Category Archives: Money Management

How to Handle Medical Bills You Can’t Afford

This post is brought to you and contributed by Amara Etter.

Many people think of bankruptcy as the result of people spending above their means on lavish vacations, large houses, expensive vehicles and fine dining.

But the truth is that about two-thirds (66.5 percent) of bankruptcies occurr because of medical expenses, either resulting from the direct cost of healthcare or because people had to take time off work due to an illness. The same research shows only 44.4 percent of bankruptcies are attributable to living beyond one’s means. This just goes to show many Americans experience financial distress because of something they have little to no control over.

Have you ever found yourself wondering how you’re going to pay off your medical bills? Here are some tips for dealing with healthcare-related expenses you can’t afford to pay out of pocket right away.

Review Your Charges Carefully

Medical bills are not always the most fun reading material. In fact, oftentimes they’re convoluted and difficult to understand. This is exactly why it’s so important to read them over rather than assuming everything must be correct simply because they came from a hospital or doctor’s office. Your medical bill may actually include an error like an overcharge — and you can only correct this costly mistake if you identify it.

Here are some steps Investopedia recommends when it comes to reviewing your medical bills:

  • Ask for an itemized breakdown of charges so you know exactly what each procedure costs.
  • Make sure you received all the services and medications listed; ask specifically about any charges you don’t recognize or understand.
  • Ask your healthcare provider and insurance company to audit your bills and correct any mistakes on their end.
  • Ask questions and develop a relationship with the finance departments, as the professionals within can help you navigate the complex process of handling your bills.

Before you start stressing over how you’re going to pay your bills, make sure the charges are accurate.

Try Negotiating Your Bill Right Away

Try negotiating down your medical bills before they become delinquent. Ask if the medical establishment in question has an assistance program — and if so, whether or not you qualify.

You can also ask for a rate reduction based on financial hardship. You may be able to work out a deal where you pay a percentage of the total original sum or work out a payment plan with low or no interest. You never know your options until you ask.

You also may be able to buy yourself some additional time to come up with funds before the hospital or doctor’s office sends your account to collections; it’s important they know you’re trying.

Explore Your Debt Relief Options

Are you already saddled with medical debt? If you’ve ever had to use a credit card to pay off a medical procedure, you know how frustrating and hopeless this cycle can feel.

Before filing for bankruptcy, explore your options. Many Americans have undergone debt settlement through Freedom Debt Relief due to overwhelming unsecured debt — like medical bills and credit card debt. Another option is to work with an NFCC-member credit counselor, who may be able to get you on a Debt Management Plan (DMP) in which the credit counseling agency distributes your monthly payment to creditors in exchange for more favorable terms.

Create an Emergency Fund

Last but not least, try to protect yourself from future medical debt by building an emergency fund slowly but surely. Even tucking away a few dollars a week can help you build up a protective buffer against debt. Having an emergency fund containing three to six months’ worth of living expenses ready to go can help you accommodate medical bills before they turn into staggering debt.

Are you facing medical bills you can’t afford out of pocket? Don’t panic. Review the charges, ask questions, negotiate and explore your options for debt relief strategies. Then focus on building an emergency fund for the future.

How to Get Free Tickets to the Mamas Talk Money Summit

The past couple years I’ve been doing a lot more live events. I’ve organized round table discussions for female freelancers, spoken on ABLE accounts and gathered audiences of women together to talk books and money.

It’s not something I thought I’d be doing eight years ago when I started blogging anonymously, but it turns out it’s something I enjoy.

The only bummer about doing these live events is that when you’re in one city…you’re in one city. I can’t invite all of you to come. I mean, I could, but I’d have to be hungry for a lot of rejection.

The live event where everyone can come.

That’s why I’m super excited to let you know I’ll be speaking at the Mamas Talk Money Summit.

In my sessions, we’ll be covering finances when you’re raising a special needs kiddo, which includes things like ABLE accounts, but also includes things like Medicaid access, maximizing resources extended to your child in IEP meetings and more.

My topic is very niche. The idea is to speak to all moms, so there are five days packed full of content about being a mother and managing money; there’s something for everyone!

There are two best parts:

  1. The summit is happening entirely online, so EVERYONE CAN COME!*
  2. If you’re watching live, the summit is 100% free, so EVERYONE CAN COME!*

You can signup to register for free here.

Sessions I’m excited for.

There are five full days of speakers for this event. You can catch me on Friday at 2:15 p.

There are other speakers you won’t want to miss, either. Like a ton. Here are some of the one’s I’m most excited for myself:

10 Steps to Financial Wellness with Tiffany Aliche

Find Tiffany’s session on the full schedule.

The first time I saw Tiffany speak was at a conference in Charlotte. She blew me away. She was entertaining, confident, smart and into establishing environmental supports to help people make wise money decisions.

Crazy excited to attend her session on October 21 at 2:15p. She’ll be talking about her own financial journey and the lessons she learned along the way that helped her feel financially “whole.”

4 Indispensable (But Rarely Talked About) Moves for Your Money with Jen Hemphill

Find Jen’s session on the full schedule.

Reading Jen’s book was so eye opening. I learned a lot about my own psychological baggage with money, and that knowledge helped me get conquer some hurdles I didn’t even know I was tripping over.

Needless to say, I’m pretty psyched for her session covering the emotions behind money. You can catch it on October 22 at 8:30a EST.

Surviving and Thriving When Tragedy Strikes with Michelle P. Cooper

Find Michelle’s session on the full schedule.

Michelle became a widow and single mother very suddenly. While money isn’t the most important thing in moments like these, having a grasp on how to manage that money well is imperative if you want to make it out of such upheaval financially healthy.

In my opinion, everyone should go to this session. You never know when tragedy will strike. You can prepare for it with Michelle on October 23 at 1:00p EST.

How to Create Positive Change at Work with Georgene Huang

Find Georgene’s session on the full schedule.

We talk a lot about gender inequality in the workplace here on Femme Frugality. It’s great to know that a problem exists, but how do you go about fixing it as a member of the oppressed group?

Gerogene Huang will be tackling that very topic on October 24 at 3:30p EST. I’m really excited to learn from this one. I know the methods I’ve used to successfully affect change without flipping over the entire apple cart, and I’m incredibly excited to pick up some new tools.

The Best Ways to Teach Young Girls About Money with Dina Shoman

Find Dina’s session on the full schedule.

Culturally, we still don’t talk to our daughters about investing as much as we do to our sons. Unsurprisingly, that results in girls and women feeling less confident in this area and compounds the coexisting investing gap.

On October 25 at 8:30a EST, Dina Shoman is coming to the Mamas Talk Money Summit to teach us how to change that. Dina is going to talk about how to help girls feel more confident across their finances, and I’m already getting ready to jot down notes.

Managing Your Finances with a Special Needs Child

Find my session on the full schedule!

With yours truly on October 25 at 2:15p EST!

Here are some of the things we’ll talk about:

  • Health insurance.
  • Applying for SSI to establish disability.
  • ABLE accounts.
  • Ensuring your child gets everything they’re entitled to at school.
  • Career and higher education resources available to your child starting around middle school.
  • And more!

And so much more!

Seriously, everyday is packed with great sessions. There are so many more great ones that I’m excited about that I just can’t cover them all in one post!

Make sure to check out the full schedule.

What if I can’t attend the Mamas Talk Money Summit live?

If you can’t catch a session live, it will be available for replay for 48 hours.

If that doesn’t work for you, or you want to be able to rewatch the content, you do have the option of purchasing an All Access Pass. Here’s what you get with this pass:

  • Lifetime access to all videos & their accompanying worksheets
  • One page summaries of each talk
  • Transcripts
  • MP3 downloads of sessions
  • 4 live group Q&A calls with Chelsea Brennan in the weeks following the event, just for All Access Pass holders

The pass normally costs $87, but if you purchase right now, you’ll get the early bird price of $67. That’s a 23% discount!

What do you say, friends? See you there?

*Obviously, not everyone has internet access, and they may not be available during the session time even if it is free. So I know not everyone can come. But those who are reading this blog post and prioritize the event probably can find a way to make it happen, or can catch the sessions via the All Access Pass.

Flow & Income Goal Chart Updates

A long, long time ago,

on a blog far, far away (seriously, it was two domains ago,)

I wrote about contentment and flow.

Honestly, it’s been a long time since I felt anything close to content. Not a long, long time. Just a long time.

Which is why recently, a sense of enjoyment in my regularly irregular routine — a not-stressed-out-feeling which I hear some other people have all the time — has been rocking my world.

I’m building a life that’s good for me. It’s not the most mathematically advantageous. I’m enjoying the work of improving my parenting skills. I recently got addicted to coffee, and some days I’m feeling way more bummed out than content.

But I’m liking that this feeling keeps cropping up. It makes me feel like I’m doing something right. Like I’m finally at a place in my life where I can build rather than repair.

Life is not a straight line. Nothing is static. My contentment, like my income, will ebb and flow. But it’s nice that the tide is finally coming in after a long while. Hopefully it’s not too fleeting.

Speaking of irregular income…

You may remember that last month I rocked my income goal for the first time ever. (Though I’m not even half a dozen months in.)

I’m sorry to report that I didn’t quite hit my goal this past month, doing a great disservice to H.E.R.

I sincerely apologize.

Partially colored in income goal progress chart reading "God is a woman I know H.E.R."

But, two things. First, not every month is going to be consistent when you’re freelancing. It was awesome to hit my goal last month and fun to try again in September, but I’m not going to beat myself up about not having it consistent yet.

The second thing is that last month was FinCon, which is one place where I pick up work, but is also so action-packed that it’s impossible to really get work behind the keyboard done while I’m there.

While I was at FinCon, I had a lot of great conversations, making both new friends and new business partners. It will pay off in time; September just looks a little funky because of it.

Nicki Minaj and Queen Bey are inspiring me this month:

Income goal chart partially colored in reading "Today I'm icy but I'm praying for some more snow."

I’m really hoping I can get there again. Given that it’s Day 2 and I’ve lined up more than 50%, I’m feeling like it’s not an unrealistic intention.

But we will see friends!

How have you been doing with your income goals?

Why a Personal Injury Lawyer Won’t Take Your Case

This post is brought to you and contributed by an outside writer.

Sometimes even after meeting with a personal injury lawyer, they can turn you down. In all the commercials and advertisements, they claim that you are entitled to justice.

So why won’t they help?

Why do they turn you down?

These unanswered questions have led many clients to frustration, anger, and feeling victimized.

Different lawyers have differing standards for the cases they are willing to take. Some don’t have the time or resources to handle your case. No lawyer wants to tell a client they have a bad case, so when pressured for an explanation, they give generic or no reasons. It’s best to seek different opinions from various personal injury attorneys such as the California Personal Injury Attorneys even after several rejections.

If you still cannot find a lawyer after consulting with several of them, here are some reasons as to why no one will take your case.

Risk vs. Reward factor

Personal injury lawyers work on contingency fees. This means they use their own money to file claims. If you lose, they lose. The anticipated time it would take, the cost of bringing in the claim and risk involved are factors they consider before deciding whether to take on a case.

Liability

If liability is not clear, then chances for settling the case are low. Sometimes liability seems clear to the client even when it is not. The less clear liability is, the higher the risk of investment to the lawyer, which makes finding a lawyer even harder.

Insurance coverage

Although your injuries might be severe, if the one responsible is uninsured, there is little economic value to suing them. For cases where getting compensation is hard, lawyers will choose not to take the case.

How severe your injuries are

It does not matter how badly the other party acted. If there are no injuries, there is no case. If you are not physically hurt, you do not need a personal injury lawyer. The value of a personal injury case is the nature and extent of the injuries.

Insufficient evidence

If you claim to be a victim of a hit and run and there is no evidence to back it up, then chances are you don’t have a case. For a claim to be successful, there should be clear evidence such as a witness or video that substantiates your claim.

Statute of limitations

There are strict time limits set on bringing in cases. If you take too long to visit a lawyer and file your case they might not be able to help. If the statute of limitations is close to or has expired, no lawyer can help you.

Unrealistic expectations of the Client

Personal lawyers take on cases that will make them the most profit. Many cases are settled before they get to court because trials can be tricky and cause both sides trouble. Before a lawyer takes on your case, they must know what your goal is.

These are some of the reasons why your case might have been dropped. Every personal injury lawyer has their considerations to make, so always seek a second opinion if your first lawyer turns you down.

Why Women Should Plan for Medicare Differently than Men

Please welcome Danielle Kunkle Roberts, Medicare expert and author, as she breaks down Medicare and retirement planning for women today!

Women instinctively know their needs in retirement will be different from men’s. Whether you pursued a career outside the home or focused on raising a family, life in retirement will be a huge adjustment—emotionally, physically, and especially financially.

That’s why it’s so important to start thinking now about your health coverage and expenses in retirement. You have time to do your research, make a plan, and put it in motion so you’re prepared to take care of yourself and your health care needs when you’re older.

Some science, biology, and statistics

Women live longer than men—about six to eight years longer, according to the World Health Organization. That may not seem like much, but if you’re living on investments and fixed income in retirement, 30 years of expenses on 25 years of savings can wreck your financial plan.

In addition, if you’re married and relying on your husband’s pension or annuity for part of your income, in most cases, that income stream “dies” along with your spouse.

It’s also true that your chances of developing serious or chronic health conditions, including many types of cancer, increase dramatically as you age. Since women are living longer than ever, their chances of needing costly health care are also increased.

Even if a serious illness isn’t on your radar right now, routine health screenings, preventive care, and wellness visits should be. Women spend more on health care throughout their lives than men do, and on average, they use significantly more health care in their senior years than men.

This is due in part to their longer life expectancy, but also because women tend to have more chronic health issues and take more prescription medications throughout their lives than men. Statistics compiled by the National Institutes of Health showed that men over 65 take an average of 2.4 prescription medications at any point in time, while women over 65 take an average of 3.75 prescription drugs. Of seniors on long-term concurrent medications, only 16% of men used four or more medications on a regular basis; that number jumps to nearly 40% for women.

Finally, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services showed that twice as many women as men need long-term care at the end of life.

Taken together, these numbers demonstrate that women need to plan for more years of health care than men, that their medical expenses will be higher than men’s in retirement, and their out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs will likely exceed those for men. Is it any wonder women need to plan ahead for Medicare?

Preparing for life with Medicare

Many people aren’t prepared for Medicare’s out-of-pocket costs. Everyone pays a monthly Part B premium, whether they stick with Original Medicare or choose a Medicare Advantage plan. There are deductibles for both Part A and Part B with Original Medicare, and a cost-sharing structure that puts the burden for 20% of your health expenses squarely on your shoulders.

To make matters worse, there is no annual cap on out-of-pocket health care costs with Original Medicare. If you are seriously or chronically ill and use a lot of health care, you could wind up with tens of thousands of dollars in cost-sharing expenses.

You can avoid most of these costs with a Medicare Supplement Plan, but you pay an extra premium each month for the additional coverage. In 2019, the average premium for the most comprehensive Medigap plan was about $185 a month. For women who choose Original Medicare, this coverage is almost a necessity.

There is a catch with Medigap plans, however: They don’t cover prescription drugs. Your Part D Prescription Drug Plan should do a good job paying most of the costs for generic and preferred drugs, but if you need brand-name or specialty drugs, you could spend hundreds each month on medications.

Many women prefer the familiarity and expanded coverage offered by Medicare Advantage plans. Medicare Advantage is offered by private companies; the plans are structured like group health plans you get through an employer. Medicare Advantage typically has additional benefits not offered with Original Medicare. For example, most plans cover routine vision, dental, and hearing care.

They may pay for prescription eyewear, contact lenses, and even over-the-counter medications and health aides. Some plans cover things such as home meal delivery for homebound individuals, non-medical transportation to and from the doctor or pharmacy, home health aides for custodial care, and even home safety equipment and devices.

Most plans use a copayment cost-sharing structure instead of a percentage-based coinsurance amount. Almost all Medicare Advantage plans include Part D prescription drug coverage, eliminating the need to purchase yet another plan. You may or may not have an additional monthly premium for your Medicare Advantage plan.

Perhaps best of all, Medicare Advantage plans have a maximum out-of-pocket limit each year. You can plan for your health expenses knowing they will never exceed a certain amount each year. On the downside, prescription drug costs don’t count toward the cap, so there’s still an element of uncertainty.

The point is, you have more than one option for Medicare coverage, and your premiums, cost-sharing, and benefits are different depending on which option you choose. You owe it to yourself to begin thinking about the type of coverage and benefits you’ll want in retirement—and begin planning for your health care costs.

Paying for health care in retirement

Most women know about IRAs and 401(k), but fewer are familiar with health savings accounts, or HSAs. HSAs are one of the most efficient vehicles for paying for medical expenses in retirement. Every year until you retire, you can contribute pre-tax dollars ($3,500 a year for individuals, $7,000 for families in 2019) into an investment account and the money grows tax-free.

Prior to retirement, you can use the money on qualified health expenses such as deductibles and costs not covered by your health insurance, including vision, dental, and even certain over-the-counter medications. You can’t use them, however, to pay your premiums. Money withdrawn from your HSA for qualified expenses isn’t subject to income tax.

Here’s where HSAs really pack a punch: Unused contributions roll over indefinitely. There’s no limit to how much money you can keep in your health savings account. And once you turn 65, you can use the tax-free money on anything, including your Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage, and Medigap premiums. Opening an HSA is one of the smartest things women can do to plan for Medicare expenses.

If you need help sorting out your Medicare options, exploring ways to pay for your care, or opening an HSA, talk to a financial advisor or Medicare broker. Arm yourself with information today so you can plan for Medicare tomorrow.