Monthly Archives: March 2012

Mega Lottery – Mega Rip Off

There has been a lot of news the past few days about the $600+ million Mega lottery. If people knew the facts, they would never spend the money. It is crazy to see all of those people lined up with pockets full of cash to buy a chance at winning. Consider the facts:

  • Tax on the poor: The majority of lottery players are low-income and sometimes in deep poverty. Whatever money isn’t used to pay lottery workers and advertising, and winners goes to fund education for middle and upper income kids
  • The odds of winning are 1 in 176,000,000, it is a sucker’s bet
  • Most winners don’t know how to deal with large sums of money end up less happy often facing bankruptcy, divorce, and estranged from family and friends (source Foxnews). Reminds me of the phrase “A fool and his money will soon part,” or the more modern rendition “… are soon partying.”

Proverbs 11:28 He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous shall flourish as the green leaf.

Thrift Store Finds; Clothes and Picasso’s

Thrift stores that sell used home furnishings and clothes have been a place for us to acquire needed items, but I have not come across a Picasso like Zach Bodish did, when he bought a signed print for $14.14 and might be worth $6,000 – $12,000 at the Volunteer’s of America store in Columbus Ohio.

More often we donate items at thrift stores, it is quick and we get a nice tax deduction, instead of keeping the items for a garage sale, because my wife detests the whole garage sale process, although we have made over $2,000 from doing them over the years. We  moved recently, and sold some things on Craig’s List, at the New Uses store, donated some things to thrift stores, and am storing the rest. It is very nice to purge the home of unneeded items.

We have purchased a few home furnishings, coats, jeans, dresses and shirts over the years, at a huge savings at the Goodwill, Volunteer’s of America and Salvation Army stores. If I am going to do a real messy job like outdoor painting or sealing the driveway, on occasion I’ve bought few real cheap items that I can throw away when the job is completed. I really hate it when I buy a piece of new clothing, then after a few weeks, it is uncomfortable or shrank in the wash, and it gets pushed to the back of the closet only to be worn occasionally. When I buy something at a thrift store for a few bucks I seldom have buyer’s remorse. I bet Zach Bodish didn’t have buyers remorse this time, I’m excited for Zach, and will definitely check out the framed items next time I go.

Source: Columbus Dispatch

The Relationship of Education to Poverty

Interesting article in the Atlantic: College costs continue to rise, outpacing inflation, yet the cost to them and society is astounding:

  • College graduates earn 80% more than high school graduates
  • If US raised education performance South Korea’s level US economy would improve by more than $2 trillion (same as Italy)
  • The impact of a good versus average teacher improves a student’s future lifetime earnings by $400,000
  • $100,000 spent on college at age 18 yields a greater return than the same invested in stocks or bonds
  • Social cost per youth is over $37,000 when considering lost earnings, public health spending, and other expenditures. Calculating that for all youth in the study (6.7 million) the cost is $4.75 trillion: 1/3 of GDP, or 1/2 of U.S. public debt

Assisted Living Costs

Insurance policies to help offset the cost of living in an assisted living facility, are priced based upon the amount of benefit that one feels they need or can afford. People in their 50’s and 60’s often consider this insurance, but it isn’t cheap, neither is the cost of living in a facility.  The costs of care are often paid from a combination of an individual’s insurance (either a long-term care policy or a rider on a life insurance policy or annuity), investments, sale of property such as their home, social security income and Medicaid. Seniors are often shocked by the cost of long-term care:

  • 50,000 assisted-living units were surveyed, and found the medium cost is $3,700 per month
  • According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners 44% of people reaching age 65 are expected to enter a nursing home
  • 53%will stay for one year or more
  • 63% are persons aged 65 and older, 37% are 64 years of age or younger
  • The average length of stay is 2.5 years

Insurers are finding this insurance difficult to market and price, in part due to the unpredictable nature of this industry. Some companies are getting out of the business all together, like when Prudential recently announced they are no longer issuing policies, or raising premiums dramatically like John Hancock did last year. People considering purchasing this type of coverage should get quotes from several companies from a long-term care insurance specialist, they might also want to consider what discounts might be available from an association they are a member of, or through their own or their children’s group health insurance at work.

Care for the elderly or disabled can be provided by:

  • Family: either the senior moves into someone’s home or receive care at home
  • Assisted living at home, with a home health care provider helping with some of their needs
  • Combination of home based care and a facility, using an adult day care facility, or overnight care in a nursing home to provide respite care for the care giver

There are several types of facilities that provide care,  from Family Care Givers Online:

Smaller and less expensive, often in traditional homes in residential neighborhoods with shared bathrooms and bedrooms:
• Personal Care Homes
• Sheltered Housing
• Homes for Adults
• Board and Care
• Domiciliary Care
• Adult Foster Care
• Senior Group Homes  

Larger more expensive complexes, with an emphasis on independence and privacy. Most offer private rooms or apartments along with large common areas for activities and meals:

• Residential Care Facilities
• Assisted Living Facilities

Large complexes providing a variety of options ranging from independent living to skilled-nursing home care within one community:

  • Adult Congregate Living
  • Continuing Care Retirement Communities 
  • Life Care Facilities   

Stranger Asks You To Hold $10,000?

Ally Bank has been running a TV commercial where someone walks up to a stranger on the street and hands him $10,000 in a briefcase, with secret cameras running. The footage would be a lot more fun if they blindfolded the giver of the money. I doubt the people being taped are not actors, but thinking about this a bit, this commercial might be a rip-off of Matthew 25:14-30:

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

This is such an interesting parable: Two of guys that got bags of money, returned more than was given to them. Thinking of the commercial, they were just strangers not servants in the employ of others. However none of the servants ran away with the money or blew some it on themselves, and then try to invest the balance to make up the difference. I wonder what the masters response to that would have been. The scriptures seem to indicate it is good management to give money to the banks, businesses, or to advance our ability to earn an income expanding our education and skills. The master detested the guy who just buried it in the ground, afraid that he might lose it. I think our heavenly father would prefer we prayerfully put the money he gives us into something that might produce a return, even if it didn’t.

This parable describes God’s plan of our being stewards of his things, he gives us things for us to be fruitful, we are to wisely take risks, work hard, he provides happiness, and in the end at judgement- our stewardship has long-term implications:  “I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” 

Lord help me to live with a servant’s steward mindset, and be wise with the money you give me.

Bank of America New Plan for Foreclosing Homes

The Wall Street Journal reported that BofA is initially offering in New York, Arizona and Nevada homeowners who are having difficulty making mortgage payments, to lease their home back to them, at market rates, in exchange for transferring the deed to the bank using a ‘deed-in-lieu of foreclosure.’

This could be a win for the banks, who usually receive no payments during the foreclosure process which can take from 6 to 18 months for the legal process to complete. Often this period of time is even longer when you consider homeowners apply and re-apply for loan modifications, and the homes don’t even go into this long foreclosure process until all modification options have been exhausted. There are even instances of the banks being slow to start the foreclosure process and homeowners are able to live rent-free for many years, before the process ends in a sheriff sale when the homeowner has to find a new place to live. Banks choosing to offer this program at least get cash flow, and a homeowner that will probably maintain the property better than when it goes vacant for many months. Unoccupied homes lose value through vacancy entropy; leaks don’t get noticed for example, copper plumbing, air conditioners and appliances are often stolen.

This is a win for the homeowner too, who wants to stay in a house or condo instead of renting an apartment, pay rent that is affordable, don’t want to move out of their children’s school district until they graduate to the next level.

Americans Waste Up to $2,000 on Discarded Food

Great article in the Wall Street Journal about leftovers, discarded food and the impact to household budgets and the environment. I hate it when food goes bad and we have to toss it out.  We try to freeze things like peppers or meat before they go bad, and only buy what we plan to use in recipes or in our lunches. We have plenty of plastic containers and cheap zip lock bags to quickly store things in the freezer or refrigerator so that they are fresh and ready to use. I also find it helpful to make sure that things don’t get pushed to the back of the refrigerator to never be seen again, or at least until we clean things out. Putting dates on things, or putting them with lunch items reminds us to use them within a few days. Watching what we purchase, meals we plan, and ways to preserve and consume food can help us save money, which is especially important considering how expensive food has become.

In Genesis 1:26 God commissioned man to be stewards over His creation, but sometimes it is hard to think throughout our busy days how to do this. Being smarter this way with food can help us save money and be better stewards- a win win!

Student Loan Debt Tops $1 Trillion

The Financial Protection Bureau recently reported that total student debt topped $1 trillion last year (2011). They report that some of the reasons for the rise is a lot of Americans returning to college, instead of staying in the weak labor market. Tuition increases have continued especially considering cuts in state funding. Also many parents have been unable to help as much with college due to job loss or career stagnation, and hits to their investment portfolio.

Data from the New York Fed  indicate that almost one in four student borrowers are behind on payments. All of this debt doesn’t bode well for the housing market, as more graduates and young families struggle, they are unable to save for down payments and afford a mortgage. Another example of how debt can feel like bondage. It is no wonder the Bible warns against debt and equates it to slavery.

Maybe some college debt can be avoided as some students pursue all the options such as grants and aid, scholarships, work-study or part-time jobs, shopping around for the best college deals as well as completing some of the first couple of year’s of basic courses at a community college and then transferring.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Monday AM Launch: We are inheritors

Greed is defined as the excessive desire for wealth or possessions. Mildly put, it is the hope that through the possession of things we will be comforted or be made happy. More strongly worded, it is the bowing down before the idol of money, like pagans looking at carved images, or the Israelites worshiping the golden calf.

We live in a very consumer society, everywhere we look we are hit by commercial messages, some say the average is 250 per day. The pagan church is doing quite well today in America. But why do we settle for less?

Have you ever asked yourself the question “why do we settle for less when we could have more?”  Do we trade in the eternal for the temporary? There are many reasons we could all come up with; in our souls we have a sin nature that desires to be fed. We are eternal beings created in God’s image to live forever, with God like powers (John 14:12), yet we don’t believe it, and we think like temporary beings, in want of temporary things. Sometimes we are doing quite well financially, and are lulled into a sleepy state where life seems good. Those in financial difficulty have the opportunity perhaps to come to terms with this issue maybe a little more than those doing well- there is grace in difficulty when we can find freedom in scarcity. Sometimes plain old faith is just hard and not the easy way in the short-term.

What is reality for the believer in Christ? I believe it is finding the meaning in some of these Bible verses…

  • The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10
  • I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. Ephesians 1:18-21
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth Matthew 5:5
  • Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.1 Peter1:3-9

In Christ we are inheritors of riches we can’t even presently fathom, some of which we can taste now. Why should we settle for more now, so that we can have less later?  Mature believers settle for less now, and have faith in a future abundance. Lord help me to think this way.

Giving Up- The Road Less Traveled

Have you ever had something that you really wanted and were getting ready to purchase, and instead of doing so you gave the money to some needy person? Have you ever considered taking a prized possession and selling it, and give the money to an institution that you believe in?

A friend of mine down sized their home, so that they could give to an orphanage. If you want to read more about this story go to this link at The Columbus Dispatch.

To do something generous like this is really good for helping others, and the giver benefits in secret indescribable ways; they experience true joy and contentment.  Things we buy may provide some personal comfort and fun but by taking the road less traveled and giving up things we experience more than the normal life can provide. Food for thought.

Grocery, Prescription and Vision Savings

The cost of groceries and prescriptions really eat away at our budget, and many people I talk with agree. Over the last few years we have held a number of workshops to teach people what we are learning to save money in these areas. We have assembled some of the notes from past classes here, in addition just a few days ago I ran across a great “How to Coupon” 21 page guide at www.faithandfinance.org that you can download for free.

Lastly, we have another 3 month series of Making $ense with Coupon$ class starting next month:

April 10, May 15 and June 12
Time: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm
Fee: $20.00 (for first time attendees)

Location: Vineyard Community Center, 6000 Cooper Road, Westerville Ohio 43081

In these 3 classes, you will learn how to save hundreds of dollars each month on your grocery bill. During this class you will learn couponing basics and some savvy coupon secrets that will make you become a pro at saving money. You will learn where to get your coupons and how to organize and use them. Some of the insights you will glean is how to match coupons to sales ads, finding unique bargains specific to stores you shop, rebates and promotions. Other non-couponing shopping tips will also be covered. Please pre-register and more information at www.vineyardcommunitycenter.org.

Tax Prep Assistance

People have many option these days for tax preparation, all have their strengths and weaknesses:

  • Doing it yourself:
    Tax preparation software like Turbo Tax, Tax-Cut, or just doing it in paper and pencil can be learning self educating experiences for those willing to invest their time. The software is easier to use and is getting better all the time. This is a good option for those with simple taxes, very comfortable with computers, identifying financial records and is very careful to input information correctly. The software is sometimes free (depending upon income  www.irs.gov) or very low-cost. Some ‘free’ services may charge for electronic filing. The advantages of this option are the learning you get, low-cost, the quick turn around time to complete the return and get a refund. The disadvantage is a good tax professional can sometimes do better and help file a more accurate return, get you a higher refund or pay less in taxes, and plan better for the future.
  • Getting Free Help
    Free tax preparation assistance may be provided through one of the  Benefit Bank sites in your state. In Columbus Ohio there are several sites of the Ohio Benefit Bank including the Vineyard Community Center, leave a message: 259-5352. Many county agencies provide this for low to moderate income people for no cost. Just doing a search in your browser can help you find one in your area, be sure the url contains a .gov to insure you are not being snagged to a commercial site. The service is really good, but not extensive, so many people will benefit from working with a professional.
  • Professional Assistance
    Tax Preparation Professionals (accountants, CPAs, and tax attorneys) can often save you money, even if your situation is simple. Be very careful, however, to help ensure that you are not over-charged. Get competent advice, referrals, and meet a few before choosing one. Remember, during tax season –February to April 15th these Professionals are extremely busy. Also, professionals can also be helpful by providing pointers for next year’s taxes, so that you can plan or keep good records now. This is especially applicable for self-employed people. If you owe taxes for other than last year, consider having your tax advisor review your old returns.

Tax Refund Loans
Some tax preparation services will loan you an amount equivalent to your tax refund. There is usually a fee and interest charged; only consider this if an emergency and after reading the fine print.

What to do with your Tax Refund

When we find out we are going to receive what might be thousands of dollars in tax refunds from the Federal or State Governments, we have two competing impulses:  wants versus needs. Those that are struggling may want to give this issue serious consideration, because any windfall like tax refunds or bonuses can really help us get out of financial crisis, or at the least set us on the path to doing so. Those doing okay, can really use these funds to plan smarter. Research indicates that most people who get windfalls and raises seldom see any change to their day-to-day cash flow management, since life just seems to happen and soak up any extra money that flows our way. These demanding recessionary and inflationary (i.e., health care, gasoline and food) times require diligence.

Needs: Basic items that are necessary to sustain basic living. In Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class he advises that people should cover these things first, because sometimes people will pay for wants or debt and then not have money for important things like food and rent. Good for some to be reminded when they have money forthcoming.

  • Housing: rent or mortgage, utilities (basic phone only), real estate taxes and insurance
  • Groceries: food and personal care items
  • Transportation: car payment, gasoline and car insurance
  • Health: prescriptions and doctor provided care
  • Clothing
  • Childcare if working fulltime
  • Tithe: this is essential, and could be in either this or the next category. Special counsel is advised to those in very difficult financial situation

Tier 2 Needs: Items that are not always necessary for day-to-day living, but help people with things such as health and not fall into pay-check to pay-check lifestyle. Again good for some to be reminded when they have money forthcoming.

  • Emergency savings for things like car repairs and health insurance deductibles
  • Health insurance and fitness
  • Pet expenses for those that already own one
  • Internet

Tier 3 Needs: Things people must do to get debt free, since when debt is eliminated extra money will be there for building up larger savings and investments. With no debt and savings, people will usually be a very good financial situation. If someone gets a tax refund or a bonus, these are the items to use it for:

  • Debt repayment, using the snowball method until all non-mortgage debt is repaid
  • Emergency savings fund for health insurance deductibles, car repairs and the like

Wants:  These are the things that people may be considering with their tax refund, but should refrain considering until they are out of debt and have funded 3 – 6 months of income in savings. Extra courage is needed, especially when we have done without for a long time:

  • New TV, car, furniture and appliances
  • Robust cable TV
  • Vacation
  • Smart phone or fully equipped phone with data and all the bells and whistles
  • Down payment on a new loan for anything

Monday AM Launch: Wisdom with the master’s money

When you get ready to make a big purchase, how do you make decisions?  Do we check our motivations, think about the long-term consequences of ownership such as maintenance, insurance, time we will spend with it versus time with other competing priorities, and cost. Do we consider our needs, wants, and budget.  What are our motivations; are we compelled by emotions, how it will make life easier or some other pressure?  Do we think about how it may affect our giving, what others will think about us. 

A great question to ask ourself is; “What does the master what us to do with his money?” After all it is his money and we are merely temporary stewards. Another great question to ask ourself; “Is it a wise decision?”

People that I counsel in financial difficulty have been told many times that they really felt it was the Lord’s will for them to buy this or that house, car, education… fill in the blank. They felt like the Lord was directing them. No one has ever told me they consulted scripture and prayed for wisdom. Very few people have told me they looked at their budget, and talked to several advisors first. It is common for Christians to make a “Spirit led” financial decision and not following other wisdom and falling to financial traps. If the Lord provides the vision, wouldn’t he provide the provision? God is not offended if we examine our motivations and all wisdom concerning a purchase, even if we “feel” led in a particular direction. Consider these two Bible verses:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Psalm 139:23

For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him. Luke 14:28-29

Lord this week help me to be wise in all my financial decisions, to consult you, scripture, counselors, my budget and ask for wisdom.

The Health Insurance Gap for Millions

The health insurance debate is far from over. You are going to hear a lot more about it in the next few years; during the presidential debate, as cases work there ways through the courts and the Supreme Court, and as more major provisions become effective that aren’t now.

I’ve listened to much of the rhetoric from both sides and actually sympathize with all of them.  One of the things that I have heard is that there are options for the uninsured, but on the other hand, I have heard that there are not. Truth is both are right. A few days ago I worked with someone who had a health condition, but not many viable options. Helping her explore them was revealing to me about this issue, and might be to you too. The purpose of this article is to illustrate the gap, to help you explore options if you are in the same gap, and for you to respond if you know of other options. The following is our discussion, changing some of the facts to protect confidentially.

Question #1: My doctor says that it is necessary to have surgery that will cost $20,000, and we don’t have health insurance, how do I pay for the surgery if I can’t afford it? With the debate about National Health Care, I’ve heard that hospitals can’t refuse to cover me.

Answer: Those without health insurance must pay for the surgery with their own money, either by saving it, borrowing, or asking friends and relatives for help. There are instances that Hospital’s can’t turn you away, for example if you were in critical condition following an accident, or your go to the emergency room because you are very ill.

Question #2: What are our options to purchase health insurance?

Answer: Personal health insurance can be purchased, however if you do so by regular means, the health insurance company will underwrite you, so you could be rejected for your health condition, rated a high premium (rates will be high at your age anyway), the condition may be excluded entirely or only covered after a pre-existing condition period has expired (this varies by state).

Question #3: The premium and underwriting seem like barriers for us to acquire personal health insurance, are there any other health insurance options?

Answer: Most states offer some type of guaranteed issue program, or uninsurable pool however rates may still be prohibitively high for many people.

Question #4: In the case of an emergency or being in need of immediate care to relieve considerable pain, for saving of one’s life, or if very sick the hospital must provide some care for me, but how would the medical bills be paid?

Answer: The medical bills can be paid for after care, either with money you have saved, or by working out a payment plan with the hospital. If you contact the hospital right away they are usually very good at working out a payment plan that you can afford. In addition, on the back of most hospital bills, is hardship form you can fill out. If you qualify you may get a reduction, sometimes small other times large, of the bill.

Question #5: My condition is medically necessary, but not an emergency and my doctor feels that if untreated the condition could cause other problems. However care isn’t required today to save my life or relieve considerable pain, so how can I schedule the surgery if I don’t have the means (income or savings) to pay for it?

Answer: There may be several options for people to receive financial help with your health condition:

  • Medicare may help, one of the conditions of qualifying for care prior to the age of 65 is being disabled, coverage usually can begin in 29 months from the date of Social Security Disability
  • Medicaid provides coverage for some people below the poverty guidelines, in your instance, a family of two, your income must fall below $15,130.
  • The Hospital Care Assurance Program (HCAP) is Ohio’s version of the federally required Disproportionate Share Hospital program. According to the Ohio Revised Code 5101:3-2-07.17, to those who are “not a recipient of the Medicaid program and whose income is at or below the federal poverty line.” The income is calculated using the preceding three and twelve months of income. This plan will be different for you state, including poverty guidelines.

Question #6: Our incomes exceed $15,130 using both calculation methods in the Code. These numbers seem very low, if you consider if the minimum wage is $7.50 in my state and if both of us worked minimum wage jobs, our total household income would be $31,200. Without health insurance it looks like we would never qualify for Medicaid or HCAP.  What other options do we have?

Answer: In some states, a person’s actual income may be a few times the poverty guidelines, so you should check that out first. Secondly, if you income has dramatically dropped, don’t just look at last year’s, but in some states you will be allowed to use a the last three months of income. If you still don’t qualify, you can request assistance from friends or relatives, your place of worship, and ask your doctor for a discount. Any one of them separate or combined may provide the help you need.

Question #7: We have not been attending a church regularly lately so we may not qualify, and our friends and relatives are tapped out, so those may not be options for us. In addition, due to slow work and mounting debt, we have very little money for car, mortgage, gasoline, utilities, auto insurance payment and food, let alone to save up for the surgery. So are we out of options?

Answer: I am not sure, but one possibility may be for your husband to seek full-time employment from an employer that provides health insurance. The wage may be modest, you may have to wait 90 days or so for the health insurance to start, and there may be a pre-existing condition clause, but you may still qualify for medical treatment in this situation, but medical bills not covered may be handled other ways, see Question #4.

Question #8: I recently lost my job and wonder about continuing my group health insurance through my employer

Answer: If you worked for a company that employed 20 or more people, they must offer you COBRA continuation of coverage, under Federal regulations. This can usually cover you for up to 18 months, and longer for example if you are disabled. You are required to pay 102% of the premium, and pre-existing conditions are covered. Group insurance isn’t cheap, but for those with health history it may be the best option. You have a 60 day window from the day you were given notice that you were COBRA eligible for you to accept, reject, or change your mind. You then have 45 days to pay the premium. This intended loophole of 105 days allows you to evaluate your options, and perhaps allow enough time for a new employer to provide coverage. Careful planning is required, so contact your human resources department for more information. If you work for a company that employs fewer than 20 employees, your state may provide similar continuation of coverage regulations.

Question #9: You are a financial guy, are you versed in all of the options, and do you have any other suggestions?

Answer: I am far from being an expert in this area. In Ohio I recently heard about UHCAN 614-456-0060 ext. 233, www.uhcanohio.org, you should call them and see if there are additional options for you. For people with severe financial difficulty that you may be facing, one option may be to delay making payments on your debt, including your mortgage. Through full-time employment plus side self-employment work, looking at your budget you may be able to save enough money for the surgery, either in part or through payments with a down payment may be enough. Lenders may work with you through special payments, deferment or some other means.  When the surgery is complete, you can resume payments, or explore other re-payment options. Bankruptcy is also an option. Whatever way you go, please get a lot of prayer for the tumor to be healed or paid for miraculously, and to seek the advice of many counselors.

I hope this information is helpful. Please send me other options that you know about to continue this discussion

Dave Ramsey Week #6

This note is for those taking Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University class with us. So far we have completed 5 lessons, and after this week’s class lesson we are almost half way through the course. This week’s lesson Buyer Beware is excellent and helps those saving when making purchases. 

The last 2 week’s classes on debt were excellent. Dave addresses how to get out of debt by first establishing an emergency fund and a budget, then systematically paying off debt using the Debt Snowball, or use the Pro-Rata Plan for those that can’t yet afford minimum payments, and through prayer. However many people with more critical debt issues have questions about things like debt negotiation and bankruptcy, so to foster additional discussion and investigation, I’ve prepared the Debt Repayment white paper.

At this point sometimes attendance can drop off, however commit to completing the course, and implementing as much of what you are learning as you can. It may be difficult at times, but is worth it. Attending each week provides ongoing support, encouragement and accountability to stay the course. I think the following Bible verses provides some encouragement and perspective.

Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither,  like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.  Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.  For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity. The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright. But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken. Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked; for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous. The blameless spend their days under the LORD’s care, and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty. But the wicked will perish: Though the Lord’s enemies are like the flowers of the field, they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke. The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously; 22 those the LORD blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be destroyed. The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; 24 though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing. Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. Psalm 37: 1 – 28

Monday AM Launch: Wisdom’s Journey

This morning’s financial devotional starts with a scripture reading of James 1:2 – 12:

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. 9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business. 12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

Everyone faces trails in some area of life, whether it be in our health, with our many relationships including marriage, at work or in our careers, with raising children. More people today seem to be facing financial trails given the difficulty of a slow economy, unemployment, rising food, fuel and healthcare costs, and poor performing investments. Some face the trail of being wealthy.

This Bible verse from James provides good perspective, something I think we all need at times, especially during difficulty and even during prosperity:

  • Verses 2 – 4, trials can be a place where we experience true joy, not the normal shallow joy, but the kind we get when we know we are enduring and enduring well, and because God places it in our hearts when we look to him during difficulty, not in ‘things’ when we are doing well.
  • Verse 5, great perspective to ask for wisdom during difficulty, just like Solomon asked for wisdom and not riches. Finding and using wisdom not only will aid us in perhaps escaping financial difficulty, but God may be allowing us to experience difficulty so that we will choose to grow in wisdom and in our relationship with Him.
  • Verses 5 – 8, If we ask for wisdom God will give it to us, He promises. He will also give us many other things, if we will only ask. His giving doesn’t seem to depend on us being faultless for He loves us and wants to bless us regardless. In contrast it appears to depend more upon His goodness and our faith, or expectation during the wait, regardless how long that is.
  • Verses 10 and 11 get into more areas than I can cover here now, but sticking with the ‘perspective’ theme, those in poverty can have high expectations for the good things to happen to them especially in eternity for the meek will inherit the earth (Matt 5:5), likewise there are some great insights for the wealthy too.

Everyone has regrets, dreams unfulfilled, and financial expectations not realized. As our financial journey takes twists and turns, as we faithfully persevere. I am discovering, you will discover, life on the other end may be different from we may have hoped for, but may in fact be better and taste sweeter. Lord give me wisdom, help me to persevere to do well in abundance and scarcity, and I pray that you will provide…