Saving For Retirement Shouldn't Be So Scary


I am a huge proponent of promoting the importance of saving for retirement. But I’m nothing like the austere champions of saving that berate the public for not saving, actually investing, enough or at all. Or who label them financially illiterate because the concept of compound interest won’t sink in. I understand why saving for a distant life is a hard message to hear for many people. I also understand why people fear investing as a way to save for retirement.

Aside from being deliberately confusing, investing is risky. This risk is so often downplayed by the usual responses of:

  • think long-term
  • focus on your goals
  • you only lose if you sell
  • focus on monthly income
  • don’t focus on the accumulated amount
But what if your retirement is in the short-term like it was for a friend of mine who had the misfortune of being in her early 70s and ready to retire in 2009. Her workplace retirement investment account decreased in value by about 25%. It’s hard not to focus on the fact that your retirement account declined by a multiple of six figures.

I know a lot of financial types will have an appropriate industry response about how she could recover her losses by keeping some of her money in the market because she didn’t need it all at once. But these folks miss the point. That 25% loss was a huge number. A psychologically unforgettable number… So huge that it made me rethink my sunny “but it’s for the long-term” response I am always quick to give to reluctant retirement investment plan participants.

And now with the financial markets having a lackluster 2015 and a horrible five trading days in a row, my friend’s story is fresh in my mind because I’m six years older. Six years
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Republican Presidential Candidates On Health Care Reform. Oy Vey!

This week health care policy watchers are focusing their attention on the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) alternatives put forth by Senator Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. I can’t say that I was eager to read another Republican health care reform proposal. But as someone who makes a point of reading all publicly available health care reform proposals, I took the time to read them. And although short in length, reading them was exhausting.

All the major conservative health care reform boxes are checked…

I didn’t see anything in the Rubio and Walker proposals that I haven’t seen in other conservative health care reform proposals. Tax credits. Check. HSAs. Check. Employer tax-preference reform. Check. Medicaid block grants (state-controlled). Check. Allowance of bare bones medical plans. Check. State high-risk pools. Check. Interstate insurance plans. Check. Return to the pre-Obamacare status quo. Check.

Bottom line with these two proposals is that they contain very little detail but are clearly making the point that they are okay with the pre-Obamacare health care environment of crappy health plans but want major changes in health insurance plan tax treatment.

But as these two proposals are being dissected, another health care reform conversation is taking place among Republican presidential candidates that is more interesting and worrisome. At least three candidates have discussed raising the Medicare eligibility age beyond age 65 and/or privatizing the program. Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Marco Rubio have all proposed these types of changes to Medicare. But to be fair many Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate support these types of changes to Medicare and it was on the table when the Democrats drafted Obamacare.
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My Eyes Were Open By Overpriced Vision Care


Last week I had a vision exam and received a prescription for a new pair of reading glasses and replacement progressive lenses. I have medical and dental insurance that I pay for myself, but I don’t have separate vision coverage nor does my health plan cover any non-injury eye care. Fortunately, I have a health savings account with a few bucks in it because my total bill for eye exam, photos of my eye, reading glasses and replacement progressive lenses was $1,474. Yes, an eye-popping $1,474.

And the funny thing about the whole experience is that the very nice optician who assisted me after my exam and the rest of the office staff seemed embarrassed by my bill. I don’t think they ever saw a bill so large and neither had I. It’s been awhile since I had to pay the full price for my eye care. To be honest, I don’t remember ever paying full price for an exam or glasses—it was always covered by insurance. Sure, I paid a few hundred bucks towards the cost but not nearly $2k.

Confession: I do have poor eyesight and am a lifelong four eyes. I have astigmatism, am extremely farsighted and wear progressive lenses. All of this “eye care” cost money but what it cost is unbelievable. The price tag for high index lenses (to reduce their thickness and heaviness) is just over $300 for the set. And of course you want your lenses to be anti-glare, well that is going to cost you another $150 per set… Who doesn’t want anti-glare lenses and why aren’t they standard? Oh, let’s not forget the other coatings they put on lenses to increase clarity of night vision or something… Again, why aren’t these coatings a standard part of all lenses and why do they cost an additional $110 dollars per set?

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Universal Health Care Will Result In Necessary Job Cuts


Whenever there is a debate about universal health care, opponents of such a system often cite medical provider shortages as a concern. They claim increasing access to health care for everyone somehow disadvantages the previously insured. Boohoo.

Once everyone has access to health care forget trying to get a same day or even same week appointment when you contact your doctor, they claim. What was a reality before health care reform, longer wait times than other industrialized nations, is made out to be a “new” safety issue. Opponents of universal health care conveniently ignore the fact that there has always been a waiting list for medical care for everyone but especially those who cannot afford it.

The medical care provider shortage scare tactic is a bogus excuse designed to maintain the status quo and to hide an even bigger concern of health care reform opponents. What health care reform opponents fear more than a medical provider shortage is health care industry workforce changes. When millions were losing their jobs during the Great Recession, the health care industry was adding them at a record pace. And this
record growth is projected to continue for years to come. Ironically, a lot of this growth is due to more insured individuals because of the Affordable Care Act.

However, there is increasing concern in the health care industry that what Obamacare giveth, the next step in health care reform, universal health care or single payer, will take away. This type of fear is not unique to the health care industry. Many industries actively oppose changes for the common good in an effort to hold onto “unneeded” jobs. Just ask
Senator Mitch McConnell how he feels about the Obama Administration’s recently announced climate change regulations (Clean Power Plan) and their perceived impact on coal jobs that were already declining. Continue Reading...