age 65) and I will have to pay for some level of additional coverage.

I'm not sure that qualifies as a "plan."

While I am lucky to have pretty good health benefits from my current employer, there will be no pension and no continued employer-paid healthcare when I leave. I will have Social Security, Medicare, and my 401 (k). Period.

Where I am fortunate is that I'm not among the 9% of the study responders who have already raided their retirement savings to cover unanticipated medical costs. As longtime readers know, my $47,000 quadruple by-pass surgery two years ago cost me a mere $50 in out-of-pocket medications and follow-up office visits.

At some point, I need to assign a dollar figure to what I will need and what I can get in additional health insurance coverage. To me, that's the point at which I will have a genuine plan.

I did find the study interesting when it posited that 53% of those responding are changing their lifestyle in more positive directions. I believe that, but I'm not sure I believe it is because these people are concerned about future health care costs.

For myself, I'm trying to get healthier because I can't stop getting older, and I'd like to stave off death as long as possible!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Grace and the Gas Monster

The rising price of gasoline is wreaking havoc on my finances. I budget $60 every 15 days. That used to buy me a full tank with ten or more dollars left over. Nowadays, it won't even completely fill the tank. I currently pay $3.83 a gallon.

According to Gas Buddy, there is one station a long way from me that charges 10 cents per gallon less but otherwise, my neighborhood Arco station is among the least expensive places to go. Supposedly, we may see some relief around Memorial Day week-end, at last according to the LA Times. That would be nice, but I'm not counting on it.

The frustrating thing is that I do live in a city with excellent public transportation, and I have an annual pass that is heavily subsidized by my employer. So I don't quite know where all my mileage is going.

Last week, I made a concerted effort NOT to use my car. It did not go well. It was my week to shop for groceries, which took me to three different stores, not one close to the other. I could have taken the bus, but since I shop for a month, I didn't want to be lugging bags of groceries by bus. Then one of my daughters needed help moving so it was Mom's minivan to the rescue. And then, and then . . . [many excuses later] I was riding around with a gas gauge that was perilously close to empty.

I'm going to try this experiment again this next week--we'll see.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day is Every Day

Revanche, at A Gai Shan Life, has been writing for awhile about her need to financially support her parents and her disgust at her brother continuing to take adavantage of them. But buried in the heart of her posts is puzzlement that her parents are so vulnerable to her brother's needs while taking her help for granted.

I hear her, loud and clear.

I do wonder, sometimes, how my children see my entirely inconsistent financial assistance to them and if they harbor ill will either to me or to their sibings, as a result.

I have five daughters, each of them special to me in her own way, I adopted them as older children, and each was reared largely as an only child or, at most, with one other child in the home. All have special needs ranging from organic brain damage to severe emotional disturbance. I was warned that two of them might never be able to function on their own as adults. But they are all adults now, and they all do live outside my home.

I contribute, in various ways and amounts to all of my daughters and to their children. It rather shocked me to add everything up and discover that it comes to $653 a month.

Whenever I bring my expenses for my children and grandchildren up in this blog, I can count on (largely anonymous) responses about "enabling," and suggestions that my children will never learn good money management unless I stop helping them.

But most of my daughters are doing well, given their handicaps. They have jobs, they pay taxes, they care for their children. To demand that they also do a good job of managing their money is ignoring their intellectual and emotional limitations.

So I step in.

When I can't convince one daughter that auto insurance should be at the top of her list of expenses (instead of the first one eliminated when things get tight for her), I pay it. When one grandchild wants to go to college and is intellectually able to do so in spite of her more limited parents, I pay the tuition. When one child's health insurance does not cover dental, I tell her to go anyway and I pay the bill.

I buy monthly bus passes for two of my daughters, neither of whom can or should drive, both of whom have jobs.

And sadly, each month I deposit money for one of my daughters, whose behavior and addiction has landed her in jail. Jails, as I have discovered, charge for underwear, writing materials and stamps, all at exorbitant prices. And no, I can't just send those materials to her.

But it is this latter child who is most jealous of the amounts of money that go to her sisters. She normally gets SSI but once a person is in jail for more than 30 days, SSI payments are suspended. She feels like I should give money equally to each of my kids, which would increase the money I deposit for her.

I don't.

I don't treat my daughters equally. The amounts I spend are flexible though I've done it for so long now that most of the expenses are fixed.

When I get the 'enabling' responses, I do heed them. But then I think that these posters cannot know the mechanics of my family nor the issues my daughters struggle with on a daily basis.

What will happen when I die? Good question. My most seriously disturbed child (the one currently in jail) will have any money I leave her managed by a local foundation for special needs children. The others? I'm still working out the details. I may use the foundation for them, too, though they function at a much higher social level than the one receiving SSI. I do have a will, and at this point, they will be in charge of their own money once I die. But I may have to rethink that position.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

They Come; They Go; Sometimes They Come 'Round Again

I write a post like this every six months or so--bemoaning those folks who have folded their blogosphere tents and gone home, or have simply stopped posting for more than half a year.

I do appreciate those who write a 'last post,' but since I'm still here, I kinda expect that all of you other bloggers will stick around as well. I get cranky when you don't, and that goes even for those who give me a heads up before they leave.

So the latest to give notice that she's packing it in is the author of "The Boxcar Kids' Blog."

I'm going to leave her link up for awhile to see if she changes her mind. The reason she gives is that she'll just wind up saying the same old things over again--something that never bothers me, whether I do it myself or read it in someone else's blog.

Let's face it, life is cyclical. Finances are cyclical. Heck, my emotions are cyclical. If what you want to read is new and exciting financial stuff, you've got the wrong blogger in Grace!

"Connecticut Mom" has disappeared as well. In fact, she's taken her blog with her, which is too bad because I like the video she posted of the "Hallelujah Chorus" flash mob she joined at the local mall last December.

Of course, not everyone disappears forever. Florence at "Ruminations" left 'for good' in early February and didn't last more than two months before she was writing again. So she's back on my blogroll. Ditto the blogger at "Always the Planner who has now returned.

But I miss Dawn at "Getting Nine Hundred" and Betty at "Bouncing Back From Bankruptcy" who left a post saying she would be posting again, but never has.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

April 2011 Wrap-Up

Spring has yet to be sprung, but apparently time really does go on. Yes, April is now history.

And, thankfully, so is $792.62 of my debt.

The general plan is to do better in the future, but I am grateful I managed to at least do this much.