Financial Planning Blog & Articles

The articles and links to third-party websites contained on this page are provided solely as a convenience to you and should not be construed as an endorsement of the content nor are they intended as investment advice.  We make no representations or warranties as to the accuracy, timeliness, suitability, completeness, or relevance of any information prepared by any unaffiliated third party. We encourage you to seek personalized advice from qualified professionals regarding all personal finance issues


Receiving Unemployment Benefits

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

Do you worry about changes in the economy? Have you recently been fired or a victim of downsizing? Whatever your situation, you may be wondering if you’re eligible for unemployment benefits. For a basic understanding of how unemployment benefits work, read on!

Am I eligible?

Although specific eligibility requirements vary from state to state, most states have the same basic standards for collecting unemployment benefits. They include:

  • You must be unemployed or working less than full time
  • You must meet certain income requirements
  • You must be ready, willing, and able to work
  • You must have involuntarily left your job

In general, you won’t be eligible for benefits if:

  • You quit your job simply because you didn’t like it
  • You’re fired for committing a crime (e.g., stealing)
  • You’ve never worked before

For more information, contact your state’s local employment office. You can also look in the state government section of your phone book under Unemployment Insurance, Unemployment Compensation, Employment Insurance, or Employment Service. Or, you can try surfing the Internet using these same key terms.

Where does the money come from?

In most states, unemployment compensation is financed by employer contributions through a payroll tax. In a few states, employees are also required to contribute a minimal amount to the fund.

How do I apply?

Most states will allow you to apply for benefits:

  • In person
  • By telephone
  • By mail

When filling out the application, you’ll be asked a lot of questions, so have the following information handy:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your last employer’s name, address, and phone number
  • Your last day of work and the reason that you’re no longer working
  • Your salary history
  • Your proof-of-citizenship status

How are benefits calculated?

Regardless of which state you live in, you’ll receive a weekly unemployment benefit based on how long you were employed and your prior wages. The state will calculate your average weekly wage, and you will receive a percentage of that wage based on your state’s formula. You can figure out your average weekly wage by adding up 12 months’ worth of pay stubs and dividing that number by 52. If you were salaried, just divide your annual salary by 52.

How long can I receive benefits?

In most states, you can receive benefits for up to 26 weeks. However, federal laws and some state laws provide for additional benefits to be paid to workers who exhaust their regular benefits during periods of high unemployment. These additional benefits may generally be paid up to 14 weeks (20 weeks in some states) and are funded partly by state governments and partly by the federal government.

Are unemployment benefits taxable?

The answer to this question comes as a big surprise to many people. Yes, the unemployment compensation you receive is generally taxable. In some states, you can ask that taxes be withheld from your unemployment check. This could save you from a big tax bill at the end of the year. For more information, consult your tax advisor.

 

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES
Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., Mutual of Omaha Investor Services, Inc. and its representatives do not provide tax or legal advice. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances. To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances. These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice. Registered representatives offer securities and investment advisor representatives offer advisory services through Mutual of Omaha Investor Services, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Mutual of Omaha Advisors is a marketing name for Mutual of Omaha Investor Services, Inc. Mutual of Omaha Investor Services, Inc., Family Wealth Management and Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. are not affiliated. Trading instructions sent via e-mail will not be honored. Please contact my office at the number provided above or Mutual of Omaha Investor Services, Inc. at (800) 228-2499 for all buy or sell orders. Please note that communications regarding trades in your account are for informational purposes only. You should continue to rely on confirmations and statements received from the custodian(s) of your assets.

 


Tax refund savings calculator

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Expecting cash back this year from Uncle Sam? The money’s yours to spend as you choose. But find out first how much it would earn if you tuck it away. You might be surprised.

Calculate your savings here.


Is Life Insurance Through Work Enough?

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

By David Gardner, CFP

Most professionals who work at a private company, non-profit, or government entity have some level of free life insurance. Examples include the University of Colorado, the federal government, and IBM Corp., where employees have subsidized or free term life insurance. It’s a nice perk to have, but you may wonder if you should purchase more life insurance beyond work. We’ll consider this important question and also examine resources for finding insurance on your own.

Read the full article here.


Coping with Medical Bills

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

A single procedure or trip to the hospital can fill your mailbox with stacks of bills. These can come from hospitals, doctors, pharmacies, emergency rooms, labs, and many others. The stress involved with handling all of this paperwork can be almost as overwhelming as the illness or injury itself. If your medical bills start to pile up faster than you can pay them, don’t wait for a crisis to occur before doing something about it.

Get organized

Don’t throw anything away. Keep all receipts, insurance forms, bills, and anything else that relates to your medical care. Organize your bills so you can keep track of them. One way is to make a file for each provider. Inside each file, organize the bills by date of service. If you don’t receive itemized bills, request them. Go over each bill when you receive it because errors are common. A simple mistake, such as the wrong computer code, can cause you much grief. Here are some things to check:

  • Is your personal and insurance information correct?
  • Were you charged twice for the same service?
  • Were you charged for something you refused or did not receive?
  • Is there anything that seems unreasonably high or questionable?

Don’t ignore the explanation of benefits form

This form comes from your insurance company. It shows the medical service provided, date provided, how much your plan will pay, and how much you will have to pay yourself. If you don’t understand what you owe and why, call your insurance company or agent.

What if you think there’s a mistake?

Medical bills and the billing process can be complicated. If you think your doctor or hospital has made an error, here’s what you should do:

  • Contact the appropriate billing office. Give it a reasonable amount of time to correct a mistake.
  • Don’t refuse to pay a bill because you think it should have been paid by your insurance company. Most likely, any agreement you made with a hospital or doctor holds you responsible for payment, even if your insurance company doesn’t pay.
  • Contact your insurance company to review the claim. Explain why you think the company’s wrong. If the company needs to do something, find out when it will get done. If you have to do something, make sure you understand exactly what and when it must be done. Get the full name of the person you spoke to, and send a letter confirming your conversation.
  • Request a written explanation of denial if you’re still unsatisfied. To save your credit rating, pay the bill yourself, or negotiate a payment arrangement with the medical provider. Then use the insurance company’s appeal process as soon as possible to collect your money.

Suppose you just can’t pay

If you’re having financial problems and can’t pay your medical bills, it’s better to work directly with your medical provider. Contact the provider before it contacts you. Perhaps you can work out a payment plan.

Try to keep the bill from being turned over to a collections agency. You don’t want to damage your credit report. If the bill does go to a collections agency, understand that the agency is not interested in hearing that the insurance company made a mistake. Don’t expect the collections agency to call your insurance company. And don’t expect your insurance company to call the collections agency. If your claim is denied, you will have to keep working with your insurance company until it’s settled. In the meantime, write to the collections agency and explain the situation.

Collections agencies get paid only for what they collect. And they can get very aggressive for their clients. However, they must abide by laws that prohibit harassment and unfair practices. For example, if you tell a collections agency that you don’t want to be contacted at work, it must stop calling you there. You can try to negotiate with the collections agency. You might be able to work out a long-term payment plan. See if that will stop the agency from reporting negative information about you to the credit bureaus.

In the meantime, don’t let your health insurance coverage lapse. You may have recovered from your illness or injury and think you would be better off using those premium dollars to pay your medical bills. But if something were to happen again, your financial problems will only get worse. Furthermore, if you drop your current insurance and apply later for a new policy, your recent illness could be considered a pre-existing condition, which would prevent you from getting coverage.

Look for other ways to save on your health insurance premiums. Talk to your insurance agent about increasing your deductible or co-payments. Do you have a child in college? See if the college has a low-cost health insurance plan that would enable you to take your child off your plan.

Finally, do you have any secondary insurance coverage? A secondary plan might pay medical bills not covered by your primary plan. Your spouse’s group plan may give you some benefits. Or if Medicare is your primary insurance, you may have a secondary policy through a retirement plan, another group plan, or an individual plan.

What to do next time

After all of your medical bills are paid, think about what you can do differently to keep from getting overwhelmed again.

  • Understand your health insurance policy’s rules and benefits
  • Keep a record of where you received medical care and who gave it to you
  • Keep a date chart of hospitalizations, lab tests, X rays, treatments, medications, and doctor’s visits
  • If you ask for incidentals, like a toothbrush, slippers, or cot for a family member, understand that you will pay for them
  • If you don’t know why a procedure or test is being done, ask

 

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES
Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., Mutual of Omaha Investor Services, Inc. and its representatives do not provide tax or legal advice. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances. To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances. These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice. Registered representatives offer securities and investment advisor representatives offer advisory services through Mutual of Omaha Investor Services, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Mutual of Omaha Advisors is a marketing name for Mutual of Omaha Investor Services, Inc. Mutual of Omaha Investor Services, Inc., Family Wealth Management and Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. are not affiliated. Trading instructions sent via e-mail will not be honored. Please contact my office at the number provided above or Mutual of Omaha Investor Services, Inc. at (800) 228-2499 for all buy or sell orders. Please note that communications regarding trades in your account are for informational purposes only. You should continue to rely on confirmations and statements received from the custodian(s) of your assets.


Follow Us

Facebook
Find us on Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter

This is not an offer or solicitation in any jurisdiction where we are not authorized to do business. Registered representatives offer securities through Mutual of Omaha Investor Services, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisor representatives offer advisory services through Mutual of Omaha Investor Services, Inc. Family Wealth Management and Mutual of Omaha Investor Services, Inc. are not affiliated.

Top