What Does Health Care Cost?

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

To understand one of the problems with health care in the US, see if you can answer the following questions:

  • How much do you and your employer pay in total premiums for health insurance?
  • What does a doctor’s visit or medical procedure cost you, and what additional amount does insurance pay?
  • What would the same visit or procedure cost without insurance?

Those simple questions are often difficult to answer because there’s little information or transparency when it comes to health care costs. Employers often don’t disclose the majority share of the premiums they pay, and after your copay most costs occur behind the convoluted curtain of the insurance industry.

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Quoted in AP Story on ING Mortgage Contest

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

500 contest winners get mortgage relief, including me! Thanks to the power of the Internet, the Associated Press picked up my blog entry about ING’s mortgage contest. The actually did email me for additional comments, but I was out snowboarding and didn’t have a chance to respond. In any case, they found a compelling main story and quoted me later in the article:

Another winner, Matthew Botos, wrote on his blog that he was a winner of ING Direct’s “own little bailout contest.”

“I figured they’d get plenty of sob stories and I’m already paying $700 billion to bail out irresponsible borrowers and lenders, so my essay implored them to take a contrarian view and reward a responsible citizen,” he wrote.

He posted his winning contest entry, in which he states: “I personally have lived within my financial means, made savings a priority and accepted the necessary sacrifices. My mortgage is still small; my car is old but paid off, and I’ve eBayed old electronics to fund new toys without ever carrying a credit card balance.”

Here’s my full essay. Google shows the article is running in a number of papers; if anyone has a chance to grab a hard copy, I’d appreciate it.!

ING Mini Bailout Winner!

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

My new homeI found out this week I’m one of the winners of ING Direct’s own little bailout contest; based on my essay, they’ll be making my next mortgage payment! I figured they’d get plenty of sob stories and I’m already paying $700 billion to bailout irresponsible borrowers and lenders, so my essay implored them to take a contrarian view and reward a responsible citizen:

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Ethics and the $500 Blog Entry

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

Last week I received an unusual offer: $500 to remove a blog entry that a company didn’t like customers seeing in search results for their name.

Don't tread on meIt gave me a brief pause, but was a pretty quick decision: I simply felt it was unethical to take payment in exchange for my right to free speech. One of the nice things about this being my personal blog is that only that argument mattered, with no trade-off against management, advertiser, or investor considerations. If I have one goal here, it’s to share information of interest to the audience, however small it might be.

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How I Beat Big Oil

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

With gas prices holding at $4 a gallon, I’m averaging $60 a tank to fill my Maxima with cheap gas. Yet last month, I actually made a net profit on the machinations of Big Oil. Here comes the math:

RustGas: -$120

Discover Gas Card Cashback: +$5

Energy Stocks ETF (XLE) Gain: +$134

Total: +$19

So this month I beat Big Oil! :D My fortunes will probably change next month, though; I usually average 3 tanks.

Links for Young Investors

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

My sister Catherine just got graduated from college, has some money in the bank already, and is about to start her first job. She’s already starting to think about investing, which is great, so I pulled together some links from my del.icio.us collection for her:

Links for young investors

What would you add or remove from the list?

Berkheimer Finally Gets E-File!

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

Long the scourge of taxpayers, our local collector Berkheimer finally has electronic filing for local taxes. This is a great improvement, especially since they began collecting quarterly a few years ago. Better yet, my current employer actually withholds the tax for me, so now I can just click a few times a quarter instead of filling out and mailing a form. It’s almost efficient government!

Getting Robbed by Foreign Transaction Fees

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

Walking along the beachVisa racked up the biggest IPO in history yesterday, despite a looming recession and a popped housing market bubble. One stellar piece of analysis explained why they didn’t have to worry: because they make their money at the moment of the sale and leave the banks to worry if the bills will ever be paid.

All money is in fees, for both merchants and cardholders. That includes 1% on any foreign transactions you make, to which many banks now add a few points of their own. On my well-worn Citibank card, it adds up to 3% on everything I charged on recent trips to Belize and Whistler, Canada.

You’d make out much better paying the occasional ATM fee, if you don’t mind carrying around wads of cash. Bankrate.com also provides a table of various bank’s currency conversion costs - I think I’ll be getting a Capital One card before my next trip!

Mint.com Review

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

After trying homebrew spreadsheets and Quicken to manage my finances, I decided to give mint.com a try. Pure viral marketing finally got me - I saw a friend declare himself a “fan” of the site on Facebook.

Setup was quite easy; it grabs account information with much less fuss than Quicken. It uses an established provider to this, which eases some of the worries that a web startup has all your banking information. From there, you get an immediate overview of your finances, and offers from their presumed partners on how you can save money. Not a bad business model, especially when you consider the email alerts and updates it sends to keep you coming back.

It does have a few shortcomings: it only pulls in your last month’s worth of information and doesn’t always set new categories successfully, making it more difficult to use the budgeting and analysis capabilities. It did turn up some good tempting deals, though it missed some of my current credit card rewards.

The interface is smooth, though, and with everything moving to the web, personal finance can’t be far behind - even Quicken is getting in on the game.

Halfway To Retirement

Friday, December 14th, 2007

Starting a new job gave me the clearest look at retirement savings I’ve had in a while. Rules of thumb and estimates always seem to change, but this one-page calculation was pleasantly simple:

  1. How much of your salary do you want at retirement to travel, spoil grandkids, etc.?
  2. How much will you get from social security? (Assuming it’s still solvent in 30 years.)
  3. How much will your current savings grow to?
  4. How much more do you need to contribute as a percent of your paycheck to reach your total goal?

Sadly, the calulator is missing from Prinicipal’s online offerings, but perhaps there’s a similar one out there. For me, the results were encouraging. Saving early puts me about halfway there, leaving modest contributions going forward. And a few extra precent as a hedge against social security collapsing. ;)