Monthly Archives: December 2010

New Year, New Budget

As the new year quickly approaches, it presents a good opportunity to look back at the previous year and examine the actual spending. Depending on your record keeping, this could be an easy task or a daunting one.

Take a look at what worked and what didn’t. If it didn’t work, why not? We are all faced with increased food and fuel prices. How did rising prices effect your overall budget? Did the rising prices lower your discretionary spending or like many, cut into the heart of the budget? In my family budget, we were hit with a dramatic increase in medical insurance costs. I am sure that we are not alone in this. These increases have left very little wiggle room.

My family will have to look for more ways to stretch our dollar. This will include shopping at the “selective item” stores such as Aldi, Save-A-Lot and Price Rite, prior to going to the bigger supermarkets to get specialty items. We will also have to think twice about driving out of town to the stores for items that can wait to reduce fuel costs.  Many of these things we are already doing, we are just going to have to look harder at how we can do more.

With busy work lives and hectic schedules, it is easy to fall back on restaurant meals. This is an area that can easily be reduced. For a family of 4, a restaurant meal can easily cost $40 to $70, so it is easy to see how that can interfere with the budget. Frozen pizza and generic soft drinks can easily reduce the expense of a pizza night.

If you are doing better or expecting more income in 2011, consider paying down debt or saving the extra cash or both. If you are already comfortable at your spending level, it would be a great time to put some aside for your future. As witnessed these past couple of years, the future is an unknowable creature, so it is prudent to plan.

I hope that you had a wonderful holiday season. I pray that your coming year is a prosperous one for you and your family, filled with love and attention. Take care, stay well and be safe.

 

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Can Marriage Jeopardize Your Future?

Today’s article is provided by a guest blogger. It was written by Theresa Fischette, the principal of White Light Communications and author of three blogs: Aponi the Butterfly, Doing it the Little Way, and Visions of Holley; all three can be reached from my blogroll on my main page. I thought this deserved publication in my blog.

If you wish to be a guest blogger, please send me your article and if I think it fits with my blog, I will publish it.

Can Marriage Jeopardize Your Future?

After embracing singlehood for many years, I am now “over the moon” about sharing my life with the most incredible man. Justin is everything I ever hoped for in a mate and more. Together we share a level of intimacy most cannot imagine. What’s more, as our relationship has evolved, we have redefined and expanded the meaning of family. While not yet legally married, we feel more married than either of us felt with our former mates. Asked from time to time, “why not marry?” the answer is always the same, “what incentive do we have to do so?” While we love each other very much and do wish to marry, reality has a way of taking a bite out of personal preference as we find ourselves deferring our wedding plans until age 60 by circumstance rather than choice. To marry sooner would actually jeopardize our future. This reality is particularly difficult as we truly believe in marriage, feel more married in every possible way except on paper, and from time to time face the scrutiny and disapproval of friends, family, and the spiritual community at large for this decision. As difficult as this decision is for us to make, we are not alone. In fact, according to Bowling Green State University Demographer Susan Brown, a 2006 study indicates that 1.8 million Americans aged 50 and above live in heterosexual “unmarried-partner households.” This is a 50% increase from 2000 figures. More recent census data results are more staggering, indicating that between 2000 and 2008, the number of cohabiting persons aged 50 and older almost doubled, from 1.2 million to 2.2 million!

How is this possible, you ask? The answer is quite simple. It’s not practical financially or personally to do so. What’s more, current government policies fail us morally and socially by discouraging marriage and encouraging cohabitation! First off… the financial reasons, which include tax penalties, loss of military and pension benefits, loss of alimony, fear of incurring liability for partner’s medical expenses, credit rating protection, separation of current debt, increase in health insurance costs, and asset protection. Then there’s the personal reasons such as lack of concern over what others think, love and friendship over romance, concerns over children’s inheritance, and anti-marriage attitude carried over from a previous relationship. The final “nail in the coffin” is found in the government policies including social security benefits, Medicaid, and health care reform that all favor cohabitation over marriage. For example, did you know that widows who stayed home while their husbands worked must remain unmarried to keep their deceased husbands’ Social Security checks? This is also true in the case of divorce. If your former spouse earned more than your current partner, then you may lose significant Social Security benefits if you remarry before the age of 60 (50 if disabled). The incentives to cohabit rather than marry should love blossom again are huge. Then there’s the infamous “Medicaid divorce.” In this scenario, a loving couple divorce to make an ill spouse poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. This allows the other spouse to preserve what’s left of the family’s assets. Finally, there’s our recent health care reform. Thanks to this so-called “reform, unmarried couples actually receive “cohabitation bonuses.” Case in point… if two 60-year-olds earn $30,000 per year, cohabitating couples are entitled to $10,425 in health care subsidies, while the same couple would not be entitled to them if married.

As absurd as all this sounds, there are little if any incentives for couples young or old to marry anymore. And we haven’t even talked about today’s divorce rates!. What incentive do you have to marry when you are actually rewarded financially in a big way to defer, or actually forgo your wedding plans altogether? Once again, as baby boomers, we are testing our social institutions along with current social policies as we age. Hopefully, common sense will eventually prevail, with the necessary adjustments being made to social policies so couples like Justin and myself who truly believe in and want to marry can do so without being penalized.

Lines on the Road

I was driving home from a family gathering during a snowfall, not quite a snowstorm but not a gentle fall either. It was the kind of snow that stuck fast to the road. This is unpleasant to drive in on its own, but it was on a winter evening and sunlight had faded away hours before. The roads were not unfamiliar but even so, the lines were hidden by the snow which meant I had to guess where the lines might be; every once in a while, the lines appeared through the snow to guide me.

Our path in life is like this. We have signs to follow, paths to take, lines to guide us. Sometimes these lines are obscured by happenings in our life and at other times, we simply ignore them. There are also times that we see signs that are unfamiliar or that we may misinterpret.

We have guide books as well. One is the Bible. It guides us and provides us with lines and paths that we can choose to follow. We have had many wise men throughout history that have passed their wisdom onto us. It is up to us to look for this wisdom and use it. We have other guides in our life, those who we respect. I hope that there is someone like this in your life.

There are times we come to crossroads and complicated intersections. It is sometimes difficult to choose the right path. Sometimes it is even difficult to know which path is the right path. That is why we must observe our surroundings, study the alternatives, and attempt to make wise choices. If we take a wrong turn, then we must learn from our mistakes and seek a better path.

Just like I needed the lines on the road to help me navigate on my journey, I need guidance to travel the paths in my life. I need to ask for directions and if my experience allows, provide direction to others. I am sure that I will make many errors, but I know that there are signs that will help me find my way. Life is an incredible journey, just look for the lines on the road.

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