We recently met with our financial planner and while we were there we decided to review our life insurance. Currently we are pretty decently covered mostly with term life insurance. Trent has a very negative view of whole life insurance. But we do have some whole life, only about $25,000 each. But the majority of our coverage is in term life. We trust our financial planner. He is a man of serious ethics and values and we wouldn’t be doing business with him if we thought otherwise. He understood some of my concerns with whole life, particularly for me. My husband has an excellent rate on his combination whole life and term policy; one that he probably couldn’t get again due to some current health problems. So we are reluctant to make any changes to that coverage. We could potentially save a small amount each month by getting rid of my whole life and term policy and replacing it with one that contains only term. But I’m not sure it would be worth it. My policy is building cash value and at a pretty decent rate. Considering the low rate of interest we are earning in our savings account and the instability in the market, I feel like whole life is still a worthwhile choice for us. Maybe not for everyone, but it works for us.
In all many of the significant books and television shows of my childhood, somehow there was always a character who wanted to write. In Little Women it was Jo, in the Anne books of L.M. Montgomery it was Anne Shirley Blythe, in Christy it was Rob Allen, in The Waltons in was John-Boy and in Little House on the Prairie it was Laura Ingalls Wilder. All of these characters, some fiction, some loosely based on those who actually lived and one or two actual historic figures, each had the same basic desire to produce the written word. I once considered myself part of this group. But like most who desire to produce such creativity, I have my continual doubts. Sometimes it seems like it was easier, way back when, to be published. Maybe because there were fewer people, and of them, fewer could even read or write. But I have neither the mountains of Tennessee and Virginia nor the Prairie’s of America’s heartland as inspiration. I was raised in a rural suburb in south eastern Pennsylvania in the 1980s and 90s, not Civil War era Massachusetts or pre-World-War I Prince Edward Island. There is nothing special about where and how I was born and raised. I find myself wondering: who would want to read about it?
I thought this step was very helpful. While it didn’t end up saving us much money, I still think it’s an important thing to be reviewed, probably regularly. We were generally happy with our current insurer so we decided to see if they could give us any additional discounts rather than shop around for new insurance. We have two cars and our home owner’s insurance with the same company, so we were already receiving discounts for that. Our homeowner’s insurance already had a $1,000 deductible on it and raising it wouldn’t have saved us very much. But because we do so little driving in our two cars they were able to reduce out monthly bill by about $100 a year. It doesn’t seem like much but that’s $100 we didn’t have before. Insurance is one of those things that you send to set up and then forget about. But just because your current coverage suited you when you got it five or ten years ago, doesn’t mean that you couldn’t get a better rate now. If the rates go up, don’t be afraid to ask for a review of your policy. Reviewing your monthly expenses can seem tedious but you can find some great opportunities for savings.
This past weekend I was inaugurated into a special club: parents who take their children to the ER on a weekend. This was something I had sworn I would avoid doing if at all possible. After four days with a fever, we ended up in the doctor’s office followed by the ER for blood tests. Over the course of four hours my daughter had to be catheterized to get a urine sample and stuck three times for blood. It was thoroughly unpleasant to try to hold down a hungry, tired toddler singing the “Winnie the Pooh” theme song into her ear while the nurses tried to find a vein. Third time was the charm. Fortunately, everyone was very nice and understanding, but this is definitely not an experience I wish to repeat. The tests were inconclusive and my daughter seems fine now, leaving me wondering whether all the trauma and hassle was worth it.
Coming in under budget is an exciting feeling. It’s easy to start looking for ways to spend that money. In my case, I couldn’t wait to start funneling that extra money into our debt payments. But in this step Trent points out the importance of setting up an emergency fund. The size of the ideal emergency fund is what overwhelms me. We dip into our general savings at least a few times a year for things like household repairs and medical costs that exceed what we had budgeted for. However, I know that ideally we should have six months to a year’s salary set aside. That seems like more money than we could ever save. A year’s salary is also two thirds of what we own in student loan debt. So do I save for an emergency or start paying down debt? I guess the solution would be to do both. We already have a small emergency fund of between two and three months salary in it. I know it should be larger but I just can’t wait to start paying down that debt. So any time we get a windfall, my plan to divide it between paying off debt and filling up the emergency fund. The same goes for when we come in under budget. Onward and upward toward this goal of paying down debt and saving for those future dreams, a dollar or two at a time.
I still consider myself a relative newbie to the blogging universe. For the first time in years I find myself in expressing my opinions in a well-written, well thought out way. As a result, I’ve begun commenting on blogs that I really like a regular basis. It’s fun to share experiences and gain insight from others. I have begun following a blog called The Cloth Diaper Whisperer. Overall, it’s been a fun experience. This week they had a post about nursing in public. Commenters were sharing their own experiences with nursing in public. I decided to chime in, mentioning that most of the negative comments I had gotten came from moms I knew who were insecure or sensitive about the fact that they couldn’t/didn’t breastfeed or women of an older generation who thought breastfeeding was “unnatural.” The examples I gave were of women in my own family, my sister-in-law and grandmother. Another commenter, who decided to post anonymously, accused me of trying to start a formula feeding vs. breastfeeding war. Wow! That was completely not what I intended. When I reread the post I could see why maybe she thought I was implying some kind of bias, but I think she must have inferred things based on her own emotions. I felt bad. I commented again, trying to explain myself. Hopefully my response will be posted soon.
A friend who used to blog rather seriously told me that to be a good blogger you must have a thick skin. There are critical people out there who are going to misunderstand and misconstrue. Even if you moderate your comments you will still have to see the hateful things people might say to you. You can’t let it get to you. I thought I understood this. But since most of my commenters have been positive and I’ve never had a negative response to my posts on other sites, I guess I didn’t realize how right she was until now. I found myself afraid that others would follow the link to my blog and continue the assault. I imagined myself having to start a new blog with a new identity just to get these people to leave me alone. Then I took a deep breath, remembered that my blog is only one of millions and doesn’t have nearly enough readers yet for this woman to ruin me. I also have to remember that this blog is just a tool. This is not my life. I will probably never meet this commenter, and she doesn’t really know me. She misunderstood one comment and decided to go on a mini-rant. All I can do is try to be more careful in the future and hope for the best. Lesson learned, moving on.
One of the major reasons why this step is so difficult for us is that our debts don’t seem real. My husband rarely even looks at the student loan statement. For years when we received information about our student loan totals he just put them in the drawer somewhere. Out of sight, out of mind. In some ways I can understand how he felt. The only way for him to finish college was to take out loans. The only way for him to increase his income was to go to college. What was the point of stressing himself out with how much it was costing when we knew we didn’t have the money to pay for it? Currently, the loans are still in deferment. So we have no monthly payments. To me, it seems like now is the perfect time to start making voluntary payments. We can pay what we can, when we can, so that when the payments become mandatory, at least we will have made a significant dent in the principle. It seems like most monthly debt payments are made up primarily of interest earned. But bottom line, we can’t afford the payments now and we’re not sure if when or how we will be able to afford them in the future. My husband’s response is to try and ignore them. If the bills aren’t coming, then the payments are not a priority. I do the reverse. I almost constantly obsess over them. I scrape every dime I can out of the budget in the hopes of making miniscule monthly payments. But when I look at the big picture, my attempts at $20 or $30 a month payments will take about 100 years to pay off these loans. I know that Trent recommends slowly but surely, but I feel like I’m creeping at less than a snail’s pace.