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Sign of the Times

At the end of last summer, I pulled into a gas station in which a sign over the posted gas prices read, “Swimsuit season is over; Krispy Kreme is here.” It was an unconventional yet palpable indicator that summer had ended.

Some signs require a little more technical interpretation, like the ones used to indicate whether our economy is advancing. There are many leading indicators that are considered the most redolent of how the economy is doing. Leading indicators present signs typically before the economy as a whole actually changes — and are, therefore, useful as only short-term projections. 

[CLICK HERE to check out the latest batch of economic releases from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.]

[CLICK HERE to read the press release, “Bank Introduces New Measure of GDP,” from The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank, Nov. 4, 2013.]

The following are 10 leading economic indicators designed to help predict activity in the U.S. economy six to nine months in the future.

  1. Average weekly hours (manufacturing), an indicator for changes in unemployment
  2. Average weekly jobless claims for unemployment insurance, to indicate job losses
  3. Manufacturers’ new orders for consumer goods/materials, to indicate future revenue
  4. Vendor performance (the time it takes to deliver orders), an indicator of rising demand
  5. Manufacturers’ new orders for non-defense capital goods, an indicator of actual production
  6. Building permits for new private housing units
  7. The Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index — changes in stock prices reflect investor’s expectations for the future of the economy and interest rates.
  8. Money Supply (M2), measures deposits — an increase indicates expectations that inflation will rise, resulting in a decrease in bank lending and an increase in savings
  9. Interest rate spread (10-year Treasury vs. Federal Funds target), a predictor of a downturn in the economic cycle, particularly when the curve becomes inverted
  10. Index of consumer expectations for spending or tightening

[CLICK HERE to read the press release, “The Conference Board Leading Economic Index® (LEI) for the U.S. Increased in September ,” from The Conference Board, Nov. 6, 2013.]

Then again, there are less technical signs that the economy is improving, at least within our own households. Indicating that we have more disposable income on hand, perhaps we eat out more often, go a little pent-up crazy shopping at the local mall or spend a bit more money on vacation.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Eight Unconventional Indicators,” at WealthManagement.com, Oct. 29, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The Container Store: The Next Big Economic Indicator?” at Marketplace.org, Nov. 1, 2013.]

And some indicators are more unorthodox than others, such as gamblers paying off their debts and the color trend for women’s nail polish.

CLICK HERE to read the article, “Q&A: Deadbeat gamblers as economic indicator?” at ThePhillyGodfather.com, Nov. 8, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Fashion’s True Leading Economic Indicator” at Forbes.com, Oct. 6, 2013.]

However you track economic trends, one of the factors of financial success may be to recognize the signs for both prosperity and trouble brewing. Stay on top of the dynamics that may affect your job and income. Keep abreast of legislation that may impact your taxes, expenses and savings opportunities. And work with professionals who monitor the economic indicators and can help alert you to the signs of potential opportunities.

That’s where we come in. Please contact us if you need any help.

By contacting us, you may be offered information regarding the purchase of insurance products.

These articles are being provided to for informational purposes only. While we believe this information to be correct, we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information included.

The information and opinions contained herein are provided by third parties and have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed by our firm. Content is provided for informational purposes only and is not a solicitation to buy or sell the products mentioned. The information is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation.

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Choices and Trade-offs

With all of the noise surrounding the Affordable Care Act’s botched Health Insurance Marketplace launch and the problem of individual policy cancellations this year, little other significant legislation is getting worked on in Congress. The federal budget debate keeps getting pushed into the future, and any chance of tackling tax reform seems a distant promise.

That’s because life — and politics, apparently — is about setting priorities and making choices. Even legislation as critical as the Farm Bill, which is scheduled to be renewed every five years (extended an additional year in 2013 because no agreement could be reached last year), looks like it will come down to the last-minute wire this year. This “cliffhanger” tactic in legislation is something we’ve become accustomed to in recent years. 

Another way of looking at it is that the folks in Congress are choosing to have these issues linger rather than compromise and resolve them before heading home for the holiday break. At the end of the day, that is a choice they make, because it’s not as if these difficult issues go away or are any less contentious when they return to work.

[CLICK HERE to read the report, “The Economic Importance of Passing a Comprehensive Food, Farm, and Jobs Bill,” at WhiteHouse.gov, November 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the report, “Federal Debt and the Statutory Limit, November 2013,” at CBO.gov, Nov. 20, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Republicans Need to Understand That It Is Possible to Negotiate Without Taking Hostages,” at Justia.com, Nov. 21, 2013.]

As much as it can be human nature to procrastinate, we all know that issues don’t go away — not the big ones, anyway. We have to face them head on and not be afraid of confrontation, controversy and, typically, a whole lot of compromise. 

The Wharton School of Business surveyed its 2012 graduate students with the same questionnaire they asked of students in 1992 to compare the results. They found that while women used to consider it selfish to want a career; women coming of age during the new millennium now feel it’s selfish to want children. There also is a general trend that men are somewhat more focused on career and a little bit less on family, while men who do want families tend to want to be more engaged with their children than ever — even if that means sacrificing their careers. Overall, there is a greater sense of not being able to “have it all” without sacrificing something — either career or family. In other words, they must choose.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “‘Baby Bust’: Why Fewer Young People Expect to Become Parents” from Knowledge@Wharton, Oct. 31, 2013.]

We see how hard it can be to make difficult choices and trade-offs every day. And yet we make them, consciously or subconsciously, in our health care plan choices, healthy lifestyle choices and retirement income choices (spend now or save now?). We know these types of decisions and trade-offs can be tough, so if you can use some help deciding where to place your hard-earned assets, please contact us.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Limited Patient Choice Next Health Overhaul Issue,” at HealthLeadersMedia.com, Nov. 21, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “How Many Nuts Should You Eat for Your Health?” from The Denver Post, Nov. 20, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “What Will You Spend in Retirement?” from Fidelity, Nov. 13, 2013.]

By contacting us, you may be offered information regarding the purchase of insurance products.

These articles are being provided to for informational purposes only. While we believe this information to be correct, we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information included.

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Ups-a-Daisy

Originally, the phrase “ups-a-daisy” was uttered by parents as an exclamation when tossing a child playfully into the air or when encouraging him to get up after a fall. Nowadays, we often hear it as “whoopsie daisy” or “oopsie daisy,” and it means, in today’s vernacular, “my bad.” Recently we heard a version from President Obama that sounded more like:

“With respect to the pledge I made that if you like your plan, you can keep it … there is no doubt that the way I put that forward unequivocally ended up not being accurate. …That’s on me. And that’s why I’m trying to fix it.”

[CLICK HERE to read the press release, “Statement by the President on the Affordable Care Act” on WhiteHouse.gov, Nov. 14, 2013.]

It would certainly appear that the most recent implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has resulted in some unintended consequences, such as large-scale insurance policy cancellations and website glitches. But among the swirl of debate and political litany concerning the health care law is this idea of public apologies by those in a position of authority. It does stand to reason that, with the recent focus on business and governmental transparency, an apology and/or the public acknowledgement of blame and accountability would be appropriate.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Presidential Apologies: Regrets, They Have a Few” on NPR.org, Nov. 8, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to listen to the program, “The Art of the Apology” from KQED Public Radio, Aug. 13, 2013.]

As far as health care implementation is concerned, it’s probably a better idea to claim some responsibility as the head honcho rather than make excuses and assign blame elsewhere. It can make for a political conflict but offers the opportunity to solicit ideas for a better solution. In other words, the apology in itself delivers a political jab of, could you do any better and — if so — why haven’t you done it yet?

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “GOP sees Obama’s Apology as a Fresh Chance to Smack the President” on MSNBC.com, Nov. 14, 2013.]

When considering the future of the health care programs that have launched as part of the ACA, perhaps we should examine a bit of history. The Massachusetts Health Care Reform Law, which was passed when Governor Mitt Romney was in office, is considered the basis for ACA.

However, the Massachusetts version also was considered evolutionary, not revolutionary. Its facilitation actually spanned about 15 years, first prohibiting insurers from denying, limiting or rescinding individual coverage — or charging higher premiums — based on a pre-existing condition, and later moving to tenets mandating universal coverage. Part of its success has been based on the state’s willingness to try new programs and adjust them in the future. The implementation involved experimentation, monitoring progress and encouraging feedback from all stakeholders. In other words, one big ups-a-daisy after another.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The Massachusetts Health Care Reform Experiment: A Success,” on JAMA.com, Oct. 31, 2012.]

Given the process of its Massachusetts predecessor, we might consider the merits of working harder to evolve the current legislation into something that will work for the majority of Americans now and into the future. After all, it’s not clear that anyone has instituted anything better — except, perhaps, the state of Massachusetts.

When it comes to our own finances, we don’t give up. We keep plugging away, learning from our mistakes, and trying to make better choices in the future. After all, it’s not like we have the option to simply give up and start over again.

If we can help you evolve your current financial scenario and plan for retirement, please give us a call.

By contacting us, you may be offered information regarding the purchase of insurance products.

These articles are being provided to for informational purposes only. While we believe this information to be correct, we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information included.

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Shiny New Things

Just about everyone gets something new during the holiday season. Sometimes it’s exactly what we wanted, and we love it and use it all year long. Sometimes it’s exactly what we wanted, but it turns out not to be as great as we expected, so we use it for a time until the shiny newness wears off and it is discarded.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Holiday Tech Gifts: The Best Gadgets This Holiday Season,” at ABCnews.com, Nov. 27, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “7 Things to Know about Offline Americans,” at PewResearch.com, Nov. 29, 2013.]

Similarly, sometimes we receive something we didn’t ask for, don’t need and never use. And then other times, we get something totally unexpected that we love and can’t remember what we ever did without.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “CH Gift Guide 2013,” at CoolHunting.com, Nov. 22, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Top 5 Unusual Christmas Gifts for Couples,” at BristolPost.com, Nov. 27, 2013.]

Then again, the holiday season isn’t always about gifts, sometimes it’s about moments — the unforgettable ones. A first kiss under the mistletoe. An engagement ring wrapped in a perfume box. Announcing a new pregnancy at the family dinner.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Marriage Proposals: 50 Romantic Ways to Propose,” at TheKnot.com, accessed Nov. 29, 2013.]

Some people even share the spirit of the season by not giving gifts. One Toronto family with boys ages 9 and 12 have substituted gift giving with spending quality time together. It’s an interesting twist on the idea of not giving gifts simply because it’s expensive and a hassle.

[CLICK HERE to view the video, “Why this Family Insists on a ‘No-Gifts’ Christmas,” at TheGlobeandMail.com, Nov. 26, 2013.]

Another way to celebrate the season without materialism is to make charitable gifts — a popular year-end choice that also offers tax advantages. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Be Charitable, but be Smart about Your Giving,” USAToday.com, Nov. 23, 2013.]

As we approach 2014, one highly constructive New Year’s resolution may be to carefully consider what worldly goods you truly want and will enjoy long-term and what impulses may just be fleeting desires, and to save your money in preparation for a retirement you can have confidence in. We’d like to help you keep that resolution.

By contacting us, you may be offered information regarding the purchase of insurance products.

These articles are provided for informational purposes only. While we believe this information to be correct, we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information included.

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An MRI for $500, Please

For years we’ve been able to “shop” for health care insurance coverage — whether for individual policies or among different options offered by an employer. But if there’s one thing that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has done, it’s put a spotlight on the cost of not just insurance premiums — but the cost of actual medical services.

In fact, there is an increasing trend to make cost and quality data on hospitals and other healthcare providers publicly available.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Healthcare Pricing Transparency Gains Momentum,” at Forbes, Jun. 9, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, ” Price transparency gains ground as lead healthcare issue,” at Healthcare Finance News, Jul. 9, 2013.]

In recent years, the rise of consumer-directed health plans (CDHP) has helped put consumers in better touch with the actual cost of the medical services they receive. The CDHP features higher deductibles and lower premiums than most health maintenance organization (HMO) and preferred provider organization (PPO) plans. The difference between a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) and a CDHP is that the latter can be complemented with a tax-advantaged savings account, such as a health savings account (HSA).

HSAs may be one of the reasons consumers have started to become smarter shoppers of health care services. That’s because many of the expenses incurred must be paid out of pocket — using the savings account — while with an HMO those costs are covered without the consumer ever even knowing how much was paid. Because the tax-advantaged HSA belongs to the consumer and not the employer, as is the case with a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA), people tend to be more inclined to shop for the best value.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Cigna: Health accounts cut first-year costs,” at LifeHealthPro, Feb. 14, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “7 reasons HSAs are taking off,” at LifeHealthPro, Sept. 11, 2013.]

In fact, research from Cigna Corp. has revealed that the medical cost trend was 20 percent lower for HSA customers than with traditional plans during the first year. The study also found that CDHP members are more likely to take advantage of preventive care benefits and participate in wellness programs and health assessments, and 59 percent are more likely to use their health plans’ medical cost information tools.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Surgeries unnecessarily drive costs,” at Risk and Insurance, Oct. 21, 2013.]

What’s next on the horizon — medical facilities bidding for your business? An online catalog to shop for procedure prices? These things are already happening as America’s entrepreneurs seek ways to respond to the growing demand to lower the cost of medical services. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Medical costs too high? Some doctors will bid for your business,” at KATU.com, Sept. 30, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to search an online medical products and services cost database at Healthcare Blue Book.]

Whether you support PPACA or not, many people agree that some form of health care reform is necessary. And regardless of legislative mandates, the health care industry is moving forward in responding to some of these issues. It’s good to see that a similar trend toward transparency to which professionals in the financial and insurance industries can be held is being extended to the health care industry.

Let us know if we can help you plan for the future.

By contacting us, you may be offered information regarding the purchase of insurance products.

These articles are being provided to for informational purposes only. While we believe this information to be correct, we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information included.

The information and opinions contained herein are provided by third parties and have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed by our firm. Content is provided for informational purposes only and is not a solicitation to buy or sell the products mentioned. The information is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation.

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Birth of the Phoenix

It can be from our dissatisfaction that we often get the motivation to do something new. That is one of the themes conveyed by Wharton professor G. Richard Shell in his book, “Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success.” According to him, we are, in some sense, defined by the conflicts we overcome.

This is perhaps true across many realms — personal, corporate, national, global. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “What Should I Do Next With My Life? New Ways to Define Success,” from Knowledge@Wharton, Sept. 24, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The Recession Made U.S. Teenagers Less Materialistic,” from Harvard Business Review, Nov. 1, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Chinese Land Reform: A World to Turn Upside Down,” from The Economist, Nov. 2, 2013.]

After the Great Recession, the recovery may be slow from a wide-angle view, but adversity does seem to breed innovation. For example, persistent controversy in the areas of credit cards, health care and financial services led to new legislative approaches in recent years. 

In a push to re-energize manufacturing in this country, President Obama spoke at a recent dog-and-pony conference for foreign entrepreneurs to help persuade them to build plants, set up offices and hire people in the United States.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Obama’s Pitch to the World: Bring us Your Money, Your Factories and Your Jobs,” from The Washington Post, Oct. 31, 2013.]

Often what holds us back from aggressive forward movement is fear — fear of being wrong, fear of ridicule, fear of judgment, fear of failure and even the fear of success. But many of those who fail at first ultimately succeed, often against great odds. They believe in themselves and/or perhaps associate with and surround themselves with people whose advice they trust and respect.

Indeed, Warren Buffett advised during the financial mayhem of 2008 to “be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.”

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “When Buffett Was Right, but We Were Too Scared,” from The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 31, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “BlackRock Global Investor Pulse Survey: Five Years after Crisis, Many Investors Still Shun Risk,” from The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 29, 2013.]

If you are looking for assistance in developing a retirement income strategy, please look to us for guidance on how to help get you back on your way.

By contacting us, you may be offered information regarding the purchase of insurance products.

These articles are being provided to for informational purposes only. While we believe this information to be correct, we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information included.

The information and opinions contained herein are provided by third parties and have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed by our firm. Content is provided for informational purposes only and is not a solicitation to buy or sell the products mentioned. The information is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation.    

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The Role of Uncertainty

Remember trying out for a sports team, or the high school play? Remember waiting to get your acceptance letter from the colleges where you applied? Remember that feeling that you couldn’t move forward, you couldn’t make plans … until you knew?

[CLICK HERE] to read the article, “Political uncertainty keeps slowing economy’s rise,” at USA Today, Oct. 17, 2013.]

That’s kind of where the United States has been for nearly six years. If you wonder why our recovery from an economic crisis that occurred in 2008 is so slow, it’s not that our nation’s corporations haven’t restored their balance sheets. They have. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Our response to skeptics,” at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Aug. 13, 2013.]

It’s not that real estate prices are still dropping. They’re not.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “August Existing-Home Sales Rise, Limited Inventory Continues to Push Prices,” at Reator.org, Sept. 19, 2013.]

It’s not that American citizens are divided evenly on how they feel about the partisanship in Congress. They are not.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Dysfunctional Gov’t Surpasses Economy as Top U.S. Problem,” at Gallup.com, Oct. 9, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Trust in Government Nears Record Low, But Most Federal Agencies Are Viewed Favorably,” at Pew Research, Oct. 18, 2013.]

It’s that we don’t know what Congress is going to do next. No clue.

Brinkmanship is a term that has become de rigueur in recent weeks. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the term as, “the practice of causing or allowing a situation to become extremely dangerous in order to get the results that you want.” Thus, brinkmanship seems a very apt description of the circumstances that led to the recent partial government shutdown.

[CLICK HERE to view the video, “Analysts warn uncertainty caused by political brinkmanship may spook consumers,” at PBS.org, Oct. 17, 2013.]

It also seems reminiscent of another dangerous game: “Playing chicken.” That’s when two cars race toward each other and the first to pull to the side is the chicken. That didn’t end well for the perpetrator, Buzz Gunderson, who instigated the game in the James Dean movie, Rebel Without a Cause. What’s interesting in that movie is the scene just before they play chicken, when Jim asks, “Why do we do this?” and Buzz answers, “You’ve got to do something, don’t you?”

[CLICK HERE to view a clip from the movie, “Rebel Without a Cause,” at TCM.com, retrieved on Oct. 18, 2013.]

It may be human nature that when we don’t have a feasible plan, or are cornered with no options, to do something counter-productive simply because we’ve “got to do something.”

Recognizing this phenomenon in our own lives may be an important key to help gain confidence in our financial future. Whatever we do, it should be positive and productive. We shouldn’t undermine our own financial stability with reckless spending, being under-insured or taking unnecessary investment risks.

It would be nice to look to our government for this type of leadership and role modeling. But since that’s not currently evident, let’s focus on our own discipline and work with qualified financial professionals we trust, who can help us plan for retirement.

Please look to us as one of those professionals who can help you plan for your financial future.

By contacting us, you may be offered information regarding the purchase of insurance products.

These articles are being provided to for informational purposes only. While we believe this information to be correct. We do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information included.

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Shutting Down the Forest, But Not the Trees

It is with both wide-eyed interest and pit-of-stomach disgust that Americans have watched the political shenanigans and subsequent impact played out during the U.S. government shut down. 

The whole strategy is reminiscent of watching a person trying to cut corners actually create a lot more work for himself. You see this with toddlers, lazy employees and particularly teenagers. Consider the 14-year old tasked with unloading the dishwasher before he can meet up with his friends. In his haste, he stacks as many dishes as possible in his arms and, en route to the appropriate cabinet, accidentally drops them all. The ensuing crash assures that he will have a far greater and time-consuming mess to clean up, not to mention the backlash from his parents and the cost to restore the kitchenware.

 

Likewise, the congressional effort to negotiate reducing the national budget and deficit by shutting down government agencies appeared to have backfired in many ways. Some public agencies (not to mention private companies) have lost much-needed revenues that help keep government costs down.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Cost of the Shutdown in National Parks: $76 Million a Day,” at the Washington Times, Oct. 11, 2013.]

And then there’s the ambiguity around which services were shut down, which were not…and why?

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Who works and who doesn’t: The law behind the government shutdown,” at NBC Politics, Oct. 10, 2013.] 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Government shutdown definition of essential vs. nonessential funding,” at ABC15.com, Oct. 11, 2013.]

Furthermore, all government furloughs related to the shutdown have now been recalled. One congressman remarked that since most federal employees would likely be paid for their mandatory time off, not calling them back to work was like giving them an “extended taxpayer-subsidized vacation.”

Calling back furloughed workers and reopening certain agencies tends to cast a shadow on the strategy of threatening to shut down the government in the first place. After all, if the threat is empty, how powerful or effective can it be? Think about that teenager, and the parents who threaten to take away his cell phone — knowing full well they can’t because it’s their only means of keeping tabs on the teenager.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Agencies increasingly calling back furloughed workers,” at the Washington Post, Oct. 10, 2013.]

Finally, it’s worth noting the vast number of funding bills proposed as a stop gap during the government shutdown. In other words, the flurry of “busy work” Congress created for itself instead of working on the longer-term issues. These included the Border Security and Enforcement Continuing Appropriations Resolution, the Federal worker pay fairness bill, the National Nuclear Security Continuing Appropriations Resolution and Military Chaplains Continuing Appropriations Resolution, among many others.

[CLICK HERE to access the latest bills and proposals of the United States Congress, Oct. 11, 2013.]

In some ways it’s just plain human nature to do something detrimental on a short-term basis in an effort to achieve a long-term goal — or out of simple frustration. Often enough, those efforts cause us to “cut off the nose to spite the face.” What we see played out on the national front may well occur in our own households, in the form of spending money frivolously now that we may need in the future. If you’d like help getting more of your current income working harder to achieve longer-term goals, we’re here to help.

By contacting us, you may be offered information regarding the purchase of insurance products.

The information and opinions contained herein are provided by third parties and have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed by our firm. Content is provided for informational purposes only and is not a solicitation to buy or sell the products mentioned. The information is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation.  

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Washington D.C.: Showdowns, Shutdowns, Lockdowns and Touchdowns

Hollywood has to work pretty hard to steal headlines from the political ballyhoo and drama in the capital city recently.

As for the showdown, the debt ceiling vote was seemingly taken hostage by politicians wanting to make a political statement at the cost of 800,000 government employees placed on furlough. Although the issue at stake is health care, it does not appear to represent the desire of the 22 million Americans expected to seek insurance coverage via the health insurance exchanges.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Furloughed Workers Call on Congress to ‘Get Their Act Together’,” from ABC News, Oct. 2, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Micro-Businesses Find Health-Care Rollout Is Slow,” from The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 2, 2013.]

Unfortunately, the GOP’s longer-term goals could be stymied by its short-term actions. Some political pundits believe that the shuttering of the government could besiege the Republicans on track to win control of the Senate in the 2014 elections and even lose seats in the current GOP foothold on the House. 

Recent polls indicate that there aren’t a large majority of Americans — Republicans, Democrats, or large and small businesses — who support any type of government shutdown. According to a survey that took place the first week of the shutdown, voters disapproved of the job being done by Congress by 72 percent to 22 percent. The poll also found that 64 percent oppose the tea party strategy to block an increase in the nation’s debt ceiling as leverage to defund Obamacare.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Republicans’ 2014 Senate Edge Muddied by Shutdown Message,” on Bloomberg.com, Oct. 2, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the news release, “American Voters Reject GOP Shutdown Strategy 3-1,” from Quinnipiac University, Oct. 1, 2013.]

When you think about it, how many businesses will actually shut down simply because their executives or partners are unable to resolve management issues? So from a businessman’s perspective, perhaps lawmakers aren’t being very fiscally responsible. Yet unlike the impact on a businessman, these politicians’ own incomes and revenues are not directly affected by the shutdown — although re-election consequences may be forthcoming in the future.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Republicans Are No Longer the Party of Business,” from Bloomberg Businessweek, Oct. 3, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Shutdown Has Limited Impact on Employee Benefits — For Now,” from the Society for Human Resource Management, Oct. 3, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “How the government shutdown can impact your business,” from the Philadelphia Business Journal, Oct. 1, 2013.]

At the same time that the battle over the Affordable Care Act —  also known as “Obamacare” — is raging, the new health-care exchanges are so popular with Americans shopping for insurance that the online surge has caused glitches, delays and temporary shutdowns of their own.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Obamacare: What Would Success Look Like?” from Bloomberg Businessweek, Oct. 4, 2013.]

Then to cap off the showdown and shutdowns of the first week of October, parts of the capital city and government offices were on lockdown due to a shooting incident and subsequent police chase. This lockdown came just two weeks after another one involving a mass shooting in the D.C. Naval Yard.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Suspect in Capitol Hill Shooting Incident Is Dead; Police to Hold Presser,” at Fox News, October 3, 2013.]

It seems like there was a time when the biggest news coming out of Washington during football season involved Redskin touchdowns. Now we spend more time learning about the play-by-play on Capitol Hill. For the average American, it might be better to keep your eye on the ball on your side of the playing field — and worry less about the day-to-day actions in Washington D.C.

We’re happy to help you stay focused on your own finances and long-term goals. Please give us a call.

By contacting us, you may be offered information regarding the purchase of insurance products.

These articles are being provided to you for informational purposes only. While we believe this information to be correct, we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information included.

The information and opinions contained herein are provided by third parties and have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed by our firm. Content is provided for informational purposes only and is not a solicitation to buy or sell the products mentioned. The information is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation.   

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Health Care Insurance Shopping Lowdown

The Health Care Insurance Exchanges are now open, and you have between now and March 1, 2014, to purchase a new health care insurance plan during the open enrollment period. Rest assured, if you experience a life-altering event, such as losing your job, moving to another state or having a baby, you will be eligible to purchase a policy beyond the open enrollment dates.

One of the tricky things about trying to establish a uniform set of guidelines regarding health insurance is that everyone’s needs are different. There are so many different storylines — multi-level family configurations, work and income arrangements, and even age and health conditions — that factor in to what type of insurance plan works best for you and how much it may cost. That’s why there are so many articles and frequently asked questions columns out there that currently address these issues.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Answering Consumer Questions About Obamacare Marketplaces,” at Kaiser Health News, Sept. 25, 2013.]

One of the biggest questions is whether your health insurance will cost more or less if you buy it from the exchanges. The answer is as personal as one person never getting sick while another has chronic asthma and another has cancer — no one really knows.

For those of you who are curious about rates, but haven’t quite made it to your available exchange to price policies, you might want to check out Kaiser’s rate calculator. In about 10 seconds with some basic information inputs you can get a ballpark annual rate. It also will tell you whether you may qualify for a rate subsidy, based on your income level.

[CLICK HERE to check out the “Subsidy Calculator” at the Kaiser Family Foundation, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “State Premium Watch: Pricing in the New Insurance Marketplaces,” at Kaiser Health News, Sept. 24, 2013.]

The nice thing about the exchanges is that you can shop anonymously, without having to enter so much information that you’re bombarded with solicitous phone calls and emails. To find out if you qualify for a subsidy you’ll need to submit your annual income, but you still don’t have to give your name or contact information until you’re ready to apply for a policy.

The health care law is actually more confusing for small business owners, many offering health insurance for the first time. When you consider how difficult it is to shop for your own policy, imagine the challenges of shopping for a small staff of people you may have worked with for years and care about deeply, and have to balance that concern and responsibility for their health care with the bottom line of your business profitability. For some small businesses, their profit margin is so small that it could be completely eliminated by the legislative mandate.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “New Law, New Rules, New Taxes” at the National Federation of Independent Business, September/October 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Small Business Owners Facing Tough Decisions in Wake of Health Care Ruling,” at the Huffington Post, June 28, 2013.]

Some people are blessed with good health, and don’t have to use health care services very often. For a person in that situation, it’s annoying to have to pay for insurance at all, and doubly annoying to have to pay so much for it. By the same token, you may never use a homeowner’s or auto or umbrella insurance policy in your lifetime, but you still have to pay for them. Perhaps we don’t pay out as much of our income each year for those policies, but then again perhaps the likelihood of needing them is lower as well.

It is because we — as a collective population — need medical services more often that it is one of the most important coverages you can carry. After all, it’s really more about the cost of the big things — the cancer diagnosis, the triple bypass surgery — that insurance protects you from.

Insurance shopping comes down to balancing the health and well being of you and your loved ones with your own bottom line. The same applies to planning for retirement — it’s important to focus on your biggest priorities, even if that means foregoing luxuries.

If we can help you prioritize how you spend and save your hard-earned income, please give us a call.

By contacting us, you may be offered information regarding the purchase of insurance products.

These articles are being provided to for informational purposes only. While we believe this information to be correct. We do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information included.

The information and opinions contained herein are provided by third parties and have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed by our firm. Content is provided for informational purposes only and is not a solicitation to buy or sell the products mentioned. The information is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation.

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