Is Now a Good Time to Invest?

With the stock market sinking further and further into the depths of despair, I’m tempted to go crazy investing in my Roth IRA index funds. I just put in an extra $400 into this my Roth for this year. I still have $1000 left that I can put in. I don’t really have the money now to invest in it, well I do, sort of, but I’d rather wait a little bit. I know I have a little while to get that extra $1000 in, but given the way the stock market is doing I’m thinking of putting more in now, or at least when my next paycheck comes in. What do you guys think?

So Long Jealously of My Banker Friend

A few months ago, I was visiting a few friends in New York and had the opportunity to briefly meet up with an old High School acquaintance. As a recent graduate from an Ivy League school, she was doing quite well for herself. Having quickly moved her way up at Lehman Bros., her salary must have been more than a copywriter like myself could ever dream of earning, especially at my age.

At the time she was downsizing to a shared residence somewhere on the southern end of Manhattan from a solo bachelorette pad on the upper-east side. She seemed to love her job, or at least love it for the time being, even though it required long, hard hours.

And today, my friend, my very intelligent Ivy-educated friend, is out of a job.

She’ll recover, certainly. Even if banking jobs are slim pickings now, they still exist. And anyone with that kind of background could move into other financial career paths. Money will always need management.

But it’s still obviously a nightmare on her end. One second you think you have a stable job, working for a company that’s been around since *before* the great depression, and then the next day it’s gone.

That’s why I like working for a startup company. I always assume it will go under any second. If it succeeds, all the better. But in this economy, nothing is certain. I’m lucky to have a job right now, but who knows how long that will last. The important thing is to build up your skills so you may be able to apply to any number of jobs, if your industry or position is taking an nose dive.

Wall Street is the Least of My Concerns

Supposedly frugal and a careful spender, I managed to completely blow my budget out of whack during a month of vacation. That makes sense, I guess, since I wasn’t earning much income during this time, while I was spending quite a bit. My rational – I’ll just be really careful with my spending later and make the money back – was not quite thought through as much as it should have been.

The hit my stocks and mutual funds have taken isn’t helping, of course, but that’s close to the least of my worries. I just don’t have enough money in stocks yet for the hit to be that painful, and while it’s still not fun to watch my savings deplete itself, I have hope that one day the stock market will be on an upswing again and my money will magically reappear. At the very least, in the investment department I’ll break even… at some point.

Meanwhile, I know I need to be extra careful on my budget and work hard to find ways to save money over the coming months. My accounting isn’t an exact science, I must admit, since for this entire year I’ve been trying to save 50% of my take-home pay for taxes. I’ve also failed to do this properly, as I’m behind in this saving, but at the very least I’m on track to catch up… as long as I can keep my job.

I’m having a lot of fun w/ Google doc’s charting features, trying to figure out what exactly I have to do to get back on track.

The figure I’m looking at here is my “cash debt” figure, which includes all of my cash accounts. At the moment, my fairly-scientific estimate of my cash debt is -$10344. The following chart is a fairly simple visual of how much money I’ll have in the coming months in my overall cash “account” if I can save $500, $1000, $1500 or $2000 per month.

What is an actual realistic amount of savings? Well, it really depends on what my taxes are. They’re not literally 50% of my take-home pay (prob. more like 43%), so come tax season this chart will change a bit.

$1000 a month is realistic, if I work at it. $1500 a month may be realistic, but it would require cutting back on some things that mean a lot to me, like voice lessons. I only spend $160 a month on voice lessons (two lessons a month) and that’s not something I want to give up yet. I want to see if I can balance my budget by being careful elsewhere.

This chart… is also not entirely accurate. My tracking of my investment and cash accounts was on-and-off over the past year. So the X axis is out of whack. However, the Y axis is accurate. So you can see my investment accounts, while not doing well, are still around where they started. They took off for a bit and then slumped down again, which makes sense looking at the current state of the economy.

It’s my cash accounts that I’m terribly ashamed of. I know better than to let this happen!

Income Potential…

My monthly pay before taxes is $4800. I also earn $400 in an ongoing copywriting gig that takes only a few hours a month at night. So that’s $5200 total, as long as I can keep my current job and this freelance position.

Every once in a while I have opportunities for additional projects, but for the sake of not overestimating my income, I’ll say that for the foreseeable future, I’m earning a solid $5200 a month before taxes. Assuming taxes is 50% of my pay, that’s $2600 a month.

… in August I spent $3276.49.

(eeks.)

Here’s the breakdown on that OVERspending…

My big errors here mostly revolve around being in a relationship. The amount I spend “dining out” ($174 in August) is ridiculous. Then, there’s the $462 in travel. That’s actually two RT plane tickets for an upcoming vacation / trip to my hometown for me and my bf. I think he paid me back for his tickets, but I’m not sure so I’m including them in this chart. Rent costs are a little wonky for August because they include a $612.50 deposit for the place I moved into in September. I think that’s “last month’s rent,” though that’s not clear to me. I didn’t need to spend $76 on “beauty”… really, the only cost for beauty that would be worth it is the eyebrow wax for $20. Once a month. I didn’t really need the makeup. Auto costs… $380… are a bit of a pain. $50 of that was for a parking ticket. Grrgh (yea, don’t remind me how I have another $50 ticket to pay this month.) But only $150 of that is the parking ticket and auto insurance. Another $77 is DMV renewal fees. Then there’s gas. And I didn’t drive much in August.

Sept Half-Way Point…

I’m doing better this month. At $1338, approx., for 1/2 the month (including rent), I’m on track to hit my target savings, sort of. If I want to save $1000 this month, I’ll need to spend just $1600 total. That leaves $262 left.

Ok, so that’s not really possible. I already know the following spending will occur:

$80 voice lesson (from today, check to be cashed)
$50 parking ticket (damn street cleaning)
$300 health insurance (I owe for this month and last month)
$32 for shoes. Yes, I already bought them. I needed new black shoes for work.

Plus, I’ll probably have to fill up my tank once more. So that’s another $70.
Not to mention 15 more days worth of food. Even if I get cheap food for $50, that’s still $50.
That means that at the least, I’ll probably spend another $580 this month.

Even with that spending, it’s possible to save $630 in September. Maybe?

I’ll set my goal at $600 “saving” for September. It will actually get moved into my (fallen behind) for-taxes account, but nonetheless it’s an improvement and step towards my goal.

The other good news is that this month, I have a potential $1600 in additional income sources if some things work out. That’s only $800 post-tax, but if I can bring in that revenue then I’ll meet my actual goal of $1000 savings. Which would be great. Because I really need to meet that goal.

Being realistic and knowing myself

The Chase Freedom Card Rocks: $250 in the mail!

Well, after all these years of being afraid of credit cards, I finally took the plunge. And less than a year later, I’m waiting on my first $250 rewards check in the mail. I always figured those rewards programs were bogus, but the personal finance community seemed to like this specific card, so I tried it out. Once you hit $200 in rewards dollars they give you an extra $50. Now, that makes me feel better about the ridiculous interest they charged me when I took out a cash advance traveling in Israel. I still pay off my credit card balance like clockwork, so interest rates generally aren’t a concern. And I’m excited about my $250 (even if it means I’ve prob been spending too much to earn that $250.)

high deductible health insurance sucks (TMI post)

I’ve been having these pains in my stomach for the last month, and as they haven’t gone away, I want to go see a gastrologist about it. I already spent $65 + $25 to see a gynecologist for a UTI I had earlier + antibiotics, and I’m not even sure my UTI has gone away. Meanwhile, this pain is getting worse. Yesterday, I took laxatives to see if it would help. Maybe I just have IBS and the doctor will say “eat more fiber, stop eating sugar” and that will solve everything. I had the worst pains ever after taking that stimulent laxative and was up all night grabbing at my stomach.

I don’t think my problem is constipation. There wasn’t much to get out (sorry, TMI, I warned you in the title.) So what IS my problem? It’s not gassiness, it’s not dihareea, it’s probably not constipation. But there’s still a pain, that seems to go back and forth between my lower left abdomen and my upper left abdomen. Occassionally, the chest area on the left side also hurts, I get a burning sensation, so maybe that’s heartburn. The pain in my chest is rare, but the weird tight aching feeling in my left abdomen is constant.

So my boyfriend convinced me it’s time to go to a doc. I called and made an appointment. I can’t even see the actual doc because he doesn’t have an opening until Sept 24. So I made an appointment with a nurse practitioner. The lady in the billing department convinced me she’s just as good as the doctor. We’ll see about that.

So the nurse practictioner costs just as much to see as the doctor does. It’s about $300 for the appointment. Well, it might be $150 at the lowest, but they can’t tell me until after the appointment. If it turns out it seems serious (which, for the sake of getting my monies worth, I almost hope it does) then they’ll prob have to do a more thorough exam, which will cost the $300. But with that, they’ll need to do tests, and lab work, and I have a feeling it won’t be long before I reach my $3000 deductible.

I really need a job with health insurance. 🙁

Getting Back on Track – goal: from $12k to $30k savings in 1 year

In this past year, despite being conscious of my poor spending habits, I managed to whack my net worth down from $26k at its highest to about $12k, where it is currently, give or take a few k.

Most of the damage was done on my trip to Israel, when I basically threw most of my financial wisdom out the window. The biggest problem, it seemed, was that because the trip was pretty much “free” (even for the week after the free trip, I stayed with my family all over Israel for “free”) it was easy to spend money for gifts and little items for myself here and there. Well, it all added up. Meanwhile, I was paying $1050 in rent for the month for my empty studio apartment back in Cali, and I wasn’t making any money either while I was on vacation. It doesn’t take a math genius to figure that out.

The good news is that as long as I stick to a tight budget this year, I should be well on the way to healing my ailing savings account.

While I need to just accept the fact that anything in my net worth involving the stock market is being kicked in the groin repeatedly right now, I can do quite a bit to get myself out of this financial rut and figurative debt.

According to my calculations, I’m about -$9000 in the “red” (not literally) in my cash accounts. My non-liquid savings accounts are at $21k, which includes those suffering in the stock market, so in reality my overall “net worth” is somewhere at $12k. I’m also getting another paycheck in a few weeks, though some of that will go to rent.

For the sake of my mental health, I’m going to use this entry to re-draft my budget, so that I have a very clear plan on how I can save $17,000 in one year. That’s really just about $1500 a month, right? I think that’s… well, that might be do-able.

————–
Fixed Spending: $994.32

$635.12 – Rent (includes water & garbage)
$60.00 – TV / Internet / PGE (estimate)
$97.64 – car insurance
$146.78 – health insurance
$54.78 – cell phone
—————————————
$994.32

OTHER: $900

$400.00 – Food
$100.00 – drugstore / vitamins / cleaning supplies
$300.00 – gas
$100.00 – entertainment
—————————————–
$900

$1600 – $1900 – approx “necessary” spending (+/-)

Income:

$4800 + $400 / month before taxes
$5200…

about $2600 after taxes

So… saving $1000 a month, if I never ever go to the doctor, or buy clothes, or eat out… is possible. Right?

I’m also looking into seeing if I could get a cheaper health insurance plan since it’s not really doing me any good and it’s just for emergencies. I had to pay $65 to go see a doctor just to get antibiotics for my last UTI anyway, so why does it matter how high my deductible is?

Anyway, saving $1500 a month looks somewhat unlikely. However, I am overestimating my tax payments since they won’t really be exactly 50% of my income. They’ll be close to that, maybe 45% when all is said and done after self employment tax, but at the least, I figure if I’m saving 50% that will give me some extra dough at the end of the tax year to close out my Roth IRA for 2008.

Ugh, I feel like I’m making a lot of money, but it’s no where near enough. I wonder if I should look for another, better paying job. But I LOVE my job. I make $57k a year, though not really, since that’s on contract and no benefits or time off is included. So I figure I prob make about $50k a year in comparison to my past jobs. I just have no idea what I should be making. I charge some clients $50 an hour for work, but that’s all on smaller projects, I can’t justify asking for that sort of raise at my current gig, nor do I feel the work I do there warrants $50 an hour. There just isn’t enough work for me to do there in terms of work that I know how to do – writing. I do a lot of other things, but a lot of those tasks are literally shared with an intern.

Futz, I’d like to be making $65k a year w/ benefits. I have no idea if that’s a ridiculous amount to hope for with my experience and given that I live in the Bay Area. I’m also kind of frustrated with the fact that 40 hours per week at my company does not = full time. Granted, I work my 40 hours a week at random hours of the day and night, and they aren’t picky about it – but still, I just dislike that 40 hours a week no longer equals full time. To be full time at my company, I have to work 60 hours a week. But really, what would I do for 60 hours a week? I don’t even know how many hours I’m actually working… but I’m sure it’s more than 40. I need to start keeping track of where my hours are going. I just feel like… if I worked for an advertising or interactive marketing agency, I’d know where my hours were going, because they’d be spent writing, and I’d have something to show for all those hours. At my current job, it seems like I have little to show for the work I do. I’m so used to being a journalist, where every day you’re worth is in your clips. Here, it’s ideas, it’s finding bugs on the site, it’s doing a lot of little things that are kind of sort of in my job description… and I worry that I’m not doing enough, and I worry I’m doing too much, and I wonder how I can move up in the company when there’s really nowhere to move up to…

Moving on Down, and Saving My Pennies

My rent has gone from $1050 a month to about $650 a month. This move, which is saving me a good $400+ a month, is probably the best decision I’ve made in my life. Even though my gas $ will be going up, I still think I’m going to end up saving at least $300 a month, and that doesn’t even include the additional $250 that I would have had to pay if I stayed at my apartment and accepted the ridiculous rent increase.

It’s kind of weird making these smart financial decisions now. I always relied on my dad to make those in the past. I didn’t go totally overboard on my living situation previously, but given how much I was making, I definitely should have gotten roommates. Now, I’m making enough to live alone, barely, but I’ve realized that just because you make enough money to spend it, doesn’t mean you actually should.

Instead, I’m going to really focus on saving money now. I’m pretty sure I want to go back to grad school at some point, prob for a degree in Human Computer Interaction (Berkeley has an awesome program) and I’m starting to take programming classes at the local community college (which happens to be a few minute walk from my new apartment) to make sure that’s the right path for me – but I’m pretty sure it is. I need to learn the programming side and the research side, and then I’m ready to become a key player in web 3.0…

In the meantime, I’m dealing with some other things. Speaking of my father and his wisdom, it won’t be around for much longer. He was recently diagnosed with advanced stage prostate cancer. I knew he probably had cancer, but wasn’t really prepared to hear this. Basically that means he has a few years to live, at best. Well, what this means, besides all the emotional havoc it’s having on me and my family, is that all that money I’m saving on not renting the more expensive place might be spent on plane tickets. It costs about $400 to fly across the country these days. Ugh.

And it really is going to be time for me to step in and help my parents with sorting out finances for the future. My mom is such a duntz when it comes to that sort of stuff – I get my bad spending habits from her. My dad’s mostly a saver, and I’d like to be more like him. It makes me nervous to think that I’m going to have to take over for him, at some point.

Meanwhile, just the thought of losing him is really hard to deal with. We’re not really that close, and for most of my life I hated the guy, but he’s done a lot for me and my family outside of the mental and physical abuse, including working hard for most of his life and making sure we had enough money to live very comfortably. It’s tough to know that he’s worked so hard for most of his years – he just retired like a year or two ago – even though he is only in his late 50s – and now he’s looking at the end. He won’t get to enjoy retirement or that huge 401k he’s accumulated. Or he likely won’t… besides facing the fact that the cancer treatment will stop working in 1-10 years, he also is dealing with so many other medical issues. He can’t even enjoy his last few years on this earth, because all he does is sleep all day. I can’t tell how much is because he’s weak and how much is just depression. Regardless, it makes me sad to think of the life he’s led, working so hard, married to a woman he doesn’t love, saving up for retirement… and then, he gets to retirement, and he’s sick, and he’s dying…

It makes you think twice about the value of saving so much for so long. Not that I won’t be putting money away for retirement or focusing on getting and staying healthy so I can live to enjoy it, but… some people don’t make it that far. And our entire society is set up to work and work and save and save… but then what? What if that’s all you get?

5 Ways to Save Money on Car Insurance

Got a car? Then you have car insurance, a requirement for drivers everywhere. That insurance can range in cost vastly depending on your age, the length of time you’ve been driving, the type of car you drive, and a variety of other variables.

While you can’t change the time since you’ve gotten your license or reduce the number of “bad driver” points you have on your record, I’ve recently found out some ways to reduce your yearly payment.

1. Call your auto insurance company twice a year or so and just ask if there’s anyway to lower your rate. Mention you’re shopping around. If they’ve started a new program for discounts, they’ll likely not offer up the information unless you ask.

2. How far are you really driving to work each day? Many car insurance agencies charge you more for the amount you drive per year. But they base this on the miles you drive to and from work. It’s never good to lie, but if you have moved closer to your job, or if you think the miles you noted in past are too high for how much you actually drive (or maybe you work from home a few days a week now), call up and ask to change the yearly mileage noted on your account. You’ll notice that your yearly fee will be reduced.

3. Did you know that the cost of car insurance changes based on your zip code? Out of curiosity, I recently talked to an agent and asked her to plug in some different zip codes within my county, and found out that where I used to live, and where I’m still paying for, costs $50 more a year than most of the other zips in the county. Again, lying here is probably pointless, but if you’re looking to move, it might make sense to call up your insurance agent and find out if your insurance price will go up or down with the move. You can always change your address to a friends if they live in an area that’s cheaper.

4. Check out that auto billing. I thought my pay was on auto billing because I’ve set it up to pay automatically from my bank account, but for some reason I didn’t do it through my insurance company, so they were still charging me $4 a month to send me bills. Not only did those mailed bills go straight to the trash, it turns out that I was wasting $48 a year on them.

5. Every year, take a half-hour or so to shop around to see if you can get a better deal with another company. Look at the small insurance companies and the big ones. Just be careful with ones that offer six month rates, as this means they can change your rate after the first six months.

The Costs of Being a Girl… Without Health Insurance

(First of all, I want to apologize for being so behind on updating this blog. My life has gotten quite busy, which is a good thing, but I definitely haven’t updated this site as often as I should, or as often as I’ve wanted to. I do hope you’ll bare with me until I can make more frequent updates.)

Today’s post is brought to you by The American Health Care System. Due to failures in the system, this post is vastly underfunded, but luckily I’ve got plastic to pay it off…

One you’ve started bleeding (down there) or having sex (down there) – if you’re a girl – which I am – you’re supposed to go to the gynecologist once a year to get the basic test. Swab in, swab out. Needle prick. No sir you have no STDs, thanks for coming. The whole nine.

Prior to getting super-high deductible health insurance (with a $3000 deductible, so I count that as no insurance at all), I didn’t think twice about scheduling my yearly paps. The co-pays for the appointment, tests and pills were a bit annoying, but nothing that set me back any large sums. I barely went to the doctor anyway, so this wasn’t a huge deal.

Then came contract life. It took me forever to get accepted for any health insurance at all. Finally, I got accepted to a high deductible program. That sounded like a good idea. I’m young. Somewhat healthy. Well, I know what’s wrong with me, PCOS – ie, polycystic ovary syndrome – and the likelihood of my falling to the floor in pain due to anything other than a ruptured cyst is near zilch. That’s what the high-risk insurance is for. Accidents. Not day to day, or year to year stuff. That’s all out of pocket.

So my yearly health insurance, which covers nothing except a hospital visit (after I pay $3000), costs me, oh, $1600 or something like that. $1600 in case I fall down and break myself. That’s important to have.

But it’s not going to help me make sure I don’t have cancer or any other life-threatening illness. It’s not at all about prevention. It’s about post-intervention.

Ok, so I’m really sensitive to screening before things happen right now because my dad was just diagnosed with prostate cancer. And while I know that I’ll never have prostate cancer, I’m still very concerned about being at high risk for ovarian and uterian cancers due to PCOS and having, like, 2-3 periods a year (sans bc pills).

I want to be “good” and get tested yearly. I’m 24, nothing should be wrong, but it’s good to be safe. Plus, I like to have STD screenings every once in a while, just in case an earlier one was wrong. It takes like 6 months for some of those diseases to show up on tests. And sometimes tests lie.

Anyway, today I was scheduled for my annual pap and checkup with a gynocologyst I had seen about a year ago when my cyst ruptured and I felt like death. She did an ultrasound on me then, and perscribed me – tylenol. At the time, it was cheaper to perscribe me it because I had good health insurance and I got a cheaper price to buy it under the cover as opposed to over. Those days are, apparently, long gone.

Although a few weeks ago I had a very, very painful period and pre-period period, and felt little alien slugs were attacking my innerds, I opted to avoid spending $200 on another ultrasound that would likely end with the words “take tylenol.” Instead, I figured it made sense to schedule my annual pap with the doc, and then to ask her what was wrong with me then, or at least inquire as to what could be wrong with me given my symptoms, and go from there.

When I called up the gyno’s office, they told me the annual appointment, sans insurance, would be $180. Ok, so $180 isn’t a big deal. I mean, it is, but when you consider the cost to get better insurance that would actually cover that sort of thing would cost me about $180 A MONTH more, it wasn’t so bad.

But when I got to the office today – I was running late – it turned out I missed the appointment with the doc. Which actually was a good thing, because I was soon informed that the $180 for the appointment did not include any costs of labwork. Umm… isn’t that THE POINT of having a pap? Let’s just scrape my cervix for fun, why don’t we? Use the swabby stick as a paintbrush and have a little creative fun on the wax paper I’d be sitting on, sounds like a plan. Totally worth $180.

No one could really tell me how much the tests would cost. I guess they’re not used to seeing people without insurance. Or with crappy insurance, like my insurance. I got such mixed answers today. The lady at the front desk said 100s, and then the nurse pratictioner who I finally went in to see said the basic pap test would be only like $35 – $50. I don’t trust ranges.

What I really needed today, urgently, was treatment for my likely UTI. Yup, I have and have had a full-blown, painful urinary tract infection for over two weeks now. (TMI? Sorry.) I knew I needed antibiotics. I know when I have UTI. I get them all the time. This one was caused by drinking about 6 large glasses of iced tea and promptly getting on public transportation for about an hour. Lets just say my bladder was not a happy camper, and it made me pay for what I did to it.

At the doctor’s office, I ended up getting a “talking” appointment with the nurse practicioner because she happened to have a cancellation. They had me pee in a cup to test my urine for the UTI. Again, no one told me how much this would cost me. I was told – well, the doctor will look at your pee, then decide if we need to send it out. And sending it out – would be a lab fee. Ok, how much am I looking at? $50? $100? More? Can’t someone just give me antibiotics? I’ve been having UTIs all my life, I know I have a god damn UTI, I can tell you exactly how it happened. I can even reproduce the situation. Got any iced tea???

Well, I went into the examining room, and the nurse practioner came in to talk. She was really nice, but I could tell that she didn’t exactly love that I was wasting her time. Well, I wasn’t wasting her time, because she ended up charging me $65 for the appointment, but at least I left with a perscription for some generic antibiotics. Not sure how much those will cost me, but she said they’re and old brand and should be cheap. Right now I’ll pay anything for antibiotics, as that’s what I really, really need.

However, this doc told me that it prob makes sense for me to go to Planned Parenthood for my pap and checkup, since it’ll likely be cheaper. I was thinking of calling Planned Parenthood but I figured my income bracket would prob be too high for getting treated there. But this nurse gyno lady convinced me it might be best, and since I’ve never had an abnormal pap before, she didn’t seem to think there was any urgent need for me to get the test done.

Maybe she’s right. I’m 24, I have cysts on my ovaries, I get a period once in a blue polka-dotted moon and a UTI when the moon is full and white. What else is there to know?

Still, I want to get tested. So I left the doctor’s office $65 poorer with perscription in hand.

… a few minutes ago I called up Planned Parenthood to schedule an appointment. I was told by a friend that it’s better to tell them you have no insurance if you have high deductible insurance so they will see you. As, again, my insurance has such a high deductible it’s pretty much no insurance, I didn’t feel like that was much of a lie.

So I called and asked for the appointment. They proceeded to survey me about my age, ethnicity, and income. When they asked how much I make, I didn’t know what to say. The truth would surely be too high for any sort of affordable care. But I kind of did tell the truth. I told them I’m a contractor. Which is true. They asked how much I make per month. I said, well it ranges. She asked what the low end was. I picked a number out of the air. $2500, I said. The truth is the low end is like $400 when I don’t have a job and the high end is like $5000 when I do have a job. So I averaged it. What’s $2500 a month? $30k a year? Not quite poverty, I guess, but the only way to get reasonably costed checkups in this country is to be poor, apparently. Not that I’d wish for that, but when I was making less than $30k, I had health insurance, like real health insurance. And now… well, you know… not so much.

So I figured on a sliding scale, $2500 a month income might get me some discount on all the tests. I was told, by someone else, that she basically got free care at planned parenthood. And she had money, it’s just that she wasn’t making any money. She was a grad student, but she had money, somehow. Anyway…

I was told I didn’t qualify for a discount. So their pap would cost $300 (which, I think, includes lab services) which is MORE than what I was going to pay at the doctor’s office this morning… she was going to do the exam for $165 plus lab fees. Well, she said the lab fees were “$35-50” – whatever that means. Maybe it’d be about the same. Still, so much for finding cheaper care.

Meanwhile, I found out that at Planned Parenthood, you could get birth control pills without a full exam. It’d just be $30 for an appointment and $22+ for the pills, depending on which ones you want. I guess most of planned parenthood’s funding is really about not making babies, not, not having cancer (which makes sense. It’s not Planned Ovarian Health Org). And the cost of a full STD screening at my “level of income?” $150.

I think all of this has me rethinking my career. I love my job. It’s wonderful. But I just need REAL health insurance. So maybe I’ll start looking for a job that provides that. I hate to do that. My company seems to have health insurance for “full time employees” (not contractors who work 40 hours a week) but even their health insurance, I think, is high deductible. I’m not sure, I haven’t really looked into it, but it sounds like they all have HSA plans which means they must be high deductibles, I think. They’re a small 8ish person startup, so they can’t afford good health insurance. Can’t blame them for that. But I don’t even get that. Everything comes out of pocket. And my pretty good contract rate starts looking less and less good…

It’s just hard to figure out the total cost of everything when it comes to healthcare. And in this case, the comparision between a year of being on crappy healthcare at $140 a month and having to pay for all health costs out of pocket and working as a contractor where I can work from home on some days and save on gas money, versus getting a “real job” with a salary and benefits, and having to go in every day and spend money on gas and extra travel time and being miserable and needing to spend money on a therapist.

It’s impossible to really compare that. Maybe I should just pay $300 something a month for an HMO. I can’t decifer if it’s worth it. I have an HSA plan but haven’t even opened an HSA account yet because that kind of seems like a joke. They charge you a fee to open the account, and to maintain it. It’s basically another RothIRA, but I go for index funds, and then I have limited choice in investments, and – the kicker is it’s not even tax-free in California. So…

blah.

Late on Prosper

So right now I have 8 active loans on Prosper.com, for $50 each. Up until this month, each borrower has paid on time, which had me starting to believe in the power and potential of PSP lending.

Then, one of my borrowers went late. She’s still less than 15 days late, so it hasn’t even got to a collection agency yet, but I’m a little worried.

The good news is that I made $25 in a Prosper referral and between that and the interest I’m making on the other loans (as long as they don’t default too, knock on wood) means that I’ll end up making back the $50. But that kind of defeats the purpose of investing, if I end up barely back where I started.

Maybe this listing just had too many warning signs. The woman had to relist 3 times in order to get her listing funded. The debt-to-income ratio was way too high for the measly 13% interest rate it got funded at.

well, I’ll remain hopeful that this woman is just having a bad month and she’ll pay me back. But I’ve learned my Prosper lesson – only lend to people who are employed (students are not good investments, even if you want to help them study abroad!) — The people who really should be getting funded on prosper are those who have full time jobs, make more than they spend, and are trying to pay off high-interest credit cards. Then you’re really both helping each other out right now.

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