Sunday Money Roundup – Long, Long Weekend Edition.

While every weekend could be a long weekend for me if I so wanted them to be (ah, self-employment), this one is special because I have friends coming into town to celebrate Labor Day. Hope you guys all have something nice planned for this 3 day weekend! I just want to start off this week’s roundup by thanking Automatic Finances for hosting the Money Hacks Carnival #80, where my post “Trying A ‘No Spending’ Weekend” was chosen as an Editor’s Pick. Thank you!

And now, let’s move on to the roundup of my favorite articles from the past week…

Money Ning tries to answer the question “How Much Money Should I Leave My Children?

The Wisdom Journal says that it is never too late for college financial aid.

Generation X Finance gives out advice on whether or not you should be buying disability insurance.

My Dollar Plan helps you to Save for Multiple Goals.

Cash Money Life has the Best Student Credit Cards.

Being Frugal, in continuing her Tightwad Tuesday series, talks about the wonders of vinegar and all its uses.

Free From Broke has a valuable article up titled “9 Things Stress Can Prevent You From Accomplishing“. Everyone should read this one!

Debt Free Adventure teaches you how to use spending filters to save money.

Good Financial Cents, someone who definitely knows what he is talking about, talks about 10 year treasury bond rates.

Amateur Asset Allocator answers the question “How Are Life Insurance Premiums Set?


Money Quote Friday – Gone Fishing Edition.

Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.
“” Thoreau

Don’t let that be you. Have a fantastic long weekend!


Book Review & Giveaway: ‘Get Motivated!’ By Tamara Lowe.

This giveaway has ended.It’s time for another book review and giveaway, and for those of you seeking a little motivation, this one might be for you. Get Motivated! by Tamara Lowe claims to be able to help you Overcome any obstacle, Achieve any goal, and Accelerate your success – and she means it! Working to find your “unique motivational matrix”, the book can help in both your personal and business life by enabling you to see where your motivation comes from and then harnessing it to the best of your ability. While I am not normally one for these types of books, there were some pretty interesting ideas inside that I may be able to apply to my own life. I discovered that I am an “Internal” – people whose main focus is purpose and fulfillment rather than fame and fortune, who are emphatic and animated about the issues they have a passion for, and who can rouse others to contribute to causes they care about. That’s me to a T. And once you find out what kind of person you are, the book gives you some guidance on what kind of motivational DNA you have and what can work best for you. It was actually quite helpful!

So…are you intrigued? Want to win a copy?

Well, here are the rules and what you need to do to enter to win:

1. Actually want the book. Don’t enter just because it’s a giveaway; some people might actually really want the book, and I would like to see someone who wants it win a copy.

2. Leave a comment (using a valid email address so I can contact you if you are the winner) on this post, telling me why you think this book could help you.

3. From all legitimate comments, I will use a random number generator to choose the winner. Only one entry allowed per person/email address/IP address, and the winner must be a resident of the U.S.. Book will be shipped via media mail through the USPS.

4. The giveaway ends Sunday morning, September 6 2009 at 7am MST, and the winner will be notified soon thereafter.

Good luck to everyone, and if you don’t win, be on the lookout for another giveaway soon!This giveaway has ended.


Pay Off Low-Balance Debt First For A Big Mental Boost.

There are many different schools of thought on the proper way to pay off your debt. Some say to start attacking the high-balance cards first, some say to go after the high-interest debt first, and some fall into my school of thought: start with the low-balance debt first. This is exactly how I started paying off my debt when I finally reached the point of “No More!”. I grabbed all my credit card statements, wrote down all the balances, and sent the most money that I could afford to the one with the lowest balance. Every other card on the list got the bare minimum payment until that first one was completely paid off (and even that one took a little while), and then I moved on to the one with the next lowest balance. Sure, this might have made the repayment of my debt take a little bit longer, and it might have cost me a little more in interest charges, but I did it this way for a few reasons:

  • Motivation. Seeing a balance continue to drop month after month, instead of watching it stay stagnant because of interest charges, was very motivating.
  • Hope. When that first credit card was debt-free, it gave me hope that I actually could do this. Trying to do them all at once was overwhelming.
  • Focus. By sticking to the minimums on all the other cards and having only one card to send big payments to, I could budget my debt repayment more effectively.

Credit Cards
Creative Commons License photo credit: Andres Rueda

I could not BELIEVE it when that first low-balance credit card statement showed up with ZERO balance on it. What progress! And as anyone who talks debt reduction will tell you to do, I then took what I was sending to the first card and added it to the minimum payment on the next lowest balance, continuing until all the debt was gone. It took a very long time to get there, but by focusing on the low-balance credit card debt first, the success gave me a big mental boost to keep going. A while back I wrote my series “The Start Digging Out Of Credit Card Debt Challenge” that should give you some help in getting out of credit card debt, so you might want to check that out if you are looking for more advice. Good luck, and stick with it – getting out of debt it hard, but it is so worth it!


What Is COBRA Health Insurance?

COBRA insurance (short for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) is actually a Federal law that was put in place back in 1986, which gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for a limited period of time. Companies with 20 or more employees must, by law, continue to offer group health insurance to former employees and family after voluntary or involuntary job loss, reduction in the hours worked, transition between jobs, death, divorce, and other life events. While you do have to pay up to 102% of the cost of the health insurance, if you have a pre-existing condition or a family to keep insured, it might be worth the cost until you land another job or find other health insurance options.

I once had the option of buying into COBRA, when I was laid off from an internet company back in 2000. However, when I found out it was going to cost $590 a month for my insurance, I had to pass – after all, I had just gotten laid off, so how was I supposed to pay for it? Luckily I started a new job a few months later and got insurance again (although how much “insurance” insurance actually gives you is definitely in question nowadays) and all was OK. And if I remember correctly, my brother signed up for COBRA back when he lost his last job, and while it was very expensive, he has a pre-existing condition that he needs coverage for – so he didn’t really have a choice in the matter.

If you think you might be needing COBRA insurance or are just curious as to what the details are, here are a few important frequently asked questions to keep in mind:

How does a person become eligible for COBRA continuation coverage?

To be eligible for COBRA coverage, you must have been enrolled in your employer’s health plan when you worked and the health plan must continue to be in effect for active employees.

What are the qualifying events for employees to get COBRA?

– Voluntary or involuntary termination of employment for reasons other than gross misconduct
– Reduction in the number of hours of employment

What are the qualifying events for spouses to get COBRA?

– Voluntary or involuntary termination of the covered employee’s employment for any reason other than gross misconduct
– Reduction in the hours worked by the covered employee
– Covered employee’s becoming entitled to Medicare
– Divorce or legal separation of the covered employee
– Death of the covered employee

What are the qualifying events for dependent children to get COBRA?

– Loss of dependent child status under the plan rules
– Voluntary or involuntary termination of the covered employee’s employment for any reason other than gross misconduct
– Reduction in the hours worked by the covered employee
– Covered employee’s becoming entitled to Medicare
– Divorce or legal separation of the covered employee
– Death of the covered employee

What process must individuals follow to elect COBRA continuation coverage?

Plan participants and beneficiaries generally must be sent an election notice not later than 14 days after the plan administrator receives notice that a qualifying event has occurred. The individual then has 60 days to decide whether to elect COBRA continuation coverage. The person has 45 days after electing coverage to pay the initial premium.

How long does COBRA coverage last?

COBRA lasts for 18 months for the direct employee of the former company, or lasts 36 months for dependents who no longer qualify because of divorce or death of the direct employee.

If I waive COBRA coverage during the election period, can I still get coverage at a later date?

If a qualified beneficiary waives COBRA coverage during the election period, he or she may revoke the waiver of coverage before the end of the election period. A beneficiary may then elect COBRA coverage.

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, is there a reduced cost for COBRA?

Yep! The stimulus package temporarily reduces the premium for COBRA coverage for eligible individuals. Individuals who are eligible for COBRA coverage because of their own or a family member’s involuntary termination from employment that occurred from September 1, 2008 through December 31, 2009 and who elect COBRA, may be eligible to pay only 35% of the full COBRA premiums under their plans for up to 9 months. Here is more info on COBRA stimulus benefits.

COBRA is definitely great for those people who otherwise would have trouble getting private insurance on their own, but it is very expensive and has a limited lifetime. After 18 months, you would need to either have another job with insurance or find it on your own. If you are like me and can no longer buy private insurance, COBRA might be a great option. Otherwise, you might be better off going for a private option and save yourself some money. Definitely do the math!

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