Category Archives: Money Management

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.

Income Chart Updates & Harvest Season

I have such great news! In my third month of doing my ambitious income goal charts, I actually met my pretty ambitious goal! I count the income I book and earn rather than the income I receive as I have far more control over the former.

This was a really good feeling, and one I’m hoping to achieve next month with my Kesha/H.E.R-inspired income goal chart. I created it in honor of the two songs I couldn’t stop listening to in August: RWSM and Lord is Coming. Once I get these goals met on a consistent basis, I’ll be upping them until I get to my calculated “enough” number.

Harvest Season

If you’re wondering what changed, ultimately meeting my goal this month came down to a few happy surprises I had planted earlier in the year.

Investing Time in Future Work

I’m a contractor, which means my work and pay is inherently variable. I’ve learned over the years to never take for granted the times of feast, as there’s always a famine coming around the corner. Often when you least expect it.

Earlier in the year, when work was steady and almost something close to predictable, I started feeling uncomfortable. I knew this feeling of routine wasn’t permanent, so I started keeping an eye out for new opportunities. In one case, I even reached out to a friend who was kind enough to set me up with someone they knew was hiring.

Because I started those conversations in the Spring, I’ve been able to phase in new clients at an unrushed pace, smoothing out a lot of the bumps in the road I would have hit otherwise.

I’m so glad I started planting then. My life has been a lot less hectic because of it.

Unpaid Work

Another frustrating thing about freelancing is that sometimes you end up being at the short end of the stick as far as on-time payments go. This does not apply to my long-term clients; if it did they wouldn’t be my long-term clients.

Earlier in 2019, before I started creating my income goal charts, I did a couple projects with organizations I was expecting to pay on time. They expected them to pay on time. There was some sort of glitch and that didn’t happen, in one case. I don’t know what happened in the others.

I did eventually get paid, but it took a while. Since I wasn’t sure when these payments would be coming in, I didn’t count them as expected/earned income when I was making my charts. When they did come in, they were a happy surprise that boosted me over the edge.

Moving Forward with Income Goals

I’d like to hit this number every month! I’d like to get it consistent enough that I can up my income goals even higher. I’m glad I’ve had a chance to harvest the opportunities of early 2019, and I’m also looking forward to new opportunities as I head off to FinCon.

Ticks, Income Goal Updates & Awards

I have so many posts bouncing around in my head ready to write for you guys. There’s so much I want to tell you, so many ideas I want to bounce off of you and so many new things I’m learning about that I can’t wait to share.

But I’ve been a little off kilter lately.

Lyme Disease

I was recently diagnosed with Lyme disease. So I’ve been incredibly tired, among other symptoms. All those symptoms have kept me from getting things done the way I wanted to after I got home from some recent travels, which I swear I will tell you about soon.

I don’t think it’s anything to worry about long-term. They caught it super early and I’ve been religious about taking the meds. I should know in a couple weeks just based on the way I feel, but I will of course pursue lab testing, too, to ensure it’s gone.

Income Chart Update

Last month I showed you my new income charts with ambitious goals. If you remember, in June I did quite well, falling just short of my pie-in-the-sky goal.

My goal for July was a bit more ambitious–mostly because I accidentally drew too many boxes. Here’s how I did:

Womp, womp.

So I didn’t quite reach it. Which I realize looks *real* great when displayed within those now-ironically confident Cardi B lyrics.

But I didn’t do horribly. It’s still higher than my monthly average was before. Just not as crazy great as June. This is freelancing. Ups and downs are natural.

For August, I counted the boxes right and am injecting some Beyonce into my motivational progress chart:

Note: Not actually seeking any type of revenge for anything. ATM.

Awards

This weekend I received some great news. Thanks to all of you who voted, The Feminist Financial Handbook has been nominated as a Plutus finalist for Best New Personal Finance Book. I cannot tell you how immensely grateful I am–THANK YOU!

I was honored to see that the Intersectional Finances series was once against nominated as a finalist for Best Series: Blog, Podcast or Video. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the series, you should know it is not written by me. Instead, it is written entirely by a group of phenomenal contributors. Go check it out and then check out more of these writers’ work.

If you’d like to contribute to the award-nominated series, get in touch. Submissions are open and rolling!

I also received another piece of news I wasn’t expecting: I was nominated for the Biggest Impact Award, which is a new Plutus category this year. Completely humbled to be up there with a group of such great women! And yes–all the nominees are women!

To check out all the phenomenal nominees across all categories, visit the Plutus Awards Finalists page!

Don’t-Miss Live Events

Don’t forget to check out the live events I’ve got coming around the corner. I’ll be in Boise, DC and anywhere you can get online. Let me know if you’d like me to come to a city near you!

Abundance Mindset & Income Goal Charts

Long-time readers will remember that I have, at times, struggled with the scarcity mindset. Recently, I discovered that as much as I thought I had moved on from it, I hadn’t.

Since the divorce, I’ve been operating from a place of survival again. I had thrown a lot of money at trying to save things, and have had a hard time getting back to a place where I’m comfortable. I feel like I’m running on a treadmill. It doesn’t matter how fast I run or how many calories I burn; at the end of the day, I’m still in the same place.

One day while listening to Lizzo, I decided to do something ambitious. I decided to start setting monthly income goals that weren’t necessarily realistic. Realism is typically what I do.

But perhaps in this instance, realism was holding me back. What I realistically expect out of myself may be far less than what I am worth or capable of.

I calculated my dream income, divided it by twelve, and realized I wasn’t quite ready for my mindset to be that abundant.

I subtracted about $1k/mo. The goal was still crazy ambitious, but I figured if I hit it, I could raise it. I’m cognizant of the moon, but I’m also totally cool if I hit that number that’s $1k less, landing among the stars.

Am I hitting my income goals?

I busted out a pen and paper and drew my Lizzo-inspired income chart. Want to see how close I came to reaching my goal?

RIDICULOUSLY CLOSE!

I’m counting income as work I lined up and completed that month rather than the income I actually receive. I have far more control over the former, so it’s the metric I’m choosing to focus on.

Did making a chart really help?

Yes. It’s in a place I can see it everyday, and that did two things for me. First, it helped me remember how quickly small amounts really do add up to big sums. Each small block I colored in was its own victory, but zooming out and seeing my efforts inch me closer to my larger goal was really encouraging.

The other thing it did was really motivate me. So much so that I’m going to be using motivational lyrics of female artists moving forward to get me into action. For example, July’s chart inspired by Cardi B:

Scarcity vs Abundance Mindset

I could cut back my spending; I know how to live on next to nothing. And I’m going to take more drastic steps in that direction as I move through this process.

But for the first time, I’m embracing the idea that I can build my income to a point where I could actually meet some more of my goals rather than just continuing to slog through with the focus on extreme frugality.

I’m starting to have a little more faith that I can create my own future and truly believe it will come to pass rather than waiting for the floor to drop as I brace once again to pivot my goals to match my ever-changing surroundings.

This time around, I’m finding that establishing that confidence in myself at the income level is a step in the right direction. I’ve had more faith the money I need will be there when I need it, which can be a major concern when you’re a freelancer.

That makes me marginally less stressed so I tend to make (marginally) better financial decisions.

Those marginally better decisions start to make life marginally easier and easier still, reducing stress and upping good decision-making. Because you’ve asserted power in one area of your life, you feel like you can regain it in all the others.

This is all kind of heady. I mean, I’m only on month two of this little experiment.

But I’m curious: Have you ever struggled with abundance vs getting by vs realism? And if you created an income goal chart, which lyrics would you use to motivate yourself?

A Cat’s Guide to Money

Text reads" Who can say no to adorable kittens? Book review on Femmefrugality.com" Below that is a picture of a seafoam green book with illustrations of cats and money all over the front. The title is "A Cat's Guide to Money" author Lillian Karabaic

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to go to this great event in NYC. I’ll tell you a little more about it in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, you can follow along the photo journey.

ANYWAYS.

The point is I that while I was there, I got to meet a lot of new friends for the first time. One of them was Lillian Karabaic.

Lillian is amazing. She hosts the Oh, My Dollar! Podcast, has traveled the world and seen far away places I’ve only dreamed of and wrote a book where cats teach you personal finance.

In fact, she releasing the second edition in the coming weeks.

It’s a book about cats and money.

You need a copy.

A Cat’s Guide to Money

Guys, this is likely the easiest and most engaging personal finance read I’ve ever held in my hands.

It breaks down the same complex topics as other personal finance books: money mindset, budgeting, investing, student loans, debt payoff strategies, insurance, credit–it’s all in there.

But it does it with persistently delightful feline-inspired illustrations, puns, analogies and sometimes even stickers!

Very rarely do I read a personal finance book that’s so approachable. Lillian writes with empathy, zero judgement and a level of understanding that only comes through experience.

Also included: punk rock references and writing inclusive of the Rainbow Community.

Order Your Copy Today

picture of an open book with an illustration of a cat sitting on money on a solid purple background. Heading on the next page reads "2" for the chapter number, and then, "Purrrfecting the Budget"

A little over 24 hours ago, Lillian’s Kickstarter launched to get the self-published second edition to print.

In just over 24 hours, she’s already at half her goal!

If you want to get your hands on a copy, there are tons of ways to do so. To just get the book (including early shipping!) you can pledge as little as $7 for a digital copy and $22 for a print copy.

There are all kinds of ways to support this project, though, both for more and less cash. Rewards at different levels include:

  • High-quality cat stickers. (The kiddos and I gave them a test run! Love!)
  • A 12-month kitty calendar which will help you stay on top of things like bills and budgets.
  • A book donated to someone in need in your name.
  • Access to the Get Your Money Together online course.
  • An original illustration of your own money-smart cat (or just regular cat–it’s all right if they don’t know how to budget) in both print and sticker form.
  • Sponsor a financial workshop for low-income youth with a larger pledge.

Go pick up whichever package makes the most sense for your budget today!