Sanity, Finances and Supplemental Insurance

Realistic thinking and an ounce of prevention can give you a happier life.  If it sounds simple, it actually is.  It’s harder to change one’s mindset than it is to take the actions that are needed.

Most Americans, and certainly older ones like me, grew up with several assumptions about how our lives would play out.

(1)  Income will increase over time.  Taking on debt now is OK, because you can pay it off with increased earnings in the future.

(2) Housing is an investment.  The value of housing will increase.  Buy as  much as you can afford now, and make money when you sell.  Take on an equity loan now, and the growth in value will enable you to sell, cover the loan and still make a profit.

(3) Kids will do better financially than their parents.  In  your old age, your kids will be able to help you if needed.

(4)  Social Security is there to cover basic expenses in retirement.

(5)  You will be able to retire and enjoy yourself in your later years.

Like the Easter Bunny, these are wonderful myths.  However, trying to live as if they were true is a quick path to what some analysts call, “money depression.”(1)  That in turn is linked to problems with relationships and health.(2)

That’s the deadly spiral:  money problems can trigger depression, which can trigger health problems, which can add to money problems.

The blind faith in the future is what enables people to spend everything they earn and dive into debt.  It’s why almost half of Americans admit they would have trouble handling even minor financial emergencies, like a $400 medical bill.(3)

The new era of “living within one’s means” requires three things:

(A) Realism about the lifestyle one can afford

(B) A realistic budget

(C) Resources to deal with “the inevitable unexpected”, so that these don’t siphon off money you need for other things.

Item (C) is where supplemental insurance fits.  No one expects to get sick or have an accident, but the average American spends over 9 years of his/her life dealing with illness or injury.(4)  No one expects to have an accident.  Most cancers in the US are now attributed to environmental rather than genetic factors.(5)  You simply cannot plan on staying well.  That’s not something you fully control.

Supplemental insurance works by providing cash to those who are hurt or ill.  The cash is paid to the insured rather than to healthcare providers, and can be used to meet health insurance deductibles and copays, as well as to pay living expenses while ill.

Supplemental insurance makes sense for most people because it is very low cost.  Policies start at less than $20 per month for individuals, and less than $40 per month for families.

Financial peace of mind means having a budget that works and knowing that you are protected to the extent possible against the “inevitable unexpected.”  Once you achieve financial peace of mind, you’ll find you have the time and energy to tackle other challenges in your life.

 


Sources:

(1) Williams, Goeff.  “7 Steps to Defeat Money Depression.”  US News.  6 Aug 2014.
Harding, Anne.  “When Money Ruins Your Mood.”  Health.com.  http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20541338,00.html

(2) Crown, WH, et. al.  “The impact of treatment-resistant depression on healthcare utilization and costs. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry

(3) Gabler, Neal.  “My Secret Shame.”  The Atlantic Monthly [may 22016: 52-63]

(4) The World Health Organization gives the health life expectancy for US citizens as 69 years, as compared to a current life expectancy of 78 years.

(5) http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/substances
http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/

 

 

 

Bedbug Aesthetics

Why someone would do this research, I really can’t fathom.  Doesn’t matter what I think of course.  Someone paid for it, and someone did it.

It has been determined that bedbugs like the colors red and black, and dislike the colors green and yellow.  Really.

It seems counter-intuitive.  After all, green and yellow colors are far more likely to be found in nature than are red and black.  However, maybe being commonplace breeds contempt?

Anyway, the notion of red bedsheets collecting bedbugs is going to ruin a bunch of kinky fantasies.

[Source:  LiveScience.com, 4/27/2016]

Boomers: Living Longer but with Poorer Health

In the past, living longer was associated with having better health in one’s older years.  A new study by researchers at the University of Southern California indicates that this relationship is no longer true.

The study analyzed the increase in life expectancy among Americans between 1970 and 2010.  In turns out that most of the increase in life expectancy is in the time that an individual suffers from a major illness or disability.

That finding links the increase in life expectancy with a dramatic increase in healthcare costs.  However, there have been no changes in government funding of Medicare or Social Security Disability to match the change in need.

Source:  http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/10.2105/AJPH.2016.303120

 

 

Retirement: the Fading Dream

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Most Americans today will never be able to afford to retire.  Period.  Retirement was a concept basically created in the 1950s, and a number of factors have come together to end the dream for the great majority of Americans.  The end of the dream in turn necessitates changes in how Americans live.  These changes will affect the economy and politics.  Arguably, they already are.

Here are some of the fundamentals:

  1. The average US household has $35,000 in funds at age 65.
  2. The average Social Security payment in 2016 is $1,341 per month.
    https://faq.ssa.gov/link/portal/34011/34019/Article/3736/What-is-the-average-monthly-benefit-for-a-retired-worker
  3. According to Fidelity Investments, the average couple will encounter $245,000 in out-of-pocket health care expenses after age 65.
    https://www.fidelity.com/about-fidelity/employer-services/health-care-costs-for-couples-retirement-rise
  4. The Fidelity estimate excludes long term care/nursing home costs.  According to Morningstar, we need to add 2.4 years of nursing home or long term care costs, at approximately $13,000 per month per person, to the Fidelity total.  Subtracting what Medicare covers of nursing home expenses, that’s roughly $347,000 per person.

Basically, the average person needs upwards of $800,000 in liquid assets to retire.  However, at age 65, the average American has $35,000 in savings.

It’s pretty easy to see that these numbers don’t work for most people.  And that doesn’t consider the 10% of seniors who are caring for a grandchild.

So, how can the average person cope?  

  • They can work.  However, that takes jobs away from younger workers.  Job creation in the US isn’t strong enough to support both an influx of new high school and college grads and oldsters returning to work.  However, in this competition, older workers are handicapped as large corporations don’t like to hire them.  Seniors will return to the labor market at a much lower rate of pay than they had previously.
  • They can die at an earlier age.  In the US, low income males are doing that today, having lost 4 years of life expectancy since 2000.
  • They can deplete assets and let state aid contribute to covering expenses.  However, that means living one’s last years in extreme poverty.  People with severe, terminal illnesses such as advanced cancer are often having to do this.
  • They can move in with children.  The incidence of multi-generational families is on the rise.  That will change the kind of home buyers will want.
  • They can move outside the US to where health care is much less costly.  Central America is the destination of choice for emigres.  The US government doesn’t publish statistics on citizens who live outside the country.  Current third party estimates range from 3 million to 9 million, excluding military and diplomatic personnel and their families.  All estimates agree that the number is increasing.

[NOTE TO POLITICIANS:  More Mexicans are now leaving the US than entering, counting both those with and without documentation.  Why is this a point of discussion this year?]

Several of these trends suggest that there may be another sell-off of single family homes in the future, with another round of declining home prices, underwater mortgages and foreclosures.  Boomers will need money for health expenses.

The growing volume of available senior labor may put a cap on wage increases, and increase deflationary pressure.

The fundamental problem is that today’s Americans reached adulthood with certain expectations about how their life would be.  Those expectations are being dashed, generating the anger that is playing out in the current election season.  The disappointment and anger is still in its early stages, and may get much worse.

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In this context, its rather amazing that so many people wanted to run for the Presidency this year.  The next four years are likely to be traumatic, and the next chief executive is likely to leave office after one term as a much hated individual.

Skateboards and Emergency Rooms

YouTube is populated with skateboard bloopers, and with good reason.  According to researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, skateboards put 176 users into emergency rooms in the US every day.

(OK, before we get into the “guns don’t kill people argument,” it’s mishaps, bad luck or bad judgment by users that cause ER visits.  No, skateboards don’t hurt people.  People using skateboards hurt themselves and maybe others as well.  However, even the best riders get hurt, and most users aren’t that good.)

The study was based on analysis of data from 1990 to 2008.  And yes, skateboard users can minimize injuries by wearing helmets and knee and elbow pads to an extent.  However, if you’re trying to jump between the roofs of two three-story buildings, there’s only so much that protection can do.  Most users don’t even wear the minimum.

Source:  Science Daily:  9 April 2016

Mission

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I’m Victor Crain.

I am an independent agent representing Aflac, VSP Vision, Delta Dental and Mutual of Omaha insurance.  The purpose of these policies is to help consumers minimize costs associated with using medical services and to meet living expenses while ill or injured without draining savings or investments.  My scope of work includes disability and long term care.

I’m licensed in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Virginia.

You work hard for your money, and you’ll need it for education expenses or retirement.  Most people don’t have enough in savings for either.  Why spend more on healthcare than you need?

In learning this trade, I’ve acquired knowledge about the Affordable Care Act, the Healthcare Marketplace(s), and business reporting that I’m quite willing to share.

As a market research veteran, I have access to information from a variety of sources, and I’ll be sharing that on this site.  What the media promotes and what you really need to know aren’t necessarily the same thing.  I’m here to help.

Welcome on board.

If you need to reach me:

Cell:  609 510-3712

vic@craininsurancellc.com

Fitness Trackers Become Life Savers

This week saw the first report of a fitness tracker used to diagnose and treat a patient in an emergency room.

The healthcare mantra everyone should know:  correct treatment applied quickly produces better results.

The episode occurred at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden, NJ.  A patient had an irregular heart beat (arrhythmia) and seizure prompting the patient to go to an ER.

Doctors can use a treatment called an electrical cardioversion on patient’s whose arrhythmia has started within 48 hours of seeking treatment.  Unfortunately, the patient often cannot report accurately when the episode began.

However, a Fitbit® can.  The Fitbit® also can tell when treatment causes the heartbeat to return to normal after treatment.  Instead of monitoring the patient over a period of hours, these means immediate treatment, immediate results and faster discharge from the ER.

In the words of Dr. Alfred  Sacchetti, the physician reporting on this event:  “Not all activity trackers measure heart rates, but this is the function of most value to medical providers.  Dizziness with a heart rate of 180 would be approached very differently from the same complaint and a heart rate of 30.  At present, activity trackers are not considered approved medical devices and use of their information to make medical decisions is at the clinician’s own discretion.  However, the increased use of these devices has the potential to provide emergency physicians with objective clinical information prior to the patient’s arrival at the emergency department.”

Bottom line:  having a fitness tracker can be invaluable when something happens to you.  However, the fitness tracker needs to be able to track heart rate.  You need to make sure that the brand and model you buy can do this.

Source:www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160405183028.htm

For good third party reviews of fitness trackers:  please see:  PC Magazine, “The Best Fitness Trackers of 2016”,
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2404445,00.asp

Other information:

How monitors work:   http://www.livescience.com/42220-heart-rate-monitors.html

About heart rates:   http://www.livescience.com/42081-normal-heart-rate.html