Healthcare.gov: Betty's Experience



In October I wrote about my attempt to buy health insurance with the post, Retirement Advice: My First Hand Experience with Healthcare.gov.I don't need to recap all the disasters of the government web site. I am not sure I will ever understand how something so important to the president was allowed to be so bad. I will leave that to all the books that will eventually be written about the ACA (Obamacare) launch.

For me, little did I know I would be one of the handful of people who managed to work through that seriously flawed system to actually purchase a policy that was both superior and cheaper than the one I have been stuck with the last dozen years. I did have to come back several times to complete the application, pick a policy, and enroll. But, it did work.

At that time, Betty had yet to try her hand at finding a replacement for her truly miserable private policy. A few days after I was successful, we went on-line to start her application process. I had convinced her it might take a little time, but the process was working.

Immediately, things started to go wrong. Time after time, her application would get stuck on a page and not advance. Or, after clicking the Next button, the screen would go blank, and stay that way. Information that we entered was not saved, so each time we were bumped from the system everything we had entered was lost and we started all over again.

Finally, after a solid week we managed to finish the on-line application. Within a few days the screen told us her application was being processed. That sounded good. A week later, still processing, two weeks, three weeks....still processing.

At that point we called the 800 number several times. No one could tell us why nothing was happening but to keep checking back. The phone operators quickly acknowledged the system's flaws but were powerless to help us.

At last, the application showed it was complete and to check a box to see Betty's eligibility results. Nothing happened. We tried over a several day period and each time we landed on a dead page. Again, back on the phone we went. Now we were told someone from the Advance Resolution Center would call us. They had the power to help.

Apparently, they didn't have the power to call. Two calls requesting help from these all-powerful people and five weeks later and we still stuck with a completed application that we couldn't access to actually buy a policy. In fact, now we were kicked from "View your eligibility" back to a new application and told to start all over again. Except the system had a wrong Social Security number for Betty and wouldn't allow us to change it.

By this time Betty's current insurer had told her she'd have to pay $80 more a month starting in January to keep the half-baked coverage she had now. We were facing a real deadline just a month away.

On December 2nd, with everything still stuck we called again. This time the operator couldn't find her application at all. Apparently it was complete all right...completely lost. This time we insisted on being switched immediately to the Resolution Center. The nice lady there couldn't find Betty's policy either. It had simply disappeared.

There is a happy ending.The very patient operator told us she could complete a new application for us, get it approved in 30 seconds, and allow Betty to purchase a policy immediately. And, that is exactly what she did. After another 30 minutes of answering the same questions, she pushed the right buttons and had Betty signed up for a policy that saved us $70 a month with a tremendous increase in medical coverage.

Persistence paid off. I will never be able to understand why my attempt went through with only minor hitches at a point in October when almost nothing worked, and Betty's attempt fell so far through the cracks that it disappeared.

Betty and I are some of the people the new law was designed to help. But, there is no excuse for such an amateurish launch of such an important program that is frustrating so many people and wasting so many millions of dollars.

If you are attempting to navigate this web site and having real problems, I have three words for you: Advanced Resolution Center.




Blogging Loses An Important Voice

For the last three years, 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (And Staying There) has anchored the top of  my blogroll.  Portland resident, Galen Pearl, produces this extremely well-written blog. It has become an important part of my routine.

Regular readers know that my wife and I have visited Portland twice in the last two years, primarily to spend time with new blogging friends. While we have fallen in love with the area, they were the reason behind both trips. 

A few days ago Galen e-mailed me that she was shutting down her blog. I knew this day would come. She had taken a long break this past summer. During our time in Portland Galen and I talked about blogging and her feelings about the place of 10 steps in her life. She was ready to move on to something else. Even so, to read the final post from her was sad. I will miss her writing and insights into the human condition. While she is still on Facebook, that is not the same venue for her style of introspection.

What a casual reader may not know is the amazing life she has led...it really is the stuff of a tremendous biography or TV movie. Betty and I find her charming, loving, intelligent, and caring - all the things you look for in a friend. We have no doubt she would move heaven and earth to help us, and vice versa.

Her decision, which I support fully, made me think about the nature of blogging. It really is kind of an odd creature: neither story or poem, not really newsy, sometimes very personal and sometimes simply informative. In short, a blog is shaped by the person producing it. There is no box that contains all blogs. Each is unique in some way.

Maybe that is what keeps folks blogging and others reading the results. Every time a blogger hits the "publish" button he or she is opening up a side of themselves to the world. The feedback may be supportive, or it may be cruel and rude. One never knows but every blogger takes that risk.

After a time, as Galen notes, the words simply fail to come. Everything inside the blogger that needs to be said, has been. The blogger feels dry and overexposed, with the daily deadline a chore rather than a joy. And, once the joy of blogging is gone, the blog needs to stop.

The blogging fraternity of writers will miss Galen's skill and dedication to her craft. But, we all understand and will reach the same point at some point.

Be well, my friend, and continue to contribute to the world in your unique way.



A Woman Looks At a Woman's Relationship With Her Money

The following is a guest post from financial advisor, Luna Jaffe. Her insight on the particular concerns women have in relationship with money is worth your consideration

 
If you’re a woman, chances are good that in the years ahead, it will be you and you alone who’s responsible for managing your money. 
 
That could be a problem: Even among the very affluent, many women admit they know little to nothing about bigger-picture money concerns such as financial planning and investment management, according to a recent survey. “A lot of women cede those responsibilities to their husbands or partners because they say they don’t have the time, interest or opportunity to learn,” says Luna Jaffe. “Things are changing- more women are choosing not to marry or have been devastated by divorce or death of a loved one.  They recognize they can’t ignore money any more, but don’t know where to turn or who to trust.”

But even women with a net worth of at least $1 million concede they aren’t especially knowledgeable about money management. In the Women & Wealth Study sponsored by GenSpring Family Offices, only a third said they know a lot about financial planning, and 30 percent said the same for investment management. Part of the problem is that financial education is male-oriented, catering to how men’s brains are wired and what appeals to them, Jaffe says, “When we approach it creatively and from a more emotion-based perspective, women are not only drawn to learning about it, they have no trouble getting it,” Jaffe says.

She offers these three things every woman should know about their relationship to money:
• Your investment decisions are influenced by your emotional baggage. We all bring baggage into our relationships, and it’s no different with money, Jaffe says. When you’re not aware of the baggage operating quietly in the background, you may think you’re making smart decisions when you’re actually simply reacting to past experiences. And those might not have been even your own experiences! “Whether you or a loved one suffered the consequences of a bad financial investment, it can color your thinking in many ways, from destroying your confidence in your judgment to writing off all similar investments as ‘bad.’ ’’ Take time to reflect on the experiences you’ve had with investing, the decisions you made, and the conclusions you made as a result. What stories do you tell yourself because of these experiences?
•  Understand the emotional response with which you receive money, whether a paycheck, a gift or an inheritance. It’s important to receive money with grace – to savor it, to be grateful for it, to be at peace with it. But depending on the circumstances by which it arrives, and lingering emotions from past experiences, we sometimes receive money with anger, guilt, resentment, greed, entitlement or any of a host of other negative emotions. This can lead to self-destructive actions. Jaffe shares a story about receiving a small inheritance from her father at a time when she had no money. She loaned the whole sum to a friend, who promptly vanished. “I was still grieving his death, and I received money that represented his legacy, yet it was only a tiny fraction of his estate – his second wife got everything else. Deep inside, I felt ripped off. Perhaps I thought by loaning my inheritance, I could wash the confusion and grief out of the money making it clean and safe to use. ”
• Know your Comfort Zone for risk and stay within it. Investment comes with risks; you can assume a lot for potentially greater returns, or less for lower returns. Understanding your Comfort Zone and staying within it will help you stay committed to your financial plan. Would your best friend describe you as a risk taker? If you got $100,000 with instructions to invest it all in just ONE of these options – stocks, a savings account, a mutual fund portfolio of stocks and bonds, or your best friend’s start-up – which would you choose? Knowing whether you’re very conservative; happy with a little growth; comfortable with some ups and downs; or in for adventure will help you avoid taking financial advice that makes you uncomfortable.


About Luna Jaffe
Luna Jaffe is a Certified Financial Planner™ and Accredited Asset Management Specialist with more than 10 years of financial advising experience. She is the author of  “Wild Money: A Creative Journey to Financial Wisdom” and its companion workbook, “Wild Money: A Financial Field Guide and Journal,” (www.lunajaffe.com)


I received no compensation for this post.

Time for Thanksgiving and Family

The Thanksgiving holiday is a time for family, friends, and a heartfelt thanks for all our blessings. It is a time to enjoy a special meal, maybe a football game, sleeping late, and remembering how far we have come on life's journey.

It is a time for me to thank those who have viewed satisfying retirement blog almost one million times since it began in June of 2010.

It is a time for me to thank my regular readers.

It is a time to thank all those who leave comments, send me e-mails, or just let me know they are there.

It is time for me to turn off the computer and join the family.

A new post will be here on Friday.

Give thanks!

Bob




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This Bird has Flown

This past weekend our youngest daughter moved her belongings and herself to a new apartment. After a little over two years living with us, her financial situation and employment outlook have improved enough to give her the confidence the time is right.

She has been a great roommate. We will miss her being part of our day-to-day life. She helped move us to healthier food choices and  to try different recipes.  She introduced us to movies, TV shows, and documentaries on Netflix we would have not tried on our own. She took over 1/3 of the housecleaning chores and more than half of the puppy care.

Speaking of Bailey, our cocker spaniel, she is likely to feel the most loss at our daughter's departure. Her whole 21 month life has been with a third person in the house, the person who takes her on walks, plays with her each evening, and has figured out how to get a very finicky puppy to eat dog food.

Our daughter has very strong feelings for Bailey, too. Living only 25 minutes away, I expect she will have to make a few visits each week for snuggle time with Bailey. I wouldn't be surprised if she gets her own puppy sometime next year. Dogs add a warmth and completeness to a home that few other creatures can.

The move does something else important: Betty gets her office and bathroom back. While we will reclaim a chunk of the backyard storage shed and space in the garage for both our cars, the loss of Betty's private space has been sorely missed.  Her computer, files, and craft projects have been squeezed into a small corner of our bedroom. Both of us have fit ourselves into the master bath, resulting in cabinets overflowing and towels hung over curtain rods.

Now, the process begins to put her office back the way she wants it and to move her lotions and potions into a bathroom that she had just finished redecorating when our youngest needed to come home. This rearrangement will probably take us through the holiday season. If she can be all settled by New Year's Day I think we will consider it a success.

We have all had to adjust through this period. In that regard it has taught all three of us a little extra patience and accommodation for others. It has strengthened our bond with our youngest and allowed her to get a new degree, find a new career path, and get her finances back in order.

And, it will be like moving to a new home when Betty gets all of her space back, we get our master bedroom emptied of the craft and computer stuff, and both cars will once again fit in the garage.

For all three of us, this is a perfect Christmas gift!

Betty's Office space is a blank slate






Household Duties: The Real Benefits of Sharing

One of the first posts I wrote over 3 years ago seems worth another look. Recent comments on other posts have made clear the uncertainty and concern many soon-to-be-retirees have about the impact on a relationship caused when both partners are together fulltime.


One of the biggest stumbling blocks to a satisfying retirement can be the adjustment that must occur when one partner is now home all day. Routines and responsibilities that have been handled a certain way are suddenly upended. This is especially true if the other person has already stopped working, or has been a stay-at-home spouse. In my case, since I traveled a lot with my job my wife had a solid grasp of what needed to be done and how and by whom. When I stopped working there was this extra body who wanted to change how and when tasks were performed. Ten years later we have a system that works well, but it didn't come without a few detours down the unhappy highway.


Chores & Responsibilities

Handling some household chores maybe a sticking point for the partner who has stopped working. I assume the thinking is "I have worked hard all my life. Now, it is my time to relax." That attitude is not going to fly. The person you are telling this to has been working hard his or her entire life, too. You get to stop, and they don't?  A much better approach is to realize helping around the house will make your life a whole lot more pleasant.

Quite simply, it is the fair thing to do. You live there. You make a mess. You have some basic skills that allow you to vacuum or do the laundry or dust. Why wouldn't you assume you are partly responsible for the maintenance of your home?  Trust me, your own self-interests will benefit greatly from playing fair in the chore game.

Benefits of Sharing Chores


Helping your partner gives you a much deeper appreciation for what she or he did all those years you got to drive away every morning and left the other to handle everything. Empathy is a mark of a mature person. It is also smart. Even if you live a minimalist lifestyle with little clutter, no household runs by itself. Who do you think keeps the refrigerator full?  How come your clothes drawer has socks that match? Notice all the unsung work that has been done for years on your behalf.

Helping with the chores frees up more of your spouse's time so the two of you can go have fun together. One of the major benefits of not working is you have time to strengthen the relationships that mean the most to you. That takes effort and spending extra time doing things you both enjoy. By sharing chores, you help create opportunities for these special moments together.

What We Do

After the chores are done!
My wife and I have a simple system that works well. We make a list of the basic household chores and I do them all. No, not true. We split the list in half. Then, every two weeks we switch lists. I am not a big fan of dusting, but I only have to do it once a month so no biggie. By rotating chores the sense of being in this together is enhanced.  One partner doesn't get stuck doing the same things over and over.

By the way, I have done my own laundry almost my entire married life. I am not sure how we arrived at this arrangement, but I'm so used to it now I assume it is how all married or committed couples operate. In talking with friends, I gather that is not true. But, it works for us.


How about your system, or lack of one? How do you split chores with your spouse or significant other? Have you recently had to adjust for a newly retired person in your midst? Are you ready to scream...yet?

Please share yuur stories, good and bad. We can all learn to improve in this important area of retirement adjustments.



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