Friday, October 21, 2016

Health insurance

When Peanut decided to stay home with the kids, we had to switch from his company's insurance to mine. It's been fine so far but it's really interesting to see the kinds of things we have to think about now that we didn't think about before.

Peanut's job paid for the entire premium for our health insurance. I have never seen that as a perk anywhere before, and it was awesome. It was a high deductible plan, but even so, the deductible wasn't that high (around $3,000) and the coinsurance/max out of pocket was an additional $3,000. Pretty much everything we ever threw at it was covered, and we didn't need to get referrals or anything. This is the insurance we were on when Pickle was born, and for the first couple years of her life we didn't have to pay that due to the state medical assistance she received. In all, that health insurance company paid out at least $1.5 million in claims for our family and we never had a single problem or issue with them at all.

So I was a little nervous about switching to a new health insurance company.

My job shares the premium payments with the employees, and both the deductibles and max out of pocket were higher than our old insurance. This is why at the end of the day, our take-home pay situation hasn't changed much even though my salary on paper is 14% higher than Peanut's was. On top of the increased actual cost to us, we also had to make decisions about primary care networks - one of which means we have to do a lot of legwork to get referrals documented appropriately but save $90 a month, or the other one that works more like the old plan worked where we just go to wherever we want for whatever care we need, but we pay for the privilege. If Pickle still had lots of specialists, we'd probably have to go with the latter, but we decided to take on the work ourselves of managing the paperwork and having slightly cheaper out of pocket expenses up front.

And it turns out, I'm really glad we went that route. We haven't needed and don't expect to need any referrals in the next three months, and it was just announced this week that in January my company is switching to yet another insurance company, which will have lower premiums and out of pocket expenses than we currently have. I don't know about their referral requirements yet, but I do know that we haven't spent any time to set up any primary care situations with our current insurance (at least not for Peanut or me) so we will have saved more than $300 to do nothing but take on a little risk.

Insurance was never something I thought a lot about, until we really needed a lot of it. We are so fortunate to have had such a good experience with an insurer (and a secondary state insurance) and it has drastically changed how I feel about that out of pocket amount now. I assume we'll spend it all in a year (4 out of the last 5 years, that's been true). I can start a year knowing that our max OOP is $6,000 or whatever, and just think, okay, that's about $500 a month for four people for all of the medical costs we can expect to have in a year (add in premiums and it's probably double that, but pre-tax stuff is so removed from my daily consciousness that it's like it doesn't exist). It's an easy way to budget for it, whatever we don't end up spending is bonus to our bottom line, and it takes a lot of the emotions and politics out of it.

I wish I could solve the health insurance system for everyone, but that mental shift has done a lot of solving it for our own budget. I used to begrudge paying anything on top of premiums for some reason, and now I treat it more like a sunk cost. The rest of it is a racket, but the perspective helps me deal with the bills that come in for an emergency room or urgent care visit.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Sold a car!

We sold one of our cars - the sedan that I complained about 18 months ago. We sold it to a family member for about half the blue book value, as a favor to them and also to us, because then we didn't have to do anything in terms of work but vacuum it out and sign the title. No advertising, no test drives, no worrying if someone's cashier's check is valid. That car has a lot of life left in it, and while I hated getting kids in and out of it, I feel a little guilty about getting rid of it before it was really and truly driven into the ground. I have actually never sold a car before - both of my previous vehicles were donated as scrap because I drove them until they didn't work anymore.

We still have our Rav 4 and the Jeep, which is stored for the winter. We should be getting a refund on our car insurance for the sedan and the Jeep, since we pulled insurance off it while it's stored.

It's been a bit of a shift to go from being used to each having a child-safe car we can drive to only having one of those, but not too bad. Peanut has taken up biking around our neighborhood which is great in a number of ways. We'll probably use some of the money from the sale of the sedan to upgrade his hand-me-down bike and get a nicer bike trailer for the kids, but bikes are definitely a lower-cost commuting option, when your commute is five blocks to the local preschool!

I take the bus most days, which is way cheaper than paying for downtown parking, way better for my mental sanity since I can read on the bus instead of glower at other driver's from my own car, and also helps me leave work at 5 on the dot every day. I had forgotten how nice public transit can be, and it's weird how easy it is to fall prey to the notion that I "need" to have my own car for going to and from work, where I pay $14 for the privilege of leaving it all by itself for nine hours. I am also getting so much more reading done!


It seems like you're usually either strapped for cash or strapped for time - or both, but rarely wallowing in an excess of either.

At any rate, I'm now time-poor even if we're doing okay financially. I was thinking the other day about how my idea of retirement is basically that I still want to work but I just want to control my own schedule. I don't know what job is out there that lets me do that, but that's what I want to retire to. Peanut on the other hand has more time on his hands than probably ever before in his life and he's enjoying it. I don't quite know how he has so much time to do projects he wants to do, because I sure didn't feel like that when I was staying home with kids! But I guess they are almost a year older than they were when I was last home 24/7, and they are getting better at entertaining themselves every day.

It's budget season at work. This is the first time I've ever had to manage a budget at work, and I'm really glad for the practice I have of managing our personal budget in such detail - I don't know how I'd cope otherwise. There is very little guidance or oversight of the budget creation process, but a lot of nit-picky details. I sat down today and did some SUMIFS and pivot tables to take a lot of the manual labor out of the process - and a project manager actually got teary-eyed at the amount of time Excel could save her now going forward. I thought it was maybe a bit of overkill to have pivot tables in our own private budget, but I'm glad now that I knew how to implement them at work.

Our spending is already down quite a bit in the last two months -between not having a nanny anymore and the savings we see from me not eating lunch out as much as Peanut did, we are enjoying feeling a little flush. After we pay bills this month we're going to max out one of our 2016 Roths, which will hopefully scratch the itch of wanting to spend without that spending being wasted.

I got a new cell phone and switched to Ting. My last phone was having some battery problems (totally dead by 3 p.m. even without being used at all), although I kind of wish that I'd tried harder to find a solution to fix that phone. Change is really hard for me and this sounds so stupid to say but I've had a lot of stress and anxiety about finding and getting used to a new phone. The savings from being on Ting is nice (and my old phone couldn't work on Ting), so that helps.

Trying to explain money to kids is hilarious. Pickle kind of understands it (she knows you can exchange it for stuff but has no concept of value) but Baby Bear has no concept at all. All he knows is that dogs don't use money because they don't have any pockets to keep it in. Ha!