Archive for the ‘Money/ wealth’ Category

healthcareI know that there are downsides to socialized medicine, (and please feel free to tell me what they are) but I want to write about the upsides, and maybe the sidesides.

From my uninsured, and non-expert opinion, I think that the U.S. having Universal Health Care is a good idea. The main reason is that we have 50,000,000 people who are uninsured right now. We live in the richest nation in the world, and yet 16% of our population can’t get the help they need when it comes to health problems. The United States pays the most for health care, more than any other country, yet on almost any scale you choose to measure, we rank last. Out of Australia, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and the USA, we rank last on quality care, access, efficiency, equity, and healthy lives.

I started getting interested in this subject when I got Michael Moore’s “Sicko” out from the library. Now I know what you’re thinking.

“That is a load of democratic socialist propaganda!”

Maybe. So I also watched this Frontline report that also tackles the issue of Universal Health Care with a more dispassionate, intelligent approach. T.R.Reid (Washington Post reporter) goes around to the second and third wealthiest nations, among others, and investigates their health care systems. He evaluates each system on how much it costs to the public, the effects on the insurance and drug companies, the level of care, and most telling of all, how many people in that country go bankrupt every year from medical bills. ( None, as opposed to 700,000 in the U.S.) He tries to take the best of each program and apply it to the U.S. One of the interesting points was that not all countries have total government owned hospitals. Japan and Germany have privately owned doctors offices, hospitals, and insurance companies. Hmm, maybe we can do this in America after all.

When most people hear “Universal Health Care,” they automatically think, “Total Government Control! Big Brother! Waiting months to see a doctor!” The reality is much less alarming. In fact, we already have government run health care in America. Just look at the care we provide our Veterans. Putting the scandal a few years ago aside, the network of VA hospitals offers some of the best care in the country. Don’t believe me? read this excerpt about the VA.

The Annals of Internal Medicine in 2004, published a a study that compared Veteran’s health facilities with commercial managed care systems in their treatment of diabetes patients. In seven out of seven measures of quality, the VA provided better care. A RAND Corporation study published in the same journal concluded that VA outperforms all other sectors of American health care in 294 measures of quality.

One of the big complaints that people have with government run health care, is that people have to wait a long time to be helped. Really? Cause when I took my Mom to the Emergency Room at a local hospital in NY with a severe cut to her forearm at 10:00 p.m., we had to wait until 3:30 a.m. for her to be taken care of. And it was not a bustling downtown ER with gunshot victims. I find it hard to imagine that we would have to wait more than five hours to be seen somewhere in Europe.

From what I’ve read, seen, heard from friends, and (gasp) in fact experienced myself, medical care overseas is prompt, professional, and cheap. When I traveled to Ireland, I got in infection (sparing details) that made my ears feel like I was fifty feet underwater. We went to a small clinic in a seaside village where I was seen immediately. I was a foreigner, and yet they saw me right away, proscribed medicine, and only charged me seven pounds ($15). If the situation were reversed, I’m sure that the sick Irishman would have to pay at least $150 for the appointment, that is, if they agreed to treat him in the first place without the consent of an American insurance company.

I’m going to post this now, but will be adding to this article as I learn more.

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So this is our backyard, inner-city garden. From Grass to greens. First we watched where the sun hit our yard so we could pick the best spot. We decided that 10×10 was big enough. My wife is cutting the border while baby watches. Cutting the sod was tough work. Wear gloves to avoid blisters. Shake out the chunks so you preserve as much soil as you can. You also save the worms this way and keep them in the garden. Making the fence was the hardest part. Even deciding on a design. Because we have a crawling/ walking baby, we needed something stronger than just wire. So we got cedar rails for their natural weatherproof-ness so when the baby teethes on them, he doesn’t get a mouthful of paint or varnish. Coating the bottoms of the posts in roof pitch was nasty. We also have groundhogs around, so the rabbit fence is good for keeping him out too. We buried it 4 inches below grade for that reason. We started the cold weather veggies early and used a roe-cover for them so that when May rolled around, we already had salads ready to eat. Now we have : lettuce, chives, carrots, beets, radishes, basil, tomatoes, strawberries, bell peppers, cayenne peppers, peas, cucumbers, and spinach.

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My family and I will be officially below the poverty line starting next week. My job hours (and hence, pay) were cut in half this morning. This comes as a surprise to me because this morning, I was full-time, salary, with benefits (medical/dental, 401K, 3 weeks vacation) and almost 10 years with the organization. I suppose this is how it feels to most people. They say, “Well, the economy is bad but I still have a good job. It won’t affect me. I can still pay my mortgage every month.” Now it’s time to re-evaluate. The good news is, I still have a job. I did a little figuring and I think I can still pay my bills every month. Maybe. Now that we are officially “poor,” we qualify for food stamps and other things. My wife and I might not have health insurance, but we are usually healthy anyway. We eat well and mostly organic. (that might change though…too expensive) Now we have an incentive to start that Victory Garden in the backyard. Our 9 month old will now qualify for Medicaid too. Maybe we will as well, I’m not sure. My wife was a little shocked when I told her I was going to look at buying an army surplus field suture kit so I wouldn’t have to go to the Emergency Room.

Our situation isn’t as bad as I make it sound. I know that compared to most of the world, we are still very rich. Our car is paid off and I can bike to work if I want to, which most days, I do. We have some debt (house $52,000/student loans $10,000) but we also have some savings, but that has been shrinking by $1,000 every month since my wife stopped working last year to stay home with our new baby. We only have to survive until September when she will start her teaching job again. Our new roof will have to wait.

This is also good timing on God’s part for several reasons:

1) It’s almost spring time so our heating bills will drop from $200 to $40.

2) We only need to hold on for 6 months.

3) Better weather means we can grow our own food. We’ve never done this, and my wife has a notoriously black thumb (meaning she kills plants, no offense to my African American readers) but I think our motivation is high enough that we will see success.

4) We had already decided to join The Compact this year (you can’t buy anything new, except food, health/toiletries etc. You’d be surprised how excited you become when you visit a second-hand bookstore, architectural salvage store, or Thrift store where everything is allowed.) So this won’t be a stretch as far as deprivation is concerned. We already consigned ourselves to not buying much this year. Entertainment is cheap too. It’s called a LIBRARY. you can get books and movies (even recent releases) there for FREE.

So here are my options. I can try and get a second job and struggle with that whole hassle of driving twice as much and being away from my family even more than I am now. This might be cool because I have a chance to start fresh so to speak. For instance, I’ve always thought I would be a good security guard, landscape architect, ninja, or something else. OR

I can stay home. Enjoy this new turn of events, spend more time with my wife and son, finish my novel-get an agent- become a best selling author, have perpetual 3 or even 4 day weekends, etc. We may even qualify for getting our house painted because of the lead program. We always made too much before. We could even get new windows! The thing with this plan is that we really need to focus on saving money. See Compact above. Not too hard. So that’s where I am right now. Poor, but optimistic.

2009 Federal Poverty Guidelines

The 48 Contiguous States and DC
Persons in family Poverty guideline
1 $10,830
2 14,570
3 18,310
4 22,050
5 25,790
6 29,530
7 33,270
8 37,010
For families with more than 8 persons, add $3,740 for each additional person.

This is what we hired him for

Posted: January 29, 2009 in Money/ wealth, Politics
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Obama smacked Citigroup around like a red-headed step child.

It’s cool to be able to know that something is wrong, and have the power to do something about it.

img_16731As you can see by my latest utility bill, my decision to replace our 83 year old gravity-fed, 200,000 BTU, – 50% efficient, Octopus furnace with a new 95% efficient one is already paying off.

Just look at January 08 and January 09. Our daily average was 54% better than last year. Compare 230 therms to 115. Needless to say, I’m very happy with the result. The new exterior insulation we had blown-in also contributed to our energy saving. With that project alone, we reduce our carbon foorprint by 14,000 pounds. And who says being Green doesn’t pay off?

Well, after a  month of doing the Compact (that is, not buying anything new) we have been doing pretty well. I did buy two new albums on i-tunes, but since they are electronic files and not actual plastic CDs, and the whole point of this is to reduce materialism, I think that can be forgiven. They’re not taking up any space in my house besides hard drive space. My wife and I have both been tempted by things, but so far, have resisted. I bought some hardware at the Re-Store which is a reclaimed architectural salvage place run by Habitat for Humanity. But this is ok for two reasons: 1) it’s used, and 2) it was for a baby gate, which would fall under one of the exception categories, ie: safety.

I really wanted to buy a book by an author I like that had just come out and I was pretty bummed I would have to wait to read it. But I asked at the library anyway. It had only come out three weeks prior to that so I didn’t have my hopes up. When the librarian looked it up, she said, “Oh, we have four copies.” Oh yay. I asked to be put on the list immediatley and a week later, I had the book in my hands. This has definitley helped our bank account too. Hopefully, we’ll keep it up.

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Ever since my wife ripped out the old cabinets that were in our kitchen, we’ve been looking for something suitable to go in it’s place. We made do with a bookshelf and and small cart, but now we have this. I harvested it off the curb on a sled and it only needed minor repairs to drawers. As my uncle’s friend would say, “If it’s free, I need it.” Well, we did need it. This is definitely helping us save money while our baby is still young. I encouraged everyone to keep an eye out on trash night. Don’t think it’s beneath you to grab something off the curb. Maybe there’s only a few small things wrong with it like this piece, that you can fix that someone else didn’t want to bother with. This is recycling at its best. The Earth wins, your house wins, and your wallet wins. Thank you Emily, for throwing out your dresser. It has a new home in our kitchen.

I also found this a few months ago…from the same house!

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Inspired to build wealth

Posted: December 30, 2008 in Books, Christian, Money/ wealth
Tags: , ,

I just finished reading a book called, “Rich dad, Poor dad.” This is the forth or fifth book on becoming wealthy I have read. Each one has a different take on what to do and how to do it. I’m not sure why, but this one affected me more than some of the others. And before you say, “But Dan, you’re Christian right? Money is evil. You shouldn’t be trying to make money.”  This is a passage by Russell H. Cornwell in his book Acres of Diamonds.

“We preach covetousness in the pulpit and use the term filthy lucre so extremely that Christians get the idea that it is wicked for any man to have money. Money is power, and you ought to be reasonably ambitious to have it. You ought to because you can do more good with it than without it. Money prints your bible; money builds your churches; money sends out your missionaries; and money pays for your ministers. If you can honestly obtain…riches, it is your Godly duty to do so. It is an awful mistake of these pious people to think that you must be awfully poor to be pious.”

So yeah, I want to make money. I don’t want to work for someone else my entire life. I want to be able to travel and take time to climb some mountains and play outside without having to worry about how I’m going to pay for food or my next mortgage payment. But all that still takes work. I need to read and study a lot more before I make any big moves. I’d like to get into real estate and the stock market. Each one is vastly complicated so I know I need to be smart about it. Maybe I’ll hire some professionals. You’ve got to spend some money to make money right? We’ll see how it all works out. I’ll keep you posted.