Saturday, September 12, 2009

Calling Out the lies! Health insurance is available for those with pre-existing conditions

News Flash! If you have a pre-existing condition that precludes you from getting insurance from a private insurer, you are eligible to become part of the Texas Health Insurance Pool. The pool provides affordable health insurance to those who are denied coverage. And it's not some fly by night insurance outfit, it's with BlueCross and BlueShield.

How is it that this little program has been kept a secret from POTUS and his cadre of Dems who keep claiming that it's impossible to get insurance with a pre-existing condition? The state of Texas has been providing this safety net since 1998!

What? you don't live in Texas? Well, just come visit, after 30 days you can have insurance. Seriously, check it out.

How on earth did I discover this? It certainly is not widely known and there is no advertising in any media that I have ever seen. I learned about the pool through a friend who was diagnosed with cancer. He didn't have insurance because he would rather spend his money on a $300,000 house and a boat, a deer lease and a new Ford 4x4, etc ad nauseum. Consequently, he thought he had no choice, but to pay for ala cart cancer treatments which BTW are at a substantial discount when paid for with cash. Because of his limited available funds, he had to make choices as to which treatments were the most cost effective. Eventually, after several treatments, his doctor mentioned that he could be eligible and should apply for the health insurance pool. My friend survived the cancer and the pool has saved him a fortune, plus he kept all his toys.

So, it begs the question, why even buy health insurance when such a pool exists? Why not save your money or spend it on 4x4 trucks, and just wait until you actually might need insurance then apply for the health pool safety net? Think of all the neat stuff you could have with the cash saved from not paying insurance premiums!
Sure, that would be abusing the system, and it is predictable that the corrupting forces of socialism will continue to be a deleterious drag on human character, even in the overly proud state of Texas.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

BIGGER GOVERNMENT = smaller people

By now, we have all heard plenty of reasons why people are against and/or for an increase in government's role in healthcare. But the reason that resonates most is the effect on the individual. This article gets to the core of the issue concerning the deleterious effects of excessive government on human character.

A summary of the five ways big government kills character:

1. People who are able to take care of themselves and do so are generally of better character than people who are able to take care of themselves but rely on others. Also known as pride.

2. The more people come to rely on government, the more they develop a sense of entitlement. Why work when there are handouts?

3. People develop disdain for work. Work is no longer considered a noble and worthy use of time.

4. People become preoccupied with vacation time.

5. People are rendered more selfish. Ever work at a can bank handing out food? The people that come in for free handouts are downright demanding.

As a result, Bigger government increases the number of angry, ungrateful, lazy, spoiled and self-centered individuals. Which is the same result that parents get when they never say "no" to their children!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Capitalism to the rescue with a real stimulus plan

Leave it to a private businessman to offer some stimulus that makes sense.  It seems obvious now, but who else but a true capitalist would come up with a great way to encourage new business?  

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, is offering funding for those who share their idea for a new business on his blog.  The really interesting part is that he is calling it an "open source funding environment".  Since the plan will be available to all who visit the blog, there is a good chance others will "steal" the plan and duplicate it elsewhere in the country.  After all, he says the idea is to help the whole country, not just one or two.

What a refreshing idea this is compared to the absurd pork spending that our government is offering.  It's comical to even suggest that our overbloated, non-functional government would know anything about starting a competent business.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Going against Nature is for Fools

Does it seem odd to anyone that our government is so interested in discouraging saving?  How can anyone argue that savings is not the very essence of our personal security.  Our savings are the primary foundation we have to fall back on in tough times, to get us through ordeals such as what we are now facing, and of course, to build a better life. Yet, our dear leaders, have little interest in encouraging savings.

Why is saving no longer in the interest of the public good?  Simply put, the economy has been depending on consumer “overspending” for years with the government injecting stimulus at every downturn.  It is a false economy.  The consumer has been driving this engine and this dependency is not a healthy underpinning for any free market.

It hasn’t always been that way.  At one time, a very long time ago, saving was encouraged.  Saving and then investing money into one’s private business or even into the stock of other businesses helped to fund the building of products and drove job creation.  When US products could no longer compete in price with other countries, we stopped building and the economy began to rely excessively on consuming.

This didn’t happen overnight.  It took years to change laws and eliminate sound lending policies to free up the credit to fuel this monster, to keep consumption growing.  It has been a case of growth at all costs.  Leverage yourself to the hilt, take out more credit, just keep the engine going a little longer. 

Obviously, we are desperate for change, but it has now become apparent that there will be no change in economic policy.  This administration plans to keep on kicking the can down the road.  In fact, the “can” is doubling and tripling in size.  It is and has been easier to keep kicking, rather than to actually stand up and lead; to make the tough, unpopular decisions.  Eventually, all of this will settle out, this farce can only continue for so long.  Propping up unsound businesses will not work.  There was a day when a business did not make a profit, it got squeezed out.  It was economic survival of the fittest and this natural process produced the strongest and most competent businesses.  Evidently, there are many who think they can change this law of nature, but we all know that nature can not be fooled.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Two chances to win Money

Here's an opportunity to win a couple of free gift cards.

Your Money Relationship is offering a contest for a $50 Amazon gift certificate.  You can increase your chances of winning by doing various things on the site such as asking a question, subscribing to the feed by email, leaving a comment, etc.  The contest runs until 11:59 PM on January 31st.

Single Guy Money is offering a $100 gift card to your choice of Target or Wal-Mart.  To enter the contest just leave a comment on his site describing how you would like to spend the money.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Novel device provides feedback to stop slouching

Now, here’s a gadget that I would really like to try out: the iPosture.

“The iPosture is an intuitive electronic device designed to improve posture. Just over one inch in diameter, the iPosture automatically senses when the body slouches, and it alerts the user with brief vibrations to correct it.“

I have no doubt that it’s just as tough as this reviewer says it is.  He actually had sore muscles from just a few hours of use.  Of course, as with any new habit, good or bad, it typically takes 3-4 weeks for good posture to become natural.

Like most people, I would like to improve my posture.  I remind myself several times during the day, particularly when at my computer keyboard, to straighten up, throw my shoulders back, etc.   So, I have decent posture for a few minutes and then before I know it, I find myself drawn in closer to the PC and scrunched over the keyboard once again. 

Even though, it may be distracting at first, I think the continuous feedback from an active monitor like the iPosture just might get me over the hump, so to speak.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Save Thousands in Taxes with an “honest” mistake

It has never been more obvious than now, that we live in a society of haves and have nots.  The nominee for Secretary of the US Treasury did not pay taxes for several years and when he got caught in an audit, he paid only the back taxes that the auditors found, not all of the taxes that he knew about.  On top of that, he was not fined, no penalty.  If you don’t think we have a double standard between public figures and regular, non celebrity-type citizens try that and see how you are treated in the federal pen.

But that is not the end of this guys sordid tale.  The WSJ points out a few more “goofs” of this supposed genius:

“Other tax issues also surfaced during the vetting, including the fact Mr. Geithner used his child's time at overnight camps in 2001, 2004 and 2005 to calculate dependent-care tax deductions. Sleepaway camps don't qualify.

Amended tax returns that Mr. Geithner filed recently include $4,334 in additional taxes, and $1,232 in interest for infractions, such as an early-withdrawal penalty from a retirement plan, an improper small-business deduction, a charitable-contribution deduction for ineligible items, and the expensing of utility costs that went for personal use.

The other cloud for Mr. Geithner involved an immigrant housekeeper whose work-authorization papers expired during her tenure working for Mr. Geithner. “

It takes some real audacity to try to deduct your kids summer camp.  Sure some accountant could have prepared his paperwork for him, but once again try that excuse with your tax  filings.  You and you alone are responsible for what goes on your tax forms. 

The other real kicker for me is the fact that this financial whiz took an early withdrawal from his retirement plan and lied about it to the IRS.  That action calls into question not only his honesty, but his money management skills.  After all this is no run of the mill, inconsequential nominee, this guy is going to oversee the IRS!!!  And all of our tax dollars in US Treasury.

His defense is simply that all of this was an “honest mistake”.

The guy can’t manage his own personal finances let alone oversee the finances of the country.  This is the change that we have been promised??  This is considered acceptable behavior by BHO??  What would be unacceptable?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Going cashless - against the grain

Forever the contrarian, it seems.  While others are opting for cash only transactions to avoid credit card balances, I am doing just the opposite.  I have streamlined my wallet to include only my ID, one credit card, an ATM/Debit card and a couple of insurance information cards. 

I have a few reasons for making this change:

  • Thinner, smaller wallet that is easier to conceal and carry
  • Faster transactions
  • Cash back on card purchases means more money in my pocket
  • Eliminate hassle of carrying change coins

 Some other potential benefits:

  • Reduce chances of overpaying.  For example, handing over a 20, but receiving change for a 10
  • Eliminate the handling of tainted and/or counterfeit bills

And of course, some of the cons might be:

  • Credit card not accepted everywhere
  • Vendor refuses transaction due to low purchase amount
  • More people handling my credit card could increase chances of ID theft/fraud

I decided to put the new system to test this past week while on a three day business trip.  At first, it seemed a little strange to use a card to pay for a 2 dollar and 17 cent item.  However, the cashier didn’t hesitate at all when I handed over a credit card.  The best part is that the deal is cleaner and much faster, since a signature is not required on transactions less than $25 and some vendors accept even larger amounts.

It all went smoothly, except for a couple of instances.  In one case, I stopped at a kiosk for a newspaper and coffee in an airport.  Payment was on the honor principle!  The kiosk had a container with a slot and a sign “please pay with correct change”.   Since I was so impressed with the fact that anybody would use an honor system in a large city airport, I just had to participate.  By throwing a couple of bucks in the pot, I wanted to show the vendor and the world that there is some hope for the future of humankind!  That’s right, some folks will pay for services simply because it’s the right thing to do, not because it’s the law. 

Fortunately, I didn’t do this cashless experiment cold turkey.  I had three dollar bills and a twenty – just in case.

The next cash only situation occurred at my hotel. The hotel offered complimentary breakfast buffet and it was so good and the waitress so friendly that I wanted to leave a tip.  I could have asked to have a tip placed on my room bill, but who knows if the waitress would have received that?   Leaving cash on the table was the best way to make sure she got the tip.

From this trial, I can see that I still need to stash a few bucks for tips, especially when I travel.  So, my wallet may not be as thin as I would like, but then again, I just found another way to eliminate my ATM/debit card by turning my drivers license into a debit card!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What’s working in your Investment Portfolio?

This past year has been brutal for equities across the board.  In times like these, when nearly everything is tanking, I can’t help but notice the miniscule portion of my portfolio in US savings bonds that is leading the way with positive returns.  I never thought I would see the day.  I have been purchasing savings bonds over the last 20 years mainly to keep my employer off my back.  Every year, the company recruits employees to canvass the masses and urge all to participate through payroll deduction.  I have been one of those canvassers and I can attest that convincing engineers of the financial benefits of bonds has always been a hard sell, so instead the canvassers tout patriotism!  Love America, buy a bond.

To track my bond holdings, I use a Savings Bond Wizard tool and it is currently reporting that many of my EE bonds purchased 10, 15 and even 20 years ago are yielding a whopping 5.6 %. I’m thrilled!  A snapshot example of the wizard screen is shown below.  For those of you holding savings bonds, the wizard software, available for download at the TreasuryDirect website, is an easy way to keep track of this newly, exciting asset class.  Once you have entered the serial number of each bond, the wizard will track it, provide accrual and maturity dates, automatically update to the latest rates and yields and provide the current dollar value of the bonds all free of charge.

This past year was a great time to be holding bonds, but what about previous years?  For some very interesting data check out this graph provided by The Savings Bond Advisor comparing the value of equal monthly investments in series I savings bond and the Vanguard Index 500.  The differences between the two over the last year are pretty dramatic, but the data also shows that savings bonds have been in the running over the last several years.  Hmmm, an investment paradigm shift may have finally arrived for at least one engineer.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Setting the Stage for a better 2009

Every year I set several goals that are typically related in some way to sports or athletic endeavors.  This year I have expanded that to include some other areas that need improvement.  Here are four of my goals:

#1 Goal 

More bonds in my portfolio!  I always have trouble adding bonds, it just seems to go against my grain.  For many years I have steered away from bonds and their boring returns with the argument that I was diversified in various equities, commodities and real estate.  That false sense of security worked for a long time.  It seemed that things balanced out because when one asset class was down another was booming.  That didn’t hold true for the bust of 2008 where equities across the board took steep losses with few exceptions.  The losses have gotten my attention and convinced me to reduce my overall risk.  I will not sell any assets, but will re-direct a large portion of new money into bonds. 

#2 Goal

Exceed my 2008 walking/hiking mileage.  Last year, I strolled along for just over 3 million steps or 1500 miles.  1.27 million of those steps were with my dog, Brownie Boy.  Dogs can be great motivators – how can anybody say no to a walk when the little guy is so excited about going?

#3 Goal

Read More.  I don’t care what the topic, just read.  I read twenty books last year ranging from personal finance to mysteries with romantic undercurrents.  I am giving myself free rein to read anything that interests me because reading something is better than not.

#4 Goal

Take off on an Adventure.  I want to live life with no regrets and one way to help make sure that happens is to do something every now and then that is frightening!  Okay, that may be a little over the top.  My aim is to do something that forces me to stretch in some way.  One of the possibilities for this year is a sea kayak trip, camping and fishing for 8 days along the coast.