What to do for health insurance in between jobs

I recently changed jobs, and although I’ve dealt with gaps in medical coverage before, I didn’t anticipate everything this time. Let’s talk about what to do for health insurance in between jobs. And let’s talk coverage too–they aren’t always the same thing.

First things first: gaps are likely, and the laws are written under the assumption that small gaps will happen. The system still isn’t what I would call fair, not that it ever has been, but generally it’s possible to navigate the system and get the coverage you need. I’m not here to complain about the system; I’m here to tell you what I did, or could have done, to navigate it.

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Don’t make your whole IRA contribution in April. Or January, for that matter

Lifehacker says it costs you money to make your IRA contribution all in April. Unfortunately, their advice to contribute in January is an oversimplification. Don’t make your whole IRA contribution in April, but don’t do it in any other single month either.

Contributing all year gives a better result.

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Set up your retirement account. Just do it. Then forget it.

My new mortgage company wants to see the balance of my 401(K) account. That turned out to be a bit of a problem, but for the right reasons.

You see, I might or might not get 401(K) statements. I don’t look at them. Sometimes I save them. Usually I don’t. So I hadn’t looked at my 401(K) balance in years, and I really only had a vague idea what was in it. I knew there ought to be enough to make the lender happy.

What I found when I finally got my hands on a statement shows why part of my strategy is to never look at the account. Read more

Hints for surviving if the shutdown put you out of work

I’ve seen plenty of news stories of how the government shutdown is affecting 800,000 or so government employees. What the news stories fail to mention is a large number of contractors are out of work too, until this passes. I can only guess on that number, but there’s no doubt it numbers in the millions, and little doubt it’s in the tens of millions.

As a former government contractor myself, I dealt with losing my job unexpectedly earlier this year, so some tips on dealing with an unexpected loss of a paycheck, even if it’s temporary, are fresh in my mind. There are five things you have to do.

I’m not here to gloat about anything. I’m here to try to help. Some of these things won’t be pleasant, but they’ll reduce pain in the long run if this lasts longer than a week. Keep in mind that everything I’m advocating is something I’ve done myself.

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Go to college, but don’t go broke doing it

I saw in this morning’s Post-Dispatch that 25% of student borrowers can’t repay their debts.

I understand why, but it’s preventable. Jim Gallagher’s column has some good advice. I’ll add some more, having recently spent a little time on my old stomping grounds at Mizzou. Read more

No, using an emergency fund to pay off credit card debt isn’t a good idea

It seems like I’ve been finding a lot of financial questions online lately. I guess that’s good–it means people are thinking. The best question I’ve found this week is whether you should use your emergency fund to pay off credit card debt.

Mathematically, it makes sense to do so. But one thing I remember hearing time and time again as we were paying off massive quantities of debt was not to empty bank accounts in order to do it. The reason for it was simple: Life is unpredictable. Read more

Another benefit of not having debt

I’ve written about how not having debt gives you power, though I can’t find the particular post at the moment. But I remember when I got my first mortgage. I went to a party, and my boss was there, along with my five other bosses, and the big boss got this look in his eye when I said I’d bought a house. That look in his eye said one thing: I own you, and I can do whatever I want to you.

And he did. From that day forward, all of the assignments nobody else wanted fell on me. Anything that was destined to fail went to me. And the cycle followed me from job to job, then stopped, like turning out a light, the day after my wife and I paid off our mortgage. It was the closest thing to magic I’ve ever seen. One day, I was the guy who got assignments at 3 PM on a Friday that were going to take me 8 hours to get done–and they had to be done by 8 AM on Monday, and one day, I wasn’t that guy anymore.

I tested it again this month. I turned down a job that offered me a $7,000 pay cut. Nothing unusual about that, right? Not in this case. In this case, rejecting that pay cut meant I didn’t have a job anymore. Read more

Bruce Sutter vs Lee Smith makes sense to me

ESPN’s David Schoenfield writes, regarding Hall of Fame votes, and Bruce Sutter vs Lee Smith specifically:

Why does [Bruce] Sutter start at 23.9 percent [of the vote] and later gain momentum and enshrinement after 13 years on the ballot, but Lee Smith start at 42.3 percent and after nine years remain at 45.3 percent?

It doesn’t make sense.

As someone who grew up in St. Louis watching both pitchers, it makes sense to me. Sutter and Smith look similar by some mathematical models, but the people who watched them remember them differently. And memory is everything when it comes to close-call Hall of Fame candidates.

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Can you afford that house or apartment?

Declining incomes have more people paying a higher percentage of their income in rent than in the past. I blame the recession. And what caused the recession? People getting in over their heads, buying more house than they can afford. I blame the big banks for that, because I personally experienced it. If I’d bought the kind of house loan officers were telling me to buy in 2002, I’d have been foreclosed on, too.

Here’s a very easy way to figure out whether you can afford a particular place. Read more

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