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With so many changes afoot, it's essential to study your health care options.

By Karen Datko Oct 14, 2009 11:44AM

Oh, joy. It's open-enrollment season at work, when you get to pick your health care plan and other benefits for the coming year. Argh, I'll just stick with my current plan, you think. Who wants to read all that boring paperwork?


That could be a major mistake. Automatically renew your plan, and you might be surprised to find that family members are excluded in 2010 or your out-of-pocket health care expenses far exceed your grasp. (Plus, 10% of employers will drop your coverage if you don’t actively select a plan for next year, said Gerri Willis, personal-finance editor at CNN.)


All indications are the plan you have today won’t look the same next year. So, what should you be on the lookout for as you study your health care options?


After $48,000 in rent, she's finally selling her stuff.

By Karen Datko Oct 14, 2009 9:32AM

This post comes from Max Wong at partner blog Wise Bread.


Recently I did an intervention on Sarah, one of my dearest friends. It wasn't the first time. Over the last few years I have unsuccessfully attempted to get her to seek help for a problem that has cost her conservatively $48,000 and put financial and emotional stress on her family.


Recently, after more than five years of trying to manage her problem, she finally hit rock bottom. She once again had to borrow money from her family -- this time to pay for her daughter's health care. Sarah had $800 of the $900 doctor bill in the bank, but she'd already earmarked that money for the horrible monkey on her back. Sarah has a substance abuse problem -- but not with drugs. Sarah has a problem with self-storage.

Sarah used to have financial stability. But five years ago she made a major life change when she decided, at age 40, to adopt a child and become a single parent. Sarah sold her beautiful 3,000-square-foot home so she could afford to quit her high-powered job and be a stay-at-home mom until her daughter could start preschool. She moved into a 1,200-square-foot apartment in a good school district.


Debate rages on whether clotheslines hurt property value

By Teresa Mears Oct 13, 2009 4:17PM

Anybody remember wooden clothespins? We had the peg ones with little round heads, and the clip type, like the plastic clips people use today to close potato chip bags.


Buoyed by people’s desires both to be frugal and help the environment, clotheslines are making a comeback. That hasn’t been without controversy, The New York Times reported this week.


If you live in an older neighborhood in most cities, you can hang your wet clothes out to dry with impunity. But if, like 60 million Americans, you live in a homeowner association or other private development, your community’s rules probably ban clotheslines.


State legislatures are moving to change that. Florida and Utah for some time have upheld residents’ rights to dry their clothes outside. In the last year, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine and Vermont have given their citizens the right to dry their clothes outside, The Times reports, and bills upholding the “right to dry” are pending in Maryland, North Carolina, Oregon and Virginia.


Do 'pink' purchases really help the fight against this disease?

By Karen Datko Oct 13, 2009 3:33PM

Pink shoes on NFL players in support of breast cancer awareness was kind of cute. The players seemed to be making a statement rather than asking us to buy anything.

But what about all those pink ribbons on products ranging from Swiffer to chocolates? If we buy those products, are we really supporting cancer research and patient support? And, if so, by how much?


The fact is that anyone can stick a generic pink ribbon on a product and call it good or beneficial. And every October, many manufacturers do. It’s come to be an annual October event, like Halloween, or changing leaves, or reviewing your health care options at work.


“It's a life-affirming month, assuming that you can avoid what has come to be the tyranny of Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” Suzanne Reisman wrote at BlogHer two years ago, indicating that nothing has changed.


Wanted posts ask for Xboxes, laptops, GPS

By Teresa Mears Oct 13, 2009 1:38PM

Blogger Abigail Perry at I Pick up Pennies is wondering if Freecycle is getting greedy.


In recent months, she has noticed a shift in the tone of the emails on the local Freecycle mailing lists, part of an international network in which people offer for free items they no longer want and ask for items they need. These days, she says, she is seeing an increasing number of “wanted” posts, where people are asking for items.

“It just seems wrong,’’ she writes. “To me, Freecycle is about what you have -- about what you can give -- not about what you want to get. If you want things, you sign up for the updates. Perhaps what you need will be posted. Perhaps not. It's the nature of the site.”


They're breaking the rules for reimbursing passengers when luggage is late or disappears.

By Karen Datko Oct 13, 2009 12:52PM

This post comes from James Limbach at partner site


Airlines can't arbitrarily limit compensation for passengers who purchase necessities because their bags were lost or delayed, the U.S. Department of Transportation has warned carriers.

In its notice, DOT's Aviation Enforcement Office said a number of carriers have policies stating that they will reimburse passengers only for buying necessities purchased more than 24 hours after arrival, and limiting such reimbursements to the outbound legs of trips.


Those policies violate DOT regulations, which require that airlines cover all expenses caused by lost or delayed baggage up to $3,300 per passenger on domestic flights, DOT said.


The income-based repayment plan makes loan payments affordable.

By Karen Datko Oct 13, 2009 11:27AM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.


A few weeks ago I asked newsletter subscribers to e-mail me about the things that concerned them. Many readers told me that the cost of higher education and their student loans were some of the things on their minds.

A few years ago, I wrote about how my sister took advantage of a student loan forgiveness program for teachers. It’s a great program if you can participate because it helps the (former) student and it helps society as a whole by putting incentives and compensation more in line with the work performed. Today, I wanted to discuss the income-based repayment plan created by the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007. It became available on July 1.


Could it be because it makes people feel better?

By Teresa Mears Oct 12, 2009 3:33PM

This guest post is by Frank Curmudgeon at Bad Money Advice.


Sometimes topics crop up in the PF blogosphere, seemingly out of nowhere, and rattle around from blog to blog for a while. Dollar cost averaging is a recent example. The Digerati Life brought it up on September 23, Lazy Man and Money responded the next day, and The Sun’s Financial Diary shared its thoughts on the 28th. There are probably several other mentions out there I missed.


Before I add my voice to the echo chamber, I’ll define the term. Dollar cost averaging refers to buying an investment, usually a stock or stock fund, over time in installments of equal dollar value.


It is often confused with the laudable and similar idea of regularly saving. Setting aside a certain amount of your pay every week or month may look like dollar cost averaging, but it’s not exactly the same thing.  Implicit in the question "is dollar cost averaging a good idea" is the premise that there is an alternative, that you could have invested it all at once rather than slowly as you earned it.



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