Posts tagged Adulting
August 2018 Money Diary: Preparing To Travel Around The World & Dealing With U.S. Medical Bills

Jennie here.

Hi all, sorry this post came so late! It’s been a bit of a hectic transition period. Since August (until now - early September) we’ve traveled or moved at least four times. How time flies! And now we're currently in Hawaii taking a "break" and relaxing before we begin our crazy adventure.

So what happened in August?
 


Our “New” Origami Life Begins


Last month, we shared our experience with moving out of Los Angeles. And this past month (August) marked the first time that I’ve been “unemployed” (or funemployed) in the last six years. It actually felt really strange to have 100% control of my days. For example, some days, I’d work from 6am to 8am, take a break, go running at 9am, and back to work again. There were a lot of days that were spent leisurely floating from activity to activity.

 
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Financially, I’d say it was a pretty solid month. For starters, because we left Los Angeles on August 1st - we saved $1,600 on rent and other bills. However, we spent about $1,900 on business expenses (including a new laptop and phone). So our spending rate was relatively high compared to the previous month. But these were also one-time, necessary expenses.

In terms of earnings, I got paid out by my company for essentially a month’s salary (yay) and Ivan and I both billed hours for our business.
 


Dealing With The U.S. Healthcare System & Financial Assistance


I went back to Albuquerque in August for two reasons:

  1. Spend some time with my family

  2. Take care of my parents’ medical bills

It’s no secret to my close friends that I grew up in a low-income household so the biggest concern for me while I travel is that my family make rational financial choices (or if not, I set things up to minimize any potential damage).

Last year was rough on my family - both my mom and dad got sick, had surgery, or went through some extended medical treatment; it was awful and more than anything - they racked up more than $15,000 in medical bills (after health insurance - land of the free!).

Spoiler alert: they couldn’t afford to pay those kind of bills.

So what does this have to do with me? Well, I stepped up and took care of the medical bills and was able to bring some of the larger institutional hospital bills down. In some instances, it was simply helping my family apply for financial assistance programs.

In the end, I was able to help my parents save anywhere between 60% to 75% on several of their medical bills. That meant thousands of dollars in savings!


What did I learn in the process of dealing with the U.S. healthcare system?


U.S. Medical and Hospital System


Lesson 1: The U.S. private healthcare system is a fucked up and completely random system.

When dealing with one hospital, I had to call between 4 to 6 different departments within their system just to verify my parents’ outstanding medical bills. Oftentimes, there are different billing departments or systems for physicians, facilities, and emergency services - AND most hospitals include “contractor” services (e.g. outsourcing anesthesiology or lab teams). It’s almost as if they just “make up a number” when they bill the patient. And if the patient can’t afford that number, they just “make up” another, much lower number. It’s completely random.

Lesson 2: You need to be informed to navigate through the system.

If you don’t validate every line item and/or talk to the right people, it’s hard to know what’s negotiable and what isn’t. So I’d suggest calling and talking (pestering) as many people as possible within your specific hospital. The system is so complex that even seasoned hospital reps can’t help guide you through it.
 


5 Tips On How To Get Your Hospital Or Medical Bill Reduced


If you’re having a hard time paying for your bills, here’s a few things to know:

  1. Always ask - even if you get laughed off the phone. Typically, larger institutions will have some sort of financial support or payments plan. Just call and ask about it. It doesn’t hurt to ask. I asked about financial assistance programs at smaller private practices but they kind of shrugged me off the phone - they only accepted payments or setting up monthly payments; they’re incentivized to get money from you before they send your bill to collections, but that usually takes a while.

  2. Most hospitals should have a “financial assistance” page on their website. In my opinion, they bury the lead when you get your hospital bill but you can definitely find financial assistance information. Just search on Google: financial assistance + [hospital name].

  3. Even if you’re not sure whether or not you should apply for financial assistance - you should try anyway. Sure, most of the applications are based on income tiers but if you’re having a difficult time (e.g. multiple medical bills, you’ve got a ton of student loan or auto loan debt, you’re recently unemployed, etc.) then it’s worth a try. You’ll never know until you ask for it. Also, once a hospital receives your application, they should put your account “on hold” during the evaluation to avoid sending it to collections.

  4. You can speak with a financial assistance support agent at the hospital. It seems like a lot of the larger hospitals will have some sort of support arm for questions and to help you manage through a financial assistance application. Call them even if you think you know what you’re doing. Ask a ton of clarifying questions.

  5. Look into your benefits, you might have support service like “Health Advocate”. There are services out there that can help you negotiate your healthcare services or look into healthcare specific questions for you.


Dealing With Pre-Departure & Administrative Tasks Before Our Round The World Trip


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Other financial highlights of our time in August:

 
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  • We were cat-sitting for my sister for two weeks while she was away in Europe. This was a nice change of pace for us since we’ll be on the move for the next couple years. Plus, the cat eventually learned to tolerate us and gave us a routine (e.g. cat-feeding and play schedule).

Savings: Half a month’s rent in Los Angeles (~$712)

  • We lost about 5 pounds each, working out and swimming in my sister’s community pool and gym. Honestly, we’re bringing our weight down for the long-term health benefits. It’s amazing how much easier it is to lose weight when you “have time” to work and focus on your physical and mental health.

Savings: Month gym cost (between $30 to $60 per person)

  • Validating our marriage certificate to begin my permanent residency papers in Taiwan. Although Ivan and I have been legally married for the last four years, we’ve yet to register our marriage in Taiwan. We decided earlier this year that we’d actually start my permanent residency process in Taiwan. Unfortunately, we had to have the Taiwanese embassy in Boston validate our certificate before moving forward.

Expenditures: $15 fee for our application; $7 for postage via snail mail

The bureaucracy is expanding, to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.
— Oscar Wilde
  • We had to send additional evidence for our U.S. immigration application. Let’s put this into perspective, we sent in our application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services in 2016 and they just got back to us and requested for MORE information. Basically U.S. Citizenship and Immigration was telling us: “because of our delay, you need to provide us with more evidence of your marriage for the period of our delay...so we can spend even more time reviewing that evidence”.

    Two years and counting. We begrudgingly sent in more information to cover the last two years to showcase that our marriage is still legitimate. Le sigh.

Expenditures: $7 for postage via snail mail.
We had to bite the bullet and send it in but really, it cost more than $7 - more like it cost $7 and two years of dignity and patience lost.

  • We got global health insurance and life insurance. While I dealt with my parent’s bills, Ivan took care of our health and life insurance for our RTW trip. For our global health insurance, we went with Cigna which cost about $142 per month for the both of us (excluding U.S. coverage except for short visits). For context: the cost of getting coverage in the U.S. was equal to coverage for the rest of the world combined.

Expenditures:
$1,700 per year (for both of us) with a $1,500 deductible and 20% copay (excluding the U.S.)
$18 per month for life insurance (I consider my family to be dependents in the event that something happens to me)  

  • A relative died in August and I had to get my dad and uncle last minute flights to Florida with points. Fortunately, we had points to spare. We were also reimbursed by my uncle for less than the carrying value of the points. But family is family. And some things are more important than money.

Earnings: We received cash for $650 - minus last minute booking fees of $160 equals $490.

 

That’s it for this month's Money Diary! Tune in next month for our first month of a traveling money diary.



The Ultimate Guide: How To Leave Your Hometown
Starting into the abyss.

Jennie here.

Before I turned 24, I’d spent the majority of my life in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After studying abroad twice in Japan - I thought to myself: There’s so much I haven’t experienced yet. There has to be something more than just spending the rest of my life in the place where I grew up.

So, I packed my bags and left.

I never looked back.


5 Reasons

Why You Should Leave Your Hometown


Have you moved in the past year? In 2016, only 20% of millennials had moved the previous year. 

Expanding your universe and meeting new people or experiencing new things should be enough to convince you to leave but if it isn’t…

Here are a few benefits you should consider when you’re debating whether or not you should move out of your hometown:

Reason 1: You’ll make more money.

A study released in 2015 showed that people who left the community they grew up in tend to be better educated and earned higher incomes. So, leave and make more money. You can always choose to come back. Check out the stats below.

Reason 2: Discomfort with the unfamiliar equals progress.

As human beings, we learn the most about ourselves when we’re faced with adversity or new challenges. In order to face adversity, oftentimes that means that you'll have to start all over in your life again in various aspects (e.g. you have to re-learn how to navigate a new city, get a new job, go to a new school, find new friends, and learn to be alone, etc). Discomfort shouldn't be something that you should shy away from but something you should face head-on.

Reason 3: You have time to find yourself without all the extra bullshit.

This was a big one for me. When I left home, I felt instantly liberated. I went to a city where no one knew my name. I wanted to carve my own path without pressure from my parents or my peers and to experience different things.

Reason 4: You love your family more once there’s distance between you.

I think at some point in your life, everyone needs distance from their families. It’s the only way to become 100% independent. And fortunately for me, it’s been great to be away because I’ve grown to love my family more without the emotional hang-ups that made me resent them.

Reason 5: You learn to appreciate your hometown more after you leave.

After I left, I started missing all the small things I experienced growing up in Albuquerque. For example, I missed stargazing in the mountains or the summer thunderstorms during “monsoon” seasons. These were small things or moments that made my upbringing really pleasant.


How To Leave Your Hometown

In 5 Steps


Small Town Shoes.png

I never said leaving home was easy. I had to deal with a lot of guilt when I left my family.

Step 1. Understand why you want to leave.

Before you set on some big goal of leaving your small town, you should understand why you want to do it. What do you expect to happen when you leave? Why can’t you accomplish the same thing in your hometown? And if you have clear and honest reasons, you’ll thank yourself for it when it’s time to leave or when things get tough.
 

Step 2. Choose an end (or begin) date.  

After I graduated, I gave myself exactly six months to GTFO. Why? Because I knew if I stayed longer, I would've been offered another job or opportunity that could’ve tied me down to the city for another few years. Setting a realistic date and sticking to it also helped me get excited about a new chapter in my life.
 

Step 3. Pick a place, any place -

but weigh the pros and cons before you settle.

There are a lot of people out there who will tell you to follow your heart and move to your dream city like San Francisco or New York. My stance on this philosophy: that’s a terrible idea - especially if you can’t afford it.

Instead, you should draft up a list of personal criteria you want out of a city. Believe it or not, there are several cities outside of New York that have cool communities and opportunities. Don’t believe the hype.

Here was my list of criteria:

  1. Good to great public transit system. I wasn’t going to move with my car so I needed a city that I could get around easily without a car. Not having a car saved me thousands of dollars a year in insurance, maintenance, and gas fees.
     

  2. The rent had to be affordable. I was coming from a town where you could get rent for as cheap as $500 a month. I knew I couldn’t afford much but I needed some level of affordability. That meant places like San Francisco and New York City were out of the question.
     

  3. The city had to have a few decent schools nearby. I thought I might go back to graduate school at in my mid-20s so I wanted to be in a city/state where I could establish residency.

I didn’t get everything on my list but I got pretty damn close when I moved to Boston. The one thing I didn’t account for was weather - I didn’t realize how much I hated snowstorms on the east coast. Not a huge deal breaker but it was a painful transition.
 

Step 4. Save 2-3 times more than you had initially planned for.

Renting an apartment in places like Los Angeles or Boston will cost a lot more than you think. For example, when we moved to Los Angeles - we had to pay one and a half months rent for the security deposit AND the first months rent - that meant we dropped $3,500 within the first few week of moving.

Cautionary tale: I did not save enough money to help me make the transition to Boston. I had to borrow money from Ivan to keep myself afloat for the first six months. I had to really hustle in that first year taking on multiple temp and retail jobs.
 

Step 5. Book a ticket and leave. Seriously, GTFO while you can.

If you have a tough time committing, start telling friends and family when you’re going to leave - nothing is quite as potent as social pressure and expectations. In addition to that, there is no better way to commit to a choice than by booking your plane ticket.

Good luck.

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