Saturday, October 18, 2008

Rich! According To Them.

If there is one money-suck we deal with more than anything it is healthcare costs. I sat down the other day and totaled up the medical bills we have at the moment. It is over $5000 and I promptly threw up afterwards. I suppose the joke is on us because according to husband's company, our insurance costs will increase 4 % this year, yet we are supposed to be "relieved" than in this time of economic uncertainty, "XYZ Company has worked hard to ensure that increases to premiums have been minimal while maintaining the excellent benefits we come to expect".

Excellent benefits. That in itself is especially laughable considering we spend over $200 a month on prescriptions, $600 on therapy for our child, over $300 out of husband's paycheck a month just to HAVE insurance, and here we sit $5000 in the hole for medical "benefits". And that's not including any doctor visits that happen to come up for minor illnesses. The hysterical part is that they pay so little on anything I can't even see where we are doing a service to our family by keeping the insurance. Of course, the moment we drop the insurance, something catastrophic would happen. I know Murphy's Law too well to even chance that.

Over the weekend I looked into seeing if our son could qualify for our state-funded insurance program for children. According to them, we make too much money. Yet, we don't make enough to pay outright for the services that insurance won't cover or because we haven't met our high deductable.

I can now say I fully understand the big stink over healthcare in America. We are fortunate that we have insurance and that our son is healthy and only needs occupational and speech therapy. But at what cost? The exhorbiant bottom line eats up over $1000 a month from our earnings. And the kicker is that we can't afford to pay any that insurance won't.

But it WILL get paid. It may go into collections and take years, but it will be paid. And our vicious cycle will continue, just like so many other families.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Be Careful On The Way Up...It's A Long Way Down.

Back during the "good old days" when both of us were working full time, I used to wonder why people on welfare didn't just "get a job" and stop mooching off the government. The very least they could do was to finish their education and TRY to make something of themselves. It infuriated me because I worked with children and over 90% of their parents were receiving government assistance. And those parents kept reproducing, leaving the state to pick up the tab. Why couldn't these people just get off the gravy train and do something for themselves and quit abusing the system?

I'm ashamed to say I actually thought those things. If our experience from plenty to lean has taught me anything, it is most certainly compassion and humility. I really feel in my heart that the Lord has humbled me through this experience.

It never occured to me that perhaps some people had disabilities that prevented them from working. And then I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes. In my thirties.

It never occured to me that not everyone was given the upbringing that I experienced. My parents worked hard and always made sure I had the best of everything. I was fed, clothed, and given a higher education in a loving, Christian home.

It never occured to me that one financial blow in the form of no insurance in a health crisis could literally wipe a family out financially.

It never occured to me at all because all of my life I had been taken care of. Born into care. That's something I took for granted for all of my life until this experience. My shame over this has moved me to tears more than once this week. How could I have been so callous? What in the world made me think I was so much better because I was educated and had a well-paying job? Who did I think I was?

All I can say is I am glad I am no longer that person.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Way We Were

Before we had children, my spouse and I both worked. We brought home excellent money, but always found a way to blow it. Gadgets, clothes, eating out...never saving a dime. We did have mutual funds we contributed to, so I suppose you could count that as savings, but as for a regular savings account where money could be easily available, we never bothered.

However, we never lacked for anything. Our rent was modest, our car was paid for, and the only bills we had were our utilities. I think back on those days and wish that we had been wiser about saving for a rainy day because those rainy days are here. When you are in the prime of your careers and able to spend frivolously, you don't ever think those rainy days will come. Like tunnelvision, all we saw was both of us continuing on in our jobs, gradually making a little more and more as the years went by.

We never counted on both of us being diabetic, requiring expensive prescription drugs each month, or having a child that needed therapeutic services for a neurological disorder. We never counted on one of us having to leave our job because of extreme anxiety, post-partum depression and conflicts with a supervisor. In hindsight, leaving that job was probably a huge mistake, but a relief in more ways than one. It didn't, however, help our finances one bit. All of these unexpected life turns came crashing down over 2 years ago and we have still not fully recovered financially.

We take full responsibility for our stupidity in not saving. Unfortunately, some lessons can only be learned the hard way, and we live with these consequences on a daily basis. We blame nobody but ourselves and have made do with what we still have. Compared to so many, we are fortunate. It could be so much worse.

We are in the process of devising a plan to dig ourselves out of financial ruin. We don't expect it to work overnight, we know full time work must be secured to replace the part time job one of us is working, and we've got to scale back on things that we know we can scale back on. It won't be easy or fun, but it must be done. Failure is simply no longer an option anymore.

Friday, October 10, 2008

How Did We Get Here?

We are the average American family. There is nothing special or unique at all about us. We have a house, one car, and kids. We're educated, one of us holds a full time job and the other a part time job. We pay our dues, have never asked for government assistance (unless you count student loans), and we play by the rules. The only debt we have is in the form of student loans and medical bills. We don't use credit cards, our car is paid for (although slowly falling apart), and we don't spend frivolously. We live in in a nice, quiet neighborhood and our house is not a McMansion. No, we are not unique or extraordinary by any means, but we do share a common thread with so many other families in the United States.

We are slowly going broke and cannot even afford the basic necessities.

You wouldn't ever know this by looking at us. We keep up a good front. We stay optomistic that the one of us that is working part time will eventually find a full time job. I could tell you the whole sob story about how difficult it is to find work in the poorest region of the United States, but I'll spare you those details. It has not been for lack of trying. Sometimes life just throws you some unexpected curveballs and you're left to try and figure out where to go from there.

Not a day goes by that I don't shake my head in wonder about how we ended up this way. We never wanted a big house, several fancy cars, or designer clothes. All we wanted was a backyard for the kids, a secure job, and to live as simply and happily as we could without struggling. One of us worked full time and attended college in order to get that degree that would guarantee the good job and adequate salary, the other served their country and now works in a blue collar job. The one with a college degree is now working for minimum wage. How ironic.

We know we are blessed in so many ways, and I personally am clinging to my own faith and hope in my saviour, Jesus Christ, to help us work our way out of this mess. Notice I didn't say to "take all of these problems away". I know that growing in my walk with the Lord requires some stumbles and falls along the way that will only serve to strengthen my relationship with Him. I know that whatever the outcome that I have my faith and my family, things that money can never buy.

We are scared but we are not alone.