Monday, October 26, 2015

They Underestimated. Again

Robert A. Heinlein Power Quotes

Also, "Don't underestimate the other guy's greed"--Frank Lopez in Scarface

I spent the today and will spend much of the time over the next several weeks talking with people about why health insurance rates are going up and/or benefits are being cut.  Calling it "greed" and "stupidity" might be a little bit harsh, but it shouldn't be surprising.  Anyone who thought that we were not going to have huge increases in health insurance cost is naive.  If people are given the opportunity to get something for nothing or for less than fair market value, they will.  Not everyone, but enough of them that there will be huge cost overruns.  It's human nature.  It's about survival.

If you haven't seen it in the news, the big "underestimation" of expense this past year was in relation to specialty drugs.  Even though there are a small number of people taking them, the costs are very high.  Before the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies were able to control for expenses by declining people who were likely to need them.  Now that the insurance companies can not decline an applicant, why would a person suffering from something like Hepatitis C apply for coverage with the lowest possible deductible and get the prescription to cure it?  He or she would be stupid not to.  If you were in that situation, do you honestly think you would care that you doing that would cost the insurance company tens of thousands of dollars?

I don't know the solution, but I do know that costs will continue to be underestimated.  Why?  Because the public moves much faster than the government and the insurance companies.  As long as there are dollars to be had, someone will find the way to get them.  It's simple supply and demand. It's already started with pharmaceutical companies coming up with "better" more expensive drugs.  They can afford to manufacture them because there is a way for them to get paid.

History repeats itself.  We don't even have to look back very far.  When Medicare Part D started in 2006, I rarely worked with people with high drug costs.   Most of my Medicare customers took no or few prescriptions, and mostly generics, because without insurance coverage, they either couldn't or wouldn't spend that much.  The exceptions were severe diabetics and those who had retiree group insurance with prescription benefits.  A person who was on "a lot" and/or "expensive" medications spent $50 to $100 on them.  I remember looking at "the donut hole" (coverage gap) of $2,250 and thinking, "Nobody uses that much in a year, or if they do, they'll be dead before long".  The vast majority of the consumers I spoke to said the same thing.   Most of them said that they'd never meet the $250 deductible.

Flash forward 10 years.  Going into 2016, even though the threshold for getting into the coverage gap is up to $3,310, a large number of my customers reach it before they get halfway through the year.  It's not unusual for people I talk to to have a drug cost (before insurance) of $500 or more per month.  The health of the people isn't any different, as far as I can tell, than people of the same age 10 years ago.  The difference is that  someone else is paying the bulk of the cost.  It's not just stupid, it's not just greedy.  It's just human nature.

History repeats itself.  Costs are going to keep going up.  Stop underestimating.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Grove and Platt Dental Associates--Friday Favorite

I hate going to the dentist, so it is strange that I'm writing about a dental practice as my Friday Favorite.

I started going to Grove and Platt because the dentist I had was charging more than everyone else while complaining that he wasn't making enough money, and they were recommended by one of my wife's coworkers.  I thought it was stupid to drive all the way out to Grimes to get my teeth cleaned, but I didn't have a better option.

The first time I went there I thought it was a fluke that they sent me straight in instead of sticking me in the waiting room for a half hour or more.  What I found, however, was that not waiting is the norm there.  I've been going there for several years, and I still don't know whether or not they have decent magazines in the waiting room.

In addition to the lack of waiting, they up the ante by making it feel like I'm going to a spa.  I can get a hot wax treatment for my hands (tried it once, felt trapped) or a hot towel wrap on my neck (love that!) each time I go in.  They also have free coffee and tea and water.

The best part is that they don't overcharge.  Virtually every time I've been there I get a refund after my insurance gets done processing their part.  Nothing beats that.

You never get a second chance at having teeth.  Keep yours healthy.  You can find them here.

Friday, October 23, 2015

My Ideal Customer

There's an old saying in the life insurance business.  "There are only two reasons to buy life insurance;  you love someone or you owe someone money", which is of course means that virtually everyone should buy life insurance.  I agree with that, but that doesn't mean that everyone should buy it from me.  As much as I would like to have the commission from that many life insurance sales, there are only 24 hours in the day, and I'm not a good fit for everyone.  Just as there are many people who are great people individually but don't make a "love connection".

I don't often ask for referrals, but I get a lot of unsolicited ones.  I love when it happens, because there's no better indicator that I am doing a good job for a customer than he or she telling friends and family about me.  Most of the time it works great, but sometimes it's like an awful blind date.  That doesn't mean to not refer someone if you're not 100% sure it will work out.  I've been at this long enough that I'm not going to curl up in the corner and cry if I get rejected.  But I am going to publish this list so people have a better idea of the likelihood of me being a good match.

Here are characteristics of my ideal customer.  For me to be a good fit, we should match on at least a few of these.  

  • Positive Attitude
  • Non Smoker (Ex-smoker is even better)
  • Athlete/competitor/fitness and health-oriented
  •   Parent
  • Goal-oriented/planner
  • Self-employed
  •  Has connections for people to refer to me.  A social person.  
  • Open-mind
  • Critical thinker
  • Passionate
  • Cares about others
  •   Hates paying taxes
  •   Into self-improvement
  •  Odd/eccentric  Rebellious
  •   Loves being outdoors
That is far from being a comprehensive list, but it's a good start.  They don't have to owe anyone any money, either.  Dave Ramsey followers are just fine with me.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Enabling Natural Consequences

"If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; however, if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I will help you become that."--Johan Wolfgang von Goethe

I try not to get sucked into political debates, especially on Facebook, mainly because they are akin to discussing religion.  The vast majority of people already have their minds made up on what is right and what is wrong, so they embrace the things that support their existing viewpoint and ignore or fight violently against things that contradict their existing viewpoint.  Almost every time the result is that people on both sides are angry and further entrenched in their beliefs.  It just doesn't seem like a good use of my time and energy.

However, the quote above got me thinking about politics, so I'm doing a brain dump here.

Especially since my years working at Clarinda Academy and Tarkio Academy, I have strongly believed that natural consequences are the best teachers and behavior modifiers.  When it comes to addictive behavior, the hardest type of behavior to change, behavioral changes only happen when one "hits bottom".  The "bottom" is different for different people, but unless a person suffers the pain of the "bottom", he or she won't change the behavior.  Enablers are one of  if not the very biggest hurdle to addicts overcoming addiction.  If  you aren't familiar with the term "enabler", the Merriam Webster definition is "one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior (as substance abuse) by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences of such behavior".  Enablers do things like giving addicts unearned money, making excuses for them so they don't suffer social consequences, covering their work or family obligations, etc.  Enablers don't do it out of evil intent, but with the intention of "helping".  Sometimes they think they really are helping, or sometimes they know they are hurting in the long run but choose to make the short term "better".  But the effect is that by keeping the person from hitting bottom, he or she never recovers so he or she never makes it to the top.  In fact, they are always close to "bottom".  Which puts continuous stress on families, friends, employers, neighbors, and society in general.

So how is this political?  It got me thinking about politics, because what is our government except the world's biggest enabler?  The vast majority of government programs (and even more so the most controversial ones) are all about preventing people from suffering the natural consequences of their negative behavior (and in many ways prevent from enjoying the natural consequence of good behavior).  Didn't save money for retirement?  We'll make a government program to pay you anyway.  Didn't pay attention or didn't go to school?  Haven't developed sufficient skills to demand high wages?  The government will make your employer pay you more than they want to so you can have  stuff anyway.  Or if it's not enough, the government will supply you with food and housing.  Have an unintended child?  Or six or eight or ten?  The government will supply all your needs so you can continue to be a parent.

Some may say that I have a negative view of people, that many are "losers", etc.  But it's the opposite.  I truly believe that those dependent on government programs are capable of doing great things, that if they are no longer "enabled" then they will enable themselves.  I think that it's pompous and condescending to think that people can not overcome their circumstances without governmental help.  People are much more capable, resourceful and smart than anyone, even themselves, think they are.

Stopping the enabling by the government would be painful in the short term, and it's difficult to do, but it's necessary for long term success and results.

Are there good government programs?  Yes, but for the most part the government's role as an enabler is the "I" in "If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse".  It should not be acceptable to be uneducated, unskilled, and unmotivated in this country.  To make things better, we as citizens need to demand that "I (the government) treat you as though you (the citizenry) are what you are capable of becoming,  I will help you become that".  The best way to teach that is to stay out of the way and let natural consequences teach.  When we do that, we will get closer to realizing our full potential.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Cosi Cucina--Friday Favorite

My main criteria for going to a restaurant is that there has to be something about it that's better than what I can do at home.  I am a pretty good cook, so there are not a whole lot of restaurants who meet my standard.  Cosi Cucina is one for sure. 

I don't eat a lot of Italian food since I've changed my diet to mostly low carb, but if I'm going to go out for Italian, it's definitely the place to go.  Not just for the food.  From the time that Lisa and I first started dating, it's been the main place we've gone out to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, etc.  There are a lot of good memories there from the last 20 years or so, in addition to the incredible food.

I'm hesitant to talk about how great it is, because I do like that it isn't as trendy as it was when we first started going there, and we can go in and get a table rather quickly instead of having to call ahead and still have to wait at least an hour, probably more like two.  However, I would not want the place to go out of business because of lack of business.

There are a lot of things to love about Cosi Cucina.    The bread.  The aromas when you walk in the door.  The bread.  The wait staff, some of whom were there the first time I ate there.  The bread.  The fact that you can eat fairly inexpensively, or spend a pretty good chunk of change.  The bread.  The white chocolate brownie for dessert.  The bread.  The way the wait staff describes the specials and soup of the day (It's better than calling a 900 number.  From what I've been told).  The bread.  The unusual specials (like ostrich) and soups (cream of red pepper, for example).  And did I mention the bread?

When you go there (it's mandatory, not optional), make sure you get the white chocolate brownie for dessert.  Just eat half your meal and get the other half boxed for tomorrow's lunch.  You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Frog and the Scorpion (Day 16)

In 1992 people were raving about the fable of the frog and the scorpion fable in The Crying Game, but I was thinking that it came from what I think is a much better movie, Skin Deep.  If you aren't familiar with it, you can view it here.  Or the Crying Game version here.  However, it was actually first in a film in 1955, an Orson Welles film called Mr. Arkadin.  Which probably stole it from something earlier.

Regardless of where it came from, it's still a lesson I'm continuing to learn.  I'm getting better at my job as I'm realizing that people often act illogically.  Sometimes I need to help them do that.  I always say that what I sell is a good night's sleep, but I've been realizing lately that I sometimes put too much emphasis on doing what is logical.

I had several examples come up today.  I talked to two different people who I could save some money by switching their health insurance to a different company.  I told them briefly how they could save the money, etc.  However, both of them expressed that they liked their current coverage, the premium is affordable, and that they felt safe and secure with their current company.  A few years ago I would have pushed hard for them to make the change to save the money.  Today, however, I reinforced them keeping their coverage as it is.  I reinforced their decision, making sure that they continue to sleep well.  That's the most important thing I do, even more important than saving them money.  I had a similar conversation with a customer regarding life insurance.  His kids have told him that he doesn't need to spend the money on life insurance.  I've crunched the numbers and see that he could possibly pay more for the life insurance than it will pay out.  It's not logical.  But logic has nothing to do with it.  He will sleep better tonight knowing that when he passes away, his family will receive a chunk of money without it having to go through probate, and it will be a quick and tax-free payout.  Taking care of his family, that's his nature.  And worth every bit he's going to pay.

Onederful! (Day 15)

It only took me a little over six years to write this. On July 25, 2009 I made a vow to myself that I wouldn't drink until my weight was below 200 pounds.  That vow was inspired by this photo.
My wife Lisa took that of me struggling to drag myself and all my extra weight up Snake Alley at the end of  the one day RAGBRAI I rode that year.  I was never skinny, but for several years in the late 1980's and early 1990's I had participated in Snake Alley Criterium, a bike race that required us (my lowly Category 4) to ride up this 12 times.  I never (yet) finished that race, but it was always because of crashes, not because I was unable to climb it 12 times.  It disgusted me that I had let myself get that out of shape.  Partly because I was miserable from drinking all day, and partly because I knew that I tend to overeat whenever I drink, I figured not drinking would be the way to drop the weight.  At the time I weighed just under 250, which was down a bit from my high point (not sure of exact number, but was in the 260-270 range).  I figured it would take me three to six months to get below 200.  No big deal to stay sober that long.

"Fast" forward to October of 2011.  I had been without alcohol for more than two years.  I had dropped the first 10 pounds easily.  I had to work harder for the next 10, but had been hanging around the 210-220 range for awhile.  I often sabotaged my weight loss efforts, I think because I was really liking not drinking.  I set myself a target of being below 200 and drinking with my college friends at homecoming the 3rd weekend of October.  I got down to 212 the week before homecoming and then attacked it like it was a wrestling weigh-in for the last few days.  I finally got to 199 after a couple of days without food and spending a couple of hours in Eric Brush's sauna.  Mission accomplished!

But not really.  In the past four years I've gotten healthier and stronger.  I've made at least one hundred new friends who lead active, healthy lifestyles.  I've started bike racing again, riding faster than I did in my 20's.  I don't drink like I used to.  My diet is much healthier.  I've completed a few triathlons.  I even completed a marathon.

This guy is never coming back.

However, I wanted and needed to make it a permanent change.  Really, my weight should be somewhere around 180, but since I got below 200 for a few minutes in 2011, my weight was usually somewhere around 205-210.  Until now.

I'm not sure why, but for a long time I've done weekly weigh-ins on Tuesday mornings.  Maybe it was because it was a Tuesday when I started using this phone app that has been a huge part of my weight loss.  I used to always weigh when I first woke up in the morning or after a workout, so I was usually dehydrated, but now I weigh after a big glass of water and usually some coffee with lots of cream and whey powder, so I know it's my "real" weight.  Here's what I weighed at this week.
I'm never going to see anything but a one for the first number on the scale.  Partly because I'm holding myself accountable by declaring it publicly.  Partly because of the incredible support I have from my family and friends, especially "The Grind and Grit" group.  But mostly because of my own commitment to keep it "Onederful".

Monday, October 12, 2015

(Almost) All Comebacks Are Possible (Day 14)

One of the reasons I prefere life insurance over all other products I work with is that it's the only catastrophe where a comeback is impossible.  Once you're dead, you're dead.  Life insurance prevents a personal disaster from also being a financial disaster.

Now that I've talked insurance, let's talk baseball!  Today's finish was one of the best finishes that I didn't see.  I didn't even get to hear Denny Mathews.  Instead I got John Kruk and some other windbag the radio.  The only good thing about it was that they were dead wrong when they declared the KC team dead after the Astros (when the heck did they move to the American League, by the way?) hit back to back homers and took a 6-2 lead in the bottom of the 7th inning.  I saw this on my computer screen while the commentators went on and on about how great the Astros were and how the Royals were done, couldn't come back from this deficit, etc.

I hadn't realized that it was an afternoon game until I got a text from my friend Gary "The Carrot" Davis, with whom I watched most of last year's playoff wins at Buffalo Wild Wings.  The way they had been hitting, I had my doubts about their ability to come back.  I even texted Gary, "I guess I'll be saving $ and time from not watching.  And more running miles".  That text was at 2:55 p.m., as I was getting ready to head out the door to parent teacher conferences. 

But before I left, the Royals quickly loaded the bases and had Lorenzo Cain at the plate with no outs.  I listened on earbuds and got text updates as the Royals scored 5 in the inning to take 1 run lead into the bottom of the 8th.  It wasn't easy, but I turned the radio off while talking to teachers, so I missed the 2 last inning insurance (see, I'm still talking about "insurance") runs supplied by Hosmer's homer. 

Now I just have to figure out how to squeeze a couple of days of insurance work into tomorrow so I can enjoy most of Wednesday night's game 5 clinching win for the Royals!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Kansas City Royals--Friday Favorite (Day 12)

Every day is a good day to be a Royals fan.  Some days, like today, are better than others.

The Royals have been my favorite baseball team for almost as long as they've had a team.  Because of players like Amos Otis (my favorite), Buck Martinez, and Bo Jackson?  Because of their beautiful park?  Because they've won the World Series one more time than the Chicago Cubs have in the time I've been alive?  No.  It's because of two men who most people have never heard of, Royals broadcasters Fred White and Denny Mathews.

Growing up I loved playing baseball and learning as much as I could about it.  Fred and Denny gave me my baseball education on KMA, my local radio station.  I listened to almost every game from the mid-70's to the mid-80's.  I learned what "hitting for the cycle" was when John Mayberry did it August 5, 1977.  They kept me awake way past my bed time relaying Jim Colburn's no-hitter on May 14, 1977, and many other nights, especially those when they were up against the Yankees.  They were too classy to say anything bad against the Yankees, but their descriptions of those losses turned me into a lifelong Yankee hater.

Fred was replaced in 1999 (huge mistake, in my opinion) and passed away in 2013, but I still do get to hear Denny occasionally when I'm within range of a Royals broadcast.  Nobody does it better.  How can a team who makes me feel like a 10 year old again not be a Friday Favorite? 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Paychecks and Playchecks (Day 11)

Most people seem to have forgotten that the 401(k) plan has mostly replaced the pension plan.  In the not so distant past, people worked for the same company for 20 or 30 or more years, with the reward for loyalty to the company was that at some point they would be able to continue to get a regular paycheck without continuing to work.  That was supposed to what happened with 401(k) plans, but with the employee rather than the employer having control.  But that hasn't been what happened, for various reasons like I wrote about recently (Follow the Money and Don't Die With This).

This is not advice on what insurance product to use, or even whether or not an insurance product is the right tool for the job (I usually think it is, but I'm biased.  Think for yourself too).  All I'm saying is that you need to have a plan so that, unlike a large percentage of people in retirement, you know that you have enough cash flow and liquid money to cover everything.  Even if something goes wrong.  Because it will.  Which means that if you're counting on dividends, rent being paid on time, or other non-guaranteed investments for your paychecks, you need to either change your plan or have a good back up plan

When I say, "enough cash flow and liquid money to cover everything", I don't mean just enough to cover the bills.  I mean enough to cover buying a different car if you need it, to buy someone special a really cool wedding present, to take a trip with friends, etc.  When you were in your 20's (or even if you're there or haven't reached that age yet), did you sit around with your friends and say, "All I want is enough of a paycheck that I can eat  two or three times a day and keep the electricity turned on?"  Of course not.  So why plan your retirement on having just enough to pay the bills.  Don't sell yourself short.  Plan to have enough in your regular checks to both "pay" and "play".

Thursday, October 8, 2015

"How Much Did He Leave?" "All Of It" (Day 10)

Yesterday I wrote about what I see people do most often with retirement money, and said that instead of just complaining about their mistakes, I would offer some solutions.  As I often say, this isn't insurance advice.  Without sitting down with you and discussing the specifics of your situation, I can't make an informed recommendation.  What I'm posting here is very general, something to use to open a discussion with me or another professional and figure out an action plan, not something to take action on right now. 

People often tell me something along the lines of, "I want my money to run out the day I die, and the check to the funeral home to bounce".  They understand the old saying of "You can't take it with you."  However, they almost never actually spend their retirement money that way.  Just like a business, 401 (k) and IRA plans should have an "exit strategy" from the beginning.

These are some possibilities that in many cases are better than holding on to tax-deferred money until it gets passed to beneficiaries or a nursing home.
  • Start a guaranteed income stream from the retirement funds and use it to buy a life insurance policy.  Often the best option is one that also provides a benefit if you need long term care.  Advantages:  Taxes on withdrawals are spread out over multiple years, and proceeds from life insurance to designated beneficiaries are not normally taxed.  Depending on age, health, etc, life insurance benefit could be more than the value of the retirement savings, even not figuring in tax advantages.  Depending on options chosen, beneficiaries may get both the life insurance benefit and more regular income.  At least they won't get everything as taxable.
  • Gradually convert to Roth IRA.  You pay taxes on that part when you convert it, but it is later passed on without the taxes hitting all at once.  With some planning, you can offset the amount you convert with other deductions so you pay little or no tax on the money.  For example, I've had customers balance the Roth Conversion with deductions like large medical bills, HSA contributions, business losses/investments, work layoffs, etc.  I haven't had anyone do it, but it would be ideal to take a year off work to travel, live off savings, and do a Roth Conversion to turn money that's never been taxed to money that will never be taxed.  All without every paying any taxes on that money.  Do this only AFTER consulting with a tax advisor.  That's better than getting a surprise at tax time, and if the tax advisor is good, he or she often has ideas on how to do it even better than you and I think of doing it.
  • Give it directly to a charity each year.
  • Give a portion as gifts to family each year, paying a small amount of or no tax as you go.  With both this and the charitable giving, you get to see the benefits of your gifts, which is a lot better than saving on taxes.  They might even take you out fishing or water skiing on their new boat.
Those are just a few options.  A key to any of them is to have a plan for long term care.  Notice I didn't say, "long term care insurance" or "to pay for the nursing home".  The insurance part is sometimes involved in the plan, but just having a policy isn't enough, and often is not the best way to plan for it.  Nor is a nursing home always the best option.  But they are full of people who didn't plan because they didn't need a plan because, "I'm never going to the nursing home".

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

"Don't Die With This" (Day 9)

"Don't die with this".  I heard that from a company employee talking about one of their insurance products.  I found it refreshing, because usually a company wants a customer to keep a policy forever.  I wrote about that a few days ago so I'm not going to rehash it now, but if you want to read it,  just click this link for last week's "Follow the Money" post.

One of the things I complain about is people complaining about something without working toward a solution.  This is part one.  I will also discuss solutions in another post.

Unfortunately, way too many people die with too much tax-deferred money.   I have seen the same thing happen over and over again.  To the point that whenever I get an email from an insurance company talking about the huge amounts of tax-deferred money that's going to be passed on in the coming years, I always think, "Damn!  I should have been a boat salesman!"  Make sense?  No?  Let me explain.

Here is the pattern I see repeatedly:  person follows "expert" advice and puts everything he or she can into an IRA and/or 401(k).   They work like crazy until they and/or their spouse is eligible for Social Security and/or Medicare.  Then they quit their job.  They don't want to withdraw any of the money they saved because they would have to pay taxes on it.   So they scrape by on Social Security, worrying about money, thinking of their retirement savings as something that they will use to cover nursing home costs and/or pass on (almost always to their kids).

Then when they hit age 70 1/2  they start taking RMD's (Required Minimum Distributions), which isn't a whole lot in the first few years, but the percentage required goes up each year.  They pay the taxes, but let everything else sit there.  Then eventually they either go to a nursing home or die.  What happens then?  Most commonly, if they go to the nursing home, they spend through their money, then go on Medicaid if the money runs out.  How much enjoyment did they get out of it?  None.  If they are lucky enough to die either without having to go in a nursing home or before the money runs out, then that's where I think, "I should have been a boat salesman!"  Because from what I've seen, if two 60ish year-old kids inherit the money, at least one of them buys a boat.

Nothing wrong with buying a boat, if done the right way, but what happens time and time again is they "get a deal", make an impulse buy, and since they don't want to have payments, pull out the money to pay off the boat.  Then the tax bill comes.  The withdrawn money is taxable, piled on top of their earned income tax liability (usually when in their peak earning years, with all their tax deductions grown up and out of the house), and they withdraw more money to pay the taxes, which adds to next year's tax bill.  They repeat until the money is gone, which doesn't take long.

Who wins in this scenario (besides the IRS)?  Not the person who saved up all this "retirement money".  They didn't use it for retirement.  The one who now owns "a hole in the water you fill with money"?  Maybe.  But the big winner is the boat salesman.  So "Don't Die With This!".  At least not until I open a boat dealership.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Spinal Tuning Center--Friday Favorite (Day 5)

Day 5 of 100 consecutive days of writing for publishing is now day/week 1 of "Friday Favorite".  I've been thinking for some time that I would like to regularly write about products or businesses that I particularly like.  I'm finally doing it.

Today's Friday Favorite is Chad Rohlfsen of The Spinal Tuning Chiropractic Center.  Ironically, this Friday Favorite isn't open on Friday, and I chose a medical practice that doesn't accept medical insurance.

I love supporting businesses who go against the norm because they believe their way is better.  That's exactly what Chad does with his membership practice.  Since (as far as I know) he's the only chiropractor in the state who uses this business model, he definitely goes against the norm.

If you're not familiar with the membership practice model, as Chad explains it on his website, he "provide[s] unlimited care for a low flat rate monthly fee".  Unlike most chiropractors, he doesn't take insurance.  The fee I pay him comes 100% out of my pocket (not literally--actually it's deducted automatically from our family bank account).

So why does an Insurance Nerd recommend someone who doesn't accept insurance?  Three main reasons are that (1) what he does is in line with why I entered the health insurance business to begin with,  (2) it fits what insurance is supposed to be, and (3) it works.

One of the biggest reasons I got into health insurance was that I saw what my mom went through battling cancer, and wanted to do what I could to make it so that people facing health issues could concentrate on their treatment instead of having to weigh treatment options against the monetary cost.  The membership practice removes that stress.  Because I pay the same no matter how much or how little I see the doctor, I simply have to consider whether or not I want to go, not how much it's going to cost.  I love that.  There have been a lot of times that I dropped in on him simply because I was driving by, thought, "Well, it won't hurt and it won't cost me anything".   And I walked out knowing it that I needed to stop.

The membership practice fits the insurance concept that insurance is supposed to be to prevent a catastrophic event from becoming a financial catastrophe.  It's not intended to cover small expenses like basic maintenance, which is exactly what I view regular chiropractic adjustments to be.

Getting regular adjustments from Dr. Chad works.  When I first started going to him, I was using a lift in one of my cycling shoes because I had been told that one leg was longer than the other.  However, his initial assessment was that it wasn't a leg length discrepancy, but rather my lower back and hips were out of alignment, I'm guessing from an old hip injury from getting hit by a drunk driver.  Now I no longer have to use the shoe insert.  I have also found that I recover much more quickly from hard workouts and races, and I'm rarely sick.  That's worth a lot more than I pay for my membership.

Bonus benefit of membership:  with no paperwork to fill out, I am in and out of the office in less than five minutes, even if I spend time talking about business,  horses, Freemasonry, or health.

"Where All The Children Are Above Average" (Day 4)

From the first time I heard Garrison Keillor say, "Where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average", I've always smiled when I think about or hear, "all the children are above average".  How does that relate to retirement?  Generally.  But for you specifically, how much does average matter?  A lot less than most people think it does.  However, many people base their decisions on averages when it comes to retirement.  None of us want to be "average", so why make decisions on what happens with the "average" person?  You shouldn't.  It's a mistake.

The mistake with basing decisions on averages is that AVERAGES DON'T AFFECT WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU!

The best example I can think of is in regards to long term care insurance.  I can't tell you the number of times I've seen LTC (AKA, "nursing home") insurance that was bought and sold based on "the AVERAGE stay in the nursing home is 4 years".  That's an interesting statistic.  But it's a statistic.  The average doesn't matter if you are the one who needs help with bathing, toileting, eating, etc.  You might need help for 30 days or for 30 years.  The average is irrelevant.  The right way to plan is to be prepared both for never needing that help and for needing that help for 20 years or more.  If you plan only for a 4 year stay in a nursing home,  anything over that will blow your plan up and you are likely to be no better off than anyone who didn't plan at all.  Think about the large number of people who go into the nursing home for only a couple of days and how they affect the average.  If you plan only thinking about the average and then need care for 10 years, which is very common, you're screwed because the average is skewed.

Planning retirement income based on averages is another huge mistake.  Time and time again I see people basing all their planning on what an investment averaged over the last 10, 20, or 100 years.  It's smart to know those numbers, but a smart person also considers that "past performance is not a guarantee of future results".  It doesn't matter what happened on average for the last 100 years.  What matters is what happens to you in your time.  You need to have a plan for the best and worst possibilities.

The same principle applies to things like longevity, cost of living changes, tax rates, etc.  It's good to know the average, but to be successful you also need to be prepared for when "all the ___________ are above (or below) average.