Yellow's Green

The Adventures of Money Blog.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Investing Classes

I found free investing classes online on Morningstar's website. This is perfect for me right now. The lessons are short enough that I can do them during Jasper's naps, while I'm tired and sitting in bed next to him. Yet, they're informative enough that I'm learning. Best of all they're free!

I've finished the entire 100 level on funds, and am just beginning the 100 level on stocks.

The more I learn and read, the more I want to invest on my own... especially since I'm a bit frustrated by the managers of our IRA's right now. They haven't returned my phone calls, and I have to wait forever before I can even deposit any money into our accounts. Everywhere else we have our money, I can go online and "presto" it's where I want it to be.

Yesterday's Money

Yesterday, I had an eye exam at 3:30, and dropped Erik off at the Max station close to 11:30. I decided to kill the four intervening hours by very slowly running errands, instead of driving home and back out to town again.

I brought Jasper's Money Jar with me so I could deposit those coins and get started in on saving for him. Unfortunately, not all credit unions are created equal. At some, you can deposit your money into your account at another credit union. Although the nearest CU had a change machine that would count it all free of charge, they did not do deposits into other institutions - so no luck there. The nearest branch of the credit union we belong to is their only branch without a change machine. So, I'll have to wait until I'm downtown again to deposit anything. That won't be until next Monday. Hopefully the change jar doesn't get stolen between now and then. I forgot to take it out of the car yesterday - and it's parked at a Max parking lot today...

More adventures in money-land yesterday, the ever exciting cliff-hangers of the insurance industry. Financially speaking, the exam went as expected: nothing but a $10 copay. However, the same did not hold true for the lenses and frames. The girl at the glasses store could not tell me exactly what insurance covered, or even the parameters to work in even after speaking to our insurance reps. The best we could do was pick out a pair, enter a claim, and enter it to see the charges. They ended up wanting $150 or so for the pair we picked out and I said, no way! I want the 100% coverage (minus $10 copay) my insurance claims to give. It should say somewhere on the info they gave us what their "allowables" are. Other than listing covered places, no luck.

So, for now, my vision has been checked - a new prescription is sitting in my wallet, but I'm still driving nervously fuzzy-eyed.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Review - 9 Steps to Financial Freedom

9 Steps to Financial Freedom by Suze Orman. Read it. Especially Ch. 3.
This book actually did have something different to say than the other finance/budgeting books I've read so far, and I think it makes a great companion book to "All Your Worth." AYW is a good guide for specifics on how to set up a budget, and balance, deal with emergencies, etc. This book dwells more on different aspects, but really compliments the whole idea.

She begins very much the same way "7 Stages" did, by asking you to look at the money messages you tell yourself based on childhood experiences. But, she doesn't get as hippy-dippy about it and moves on quickly to more practical advice.

Chapter three, which is all about "taking care of those you love" (as she puts it), is how this book was referred to me in the first place. I knew we need to get a will put together, and I finally found a notebook with advice on the subject I had been given several years ago. This book was in the list of recommended readings.

If you are married, if you have kids, if you have any money or debt and there is ANY possibility that you will die (oh, hey, that means ALL of us!) than chapter three of this book should convince you that putting together your will, revocable living trust, and an advance directive with power of attorney for health care should be a top priority if you haven't done it yet.

Another thing that I REALLY like about this book is that she tells you to trust yourself. She give some tips for experimenting, getting started with investing on your own, and then also gives advice for how to find professional help if you're still to nervous to do it on your own. She makes great arguments for why brokers probably won't be any better than you will be with handling your investments.

I currently have a stack of Suze Orman books from the library. I am going to follow her advice (and am already following some of it). I'm going to set up a trust for Erik and I... our net worth is currently very small - but at the aggressive rate we're saving, it should eventually grow to a healthy sum. I don't want Erik, Jasper, Myself, or any of the rest of our family left with unneeded expenses and worries should any of us pass away. I'm going to continue to save aggressively, and begin to invest independently.

There were some parts of the book that made me giggle. She certainly dates herself whenever she mentions the World Wide Web or America Online. :)

I have work to do!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Review - Seven Stages of Money Maturity

Here it is, my review for "Seven Stages of Money Maturity" by George Kinder.
Well I did the exercises, etc., and didn't really get much out of them. Most of the book was a bit too froofy for my taste, talking about "money chakras" and such. Chapter 11 probably had some very useful information in it, but by the time I got there I was so mentally bored by the lack of anything substantial in the previous chapters that I couldn't retain any of it. It was time to return it to the library anyway.
In short, don't waste your time with this book.

Oh, funny! Erik put in a random CD - and the song that just started spinnin': "I want Money!" Oh yeah. "The best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds and bees... I want money."
Ok, it's over now. Now it's "Leader of the Pack."

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Letters from Insurance

Remember the letter we got from our insurance denying the claim because we did not provide information they requested? Remember how they had never even requested information from us?

Well, we got the request yesterday. A package came with a separate letter for every single bit of care regarding Jasper's birth. Each letter said the exact same thing. "Please send us the physician's name and tax id number." Funny that we gave them all the info before the birth ever happened. Funnier still have that info was right there on the explanation of benefits they sent us earlier.

Erik took the requests, plus all the denied claims, and the two letters we have saying they would pay 100%, to work today. He gets to call them AGAIN, and battle once again.
I hope we don't have to go as far as court in this fight.

Eye Care Coverage

We pay $10/month for vision care. It includes an eye exam once a year, lenses for glasses once a year, frames every two years, and a deductible on contacts.

There's a $10 copay for the exam and $10 copay for ordering vision-wear.

Is this a good deal? Or is America's Best better?

I have an eye appointment on Tuesday. I haven't updated my vision wear in 10 years!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Seven Stages Suggests:

To educate yourself of several ways of financial thinking:

Business Week
Investor's Business Daily
Journal of the American Association of Individual Investors
The Economist
The Wall Street Journal
FinanCenter, Inc.
Morningstar Mutual Funds
Securities and Exchange Commission
Value Line

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Cost of Health - Two Letters

Two letters came in the mail yesterday. The first was from OHSU:

"This is NOT a bill"

The visit summary for Jasper's hospitalization looks like this:
Lab - $42
Other Diagnostic svc - $23.70
OR Services - $3,419.50
Pharmacy - $159.84
Room Charges - $2,164.00
Supplies - $830.71

Total Charges - $6,639.75

Please note: OHSU Medical Group will bill you separately on behalf of your physicians.

Now we sit tight and see if the $20 copay is truly all we have to pay...

The second letter made our blood boil:

"Dear Erik Lane,
Patient: Amber. Date of Service: 3/3/06 [Jasper's Birth]
To process your medical claim, we had previously requested additional information from you and/or your health care provider. Unfortunately, we did not receive a response, and as a result your claim has been denied."

This is the third letter denying any claims regarding Jasper's birth. Every one has been for a different asinine reason, like the patient was the wrong gender. (They billed under Jasper's name instead of mine.) This is SO ridiculous! Erik spent HOURS dealing with the insurance company BEFORE Jasper's birth to ensure its coverage, and we have two letters in writing saying they will cover it with in-network benefits. Now, we're fighting the exact same fight all over again.

The insurance company says the information they requested, but never received was the name and tax id of the physicians at the birth. Funny how that exact information was already listed on the summary of benefits they sent us! Growl.

Big Bucks, And Then...III

Continued pg. 158

"Again you've gone to the doctor, but this time you learn you'll be dead within twenty-four hours. The question isn't what you would do with the little time you have. Instead, ask yourself, "What feelings am I experiencing? What regrets, what longings, what deep and now-unfulfilled dreams? What do I wish I had completed, been, had, done in this life that is just about to end?"

I feel rushed... Lots to do in little time (mostly call to loved ones).
I honestly can't come up with any regrets...
I at least got to be a mom for a little season.
I'm sad that Erik and Jazz will have to go on without me.

Big Bucks, And Then...II

"Seven Stages" cont. pg. 156

"You've just come back from a visit to the doctor who has discovered from your lab reports that you have only five to ten years to live. In a way you're lucky. This particular disease has no manifestations, so you won't feel sick. The bad part is that you will have no warning about the moment of your death. It will simply come upon you in an unpredictable instant, sudden and final.

Let the emotional import of the situation sink in, then address yourself to this interwoven question: "Knowing death is waiting for you sooner than you expected, how will you change your life? And what will you do in the uncertain but substantial period you have remaining?"

I would work even faster and harder than I have been on getting "death business" in order, trusts, wills, etc.
I would make sure to visit family as often as possible.
I would have to sit down with Erik and seriously ponder weather we should have more children, and how soon we should try.
I would finish my picture book.
I would go dancing more often.
That's all I can really come up with.

Apartment Deposits

I've had very bad luck getting security deposits back from places I've lived. (Move out due to sewage raining from the kitchen ceiling - that ended with legal action, change of landlord's mid-lease, etc.) I'm actually a very good tenant, so this time when there were finally no hitches to the reason I moved out - I'm really miffed that we still haven't received our deposit. It's been 52 days since "official" move-out, and still no word from the ex-landlord.

I just finished looking into landlord/tenant rights, and how to go about filing a suit with small claims court to get our deposit back. I found a letter on the Oregon State Bar's website to send warning my landlord, "Yo, gimmie my moulah back!" I'll mail it out tomorrow.

The good news is, under Oregon law, I'm now entitled to TWICE the amount wrongfully withheld. The questions is, what should we do with all the extra money once it's here? Options are: Use it all toward my loan, Contribute to our IRA's, Contribute to the 529 account we will soon have, Use some for play/Germany money, or put it toward our "dreams" savings. Of course any combination of the above is not out of the question.

Big Bucks, And Then...

From "Seven Stages of Money Maturity" pg. 154...

"You may not be as wealthy as Bill Gates or the Sultan of Brunei, but you do have all the money you need, now and in the future. What will you do with it? From this moment forward, how will you live your life?"

I'm not sure how Erik would answer this, but I'll play for now.

I would set up a trust fund to ensure that although I have all the money I *need*, I would still have extra for helping my loved ones, and having some extra money I'd *want* to play with.
Completely pay off my debts (read Student Loan).
I would then either directly pay off the debts of those close to me, or would at least help in whatever way seems best - either loaning them $ to pay off high interest loans, or giving them money and setting them up with a financial planner to help them help themselves out of debt.
I would pay for a good lawyer for my sis-in-law.
I would pay for my in-laws to makeover their home the way they'd like it... or at the very least pay for the new deck and replace the broken window.
Buy farmland and get going gung-ho. Plant an edible forest, and also have land to grow for perhaps selling at farmer's markets - or setting up a restaurant like the One World Cafe.
Create a Game Space, for indoor and outdoor adventures.
Build our dream home - green house/home.
Begin the arts mentoring program I'd like to set up, or at the very least donate lots to WRAP, P:Ear, and other groups with similar missions.
Travel! All Over the place. Visit new fun places, family, and more. Maybe I would even set up a family travel fund, so that my entire family could get together once ever few years, fully paid for.
Send Jasper to Waldorf School.
Learn a martial art.
Buy a Grand Piano and begin taking lessons again.
Better yet, create a music studio, with all the recording equipment. I could even rent it out for real cheap to people.
Get a sail boat.
Hmmm... I can't think of much else I would do.
Take classes, learn more. Ballet, Yoga, Law, Nursing, Herbs, Reiki, Medicine, Financial Planning and Investing, Gourmet Cooking, Waldorf Education, Psychology, etc.
Perhaps set up some sort of entrepreneur fund to invest in new products or projects that intrigue me.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Current Reading, Future Project

I'm currently reading "The Seven Stages of Money Maturity" by George Kinder. In his section on "Innocence" (the first stage) he has an exercise, a list of questions to answer.

Well, the book is due at the library on Wednesday, and I doubt I'll get to finish it before then. So, I'm typing the list of questions so I can still play with the book once I return it.

Page 41 reads:

"Answering the questions that follow will help your understanding of how money messages have affected you financial life.

What are your three earliest memories of money?
When and how did money first enter your relationship with your mother? ...your father?
What is your first memory involving money and a close relative? A shopkeeper? A neighbor?
What were your family stories about money (e.g., about Grandpa losing the farm in the Depression, or the time Auntie Mae had to go on welfare)? Were these stories told with an air of approval or disapproval?
What did your mother have to say about money?... your father...?
Did you ever worry about money? What did you say to yourself when you were worrying?
What are all the one-sentence lessons you learned about money while growing up? Who spoke each of these lessons? Which ideas did you accept? Which did you reject?
What were your first money experiences with cars, homes, insurance, stocks, bonds, lawyers, brokers or financial planners, legal papers, and banks? What messages did you carry out of these experiences? Do you respond to the same messages today?

How have your beliefs about money hurt your life and cause suffering?
How do you still make choices based on beliefs right now, at this very moment? List the ways. Do you continue to want to live by these messages?"

Ok, list done. Now to continue reading as much as I can get done before the book must be returned.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Keep Guessing...

I counted. Erik was about $10 off on his guess...
Whats your guess?

Friday, May 19, 2006

So Much to Learn...

Whoa! And you can practice and everything.
I think I'd need to learn more before I can even begin practicing. I watched the tutorial and kinda sat there stupidly drooling. "Trading for Dummies," anyone?

Change Jar

Erik and I have saved all our coins in our "Change The Baby" jar since August. I'm going to count the change today (if Jasper gives me enough time). Can you guess how much money is in the jar? Remember, we've been using mostly cash for all our fun and groceries.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

529 plans

Should we?

College gets more expensive ALL the time. We could plan and contribute quite a bit to Jasper's college education, and he could still begin his adult life with a load of student debt.

He may not even want to go to college. Would we offer him some money to follow other routes?

529 college savings plans are tax deductible up to $2,000 per couple per year. That would be nice.

It's tax free when you use it for college related expenses.

We, as parents, retain control over the account. And, we can change who it's for.

We *WILL* have to pay taxes if we withdraw the money and use it for non-college related things.

The Oregon College Savings Plan gets the highest rating in Oregon from

The initial contribution is $250. I'm pretty sure that's more than we currently have in the change jar for Jasper. Then, there's a minimum monthly contribution of $25 a month. So, that's a minimum $300/year contributions. Over 17 years, that's a little over $5,000 for college. That doesn't include ANY gains - strictly contributions.

There's a .2% yearly management fee, and the $20 yearly fee is waived for Oregon residence.

Given college costs continue to rise, factor in inflation, I'm guessing that would be about equal to the almost $1,000 my parents pitched in for my college expenses.

Can we afford to do this, putting an extra $25/month in our "can't touch it now" money pool?

I like the tax benefits, the control, and the incentive to go to college that offering to pitch in some would create.

But I'm still undecided.

What do you think?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

4.75% Hurray!

We finally have money growing in our Money Market account at GMAC bank.
Now we just have to figure out what's going on with our online account, as we can't really get into it right now...

4.75 is the best money market rate we were able to find. Much better than our regular savings account.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Cost of Health

We currently have great insurance, and after spending 2 days in the hospital, with our baby son going through surgery, we are very thankful. We are optimistically expecting this entire ordeal to cost us nothing more (Out-Of-Pocket) than the $20 copay we've already shelled out.

Through Erik's work, we pay $1420/year for insurance for Erik, Jasper and me.
Right now, on average we also spend about $50/month in addition out of pocket medical expenses. This includes prescriptions, over-the-counter meds, and copays.

If we did not have the benefits of Erik's job, healthcare costs would blow us out of the water. This is probably the #1 thing that would keep us from working for ourselves full-time, farming and whatnot.