medical bills http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/9956/all en-US 5 Alternatives to Charging Your Medical Bills http://www.wisebread.com/5-alternatives-to-charging-your-medical-bills <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5-alternatives-to-charging-your-medical-bills" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/doctor_doing_surgery_in_hospital_with_money.jpg" alt="Doctor doing surgery in hospital with money" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Last year, I ended up in the hospital. The experience was scary, but what was even scarier were the massive hospital bills that started pouring in once I got home. I quickly exhausted my emergency savings and, out of options, I turned to my credit cards to pay the remaining bills.</p> <p>It was a costly mistake. The high interest rates on my credit cards caused my balance to balloon, and I ended up paying back far more than I originally owed. It was a hard-learned lesson that cost me thousands.</p> <p>If you're like me and facing serious medical bills, it's important to know that there are other options available to you that are less costly. If you need help, here's what you need to know before handing over your credit card.</p> <h2>The high cost of using credit</h2> <p>The cost of health care is a serious problem for millions of Americans. According to the Kaiser Foundation, 26 percent of U.S. adults say that they or someone in their household had problems paying for a medical bill in the past year, or couldn't pay their bills at all.</p> <p>For some, an inability to pay means they will put off necessary treatments. For those who went to the hospital, they could leave with huge amounts of medical debt, causing them to fall behind on their other bills or even file for bankruptcy.</p> <p>Many people turn to credit cards to pay the hospital bills, but doing so is an expensive decision.</p> <p>According to Bankrate, the average credit card interest rates are currently hovering above 16 percent. That means that the bill you charge can grow significantly over time, adding hundreds or even thousands to your credit card balance.</p> <p>For example, if you used a credit card to pay for a $5,000 medical bill at 16 percent interest with a $150 minimum payment, it would take you 15 years to pay off your card. You'd pay back over $3,700 just in interest charges, making it harder to get out of debt. As interest accrues, it's easy to end up over your head. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-5-biggest-dangers-of-credit-card-debt?ref=seealso" target="_blank">The 5 Biggest Dangers of Credit Card Debt</a>)</p> <h2>The things you can do instead</h2> <p>When you don't have enough money in the bank, a credit card might feel like your only option. However, there are other resources you can use to pay your medical bills that are more cost-effective than a credit card.</p> <h3>1. Enroll in a payment plan</h3> <p>Some hospitals and health care practitioners offer payment plans for low-income patients. With a payment plan, you can split up your bill over several months or even years. You can pay your bill a little at a time, rather than coming up with thousands at once.</p> <p>Some hospital payment plans might not even charge you interest, or will charge a low rate, making them a much cheaper option than using a credit card. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-to-do-if-youre-hit-with-a-huge-medical-bill?ref=seealso" target="_blank">What to Do If You're Hit With a Huge Medical Bill</a>)</p> <h3>2. Ask about charitable funds</h3> <p>If you can't afford your bills even with a payment plan, ask the hospital's billing department about any charitable funds. Some places have money they set aside to pay for treatment of patients who can't afford to pay the bill themselves.</p> <p>There will likely be a significant amount of paperwork to complete, and you'll have to submit documentation of your income and expenses. However, spending time completing the forms can end up saving you thousands over the long run. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-handle-a-massive-medical-bill?ref=seealso" target="_blank">How to Handle a Massive Medical Bill</a>)</p> <h3>3. Explore outside nonprofit organizations</h3> <p>If your hospital doesn't offer any financial assistance, you might be eligible for aid from a separate nonprofit. Organizations like HealthWell, Catholic Charities, and the Children's Health Fund may be able to help you with your with medical bills. Some offer upfront cash assistance or will even help you negotiate a lower bill.</p> <p>You can contact United Way's <a href="http://www.211.org/" target="_blank">2-1-1 Information &amp; Referral hotline</a> to find out about programs in your area.</p> <h3>4. Negotiate your bill</h3> <p>Depending on your circumstances, you might be able to negotiate a lower bill. If you cannot afford the total balance, call the hospital's billing department and explain your situation. Ask if they'd be willing to accept a lower amount. In some cases, the hospital may agree to settle the debt for less than you were originally billed. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-ways-to-negotiate-medical-bills?ref=seealso" target="_blank">7 Ways to Negotiate Medical Bills</a>)</p> <h3>5. Consider a personal loan</h3> <p>If you've exhausted your other options and still need help paying your bill, consider taking out a personal loan rather than using your credit card. If you have good credit and a stable income, you could qualify for a loan with an interest rate as low as 5 percent. And, you could choose a longer loan term, making your payments more affordable. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-times-personal-loans-may-be-better-than-credit-cards?ref=seealso" target="_blank">5 Times Personal Loans May Be Better Than Credit Cards</a>)</p> <h2>Exploring your options</h2> <p>Before reaching for plastic, make sure you have researched all of your available payment options. Using a credit card to pay for your medical bills can end up costing you thousands more than you originally owed. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/never-use-your-credit-card-to-pay-for-these-10-things?ref=seealso" target="_blank">Never Use Your Credit Card to Pay for These 10 Things</a>)</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Like this article? Pin it!</h2> <div align="center"><a data-pin-do="buttonPin" data-pin-count="above" data-pin-tall="true" href="https://www.pinterest.com/pin/create/button/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2F5-alternatives-to-charging-your-medical-bills&amp;media=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Ffiles%2Ffruganomics%2Fu5180%2F5%2520Alternatives%2520to%2520Charging%2520Your%2520Medical%2520Bills.jpg&amp;description=5%20Alternatives%20to%20Charging%20Your%20Medical%20Bills"></a></p> <script async defer src="//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js"></script></div> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u5180/5%20Alternatives%20to%20Charging%20Your%20Medical%20Bills.jpg" alt="5 Alternatives to Charging Your Medical Bills" width="250" height="374" /></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/kat-tretina">Kat Tretina</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-alternatives-to-charging-your-medical-bills">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-handle-a-massive-medical-bill">How to Handle a Massive Medical Bill</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-afford-your-kids-braces-or-expensive-dental-care">How to Afford Your Kid&#039;s Braces or Expensive Dental Care</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-cut-the-cost-of-a-hospital-stay">How to Cut the Cost of a Hospital Stay</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-reasons-an-hsa-is-actually-worth-having">10 Reasons an HSA Is Actually Worth Having</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/urgent-care-or-er-how-to-decide-where-to-go">Urgent Care or ER? How to Decide Where to Go</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance Health and Beauty charity financial assistance health care medical bills medical debt nonprofits payment plans Fri, 23 Mar 2018 09:30:15 +0000 Kat Tretina 2110802 at http://www.wisebread.com 5-Minute Finance: Start an Emergency Fund http://www.wisebread.com/5-minute-finance-start-an-emergency-fund <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5-minute-finance-start-an-emergency-fund" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/piggy_bank_in_a_lifebuoy.jpg" alt="Piggy bank in a life buoy" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>According to a <a href="https://www.bankrate.com/banking/savings/financial-security-0118/" target="_blank">recent study by Bankrate</a>, most Americans are drastically unprepared when it comes to emergencies. Only 39 percent of respondents claimed to have enough money in savings to cover an unexpected $1,000 expense.</p> <p>You can protect yourself from tragedy by starting an emergency fund today. It takes less than five minutes to set one up, and the practice of stocking your emergency fund can ensure you are always financially protected, even in the worst of situations.</p> <p>Here's everything you need to know about emergency funds and how to set one up in five minutes or less.</p> <h2>What is an emergency fund?</h2> <p>When disaster strikes, will you be ready for it? An emergency fund can protect you. In short, an emergency fund is money set aside specifically for emergencies or unexpected expenses you wouldn't have budgeted for otherwise. For instance, a medical bill, job loss, or major car repair could be considered an emergency expense.</p> <p>Instead of dipping deep into savings or putting an emergency on a credit card, with an emergency fund, you are already prepared with cash in hand in the event of an unexpected, urgent cost. There is no set amount that constitutes the perfect sized emergency fund, though many finance experts agree you should strive to save between three and six months' worth of regular living expenses.</p> <h2>Why you should start an emergency fund</h2> <p>By starting an emergency fund, you are protecting yourself and your family from disaster and/or debt. If an emergency situation arises, you know you will always have the means to pay for the service or good you need. The last thing you want to be worried about is money.</p> <p>Failing to have an emergency fund can come with a big cost. Many people, having no other options, put the expense on credit cards, which can take years to pay off. Others try to file for a hardship withdrawal from their employer-sponsored 401(k), which has major tax implications. In the most dire of cases, people even file for bankruptcy. If they would have just built up an emergency fund, many of these cases could have been prevented.</p> <h2>How to start an emergency fund</h2> <p>It only takes a few minutes to start your own emergency fund. Simply open up a new savings account and deposit whatever money you can. Keep in mind, it's a good idea to keep your emergency fund separate from your regular savings account so you lessen the temptation to spend the money on everyday items.</p> <p>After you have started to save money, leave the cash alone. It may be tempting to spend the money on a more immediate expense, but remember, this money should be socked away for true emergencies only.</p> <h2>Next steps</h2> <p>To build your emergency fund more quickly, you can enroll in an automatic savings plan, which is an option at most banks. With this plan, you can choose to have money automatically deducted from your regular savings or checking account and put straight into your emergency savings. Automatic savings plans are a great option for anyone who may be tempted to spend the money otherwise, or who likes to automate their finances as much as possible.</p> <h2>Additional resources</h2> <ul> <li> <p><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-fast-ways-to-restock-an-emergency-fund-after-an-emergency?ref=5minute" target="_blank">6 Fast Ways to Restock an Emergency Fund After an Emergency</a></p> </li> <li> <p><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-earn-money-with-your-emergency-fund?ref=5minute" target="_blank">How to Earn Money With Your Emergency Fund</a></p> </li> <li> <p><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-easy-ways-to-build-an-emergency-fund-from-0?ref=5minute" target="_blank">7 Easy Ways to Build an Emergency Fund From $0</a></p> </li> <li> <p><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-to-decide-if-its-a-fund-worthy-emergency?ref=5minute" target="_blank">8 Ways to Decide if It's a &quot;Fund-Worthy&quot; Emergency</a></p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Like this article? Pin it!</h2> <div align="center"> <script async defer src="//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js"></script></div> </li> </ul> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u5180/5-Minute%20Finance_%20Start%20an%20Emergency%20Fund.jpg" alt="5-Minute Finance: Start an Emergency Fund" width="250" height="374" /></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/rachel-slifka">Rachel Slifka</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-minute-finance-start-an-emergency-fund">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-ways-to-boost-your-financial-resilience">5 Ways to Boost Your Financial Resilience</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-to-expect-after-these-5-personal-financial-disasters">What to Expect After These 5 Personal Financial Disasters</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dont-start-a-family-before-reaching-these-5-money-goals">Don&#039;t Start a Family Before Reaching These 5 Money Goals</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-new-reasons-you-need-an-emergency-fund">4 New Reasons You Need an Emergency Fund</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-find-the-savings-strategy-that-works-for-you">How to Find the Savings Strategy That Works For You</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance 5 minute finance automated savings disaster emergency funds expenses job loss medical bills saving money Thu, 22 Mar 2018 09:00:06 +0000 Rachel Slifka 2116589 at http://www.wisebread.com Urgent Care or ER? How to Decide Where to Go http://www.wisebread.com/urgent-care-or-er-how-to-decide-where-to-go <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/urgent-care-or-er-how-to-decide-where-to-go" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/nurse_treating_patient_with_brokenn_arm.jpg" alt="Nurse treating patient with broken arm" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>A few weeks ago, I was walking with my husband at the park when an enormous, bearlike dog came out of nowhere and barreled into me. Caught by surprise, I got knocked into the dirt. When the shock wore off, I realized my ankle had twisted in a way it wasn't meant to and I had trouble getting to my feet. Within an hour, my ankle had swollen to double its normal size and I couldn't put weight on it.</p> <p>I was about to head to the emergency room (ER) &mdash; and the huge bill that would undoubtedly come with it &mdash; when I reviewed my insurance policy to see what my copay would be. In the paperwork, I found out that going to an urgent care facility would be much cheaper. I was thrilled and the urgent care facility I visited helped me get back on my feet (literally).</p> <p>If you're sick or injured, your first instinct might be to head to the emergency room. However, doing so can come with a large bill. In fact, the average ER bill is a staggering $2,259, according to Cigna. Visiting a local urgent care center, where the average cost is just $176, might make more sense. Here are a few key things to consider before going to the hospital. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-handle-a-massive-medical-bill?ref=seealso" target="_blank">How to Handle a Massive Medical Bill</a>)</p> <h2>Seriousness of illness</h2> <p>When deciding where to go, consider just how serious your injury or illness ill. If you're sick or have an infection and your doctor is unavailable, you may think the ER is your best bet. However, some insurance companies don't cover ER visits for non-life-threatening emergencies. That means that if you have something like pink eye and go to the ER, you could end up footing the bill entirely on your own.</p> <p>If you're not facing a true medical emergency, an urgent care facility is a cheaper and safer option.</p> <h2>Services</h2> <p>Although urgent care facilities are usually cheaper and more convenient than the ER, they have limitations. They tend to have X-ray equipment, EKGs, and lab testing, but lack the facilities needed for more complex illnesses or problems. And, urgent care centers usually just have one or two doctors available and no specialists. Because of these factors, urgent care facilities are best for short-term illnesses or injuries, such as:</p> <ul> <li> <p>Coughs.</p> </li> <li> <p>Minor injuries or burns.</p> </li> <li> <p>Fevers.</p> </li> <li> <p>Stomach pain or vomiting.</p> </li> <li> <p>Sore throat.</p> </li> </ul> <p>If you have a more severe injury or illness, an urgent care facility might not be able to give you the care you need. Instead, you may need the tests, expertise, and care that only a hospital can provide. You should head to an emergency room (or have someone take you) in the following situations:</p> <ul> <li> <p>Head injuries.</p> </li> <li> <p>Allergic reactions.</p> </li> <li> <p>Unconsciousness.</p> </li> <li> <p>Deep wounds or severe burns.</p> </li> <li> <p>Chest pain.</p> </li> <li> <p>Major broken bones.</p> </li> </ul> <h2>Availability</h2> <p>If you are hurt or sick outside of your doctor's normal business hours, both urgent care centers and the ER are useful options.</p> <p>Although urgent care facilities tend to have longer hours than your normal doctor, they are not usually available around the clock. If you are injured late at night or very early in the morning, your only option may be the ER.</p> <h2>Wait times</h2> <p>Most urgent care centers operate on a first-come, first-serve basis. You could wait as little as five minutes to see a doctor or have X-rays done. You'll also get necessary treatments and be on your way home faster than you would seeking treatment at a hospital.</p> <p>Emergency rooms work differently. They use a triage system, where patients are seen based on the seriousness of their condition. If you have a mild problem, such as a sprained ankle or a sore throat, you could wait several hours so that others can be seen first.</p> <h2>In-network vs. out-of-network</h2> <p>Many doctors working in emergency rooms are independent contractors. That's important to know, because that means they may not operate within your insurance provider's network. Visiting the ER and being cared for by an out-of-network physician can mean a huge bill later on.</p> <p>If possible, going to an in-network urgent care center will be cheaper than going to the ER. However, if your illness or injury is serious and you need to go to the ER, you can request an in-network doctor when you fill out your admissions forms.</p> <h2>Payment plans</h2> <p>Depending on your condition and whether or not you have insurance coverage, you could be on the hook for a large medical bill regardless of what kind of center you visit. If you are short on cash, where you go can affect what payment options are available to you.</p> <p>Most urgent care facilities require payment in full before you leave and don't offer payment plans. If you don't have insurance, you could have to pay hundreds or even thousands right away. Without that money in savings, you might have to rely on credit cards to pay it and end up in debt.</p> <p>Emergency rooms often have more leeway. They may offer payment plans or even have charitable funds set aside to cover the costs of low-income patients. Talking to the billing department about your situation can help you identify all of your options so you can pay for necessary treatments. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-to-do-if-youre-hit-with-a-huge-medical-bill?ref=seealso" target="_blank">What to Do If You're Hit With a Huge Medical Bill</a>)</p> <h2>Managing your medical bills</h2> <p>If you've already been hit with a big bill after medical treatment, don't panic. There are ways you can <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-ways-to-negotiate-medical-bills?ref=internal" target="_blank">negotiate your medical bills</a> and qualify for financial assistance or reduce how much you owe.</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Like this article? Pin it!</h2> <div align="center"><a data-pin-do="buttonPin" data-pin-count="above" data-pin-tall="true" href="https://www.pinterest.com/pin/create/button/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Furgent-care-or-er-how-to-decide-where-to-go&amp;media=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Ffiles%2Ffruganomics%2Fu5180%2FUrgent%2520Care%2520or%2520ER_%2520How%2520to%2520Decide%2520Where%2520to%2520Go.jpg&amp;description=Urgent%20Care%20or%20ER%3F%20How%20to%20Decide%20Where%20to%20Go"></a></p> <script async defer src="//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js"></script></div> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u5180/Urgent%20Care%20or%20ER_%20How%20to%20Decide%20Where%20to%20Go.jpg" alt="Urgent Care or ER? How to Decide Where to Go" width="250" height="374" /></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/kat-tretina">Kat Tretina</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/urgent-care-or-er-how-to-decide-where-to-go">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-handle-a-massive-medical-bill">How to Handle a Massive Medical Bill</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/why-i-heart-my-high-deductible-health-insurance-plan">Why I (Heart) My High Deductible Health Insurance Plan</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/could-you-make-ends-meet-if-you-were-suddenly-disabled">Could You Make Ends Meet If You Were Suddenly Disabled?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-cut-the-cost-of-a-hospital-stay">How to Cut the Cost of a Hospital Stay</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/health-insurance-two-other-numbers-to-look-at">Health insurance: Two other numbers to look at</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance Health and Beauty emergency room er health insurance hospital illness in-network injury medical bills medical care urgent care Fri, 02 Mar 2018 09:00:07 +0000 Kat Tretina 2110801 at http://www.wisebread.com How to Cut the Cost of a Hospital Stay http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-cut-the-cost-of-a-hospital-stay <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-cut-the-cost-of-a-hospital-stay" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/stethoscope_with_financial_statement.jpg" alt="Stethoscope with financial statement" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Let's face it: No one wants to get sick or be in pain in a strange place. For this reason, going to the hospital can be an unpleasant experience. To add insult to injury, you can be faced with a huge bill once the whole ordeal is over.</p> <p>Though going to the hospital may not be something you can avoid, you might be able to lessen the blow by cutting the cost of your stay. Here are some tips that could lower your final bill from the hospital. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-handle-a-massive-medical-bill?ref=seealso" target="_blank">How to Handle a Massive Medical Bill</a>)</p> <h2>Consult with your doctors</h2> <p>Before going to the hospital, ask your physician to explain, in detail, the services that will be rendered during your stay. Maria Townsend, an insurance adviser, says you should take it a step further and get this information in writing. &quot;Get an itemized summary of treatment that will be provided during the hospital stay and send it to your insurance carrier for preapproval,&quot; she says.</p> <p>You can also inform yourself ahead of time by researching the costs involved in certain medical procedures and treatments. <a href="https://www.fairhealthconsumer.org" target="_blank">Fair Health Consumer</a> can help you get an estimate based on your location and whether or not you'll be going through insurance. By doing this research beforehand, when your bill comes, you can compare your initial estimate from your doctor and identify mistakes or charges that should not be on your bill.</p> <h2>Talk with your insurance</h2> <p>Once you are aware of the services your doctor is proposing and estimating, make sure every aspect of your care is covered and approved by your insurance. This alone can cut down on the prospect of a huge bill for your hospital stay.</p> <p>For example, you need to know whether the physician (or anyone else) rendering services is in your insurance network. Alicia McElhaney, founder of She Spends, a money management website says, &quot;Basically, what happens is that a hospital may be covered by your insurance, but a doctor working there may not be. As a result, you may receive bills for services from the doctor after receiving care.&quot;</p> <p>If you find out that some service providers or facilities aren't covered under your insurance, ask for a list of providers and facilities that are. It might be a hassle to change doctors, but it could be a worthwhile activity that can save you a lot of money.</p> <h2>Shop around</h2> <p>If you've contacted your insurance and received a list of in-network providers and facilities, you may still want to compare prices for two or more options in your network. This can help you reduce your total out-of-pocket expense.</p> <p>Another way to save money is by having lab work and X-rays done at clinics or imaging centers outside of the hospital. These services are almost always more expensive when performed in a hospital. If you are shopping these services around, clear this with your doctor first. You want to make sure that you are getting the exact diagnostic and imaging information they need to treat you effectively.</p> <h2>Be thrifty</h2> <p>There are a few money-saving methods that most people don't think about when staying in the hospital. You don't have to use every product or service that is provided to you.</p> <p>For example, you can ask if the hospital will allow you to bring your own prescription or even nonprescription drugs. In some cases, you may save on both the cost of some drugs and the fee charged to administer them.</p> <p>You might also be able to save on other things like meals or paper products you'll be given during your stay. The cost of even basic items like plastic baggies and tissues are inflated when passed on to patients.</p> <h2>Log your stay</h2> <p>While you are in the hospital, you should document every part of your stay. If you're not able to, ask a friend or relative to help you. Things you want to keep track of include how long you were in different places in the hospital and with whom: operating room, recovery, anesthesiologist, surgeon, etc.</p> <p>You'll also want to document procedures and medications that were given to you. This way, if there are any errors on your bill, you'll have a log to help clear up errors. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-ways-to-avoid-surprise-medical-bills?ref=seealso" target="_blank">6 Ways to Avoid Surprise Medical Bills</a>)</p> <h2>Check your bill</h2> <p>Once the bill arrives, go through it with a fine-tooth comb, as medical bills sometimes contain errors. You'll want to check your bill against both your insurer's explanation of benefits and the log you kept for yourself during your hospital stay.</p> <p>If things don't add up or you don't understand a charge on a bill, don't be shy about calling your insurer and the hospital. You can request an explanation or even a further break down of vague line items or anything categorized as miscellaneous.</p> <p>For claims your insurance denies, follow up with the company to find out why. They should give you information on the next steps for getting your hospital stay covered. Depending on their response, you may have some recourse by following up with your doctor or appealing the decision with your insurer.</p> <h2>Negotiate with the hospital</h2> <p>It might be scary to get a hospital bill that seems larger than life, but it's not set in stone. Once the bill arrives, you can try to negotiate with the hospital a few different ways.</p> <p>To begin, you can offer to pay your entire bill with cash. The hospital may also extend a discount if you pay at the time you receive the service. The hospital likely prefers cash to drawing out payments over an extended period of time or sending your account to collections for nonpayment.</p> <p>The next thing you can do is ask for a payment plan. This may not technically reduce the amount of the bill, but it can reduce the blow to your pocketbook if you can't pay the entire bill at once. Plus, it doesn't hurt to ask for a discount anyway. Many times, the hospital is just happy to collect and is willing to make payment that much easier for you.</p> <p>Another alternative is asking for financial assistance or charity care that could reduce your bill. There may be an application process to be eligible, but it's worth a shot if it means you don't have to pay the entire amount billed to you. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-ways-to-negotiate-medical-bills?ref=seealso" target="_blank">7 Ways to Negotiate Medical Bills</a>)</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Like this article? Pin it!</h2> <div align="center"><a data-pin-do="buttonPin" data-pin-count="above" data-pin-tall="true" href="https://www.pinterest.com/pin/create/button/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Fhow-to-cut-the-cost-of-a-hospital-stay&amp;media=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Ffiles%2Ffruganomics%2Fu5180%2FHow%2520to%2520Cut%2520the%2520Cost%2520of%2520a%2520Hospital%2520Stay.jpg&amp;description=How%20to%20Cut%20the%20Cost%20of%20a%20Hospital%20Stay"></a></p> <script async defer src="//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js"></script></div> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u5180/How%20to%20Cut%20the%20Cost%20of%20a%20Hospital%20Stay.jpg" alt="How to Cut the Cost of a Hospital Stay" width="250" height="374" /></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/aja-mcclanahan">Aja McClanahan</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-cut-the-cost-of-a-hospital-stay">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-handle-a-massive-medical-bill">How to Handle a Massive Medical Bill</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-ways-to-negotiate-medical-bills">7 Ways to Negotiate Medical Bills</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/why-i-heart-my-high-deductible-health-insurance-plan">Why I (Heart) My High Deductible Health Insurance Plan</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-simple-ways-to-protect-yourself-from-medical-records-theft">7 Simple Ways to Protect Yourself From Medical Records Theft</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-alternatives-to-charging-your-medical-bills">5 Alternatives to Charging Your Medical Bills</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance Health and Beauty doctors health care health insurance hospitals medical bills negotiating patients Mon, 05 Feb 2018 09:30:08 +0000 Aja McClanahan 2097694 at http://www.wisebread.com 7 Things You Need to Know About 401(k) Hardship Withdrawals http://www.wisebread.com/7-things-you-need-to-know-about-401k-hardship-withdrawals <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/7-things-you-need-to-know-about-401k-hardship-withdrawals" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/woman_holding_coins_under_401k_nest_egg.jpg" alt="Woman holding coins under 401k nest egg" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>You know it's a bad idea to take money out of your retirement plan before you turn 59 &frac12; years old. Not only will you face hefty financial penalties, you're risking your financial stability in the future. But what if you're facing an economic hardship and you're in dire need of the money?</p> <p>If you have a traditional IRA or Roth account, you can take an early withdrawal at any time. In some cases, you can even avoid the withdrawal penalty, if you meet certain criteria. It's harder, however, to withdraw money early from your current employer-sponsored 401(k) plan. You'll need to check if your plan allows for an early withdrawal. Some plans will only allow contributors to take out what are known as <em>hardship withdrawals</em> before you hit age 59 &frac12;.</p> <p>The bad news is there aren't many situations in which you can qualify for these hardship withdrawals. And of course, taking money out of your 401(k) plan early is never an ideal financial move. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-dumb-401k-mistakes-smart-people-make?ref=seealso" target="_blank">5 Dumb 401(k) Mistakes Smart People Make</a>)</p> <p>Here are a few key things you need to know about hardship withdrawals.</p> <h2>1. &quot;Hardships&quot; have set definitions</h2> <p>IRS rules spell out a narrow list of circumstances in which you can qualify for a hardship withdrawal. If you want to use your money for anything other than these special cases, you're out of luck.</p> <p>For all scenarios, there must be an immediate and heavy financial need to take an early 401(k) withdrawal. Acceptable scenarios include unexpected medical expenses, tuition and educational fees, and burial or funeral expenses. You can also qualify for a hardship withdrawal for costs related to purchasing a home, if your home is damaged and you need to pay for repairs, and to keep yourself from being evicted or foreclosed on.</p> <h2>2. Hardship withdrawals come with big penalties</h2> <p>If you do need cash quickly, your 401(k) plan might seem like a logical place. After all, the money in your plan is <em>yours</em>. But a 401(k) plan is supposed to force you to save for your retirement, not be a source of emergency funds. That's why most plans won't allow you to take money out of them until employment with your company ends.</p> <p>Hardship withdrawals are the exception to this. But if you use this exemption to take money out of a 401(K) plan before you turn 59 &frac12;, you'll be hit with penalties. First, these early withdrawals are taxed as ordinary income. Even worse, your early withdrawal will also be hit with a 10 percent federal tax penalty.</p> <p>This makes withdrawing 401(k) funds early, even for a financial hardship, painful. If you have an alternative way to get the money you need, you should take advantage of it. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-come-up-with-1000-in-the-next-30-days?ref=seealso" target="_blank">How to Come Up With $1,000 in the Next 30 Days</a>)</p> <h2>3. There can be penalty exceptions</h2> <p>That 10 percent penalty is harsh, but there are circumstances in which you might not be hit with it. You might be able to avoid that penalty if you are disabled or if your medical debt is higher than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income. You might also avoid the penalty if a court has ordered you to give the money from a hardship withdrawal to a former spouse, a child, or a dependent.</p> <h2>4. Not all plans allow for hardship withdrawals</h2> <p>Not all 401(k) plans have the option to take hardship withdrawals. Your employer decided whether it wanted to offer such withdrawals when it set up its plan. There is no requirement from the IRS that employers offer such an option.</p> <p>To determine if your plan allows for these withdrawals, contact your plan administrator. In most companies, this will be someone in your human resources department.</p> <h2>5. There are limits to your withdrawal</h2> <p>Even if you quality for a hardship withdrawal, you can't take out an unlimited amount of money. IRS rules state that you can only take money from your 401(k) account if you have no other funds to cover your hardship. And then, you can only withdraw enough funds to cover the costs of your financial emergency. You can't take extra dollars for a financial cushion.</p> <h2>6. You may need proof of your hardship</h2> <p>Your plan administrator may require proof that you need to take the hardship withdrawal. This might mean you'll have to provide your administrator with copies of medical bills, repair bills, or an eviction notice. You might also need to provide copies of your bank account statements proving that you don't have other funds available to cover your financial emergency.</p> <h2>7. When the money is gone, it's gone</h2> <p>After you take a hardship withdrawal, you are typically forbidden to make any deposits into your 401(k) account for six months. Once that six-month period ends, you are allowed to start depositing money back into your 401(k) account as you had been doing before.</p> <p>This brings up what might be the biggest negative to hardship withdrawals: The money you take out of your 401(k) plan is gone forever. It is not a loan. You aren't simply borrowing it and putting it back. This could really hurt come retirement time.</p> <p>This is why you should search for other means to cover your financial emergency. Turn to hardship withdrawals only as an absolute last resort. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/3-sources-of-fast-cash-besides-your-401k?ref=seealso" target="_blank">3 Sources of Fast Cash Besides Your 401(k)</a>)</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Like this article? Pin it!</h2> <div align="center"><a data-pin-do="buttonPin" data-pin-count="above" data-pin-tall="true" href="https://www.pinterest.com/pin/create/button/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2F7-things-you-need-to-know-about-401k-hardship-withdrawals&amp;media=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Ffiles%2Ffruganomics%2Fu5180%2F7%2520Things%2520You%2520Need%2520to%2520Know%2520About%2520401%2528k%2529%2520Hardship%2520Withdrawals.jpg&amp;description=7%20Things%20You%20Need%20to%20Know%20About%20401(k)%20Hardship%20Withdrawals"></a></p> <script async defer src="//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js"></script></div> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u5180/7%20Things%20You%20Need%20to%20Know%20About%20401%28k%29%20Hardship%20Withdrawals.jpg" alt="7 Things You Need to Know About 401(k) Hardship Withdrawals" width="250" height="374" /></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dan-rafter">Dan Rafter</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-things-you-need-to-know-about-401k-hardship-withdrawals">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-every-retirement-saver-should-know-about-required-minimum-distributions">What Every Retirement Saver Should Know About Required Minimum Distributions</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-easy-ways-to-get-richer-in-2018">4 Easy Ways to Get Richer In 2018</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/why-saving-too-much-money-for-a-college-fund-is-a-bad-idea">Why Saving Too Much Money for a College Fund Is a Bad Idea</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/11-basic-questions-about-retirement-saving-everyone-should-ask">11 Basic Questions About Retirement Saving Everyone Should Ask</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-age-milestones-that-impact-your-retirement">6 Age Milestones That Impact Your Retirement</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance 401(k) education costs emergencies hardship withdrawals housing costs IRS medical bills penalties taxes Tue, 23 Jan 2018 09:30:09 +0000 Dan Rafter 2091490 at http://www.wisebread.com Yes, You Still Need an Emergency Fund in Retirement http://www.wisebread.com/yes-you-still-need-an-emergency-fund-in-retirement <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/yes-you-still-need-an-emergency-fund-in-retirement" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/donation_jar_overflowing_with_american_money.jpg" alt="Donation jar overflowing with American money" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>You know how important it is to build an emergency fund while you're working. But here's what you might not know: You need to keep that emergency fund well-stocked with savings even after you retire.</p> <p>An emergency fund might be even <em>more</em> important once you leave the working world. You won't have a regular salary to fall back on in retirement if an unexpected expense pops up. One costly car repair or medical bill can set you back and cause a lot of financial problems.</p> <p>While you're working, you should keep anywhere from six months' to a year's worth of daily living expenses in this fund. That way, if you lose your job, you'll have money available to pay your daily living expenses while you search for a replacement. You need to do the same during your retirement.</p> <h2>How an emergency fund changes in retirement</h2> <p>Social Security payments often complicate the emergency fund equation in retirement. That's because you are guaranteed these payments each month. When you're working, there is always a danger that you'll lose your job and your paycheck will disappear. That won't happen with your Social Security benefits. An emergency fund won't ever have to replace this source of income.</p> <p>By the time you reach retirement, you should also know how much other income you can rely on each month. Most of this will probably come from the retirement savings you've built up over time. You should have created a retirement budget listing how much money you'll have available each month when factoring in withdrawals from these savings and Social Security payments. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/heres-how-you-should-budget-your-social-security-checks?Ref=seealso" target="_blank">Here's How You Should Budget Your Social Security Checks</a>)</p> <p>What you might not be as certain about are your monthly living expenses. Retirement isn't cheap, and that's where an emergency fund comes in. This liquid savings can help you cover unexpected emergencies that could otherwise break your monthly budget.</p> <p>The challenge, of course, is in estimating how much you should keep in that fund at any given time. There is no magic formula. And how much you'll need depends largely on your health and your housing situation.</p> <h2>The costs of retirement</h2> <p>The most recent Merrill Lynch <em>Finances in Retirement Survey</em> says that the average cost of retirement is $738,400.</p> <p>A good chunk of that cost can be attributed to health care. A recent report from Fidelity found that a healthy 65-year-old couple retiring in 2017 could expect to pay $275,000 throughout their retirements in health care and medical expenses. That figure is rising, with the number 6 percent higher in 2017 than it was a year earlier. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/heres-how-far-1-million-will-actually-go-in-retirement?ref=seealso" target="_blank">Here's How Far $1 Million Will Actually Go in Retirement</a>)</p> <p>The challenge with health care costs is that you can't control them. You might be healthy when you hit retirement, but there's no guarantee that your health won't decline. Without an emergency fund to cover unexpected medical bills, you risk wiping out a huge chunk of your retirement savings that may be budgeted for other things.</p> <p>Then there's housing. You might have paid off your mortgage and plan to remain in your home. That's ideal &hellip; for now. As you age, you might need assisted living, which certainly isn't inexpensive. And if you enter retirement with a monthly mortgage payment, that can be a huge expense.</p> <p>Even if you do live in your current home without a mortgage payment, you can still expect to pay for property taxes, repairs, and maintenance. And if your home has aged along with you, chances are it may take some extra TLC (and cost) to be maintained. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/9-unexpected-expenses-for-retirees-and-how-to-manage-them?Ref=seealso" target="_blank">9 Unexpected Expenses for Retirees &mdash; And How to Manage Them</a>)</p> <p>This is why it's so important to maintain an emergency fund in retirement. Much like when you were working, your goal should still be to keep that fund stocked with enough to cover six months' to a year's worth of daily living expenses in case the worst should happen.</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Like this article? Pin it!</h2> <div align="center"><a data-pin-do="buttonPin" data-pin-count="above" data-pin-tall="true" href="https://www.pinterest.com/pin/create/button/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Fyes-you-still-need-an-emergency-fund-in-retirement&amp;media=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Ffiles%2Ffruganomics%2Fu5180%2FYes%252C%2520You%2520Still%2520Need%2520an%2520Emergency%2520Fund%2520in%2520Retirement.jpg&amp;description=Yes%2C%20You%20Still%20Need%20an%20Emergency%20Fund%20in%20Retirement"></a></p> <script async defer src="//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js"></script></div> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u5180/Yes%2C%20You%20Still%20Need%20an%20Emergency%20Fund%20in%20Retirement.jpg" alt="Yes, You Still Need an Emergency Fund in Retirement" width="250" height="374" /></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dan-rafter">Dan Rafter</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/yes-you-still-need-an-emergency-fund-in-retirement">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/heres-how-you-should-budget-your-social-security-checks">Here&#039;s How You Should Budget Your Social Security Checks</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/why-retiring-with-debt-isnt-the-end-of-the-world">Why Retiring With Debt Isn&#039;t the End of the World</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/heres-how-far-1-million-will-actually-go-in-retirement">Here&#039;s How Far $1 Million Will Actually Go in Retirement</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-retire-with-less-than-1-million-in-savings">How to Retire With Less Than $1 Million in Savings</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-face-these-7-scary-facts-about-retirement-saving">How to Face These 7 Scary Facts About Retirement Saving</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Retirement emergency funds health care housing costs income maintenance medical bills mortgages social security Wed, 17 Jan 2018 09:00:06 +0000 Dan Rafter 2085674 at http://www.wisebread.com How to Afford Your Kid's Braces or Expensive Dental Care http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-afford-your-kids-braces-or-expensive-dental-care <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-afford-your-kids-braces-or-expensive-dental-care" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/brushing_our_teeth_is_fun.jpg" alt="Brushing our teeth is fun" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>At their six-month dental checkup earlier this year, both of my sons received the dreaded diagnosis: Each one had a cavity in a baby tooth that would need to be filled.</p> <p>In addition to feeling like a terrible parent, I was also not looking forward to having to pay for their fillings. Our family dentist wasn't set up to handle fillings for two squirmy young patients, and the pediatric dentist she referred us to did not accept our dental insurance.</p> <p>Thankfully, my husband and I have an emergency fund for such an occasion, but not every parent is as fortunate. Taking care of your kids' teeth doesn't have to bankrupt you, even if they do need costly dental care or treatment.</p> <p>I talked to Marissa Miller, DDS, of Shelby, Ohio, to find out what parents need to know about affording expensive dental care for their kids.</p> <h2>1. Preventive care is always cheaper than treating problems</h2> <p>According to Dr. Miller, &quot;To mitigate the costs of dental procedures, my first piece of advice is have kids see the dentist early and regularly.&quot; There are two reasons for this. First, kids who get used to seeing the dentist early in their lives are less likely to develop phobias that will keep them from seeing the dentist later on.</p> <p>This leads to the second reason why it's important to get your kids used to seeing the dentist early and often: It's much less expensive to have biannual tooth cleanings than it is to deal with an entrenched problem.</p> <p>Even if your child does have a dental problem that will need treatment, finding it sooner rather than later will generally be easier on your wallet. &quot;Having your kids come to the dentist at regular intervals also gives us a chance to catch any problems &mdash; such as tooth decay, narrow palate, etc. &mdash; early on,&quot; Dr. Miller says. &quot;And catching problems in an early stage almost always leads to less costly treatment.&quot;</p> <h2>2. Some common pediatric dental procedures can be surprisingly expensive</h2> <p>Most parents are well aware of the fact that orthodontics (i.e., braces, retainers, and other tooth-straightening tools) are expensive. According to the 2013 Survey of Dental Fees, comprehensive orthodontic treatment for adolescents ranged in price from $4,685 to $6,500.</p> <p>However, parents may not be aware of the fact that other common dental procedures can also cost a pretty penny. Specifically, when there is a great deal of tooth decay in baby teeth, the treatment can be expensive. According to Dr. Miller, &quot;When deep cavities occur in children between roughly three and nine years of age, the costs of restoring those teeth can add up quickly. Fillings, stainless steel crowns, and pulpotomies (similar to root canal therapy but usually just for primary or 'baby' teeth) can all be called for in order to keep those teeth in working order.&quot; (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-handle-a-massive-medical-bill?ref=seealso" target="_blank">How to Handle a Massive Medical Bill</a>)</p> <h2>3. Don't let cost keep you from getting treatment</h2> <p>Parents might assume that dental care for their kids is more cosmetic than necessary. After all, baby teeth will eventually be replaced with adult chompers, and orthodonture is an expensive procedure that just provides a straight-toothed smile. The high cost for something that feels unnecessary might tempt some parents to put off the treatment while they get their financial ducks in a row.</p> <p>Dr. Miller warns against that: &quot;The whole point of trying to keep these primary [baby] teeth until they're ready to exfoliate naturally is that they are the placeholders of the adult teeth. If primary teeth are taken out early, it is common for the adult teeth to erupt in severe misalignment, resulting in a more urgent and comprehensive need for orthodontic care.&quot;</p> <p>Similarly, while straightening adult teeth for cosmetic reasons is part of the rationale for orthodontic care, it's hardly the whole reason. Properly aligned teeth promote good oral health overall &mdash; which is necessary for whole body health.</p> <h2>4. Your dentist wants to help you find a payment plan</h2> <p>Despite what you may remember from Steve Martin's portrayal of Dr. Scrivello in<em> Little Shop of Horrors</em>, you can rest assured that real dentists get into their practices because they truly want to help people. That means they want to see their patients get necessary treatment &mdash; and they will try to find a way to work with you on a payment plan. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-ways-to-negotiate-medical-bills?ref=seealso" target="_blank">7 Ways to Negotiate Medical Bills</a>)</p> <p>According to Dr. Miller, a lot of dental offices offer a variety of payment options. In particular, she recommends asking about the following:</p> <ul> <li> <p>Cash discounts. If you're prepared to pay the full case fee up front, ask about this option, especially if the cost of the procedure is over $1,000.</p> </li> <li> <p>Third-party financing. With third-party financing, you can use something that works basically like a dental care credit card to pay for your procedure. Many of these financing companies offer you interest-free payment periods of up to 12 months. Dr. Miller describes third-party financing as &quot;nearly universal,&quot; so feel free to ask your dentist about which company they use.</p> </li> <li> <p>Payment plans. Some dentists will allow you to split payments over several months interest-free, although you will generally be expected to have a credit card on file and a history with the practice for your dentist to agree to this. Orthodontists offer payment plans more often than general dentists due to the nature of their treatment plans and fees.</p> </li> </ul> <h2>5. Financial assistance is available</h2> <p>Families who simply do not have the financial ability to pay for their children's dental or orthodontic care can apply for financial assistance. The National Children's Oral Health Foundation (NCOHF, but also known as America's ToothFairy) offers access to dental care to underserved children. If you are unable to afford a specific dental treatment for your child, you can apply for funds from NCOHF through their <a href="http://www.ncohf.org/our-programs/access-care-programs/in-the-gap-program/" target="_blank">In the Gap</a> program.</p> <p>In addition, <a href="https://www.aaoinfo.org/donated-orthodontic-services" target="_blank">Donated Orthodontic Services</a>, sponsored by the American Association of Orthodontists, offers pro-bono and low-cost orthodontic services to children of families who cannot afford the regular cost of orthodonture. The nonprofit program <a href="https://www.smileschangelives.org/" target="_blank">Smiles Change Lives</a> also offers low-cost or free orthodontic services to kids in need.</p> <h2>Neglect is more expensive than dentistry</h2> <p>Watching your children undergo dental work is no one's idea of fun &mdash; and having to pay big bucks for it can feel like adding insult to injury. But making sure your kids' pearly whites stay healthy and straight will put them on the road to good oral health for years to come.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/emily-guy-birken">Emily Guy Birken</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-afford-your-kids-braces-or-expensive-dental-care">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-handle-a-massive-medical-bill">How to Handle a Massive Medical Bill</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-alternatives-to-charging-your-medical-bills">5 Alternatives to Charging Your Medical Bills</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-ways-to-get-a-good-workout-even-with-kids-around">10 Ways to Get a Good Workout... Even With Kids Around</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-money-lessons-kids-can-learn-from-the-tooth-fairy">7 Money Lessons Kids Can Learn From the Tooth Fairy</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-sell-your-house-despite-your-messy-kids">How to Sell Your House Despite Your Messy Kids</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Family Health and Beauty braces cavities children dentists health care kids medical bills orthodontics payment plans preventative care tooth care Tue, 02 Jan 2018 09:30:09 +0000 Emily Guy Birken 2077706 at http://www.wisebread.com How to Handle a Massive Medical Bill http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-handle-a-massive-medical-bill <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-handle-a-massive-medical-bill" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock-466332486.jpg" alt="Learning how to handle a surprise medical bill" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>&quot;Have you noticed that your neck appears swollen?&quot; That's what the nurse practitioner asked about halfway through what I had assumed was a routine office visit.</p> <p>Soon after, I was swiftly catapulted into a long series of office visits that were anything but routine. There were ultrasounds, biopsies, consults with specialists, an invasive surgery, an overnight stay in the hospital, and eventually, the ok from my docs to go about living a normal life.</p> <p>That's when the medical bills started rolling in.</p> <p>Turns out I could kick thyroid cancer to the curb, but it wouldn't be cheap. Medical care is expensive, not just for me, but also for the one in four American adults under age 65 who have past-due medical bills, according to a recent study released by the Urban Institute.</p> <p>Still, knowledge is power. At least, it is according to the same Urban Institute study, which reported, &quot;Adults with greater financial knowledge are less likely to have <a href="http://www.urban.org/urban-wire/why-do-larger-share-millennials-and-gen-x-have-past-due-medical-debt-older-americans?utm_source=twitter&amp;amp;utm_campaign=organic&amp;amp;utm_medium=social&amp;amp;utm_term=millennial_genx_medical_debt&amp;amp;utm_content=urban_" target="_blank">past-due medical debt</a>.&quot;</p> <p>That's good news for Wise Bread readers, who are keenly interested in the fate of their financial futures. Even so, a surprise bill, particularly a large one, can take even the most educated saver by surprise. The silver lining here is that there are several specific steps you can take to help minimize the pain that often comes with the arrival of an unexpected medical expense. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-to-do-if-youre-hit-with-a-huge-medical-bill?ref=seealso" target="_blank">What to Do If You're Hit With a Huge Medical Bill</a>)</p> <h2>1. Scrutinize your bill</h2> <p>According to various sources, as many as eight in 10 medical bills contain some sort of error &mdash; sometimes even multiple errors. I'm not surprised. Mine sure did.</p> <p>When that first hospital bill arrived, it was for more than my annual deductible. A lot more. After suffering what felt like a small panic attack, I called my insurance company. As it turned out, they hadn't received a bill from the hospital. Instead, the hospital had billed me directly.</p> <p>It took a few frustrating phone calls, but the hospital ultimately fixed the mistake. Still, had the bill been for a less egregious amount, I may have overlooked the error and just paid it. I mean, how many of us scour the line items of those bills?</p> <p>Turns out, we should.</p> <p>&quot;Sometimes, insurance companies or doctors' offices make mistakes that they don't realize,&quot; says financial coach Maggie Germano. &quot;They may have simply miscoded something. It's up to you to follow up and make sure they aren't charging you when they shouldn't be.&quot;</p> <h2>2. Negotiate with your health care provider</h2> <p>Looking over an itemized hospital bill is not for the weak of heart. Mine included shocking over-the-top expenses, like $27,000 for three hours in the operating room, $15,000 for an overnight stay in a recovery room, and $108 for a single dose of calcium.</p> <p>Those inflated fees are all part of an elaborate dance between health care providers and insurance giants. Insurance companies don't often pay the amount that gets printed on those statements. Instead, they use it as a jumping off point for reimbursement negotiations. Sadly, it's those without health care coverage who often get stuck in this line of medical bill crossfire.</p> <p>&quot;Hospitals are always complaining that they're not reimbursed enough money from the health insurance companies, and therefore increase fees as high as possible,&quot; says Adria Gross, founder of MedWise Insurance Advocacy.</p> <p>Uninsured or underinsured patients typically don't have anyone behind the scenes who can negotiate those fees on their behalf. Instead, they have to advocate for themselves.</p> <p>According to money-saving expert Andrea Woroch, health care providers are not likely to negotiate costs if you have health insurance. But if you're uninsured, you may be able to talk your bill down by 10 to 20 percent. That's why it never hurts to get connected with the customer service department &mdash; no matter how long the wait or arduous the phone tree &mdash; and ask for a break. Woroch notes that some centers will even give a discount if you offer to pay in cash. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-ways-to-negotiate-medical-bills?ref=seealso" target="_blank">7 Ways to Negotiate Medical Bills</a>)</p> <h2>3. Get smart about the actual cost of your procedure</h2> <p>Still, negotiating a medical bill isn't as easy as &quot;ask and ye shall receive.&quot; It helps to come to the table prepared with &quot;the usual, reasonable, and customary charges&quot; for your particular medical procedure, says Gross. The first step is to track down the procedure code for the service you've been billed for. A quick internet search should do the trick. Then, check out an online database to start searching for the fair fee associated with your procedure. (Gross recommends <a href="https://fairhealthconsumer.org/" target="_blank">Fair Health Consumer</a> and <a href="https://healthcarebluebook.com/" target="_blank">Healthcare Bluebook</a>.)</p> <p>Gross says that finding that number &mdash; before you call &mdash; can help you determine whether you've been overbilled so you can fight to correct the charges.</p> <h2>4. Request a payment plan</h2> <p>If you still can't afford the bill, Germano suggests asking your doctor to set up a payment plan. &quot;Most medical centers just want to get paid eventually, so they should work with you to make it easier for you to pay,&quot; she says.</p> <p>The key to this strategy is figuring out how much of the bill you can afford to pay each month. You'll likely be paying it for a while, so make sure you can commit to this amount for the long-term.</p> <p>&quot;Get the agreement in writing, and make sure they send you a confirmation email or letter whenever you make a payment,&quot; warns Germano. Then, keep careful track of your payments along the way. &quot;That will prevent them from accusing you of not paying what you owe,&quot; she adds.</p> <p>It will also ensure that the bill doesn't get sent to collections, which will damage your credit score.</p> <h2>5. Plan for the future</h2> <p>Medical surprises happen, no matter how healthy you think you are. (Trust me on this one. No one was more surprised by my diagnosis than me.) Keeping a stash of cash on reserve in your Health Savings Account (HSA) or emergency savings may just save your future self from a couple of missed mortgage payments. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-an-hsa-saves-you-money?ref=seealso" target="_blank">How an HSA Saves You Money</a>)</p> <p>As Ben Franklin once wisely said, &quot;An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.&quot; That adage applies to your health, but also to what's in your pocketbook.</p> <p>Start planning now, so you'll be prepared when the unexpected strikes. And if it doesn't? Well, it never hurts to have a few extra bucks in the bank.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/alaina-tweddale">Alaina Tweddale</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-handle-a-massive-medical-bill">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-cut-the-cost-of-a-hospital-stay">How to Cut the Cost of a Hospital Stay</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-alternatives-to-charging-your-medical-bills">5 Alternatives to Charging Your Medical Bills</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/why-i-heart-my-high-deductible-health-insurance-plan">Why I (Heart) My High Deductible Health Insurance Plan</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-simple-ways-to-protect-yourself-from-medical-records-theft">7 Simple Ways to Protect Yourself From Medical Records Theft</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/urgent-care-or-er-how-to-decide-where-to-go">Urgent Care or ER? How to Decide Where to Go</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance Health and Beauty doctors health care health insurance medical bills negotiating payment plans surprise bills unexpected costs Fri, 05 May 2017 08:30:12 +0000 Alaina Tweddale 1938309 at http://www.wisebread.com 8 Real Life Calamities That Can Drain Your Finances (Plus How to Defend Against Them) http://www.wisebread.com/8-real-life-calamities-that-can-drain-your-finances-plus-how-to-defend-against-them <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/8-real-life-calamities-that-can-drain-your-finances-plus-how-to-defend-against-them" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock-515237628.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>We all work hard for our money, but if we're not careful, it can be ripped right out from under us. From getting scammed on the internet, to medical emergencies, here are eight situations that can make you broke in an instant &mdash; plus a few ways to protect yourself.</p> <h2>1. Getting scammed</h2> <p>Maybe you're smarter than the average scammer, but loads of people are too trusting and naive. In fact, someone claiming to be from eBay scammed my own mom out of a few hundred dollars via email once. She thought the email was legit because at the time she was selling items on the auction site, and she assumed the request for her banking information was not only sanctioned, but part of the company's protocol.</p> <p>&quot;Scammers target seniors because they're considered wealthy, trusting, and typically unwilling to report scams,&quot; says Roger Cowen, owner of Cowen Tax Advisory Group in Hartford, Connecticut. &quot;Common scams include callers pretending to represent Medicare or the IRS to get your personal information, and fake charity workers asking for donations.&quot;</p> <h3>How to protect yourself</h3> <p>The best way to stave off online and phone scammers is to verify that you're dealing with a reputable organization before providing any financial information. Many institutions never send emails requesting such information, and it's a policy you should adopt for yourself &mdash; never provide bank account, Social Security, or credit card numbers over email.</p> <p>If you've received a phone call asking you to verify any financial information, double check the source before handing it over to the person on the line. Jot down their name and tell them you'll call the company back at the verified number you have in your records. Beware of fake websites as well (these links are usually embedded in scam emails) by checking the domain name to make sure it's correctly spelled. Look for <strong>https:// </strong>to precede any domain that has your financial information. The &quot;s&quot; means the site is security-fortified and usually legitimate. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-to-do-when-you-suspect-a-scam" target="_blank">What to Do When You Suspect a Scam</a>)</p> <h2>2. Tax penalties</h2> <p>Getting a bill for back taxes can be devastating. You'll not only owe whatever taxes you avoided in the past &mdash; which may be substantial if you've filed inaccurate returns for years &mdash; you may owe interest and penalties as well.</p> <p>This can happen not only to filers who outright lie in an effort to buck the system, but also to well-intentioned filers who make errors on their returns.</p> <p>In either case, you'll be required to pay up in a short period of time &mdash; or go to jail. Being broke or behind bars could be your only options.</p> <h3>How to protect yourself</h3> <p>If your taxes are complicated, hire a reputable accountant, report your income and deductions accurately, accept your tax liability, and pay it. If it's a large sum, you may qualify for a payment plan. Moving forward, ask your accountant for estimated tax vouchers so you can pay ahead of time to lessen the burden when you receive the actual numbers in April. Otherwise, if you know you're looking at a sizable tax bill, save as much as you can so you can settle up with the IRS as soon as possible. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-easiest-way-to-avoid-a-tax-audit?ref=seealso" target="_blank">The Easiest Way to Avoid a Tax Audit</a>)</p> <h2>3. Divorce</h2> <p>Sometimes divorce is amicable, but for many people it isn't &mdash; and that usually means somebody has to pay up. This is primarily the case when one spouse earns more than the other, or if one partner is unemployed.</p> <h3>How to protect yourself</h3> <p>If you're getting married and one of you has a noticeably higher net worth, get a prenup. Do not walk down that aisle without it. It's not the most romantic piece of paper you'll ever sign, but you'd be a fool not to. Don't let your future spouse guilt you out of the idea, either. Love is grand, but sometimes it'll take you for everything you're worth. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-money-moves-to-make-the-moment-you-decide-to-get-divorced?ref=seealso" target="_blank">5 Money Moves to Make the Moment You Decide to Get Divorced</a>)</p> <h2>4. Death</h2> <p>No, not your death. If you're not adequately prepared for the death of a partner, child, or parent, you could end up in a sticky financial situation. There may be medical expenses leading up to the death, and afterward you'll need to cover funeral expenses and settle debts on behalf of the estate.</p> <h3>How to protect yourself</h3> <p>Life insurance is the best way to protect yourself in the event that your spouse, parent, or child dies. If you're the beneficiary, you'll receive your policy payout, which creditors typically cannot come after, to cover expenses and any debts for which you may also be on the hook, like a mortgage. Use this money to satisfy loans that the deceased may have had, especially if you've co-signed for them. If it's your spouse that has passed away, you may be losing half your household income &mdash; maybe even more than that &mdash; so it's important to use the policy money wisely. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-reasons-why-life-insurance-isnt-just-for-old-people?ref=seealso" target="_blank">5 Reasons Why Life Insurance Is for Everyone</a>)</p> <h2>5. Market crash</h2> <p>Many people have improved their lot in life by taking financial risks. But if you're an investor at any level, you worry about going bust. Any number of things can happen that will affect your bottom line, depending on how deep your investments go. The stock market can crash, taking your life savings with it. The real estate bubble can burst, leaving you on the hook for houses you can't sell. The worst part is there are often no warning signs. One day you're swimming in cash like Scrooge McDuck, and the next day you're looking under couch cushions for loose change.</p> <h3>How to protect yourself</h3> <p>Don't put all your eggs in one basket, don't overextend your credit, don't take on more expense than you can afford, and, above all, don't get cocky with your money. Devise a plan to weather a financial crisis so you'll be prepared well ahead of time. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-to-prepare-for-a-stock-market-dive?ref=seealso" target="_blank">Ways to Prepare for a Stock Market Dive</a>)</p> <h2>6. Natural disaster</h2> <p>While we can sort of predict the weather, we can't predict the outcome. Any number of things can happen to you, your home, or your personal property during a bad storm or natural disaster that may leave you strapped for cash or even facing a total rebuild.</p> <h3>How to protect yourself</h3> <p>If you live in an area where certain calamities are possible, purchase the proper insurance. Your homeowners insurance may cover certain events, but you may require special policies for others, like floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes. Consider what you're at risk for and put a policy in place. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/9-surprising-things-your-homeowners-insurance-doesnt-cover?ref=seealso" target="_blank">9 Surprising Things Your Homeowners Insurance Doesn't Cover</a>)</p> <h2>7. Spending more than you make</h2> <p>Sometimes, your biggest financial enemy is yourself. We like our things in America, and many of us will go to great lengths to get those things &mdash; including spending more money than we have. According to NerdWallet, the average household has $134,643 in debt. Households that carry credit card debt pay about $1,300 a year in interest alone on balances that average $16,748. These statistics represent an 11 percent debt increase over the past decade. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/fastest-way-to-pay-off-10000-in-credit-card-debt?ref=seealso" target="_blank">The Fastest Way to Pay Off $10,000 in Credit Card Debt</a>)</p> <h3>How to protect yourself</h3> <p>Find ways to make more money or live on less (or both). There are many ways you can introduce a second source of income to your household, like <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-11-best-websites-for-renting-your-extra-space" target="_blank">renting out your extra space</a>, <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-earn-extra-money-driving-for-uber-or-lyft" target="_blank">driving for ride-sharing operations</a>, or pet sitting. But if you don't want to work constantly, consider cutting back on your overall expenses. You don't need everything you see, and the faster you recognize that the better off your bank account will be. Plus, you might even be happier as a result.</p> <h2>8. Medical emergency</h2> <p>American health care is in flux right now, which means that you have to be extra vigilant in making sure you're covered. Just one trip to the hospital can set you back financially for years if you're not prepared, perhaps even more if you require long-term care.</p> <h3>How to protect yourself</h3> <p>Cover yourself. You may have to bite the bullet on the premium, but at least you're insured. You can go to the doctor or hospital when you need to, and your care will (hopefully) be covered to an affordable extent. Not having insurance, on the other hand, may very well be a death sentence &mdash; or at least you'll wish it were when you get the bill in full.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/mikey-rox">Mikey Rox</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-real-life-calamities-that-can-drain-your-finances-plus-how-to-defend-against-them">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-times-you-need-to-update-your-will">6 Times You Need to Update Your Will</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-to-do-when-you-suspect-a-scam">What to Do When You Suspect a Scam</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-protect-elderly-loved-ones-from-financial-scams">How to Protect Elderly Loved Ones From Financial Scams</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/9-signs-your-identity-was-stolen">9 Signs Your Identity Was Stolen</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-ways-you-disrespect-your-money">10 Ways You Disrespect Your Money</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance audits death disasters divorce emergencies fraud going broke life insurance market crash medical bills overspending scams Tue, 25 Apr 2017 20:00:09 +0000 Mikey Rox 1931272 at http://www.wisebread.com Still Without Health Insurance? Here’s How Much the Penalties Will Cost You http://www.wisebread.com/still-without-health-insurance-here-s-how-much-the-penalties-will-cost-you <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/still-without-health-insurance-here-s-how-much-the-penalties-will-cost-you" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/piggy_bank_medical_74187691.jpg" alt="Here&#039;s what it will cost you to live without health insurance" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Health insurance is something we all need. While it may seem like an unnecessary expense at times, not being prepared for a medical disaster can completely devastate your finances. In fact, being plagued by enormous medical bills is the number one cause of bankruptcy filings. There are financial, medical, and psychological costs associated with having no health insurance. Here are just a few:</p> <h2>Steep Penalties</h2> <p>If you <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/heres-when-you-should-switch-to-your-partners-health-insurance" target="_blank">don't have health insurance</a>, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) dictates that you pay a fee or penalty called the &quot;individual shared responsibility payment.&quot; Any Americans who fail to have <a href="https://www.healthcare.gov/fees/plans-that-count-as-coverage/">minimum essential coverage</a> will be charged this penalty.</p> <p>The penalty is <a href="http://obamacarefacts.com/obamacare-individual-mandate/">calculated in two ways</a>, and you will pay whichever of the figures is higher: It amounts to either 2.5% of your total household adjusted gross income, or $695 per adult and $347.50 per child, to a maximum of $2,085. This fee has steadily risen since 2014, so it only makes sense to remain covered. For 2017 and beyond, the percentage will remain at 2.5%, but the flat fee will be adjusted for inflation. If you have health coverage for part of the year, you will only need to pay 1/12 of the annual fee for each month you weren't insured.</p> <p>The penalty is equivalent to the national average cost for a bronze-level health plan, so you would be paying the same amount whether you have health insurance or not. Therefore, it likely won't save you any money to avoid getting health insurance.</p> <h2>What If You Don't Pay the Penalty?</h2> <p>If you don't pay the penalty during tax time, you will not be subject to jail time or any additional fines. However, the IRS can withhold money from your tax refund at the end of the year.</p> <h2>Possible Exemptions</h2> <p>There are <a href="https://www.healthcare.gov/exemptions-tool/#/">certain health coverage exemptions</a> to the individual mandate charged when you file your federal tax return. For instance, certain life events or financial status may qualify you for an exemption.</p> <p>With the <a href="https://www.healthcare.gov/exemptions-tool/#/results/2015/details/short-gap">short gap exemption</a>, if you have health insurance throughout the year, but neglected to have coverage for only one or two months, you may be exempt from the fee. However, even if you only missed one day of coverage in a month, the government will deem that you did not have coverage for that whole month. For instance, if you are insured all year, but didn't have coverage June 30 through July 1, the government declares that you missed two months of coverage.</p> <h2>The Statistics</h2> <p>According to the NY Times, a person between the ages of 25 and 34 has a 5% chance of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/20/your-money/weighing-the-risks-of-going-without-health-insurance.html?_r=2">incurring medical bills</a> of at least $27,000 and a 10% chance of incurring medical bills that exceed $13,000. For Americans under the age of 65, there is approximately a 10% chance of incurring more than $30,000 in medical bills in only one year. A very unfortunate 1% of the population incurs more than $115,000 in medical bills in a single year.</p> <p>This is a significant risk and can spell financial ruin and a potential bankruptcy filing. According to the Harvard Medical School, &quot;Unless you're a Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, you're one illness away from financial ruin in this country.&quot; Having health insurance will not necessarily prevent these startling statistics, but they can help protect you from certain catastrophic medical events.</p> <h2>The Psychological Aspect</h2> <p>There is a very defined psychological benefit of having health insurance. Dan Bailey, a consulting health care actuary and a fellow of the Society of Actuaries, found that people who have health insurance are more likely to pursue necessary services than those who don't have health insurance.</p> <p>You are also more likely to take advantage of preventative medical services if you have health insurance. After all, if you're already paying for it, why not take advantage of the free annual physical? In fact, most people don't have health insurance because they can't afford it, not because they think they're invincible.</p> <h2>Cost vs. Value</h2> <p>The <a href="http://kff.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator/">Kaiser Family Foundation</a> found that a young man between the ages of 28 and 32 can buy a typical silver plan for about $2,800 in annual premiums. While this may end up costing you more than the penalty would, it's not by much. When you consider how much you may end up spending out-of-pocket for something as simple as a back injury, you can clearly see how imperative health insurance really is.</p> <p><em>Do you know of any other monetary or psychological costs of not having health insurance? Please share your thoughts in the comments!</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/andrea-cannon">Andrea Cannon</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/still-without-health-insurance-here-s-how-much-the-penalties-will-cost-you">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-get-health-insurance-if-you-missed-the-open-enrollment-deadline">How to Get Health Insurance If You Missed the Open Enrollment Deadline</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-to-spend-your-last-minute-health-care-fsa-funds">8 Ways to Spend Your Last-Minute Health Care FSA Funds</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-one-time-short-term-health-insurance-makes-sense">The One Time Short-Term Health Insurance Makes Sense</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-one-question-you-need-to-answer-to-choose-the-best-health-care-plan">The One Question You Need to Answer to Choose the Best Health Care Plan</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/new-job-dont-make-these-7-mistakes-with-your-benefits">New Job? Don&#039;t Make These 7 Mistakes With Your Benefits</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Insurance affordable care act bankruptcy fees health care health insurance medical bills obamacare Mon, 11 Jul 2016 09:30:35 +0000 Andrea Cannon 1746124 at http://www.wisebread.com How an HSA Saves You Money http://www.wisebread.com/how-an-hsa-saves-you-money <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-an-hsa-saves-you-money" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/doctor_money_calculator_000041327204.jpg" alt="Learning ways an HSA can save you money" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Health insurance is expensive and confusing. There are many different types of plans to choose from, each with different monthly premium costs, co-pays, deductibles, and more. To a great degree, though, the choice comes down to a high-premium/low-deductible policy or a <em>lower</em>-premium/high-deductible policy.</p> <p>Especially for those who don't tend to use a lot of medical care, high-deductible health plans (HDHP) are increasingly popular. Not only are the premiums relatively low, but the policies usually require little or no out-of-pocket costs for preventative services, and qualifying plans can be paired with a uniquely tax-advantaged health savings account (HSA).</p> <p>Let's take a closer look at that last benefit: health savings accounts.</p> <h2>HSA Rules of the Road</h2> <p>Only certain health insurance policies enable policyholders to open a health savings account. In 2016, individual plans must have an annual deductible of at least $1,300; family plans must have a deductible of at least $2,600. Holders of such individual policies may use an HSA to set aside a tax-deductible $3,350; family plan holders may save $6,750. Those age 55 or older can add another $1,000.</p> <p>Of course, opting for an even higher deductible than those minimum thresholds will lead to lower premiums. The money you save on insurance can be used to fund a health savings account.</p> <h3>What Expenses Can Be Paid With HSA Money?</h3> <p>HSA dollars may be used to cover deductibles, co-pays, prescription drugs, eye care, dental care (including braces), chiropractic treatments, counseling, and more.</p> <p>HSA money can even be used to pay your health insurance premiums if you are unemployed, including continuation coverage (COBRA) through a former employer, and a portion of the premiums for long-term care insurance.</p> <p>For a complete list qualified medical expenses, read <a href="https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p502.pdf">IRS Publication 502</a>.</p> <h3>Where Can You Open an HSA?</h3> <p>A number of banks, credit unions, health insurance companies, and even some investment brokers and individual mutual funds offer health savings accounts. Your employer may have a relationship with an HSA provider, but you are not obligated to use that one.</p> <p>Look for an HSA &quot;custodian&quot; that charges minimal or no fees, has a low minimum balance requirement, provides a debit card to make it easy to tap your HSA funds, and pays a generous interest rate. Depending on your balance, you should be able to find a provider paying <em>at least 1%</em>. Some also allow you to <em>invest</em> your HSA money.</p> <p>You can shop for a provider via <a href="http://www.hsarates.com/">HSARates.com</a> and <a href="https://www.hsasearch.com/">HSA Search</a>.</p> <p>Typically, you'll find the best rates at online and out-of-state financial institutions, including credit unions &mdash; many of which make it easy to become a member via a small charitable donation.</p> <h2>Extra Advantages of an HSA</h2> <p>One significant benefit of a health savings account is that unused balances can be carried over from year to year. This differs from flexible spending accounts (FSAs). While the IRS now allows FSA holders to use up unspent funds a couple of months into a new year and even continue to carry $500 forward, HSA rules are much more lenient.</p> <p>Any HSA money left unused at the end of one year can be carried into the next. If you still have a balance after turning 65 and want to use the money for non-medical expenses, your HSA will work just like a traditional IRA. The money you contributed was tax-deductible, earnings grew on a tax-deferred basis, and now the withdrawals are taxable. On the other hand, if you continue to use your HSA funds for qualified medical expenses, the account will become something of a <em>super IRA</em>. The money went in on a tax-deductible basis, grew on a tax-free basis, and now the withdrawals are tax-free as well. It doesn't get any better than that!</p> <h2>Are You a Good Candidate for a Health Savings Account?</h2> <p>In a perfect world, you would be able to predict your family's future medical needs and choose the most cost-effective health insurance plan accordingly. Absent that, the best you can do is to use history as your guide. Does your family tend to spend a lot on health care, or a little?</p> <p>If have a track record of fairly light medical expenses, a high-deductible health plan paired with a health savings account may be right for you. An HDHP policy will keep your premiums relatively low. An HSA will enable you to build tax-advantaged savings for out-of-pocket medical expenses &mdash; whether you incur those costs this year or many years down the road.</p> <p><em>Are you taking advantage of an HSA?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/matt-bell">Matt Bell</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-an-hsa-saves-you-money">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-alternatives-to-charging-your-medical-bills">5 Alternatives to Charging Your Medical Bills</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-handle-a-massive-medical-bill">How to Handle a Massive Medical Bill</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-myths-about-health-savings-accounts-debunked">8 Myths About Health Savings Accounts — Debunked!</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-reasons-an-hsa-is-actually-worth-having">10 Reasons an HSA Is Actually Worth Having</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/11-surprising-things-your-hsa-will-cover">11 Surprising Things Your HSA Will Cover</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance health care health savings account high deductibles HSA medical bills Mon, 28 Mar 2016 09:30:25 +0000 Matt Bell 1678005 at http://www.wisebread.com 5 Things You Should Never Buy With Your Credit Card http://www.wisebread.com/5-things-you-should-never-buy-with-your-credit-card <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5-things-you-should-never-buy-with-your-credit-card" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/woman_credit_card_000077026409.jpg" alt="Woman learning things she should never buy with a credit card" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>It's a big temptation: Your pockets are empty, and you desperately need that morning coffee to get through that commute. But don't do it &mdash; don't take that credit card out of your pocket. If you can't pay for that latte with cash, skip it and drink from the free coffeepot at work.</p> <p>It's easy to pay for purchases with credit cards. Maybe too easy. But there are some items that you should <em>never</em> pay for with a credit card. Why? There are always better ways to pay for these items, whether they are small, everyday purchases or big-ticket buys.</p> <p>Here are five items for which you should never rely on plastic.</p> <h2>1. Medical Bills</h2> <p>Facing a big medical bill from your doctor? Don't use your credit card to pay for it. Instead, ask your medical provider to set up an installment payment plan for you. Most medical providers will do this, and the interest rates that they charge (if any) will be lower than the rates attached to your credit card.</p> <h2>2. Income Taxes</h2> <p>If you owe taxes, you <em>do </em>have the option of paying them with your credit card. Again, though, there's a better choice. If you owe thousands of dollars to the government, contact the IRS and ask for an installment plan.</p> <p>To be eligible for such a plan, you must owe less than $50,000 and be current on your income tax filings. You must also be able to pay what you owe within 72 months.</p> <p>This isn't free, of course. The IRS will charge you interest on the money you owe and a late payment penalty, usually at 0.5% a month. But even with these fees, you're better off financially than you would be if you turned to your credit card to pay your taxes.</p> <h2>3. Unsecure Online Purchases</h2> <p>The new EMV credit cards, embedded with a computer chip, are supposed to make in-person credit card transactions safer. But these cards don't offer much protection against online credit card fraud. So be careful when you use your card to make online purchases.</p> <p>And don't ever use your card on websites that aren't secured.</p> <p>Look for &quot;https&quot; at the beginning of a site's URL in your browser. If that's not present, and the site starts instead with &quot;http&quot; (with no &quot;s&quot; at the end), don't buy from it. Such websites aren't secure, and it's far easier for criminals to steal your credit card information from them.</p> <h2>4. Big Vacations</h2> <p>We all deserve a break from the working world. An exotic vacation can provide just that. But save the money for it first.</p> <p>It's easy to rack up thousands of dollars of credit card debt on a single trip if you charge hotels, gas, meals, and visits to museums and amusement parks. Don't fall into this trap: If you save for your vacation, and stick to a planned budget while you're traveling, you'll feel much more relaxed when you return.</p> <p>If you don't, opening that huge credit card bill will make you yearn for yet another vacation.</p> <h2>5. College Tuition</h2> <p>Worried about paying for your college tuition? Join the crowd. But don't rely on your credit cards to help foot the bill.</p> <p>The interest rates on student loans are typically lower than those attached to credit cards. Many schools will even charge you an additional fee when you pay your tuition with a credit card.</p> <p>If you're worried about paying for your college education, meet with your school's' financial aid office. In addition to helping you find low-interest-rate student loans, the staffers there should be able to help you hunt for scholarships or grants that could reduce your tuition burden.</p> <p><em>What do you refuse to purchase with a credit card?</em></p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Like this article? Pin it!</h2> <div align="center"><a data-pin-do="buttonPin" data-pin-count="above" data-pin-tall="true" data-pin-save="true" href="https://www.pinterest.com/pin/create/button/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2F5-things-you-should-never-buy-with-your-credit-card&amp;media=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Ffiles%2Ffruganomics%2Fu5180%2F5%2520Things%2520You%2520Should%2520Never%2520Buy%2520With%2520Your%2520Credit%2520Card_1.jpg&amp;description=5%20Things%20You%20Should%20Never%20Buy%20With%20Your%20Credit%20Card"></a></p> <script async defer src="//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js"></script></div> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u5180/5%20Things%20You%20Should%20Never%20Buy%20With%20Your%20Credit%20Card_1.jpg" alt="5 Things You Should Never Buy With Your Credit Card" width="250" height="374" /></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dan-rafter">Dan Rafter</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-things-you-should-never-buy-with-your-credit-card">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-best-credit-cards-that-transfer-points-to-airline-miles">The Best Credit Cards that Transfer Points to Airline Miles</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/choose-the-best-travel-rewards-credit-card-with-this-guide">Choose the Best Travel Rewards Credit Card with this Guide</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-exactly-does-travel-accident-insurance-cover-on-credit-cards">What Exactly Does Travel Accident Insurance Cover on Credit Cards?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/11-credit-card-perks-that-make-life-easier-and-way-more-fun">11 Credit Card Perks That Make Life Easier and Way More Fun</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/everything-you-need-to-know-about-frequent-flyer-miles">Everything You Need to Know About Frequent Flyer Miles</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Credit Cards Fast Food medical bills online shopping small expenses taxes travel tuition Tue, 23 Feb 2016 11:30:05 +0000 Dan Rafter 1658859 at http://www.wisebread.com 7 Penalty-Free Ways to Withdraw Money From Your Retirement Account http://www.wisebread.com/7-penalty-free-ways-to-withdraw-money-from-your-retirement-account <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/7-penalty-free-ways-to-withdraw-money-from-your-retirement-account" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/ira_401k_000006195210.jpg" alt="Learning ways to withdraw from your 401k without penalty" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>While it's true that 401Ks have a higher contribution limit ($18,000 in 2015) than traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs ($5,500 for most people or $6,500 if you're age 50 or older in 2015), it would be a mistake to dismiss traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs as part of your retirement strategy.</p> <p>One of the major advantages of having an IRA is that it offers much more flexibility when it comes to taking distributions before age 59 1/2. Under most circumstances, early distributions from a 401K trigger a 10% penalty fee from the IRS on top of applicable income and capital gains taxes. But IRAs are subject to far fewer limitations in many cases &mdash; often, they're free from the 10% penalty for early withdrawals.</p> <p>Here are seven circumstances under which you can withdraw money before age 59 1/2 from an IRA without triggering an IRS penalty.</p> <h2>1. Health Insurance Premiums During Unemployment</h2> <p>If you're unemployed and can't jump on somebody's health plan for coverage, you're probably going to be stressed out about meeting your monthly premiums. Fortunately, once you've been unemployed for at least 12 continuous weeks, the IRS lets you take a penalty-free early distribution from your IRA to cover your health insurance monthly premiums. (To avoid any doubts about how you're using your IRA monies, consider opening a new bank account to handle deposits from your IRA and payments to your health provider.)</p> <p>Some additional points to remember are that the IRA distributions need to take place during either the year you received the unemployment compensation or the following, and that the IRA distributions need to take place no later than 60 days after you have been reemployed.</p> <h2>2. Large Medical Bills</h2> <p>Uncle Sam also gives you a break when you use an IRA withdrawal to pay for unreimbursed medical expenses greater than 10% (or 7.5% if you or your spouse was born before January 2, 1950) of your adjusted gross income for the year of the distribution.</p> <p>While the IRS doesn't require you to itemize your deductions to take advantage of this exception, you should keep a record of all of your medical, dental, and prescription expenses that weren't reimbursed or paid by others. Remember that you can't include the cost of non-prescription drugs (except insulin) or other purchases for general health, such as vitamins, diet foods, or health club dues. Costs of cosmetic procedures aren't eligible, either.</p> <p>However, you can include 23.5 cents per mile that you drove your car for medical reasons. Refer to the Schedule A of Form 1040 to find out the entire list of eligible expenses that you can use to calculate your total unreimbursed medical expenses.</p> <h2>3. First Home Purchases</h2> <p>If the dream property for which you've been waiting so long finally becomes available and you're up to $10,000 short on the down payment, you can tap into your IRA without a penalty.</p> <p>As long as your total IRA withdrawal for first-time home buying is not greater than $10,000, you can even split your withdrawals over more than one year. Not only can you use these monies to buy your own home, but also to pay qualified costs of buying, building, or rebuilding a property. Just make sure that those qualified costs are paid within 120 days after receiving your IRA distribution.</p> <p>Attention couples: If you keep separate IRA plans, each one of you can withdraw up to $10,000 without penalty to pool at total of $20,000 for a first home purchase.</p> <h2>4. Higher Education Expenses</h2> <p>Whether it is for your own education or that of your spouse, children, or grandchildren, you can take a penalty-free withdrawal from your IRA to cover qualified higher education expenses, including tuition, fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for the enrollment or attendance at an eligible educational institution.</p> <p>Other eligible education expenses include the cost of room and board for individuals that are at least half-time students and special needs services in connection with enrollment or attendance. While there is no limit to the amount of your withdrawal free from the 10% penalty tax, keep in mind that your monies may count as income for the student, and may thus impact their eligibility for financial aid.</p> <h2>5. Debts to the IRS</h2> <p>Uncle Sam wants so badly to collect on your unpaid taxes and arrears that he's willing to forego the 10% penalty tax on your IRA withdrawal. However, as in all other scenarios in this list, you do have to pay applicable income taxes, including capital gains.</p> <p>While using part of your IRA balance to pay all or part of your tax debts may not sound that great, it's better than trying to avoid a levy. Under the second scenario, you may have no bargaining power.</p> <h2>6. Rollovers From Traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs</h2> <p>Unlike traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs are funded with after-tax dollars. This means that you don't owe any taxes on withdrawals after age 59 1/2. Plus, once your Roth IRA has been open for at least five years, you can withdraw your contributions at any time without penalty (note that earnings on your contributions <em>are</em> subject to IRS penalties).</p> <p>If you were to transfer funds from your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, you would pay applicable income taxes now, but no 10% penalty tax on contributions if you wait five years to withdraw those funds from your Roth IRA. Each transfer has its own five-year waiting period and you can only do one IRA rollover per year.</p> <h2>7. Periodic Income Distributions</h2> <p>Last but not least, you can take penalty-free distributions from your IRA by taking a series of substantially equal periodic payments (SEPP) over your life expectancy or the life expectancies of you and your designated beneficiary. The IRS website offers a useful list of frequently asked questions on <a href="http://www.irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Retirement-Plans-FAQs-regarding-Substantially-Equal-Periodic-Payments">setting up a SEPP plan</a>.</p> <p>If you're planning to set up a SEPP for early retirement, remember that there maybe some financial risks involved. So, before taking your first periodic income distribution, consult your accountant or financial advisor to check your calculations. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-reasons-early-retirement-might-be-financially-risky?ref=seealso">4 Reasons Early Retirement Might Be Financially Risky</a>)</p> <h2>The Bottom Line</h2> <p>Taking an early distribution of your IRA may be a last resort to make your financial goals, such as a first home purchase, happen. As you can see from these seven examples, there are ways for you to take an early withdrawal from an IRA without the 10% tax penalty. While these strategies may not be for everybody, some of them can be true game changers. Consult IRS Publication 590-B for more details.</p> <p><em>Have you used your IRA to take early withdrawals without a penalty? Share with us how you did in the comments section.</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/damian-davila">Damian Davila</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-penalty-free-ways-to-withdraw-money-from-your-retirement-account">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-penalty-free-way-to-withdraw-retirement-money-early">The Penalty-Free Way to Withdraw Retirement Money Early</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-questions-to-ask-before-you-borrow-from-your-retirement-account">5 Questions to Ask Before You Borrow From Your Retirement Account</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/should-you-choose-a-roth-401k-or-a-regular-401k">Should You Choose a Roth 401k or a Regular 401k?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/heres-how-your-taxes-will-change-when-you-retire">Here&#039;s How Your Taxes Will Change When You Retire</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/3-ways-more-money-in-retirement-might-cost-you">3 Ways More Money in Retirement Might Cost You</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Retirement Taxes 401k borrowing health insurance home buying IRA medical bills penalties sepp Thu, 05 Nov 2015 13:15:18 +0000 Damian Davila 1605093 at http://www.wisebread.com The One Time Short-Term Health Insurance Makes Sense http://www.wisebread.com/the-one-time-short-term-health-insurance-makes-sense <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/the-one-time-short-term-health-insurance-makes-sense" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/doctor_healthy_heart_000030579790.jpg" alt="Learning about the one time to get short term health insurance" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Sarah O'Leary, founder and chief executive officer of national health care consumer advocacy group Exhale Healthcare Advocates, says that you should only pay for short-term health insurance one time &mdash; when you have no other options.</p> <p>&quot;We call them Swiss-cheese policies,&quot; O'Leary said. &quot;They are less expensive because you get what you are paying for. I don't recommend that anyone stay with a short-term policy for long. And I recommend that people only pay for one if they have absolutely no other choice.&quot;</p> <h2>What Is Short-Term Coverage?</h2> <p>As the name suggests, consumers aren't supposed to take out short-term health policies for a long time. The insurers that market these policies pitch them as insurance that consumers can use to bridge the gaps when, for whatever reason, they are between more traditional, long-term healthcare insurance policies.</p> <p>Insurers say that the policies are right for consumers who are between jobs or for those who missed their employers' open enrollment periods and don't want to go months without health insurance coverage. Consumers who think that COBRA temporary insurance &mdash; which allows former employees to continue their health insurance coverage after leaving their jobs &mdash; is too expensive might consider signing up for short-term health insurance, too.</p> <p>O'Leary, though, said that short-term health insurance should always be treated as a last option for consumers. COBRA insurance, if consumers can afford the higher premiums, is a better choice. And traditional long-term health insurance policies always provide better coverage.</p> <h2>Lack of Coverage</h2> <p>Short-term health insurance policies have become even less appealing under the Affordable Care Act. Since they have so many holes in coverage, they don't even meet the Affordable Care Act requirement that consumers carry adequate health insurance. Those relying on short-term health insurance policies will be subject to the same tax penalties as people who have no insurance.</p> <p>Short-term health insurance policies usually don't cover maternity care, treatment for mental illnesses, routine office visits, or preventative care. Because they don't follow the mandates of the Affordable Care Act, short-term health policies also aren't required to provide coverage for pre-existing medical conditions.</p> <p>&quot;Maternity care and delivery usually aren't included. That's a big one,&quot; O'Leary said. &quot;That can cost you up to $40,000 if you don't have the right coverage. You don't see much preventative care covered, either. The holes in these policies can add up to a lot of money.&quot;</p> <h2>The Last Resort</h2> <p>When do these policies make sense? O'Leary says that you should consider them only if you really don't have any other choices for insurance.</p> <p>&quot;These policies are better than no coverage at all,&quot; O'Leary said. &quot;And that's about it.&quot;</p> <p>Say you are switching jobs. You might sign up for a short-term health policy if you know that the gap in your insurance coverage will be especially brief. Some consumers would rather pay the lower premium prices that come with short-term insurance than the higher ones that come with COBRA, which provides far more comprehensive coverage.</p> <p>Maybe you <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/avoid-these-5-costly-health-insurance-mistakes">missed the open-enrollment period</a> to sign up for a traditional health insurance policy, and you don't expect a qualifying life event in the near future that would allow you to sign up before the next open enrollment. A short-term health insurance policy will provide at least <em>some </em>coverage before that enrollment period rolls around again.</p> <p>If you have no other choice but to take out a short-term health insurance policy, make sure to ask your provider exactly what coverage you are getting for your money. You don't want to be surprised by a big medical bill when you visit your doctor.</p> <p><em>Have you ever relied on a short-term health insurance policy?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dan-rafter">Dan Rafter</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-one-time-short-term-health-insurance-makes-sense">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-3"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-one-question-you-need-to-answer-to-choose-the-best-health-care-plan">The One Question You Need to Answer to Choose the Best Health Care Plan</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/still-without-health-insurance-here-s-how-much-the-penalties-will-cost-you">Still Without Health Insurance? Here’s How Much the Penalties Will Cost You</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/health-insurance-how-to-fight-back-against-4-common-claim-denials">Health Insurance: How to Fight Back Against 4 Common Claim Denials</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-handle-a-massive-medical-bill">How to Handle a Massive Medical Bill</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/women-pay-more-for-health-care-heres-how-to-pay-less">Women Pay More for Health Care — Here&#039;s How to Pay Less</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Insurance affordable care act cobra doctors health care medical bills short-term health insurance Wed, 04 Nov 2015 11:15:30 +0000 Dan Rafter 1605063 at http://www.wisebread.com Avoid These 5 Costly Health Insurance Mistakes http://www.wisebread.com/avoid-these-5-costly-health-insurance-mistakes <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/avoid-these-5-costly-health-insurance-mistakes" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/money_health_insurance_000014590407.jpg" alt="Learning how to avoid costly health insurance mistakes" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>How little do most consumers think about their health insurance? The 2015 Aflac Workforce Report found that 23% of adults would rather clean their toilets than research their health benefits during their employer&rsquo;s open enrollment period.</p> <p>This is too bad. Not researching their health insurance choices could cost them.</p> <p>&quot;Too many people get their health insurance from their employers and then never research it again,&quot; says Hector de la Torre, executive director of the Transamerica Center for Health Studies. &quot;They don't change their plans even as their lives change. And that can cost them a lot of money. You need to monitor your health insurance over the years. Most people don't think much about their plans until they're making a co-payment or paying a bill.&quot;</p> <p>Here are the five costliest mistakes consumers make when it comes to health insurance. If you want to keep more money in your pocket, you'll be sure to avoid them.</p> <h2>1. Not Living a Healthy Lifestyle</h2> <p>Dr. Sam Ho, chief medical officer with UnitedHealthcare, says that a growing number of employers are offering their employees <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-ways-to-get-cheaper-health-insurance">discounts on health insurance</a> premiums if they pursue healthier lives. Your employer might slash $400 off your annual health care premium if you don't smoke. Others might give you a discount if you lose weight.</p> <p>Ho says this trend isn't going anywhere. A recent study by Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health found that employers will spend an average of $693 per employee on wellness-based incentives in 2015, up from $430 five years ago.</p> <h2>2. Focusing on Premiums Only</h2> <p>Rebecca Palm, chief strategy officer of Boston-based healthcare expense management company CoPatient, says that too many consumers choose the health insurance option that comes with the lowest premium, whether or not it's the best plan for them and their families.</p> <p>For example, an HMO plan might come with lower premiums than a PPO program. But that doesn't mean you'll be happier with the lower-cost HMO option, Palm explained.</p> <p>&quot;Yes, HMO premiums could be lower, but do you prefer your primary care doctor directing traffic for you, or do you want to go the PPO route, where your care is more self-directed?&quot; Palm asked. &quot;With a PPO plan, you won't necessarily need to ask your primary care physician for a referral before you go to see a specialist. If you see a lot of specialists, you might be happier with the PPO choice.&quot;</p> <h2>3. Not Understanding How Their Plan Works</h2> <p>Matthew Owenby, senior vice president with insurance provider Aflac, said that too many consumers never take the time to fully learn how their health insurance plan works.</p> <p>Some consumers don't understand how a plan's co-pay system works until they actually show up at their doctor's office with the stomach flu. Others don't understand how high their deductibles are, or don't realize that when they have health insurance with a deductible of $1,000, that they'll actually need to have that money available before scheduling an expensive medical procedure.</p> <p>&quot;Most people don't spend enough time researching their options before making benefits decisions,&quot; Owenby says. &quot;The reasons for that are broad. Some people think health insurance is too complicated. Often, the enrollment period offered by employers is too short. Other times, people are feeling healthy and they don't consider health insurance to be a priority.&quot;</p> <h2>4. Going to the Emergency Room Too Frequently</h2> <p>Ho said that hospitals are increasingly investing in freestanding clinics to offer patients an alternative option to the emergency room. These options are less expensive &mdash; and offer shorter waiting times, too &mdash; than do traditional emergency rooms, Ho said.</p> <p>And that's just the beginning. Medical providers are increasingly offering telemedicine and online services for routine and preventive care, Ho said. By using these alternatives, consumers can keep their health insurance fees low.</p> <p>&quot;Emergency rooms should be reserved for true emergencies,&quot; Ho says.</p> <h2>5. Never Questioning Their Medical Bills</h2> <p>Palm said that medical providers aren't perfect; they might charge consumers for a service they never provided. But most consumers simply pay their medical bills without ever reviewing them for mistakes, Palm said.</p> <p>&quot;There is a lot of complexity with medical bills,&quot; Palm says. &quot;Consumers don't always understand what they are being billed for. They just assume that the bill is right and pay it right away. We always encourage people to make sure everything is correct on the bill and to wait to pay that bill until they are sure they are being charged correctly.&quot;</p> <p><em>Are you monitoring your health care costs carefully?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dan-rafter">Dan Rafter</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/avoid-these-5-costly-health-insurance-mistakes">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-one-question-you-need-to-answer-to-choose-the-best-health-care-plan">The One Question You Need to Answer to Choose the Best Health Care Plan</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/is-pet-health-insurance-worth-it">Is Pet Health Insurance Worth It?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-common-medicare-myths-debunked">5 Common Medicare Myths, Debunked</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-reasons-you-should-buy-the-rental-car-insurance">6 Reasons You Should Buy the Rental Car Insurance</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/is-long-term-care-insurance-worth-it">Is Long Term Care Insurance Worth It?</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Insurance copays deductibles Health healthcare medical bills Fri, 30 Oct 2015 09:15:33 +0000 Dan Rafter 1602209 at http://www.wisebread.com