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What to do if Immunization is Not Covered by Health Plan

My wife and I just had a beautiful baby boy!  We recently had him vaccinated which we thought was covered by our insurance company, United Health Care (UHC).  To our surprise the claim was denied because UHC doesn’t cover immunization.  For 6 shots the doctor’s office billed us $565, which averages $94.17 per shot.  There […]

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Parent’s Guide To Teaching Your Kids About Money

February 6, 2011 | Education | Guest Post | 1 Comment

There is one really good reason to teach your kids about money; so that you do not have to support them. You have probably heard loads of stories or maybe even know someone who is still financially supporting their adult children. I have heard these same stories. I even know a couple who overextended themselves in order to bail out their child to such an extent that they wound up losing their house. While we all want to be able to help our children out in an emergency situation none of us want to have to support them after they leave the nest. That is why it is important to teach them good money management skills at home. You can start when they are very young and continue the lesson on into their years at college.

Tips For Teaching Kids About Money

Check Yourself First – Before you can start teaching your children about the importance of saving money and spending wisely you have to make sure you are doing it yourself. Kids are smart, they will pick up on the fact that you are not following your own advice. Once they know that your finances are a mess they will simply shut down and ignore all of your advice. Lead by example and have your finances in order at all times.

Share Money Decisions – Once you know that your finances are in order you can help your kids learn about the value of money by sharing financial decisions with them. Do this at an age appropriate level. For small children you can explain how much things cost and have them help you count out the money to the cashier when you make purchases. As they get older you can talk to them about how many hours you have to work to earn the money for the things you want and need.

Have Them Earn An Allowance – Allowances are not just rewards for existing. Kids should be given an allowance that is actually earned by doing household tasks. This teaches them about earning money and about the value of working. Even very small children can do things like clear their own dinner dishes and pick up their toys. The tasks and the money should be proportional to their age. It should also reflect the quality of the work, so if a teen does a shoddy job mowing the grass they should get a pay cut too.

Teach Them About Saving And Spending – Sometimes parents only focus on one of these things, but really they go hand in hand. Your child is going to want to spend their money, and they should be able to do so. Help them understand that they do not need every new gadget and how to make smart and responsible choices about spending. They should also be encouraged to save some money. You might add some incentive by matching a portion of their savings or allowing them extra privileges for leaving money in an account. After a while they will take pride in how much money they have set aside and can even imagine saving for something really valuable.
Teaching your children about money is something you can do every day in all kinds of different situations. It does not have to just be about setting up a budget and sticking to it or boring lessons on economics. Once your child understands that everything costs money and that it does not simply come from a tree in the backyard they will be more responsible with every dollar that they earn.

This article was written by Timothy Ng. You can read more of his work at Credit Card Finder, where he has a number of comprehensive guides to all types of credit cards.

How Much of an Emergency Fund Do You Need?

December 29, 2010 | Financial Tips | Guest Post | 1 Comment

Let’s face it, emergencies seen to happen at the worst possible time. Whether it’s an unplanned medical procedure, a car repair or a lost job, not being prepared can leave you in a very scary financial position. That’s where an emergency fund can come in.

But how much money do you need to save in your emergency fund? And, in what type of savings account should you keep it in? According to most experts, it’s important to keep between three to six months worth of your living expenses in an emergency fund. That way if you or your spouse suddenly loses your job, you’ll have ample time to get back on your feet before you run out of money. That way, even small emergencies, such as new tires or a home repair, will be covered.

Your line of work, and city that you reside in, will help you determine whether you need to be on the higher or lower end of that three to six month recommendation. For example, if you live in a city where there are many jobs in your industry, then three months may be enough. If not, you may want a bigger fund that will allow you more time to find the right position.

Another important rule of thumb in preparing your emergency fund is to take a close look at all your living expenses. Simply add them up and multiply that number by number of months you’d like a cushion for. So, if your living expenses are $4,000 a month, and you want an emergency fund for three months, you’ll need a $12,000 cushion to keep in the bank.

Also, you’ll want to get immediate access to your emergency fund, if necessary. That’s why you should keep the fund in a savings account at your local bank or credit union. Having it tied up in a CD or an IRA makes it harder to access quickly, and can incur taxes upon withdrawal.

When it comes to starting your emergency fund, the sooner you begin the better off you can potentially be. Therefore, if you’re on a limited budget you’ll want to start small by saving at least hundred dollars each month. You can do this simply by having small automatic transfer made from your checking account to your emergency fund – so you won’t even notice it.

It’s also important to keep in mind that you’ll want to balance your debt with saving for an emergency fund. If you have high-interest credit card debt it’s vital that you build your emergency fund at the same time you pay down your debt. A good rule of thumb is to pay down 70% of your high-interest debt while putting 30% to your emergency fund. That way as your debt decreases, the amount you can save will increase. And in time you’ll find yourself debt-free and well-prepared for the next emergency that always seems to be right around the corner!

Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, where recently she’s been researching kinesiology degrees and programs and blogging about student life. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

Obesity Can Raise Your Health Insurance Premium

November 15, 2010 | Guest Post | Healthcare | Insurance | No Comments

This morning, my health insurance company sent me a very nice note with a very ugly truth inside: my premium went up because 55% more people in 2009 than in 2007 received surgery for obesity.

Health Insurance Premiums and Weight on the Rise

The estimated annual cost for treatment of obesity is $200 billion, but 70% of disease is preventable and 87.5% of claims made are due only to the individual’s unhealthy lifestyle choices, to include but not limited to poor diet, over eating, smoking, excessive drinking, lack of exercise, and more.  One of every five healthcare dollars are spent on treatment of diabetes.

As stated in this web site’s February 3rd post of 2009, many health insurance holders are provided insurance by their own workplace; because healthcare costs are only rising, businesses are pushing expenses toward their employees.  Even those of us who are physically fit must pay for the irresponsible lifestyles of others.  This is part of being a citizen of the United States; rather than complaining about health insurance premiums and healthcare reform (not that criticism isn’t warranted), we must ourselves take action by living more healthful lives.

A Little Known Truth About Dieting

The known tips and tricks are old and known, even trite: don’t eat fast food, don’t eat lots of sweets or salty snacks, exercise three days a week, diet, diet, diet.  How, then, is a nation so obsessed with dieting— the American diet industry makes close to $40 billion annually selling pills, foods, cookbooks, DVDs, clothing, etc—also known as the fattest nation on the planet?

The answer is more obvious than we think.

Dieting

Clinicians at eating disorder treatment centers—commonly believed to be filled only with “skinny” folk like anorexics and bulimics—know that dieting is the biggest trigger of eating disorders.  In truth, eating disorders are not limited to “skinny” diseases but include habitual overeating, stress eating, mindless eating, binge eating, and more.  These are the diseases causing our health insurance premiums to rise.  In fact, about one in two individuals enrolled in dieting programs suffer from BED, or Binge-Eating Disorder, which inevitably leads to weight gain and even, in some cases, heart disease and diabetes.

How Dieting Is Making America Fat

Here is the logic behind this paradox: If a parent tells a child to not eat a single “bad” food like a cookie, a candy cane, an ice cream cone, a donut, or a bag of chips in an entire emporium of “bad” foods, what will the child do?  Want the “bad” foods more and eventually cave in and eat all the “bad” food the child’s stomach can take.  Then, the child feels bad for disobeying his or her parents and vows to never do it again . . . until the next time he or she caves and binges on “bad” foods.  The child in this case is any dieter, the parent is society (run by the diet industry and media, hand in hand), and the emporium is any American fast food restaurant or grocery store.  We are daily surrounded by stress that makes us seek comfort food by which we are surrounded, and the more we are told by society to not eat “bad” foods, the more we want them.  Eventually, we all cave.  “For every diet, there is an equal and opposite binge,” according to Geneen Roth, a disordered eater for nearly twenty years and now a Good Housekeeping columnist and advocate of natural health and weight.

So, for the sake of our own health and the health and happiness of our wallets, let’s rethink diets and dieting and seek, instead, balance.

Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, researching various online degree programs and blogging about student life. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

How Much Auto Insurance Do You Really Need?

October 25, 2010 | Guest Post | Insurance | 1 Comment

With the national uninsured rate rising at a steady pace, having adequate auto insurance coverage has become more important than ever. If you get into an accident with someone who is either underinsured or driving without insurance, you could suffer both fiscally and physically. On the other hand, you don’t want to buy too much insurance. Auto coverage isn’t cheap, and you could end up spending way more than you have to if you purchase coverage you don’t really need. The following info will help you sort through coverage options, required minimums, and recommended asset protection.

Coverage Options

Every auto insurance policy consists of a collection of coverage options that protect you from different things. You can choose to purchase all of these coverage options or a select few.

  • Liability – Liability policies cover other people’s expenses when you are at fault in an accident. There are two types of liability coverage: bodily injury liability, which pays for other people’s medical expenses, and property damage liability, which pays for damage done to the other car.
  • Personal Injury Protection – Also known as Medical Payments or Med Pay in some states, PIP covers your medical expenses regardless of fault. PIP also covers the medical expenses of your passengers. Other costs that may be covered include lost wages due to injury and funeral expenses.
  • Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist – This type of auto insurance coverage is designed to help cover costs that may be incurred by you if you are hit or injured by someone who either has no insurance or has only minimal coverage.
  • Collision – Collision covers damage done to your car in an accident.
  • Comprehensive – Comprehensive covers costs if your car is stolen, vandalized, or damaged by something other than a traffic accident, such as fire or falling objects.

 

Required Minimums

Every state in the nation requires motorists to have liability insurance. Minimum liability limits can vary from state to state. For example, in Alaska, the minimum requirements are $50,000 of bodily injury liability for one person, $100,000 bodily injury liability for all people, and $25,000 property damage liability. In Florida, minimum requirements are much lower–$10,000 of bodily injury liability for one person, $20,000 bodily injury liability for all people, and $10,000 property damage liability.

Some states also require motorists to carry personal injury protection and uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. Additional requirements may also be set forth by your lender if you lease or have a current loan on your vehicle. The amount of insurance or types of coverage your lender will ask you to buy may vary but will almost always cover the actual cash value of the vehicle or the amount of the loan.

Deciding How Much Insurance to Buy

The amount of auto insurance you need is very dependent on your individual situation. First and foremost, you will need to purchase the minimum amount of insurance required by the law in your state. After doing that, you will need to decide how much your vehicle is worth and whether or not you need to protect your assets in the event of a lawsuit.

If you are driving a junky car you may be able to get by with minimum coverage. If you drive a nice car, you will want to make sure you have enough coverage to recoup the full cost of repairs or replacement of your vehicle after an accident.

You may also want to consider protecting your assets in the event of a lawsuit. The minimum amount of liability insurance required by law may not be enough to cover someone else’s medical expenses. If the accident is your fault, the injured party could come after your assets.

Many insurance experts recommend purchasing 100/300 limits of bodily injury liability for additional asset protection, but this is just a general rule of thumb. To determine your individual needs, you should calculate your net worth and make sure you are covered for an amount equal to the total value of your assets.

Guest post from Bailey Harris.

7 Ways to Save Money Using Comparison Websites

October 18, 2010 | Guest Post | Save Money | No Comments

On today’s tight budgets and busy schedules, many consumers are turning to comparison websites to help them stretch their dollar and find the products and services they are looking for at the best possible prices. Nearly anything that can be purchased can be researched on a comparison website. Below are just a few of the many hundreds of ways that using comparison websites can help you save money and obtain the best possible results from your purchase activities.

1. Purchase a computer at a great price

Comparing computer prices online is easy and fast. Many great websites offer the ability to “build” the type of computer that you want and then conduct a search to find the lowest priced computer that meets your needs and expectations.

2. Find a mortgage or home refinance loan that saves you hundreds each month

Shopping for a home loan or mortgage refinance loan? Using comparison websites that specialize in providing this service is a must if you want to find the best interest rates, the lowest overall borrowing process and the most effective customer services. Smart consumers no longer rely on their hometown bank as their sole source of financing their home mortgage needs. Using a mortgage comparison website is the most effective way to find the absolute best mortgage products.

3. Find lower cost insurance

No matter which type of insurance you seek, whether it be life, property, auto, health or another type of insurance, using a comparison website ensures that you, the consumer, will be able to find the best products for your money. Comparison websites that specialize in insurance provide you with the ability to research identical insurance coverages from several companies at one time and visually line up their price quotes next to each other on the screen so you can most easily see which company will provide you with the lowest cost product.

4. Purchase the car of your dreams at the best price

Some of the most advanced online comparison websites serve the automotive buying market. As with other types of comparison websites, these websites offer you the opportunity to ensure that you will get the lowest possible purchase price for your dream car. These websites find sales locations that have the exact vehicle you are looking for and present you with the type of information that you need to make the best purchase possible.

5. Find great travel deals

You need only look as far as one or more of the many great travel deal comparison websites to ensure that you not only get the vacation your are looking for, but that you get it at the best available prices. No matter the size or length of your trip, the location or the level of expense you are looking to incur, using a travel comparison website makes the process much easier. These types of comparison websites also provide you comparative pricing and amenity offers from multiple providers, again ensuring that you, the consumer, get a great deal for your travel dollar.

6. Purchase your home needs at the lowest possible prices

Just about any household item, be it an appliance, a furniture item, or anything else, can be compared online. Comparison websites can show you everything you need to know to make and informed purchase and to do so at a great price.

7. Find a local service provider and get the best value for your money

There are many types of comparison websites that make it easy and efficient to find a local service provider at the lowest cost. Depending on the type of service you need, it is a great idea to utilize a comparison shopping website in order to give yourself several options for having your need met, and to make sure you are able to do it at the lowest cost available. These are just a few of the ways that using comparison websites can help you save money. Not only will comparison websites provide you with great cost savings information, in many cases they will also save tons of your valuable time as you are able to make your purchase in minutes online rather than driving all over town to do the comparison shopping yourself. No matter what you are looking for, the chances that you will find it at the best possible price are greatly increased by using comparison shopping websites.

The 10 Best Jobs for College Students to Reduce Debt

October 13, 2010 | Financial Tips | Guest Post | Loans | No Comments

With tuition, books, room and board, transportation, and all the rest, the costs can really add up. Having a job during this time can help you cover some, if not all of these costs, and hopefully keep debt to a minimum. Here are some options for jobs that are often well suited to students and might offer an opportunity for employment at or near your school or maybe when you go home for the summer.

1. Bartender: Taking on the role of bartender while away at school might not be for everyone, but the money can be good and the work exciting and entertaining. Depending on the state or location in which you attend school, you may or may not have to be 21 years of age to serve alcohol. It you do end up at as a bartender, you may find that several hours of work here and there on the right days and at the right times (Friday and Saturday nights are often most busy at many bars, especially on college campuses), can have you raking in some pretty good money.

2. Waiter/Waitress: Similar to bartending, working as a waiter or waitress could have you making some serious cash while minimizing the number of hours you work. Often, the key to making good wages at this type of work (besides providing good service) again may depend upon the restaurant at which you work as well as the days and times you work.

3. Golf Course Employee: Many college campuses have golf courses in close proximity to campus and that may be associated with the school itself. Working at a golf course in a position at the pro shop or in concessions may provide a pleasant, often relatively stress free environment that might offer a lot of down time that could allow for a bit of studying. This type of work can also make for a good summer job.

4. Delivery Driver: If you have available transportation while away at school, you might consider working as a delivery driver. Depending on the type of food being delivered, you could make decent money. The downside to this type of work is that you will need reliable transportation, which will come with the usual associated costs (insurance, upkeep, etc.), and how much money you make may largely depend on current gas rates and customer tips. On the upside, there is typically a lot of this type of work in college towns during the school year.

5. Work Study Program Through School: Work study can provide a variety of roles that allow you to make money while still keeping an eye on your studies. Consider checking your school’s Internet website to search for available work study program opportunities.

6. Lifeguard: While the pay may not always be great as a lifeguard, it could make for a nice break after an exhausting school year. Depending upon the geographic location in which you attend school or live during the summer, this could be solely a summer gig, or it could be an opportunity for five or six months in a warmer climate, or even all year long if you work at an indoor pool. This job can be a great way to stay in shape and help others.

7. Coach: If you’re into sports, you might find that coaching could be a good way to earn money for school. Whether it is by way of coaching baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis, golf, swimming, etc., there could be a variety of options that might meet with a sport skill that you have.

8. Summer House Manager: If you are a member of a fraternity, being the summer house manager (if your house remains open over the summer) could be a great way to live rent free or receive discounted rent over the summer. You might serve as the summer caretaker with duties involving tasks such as cleaning, cutting the grass, general maintenance and repairs, and similar activities.

9. Internship: While an internship might not make you much money toward paying down college related debt, it could help you earn at least a few bucks. More importantly, if you can get an internship related to your degree work, it could provide valuable experience for getting a better paying job after school that could help you pay off your school related debt more quickly.

10. Zoo: The zoo can be a fun and relaxing environment in which to work during school. This work however may be seasonal, and more zoo positions may open up as summer nears and the zoo heads into its peak season.

Tom Becker works at Money Choices, a comparison service where you can compare savings accounts and keep track of interest rates.

Networking is Vital to Success in Business

September 20, 2010 | My Ramblings | No Comments

The old adage, “It’s all about who you know!” is so true.  Years ago, at my first engineering summer internship, I got my first assignment and wanted to do an excellent job.  I don’t recall what the assignment was, but I remember immediately getting some books to help find the solution.  My supervisor saw what I was doing and pulled me aside and told me, “You don’t need to find the information in a book.  You just need to contact Mr. A for this, Mr. B for this and Mr. C for the other. These guys are the experts.  They can immediately point you in the right direction.”

I immediately learned that there is always an expert out there to help you.  Sure books are good, but there is nothing like someone to immediately give you the correct specific piece of information, answer your questions or point you in the right direction if they can’t give you all the answers.  

This holds true today in business.  If you are looking to start or grow your business, you need to network!  Sure there are many books, seminars and free/paid information on the Internet to help you, but there is nothing like getting advice from an experienced individual who can help you cut through the clutter and point you in the right direction immediately.

Additionally, people feel more comfortable helping you when they meet you in person.  Communicating my email or phone isn’t enough.  Face to face discussions have a much better chance of building a successful relationship.

When I look back in my years of trying to make money online, the opportunities where I made “decent” money was with help and information provided from people I knew.  Some I actually met in person, some I met online.

About 3 years ago I got an email for an Affiliate Manager telling me I should consider an opportunity. I saw the opportunity before in my affiliate account but never paid any attention to it. I sent her an email that I would take a look at it but had no expectations.  I then started to promote the offer and to my surprise I immediately starting making $30+/day profit.  I was able to scale that opportunity to about $300+ per day profit for several months.  If she never sent me the email encouraging me I would have never considered that opportunity.

A couple years ago I decided to attend an Affiliate conference primarily to network with people in the industry.  I ended up meeting a software company representative who told me he would give me $5,000 and build me a micro-website to start promoting their product.  At first I was very skeptical, but sure enough in a couple of months $5,000 was deposited in my account and the micro-website delivered to me.  I still promote the micro-website today and to-date has made several thousand dollars from that opportunity.

Years ago when I first thought of using the Internet to make money I met a gentleman at an Internet Meeting who told me about open source ecommerce platforms.  At the time I had no clue what open source software was.  Open Source Software is simply free software for anyone can use.  I grew curios and as a result I ended up opening several ecommerce stores that have generated tens of thousands of dollars in revenue over the years.

I’ve read numerous forum posts and blog posts by individuals of how to make money online and have implemented some of their strategies that have made me money.  I’ve befriended people who have given me tips and tricks that I implemented and have made me money.

Very few people become successful on their own.  Many successful people were helped along the way.  Bill Gates I’m certain had help for many people to build Microsoft in the company it is today.

I’ve come to realize that networking is extremely important in business.  Forming business friendships/relationships is extremely vital to your success.  Collaboration is also extremely important because no one person knows everything.  I haven’t done much collaboration; however, I’m hoping in the future to collaborate on larger scale projects.

One strategic mistake I’ve made over the years isn’t networking enough.  For the first few years I did everything by myself.  If I had it to do over again, I’d be more aggressive in networking with people.  Working isn’t the way to go!