November 17, 2017

Welcome To My New Blog

Tonight is the Night! It is now or never to start a blog. At the moment, I just don’t know yet what the topics will be. My interests are so diverse and I really do not want to pin it down to a theme or a specific industry. I believe that I am a smart person that loves to help people of all walks of life. Often indeed friends or coworkers stop by to hear my opinion on a current issue or a personal matter. I have an open mind set and am curious about many aspects of life and welcome sincere feedback.

In short, you just have to come back once in-a-while and see what is on my mind and keeping me busy.

Business Direction: 3 Ways Even the Oldest Industries Keep up to Date

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself the difference between a business who can’t seem to get out of survival mode and the confident entrepreneurs who lead growing enterprises?  It’s a question any aspiring business person should be asking themselves. Every successful business persons have clear marketing strategies that make everything they do a tad more effective.

 

 

 

Many old businesses out there give too much focus to routine marketing tactics such as blogging, optimizing their landing page, advertising, tweeting, sending email et cetera and forget to come up with a proper strategy.  Take the time to do some research on your market, your own offerings, and any research or scholarly information that can offer insight into what you might improve. In business, financial success is a directly proportional to sales.

For these tactics to bear fruit, a business must work on the decisions that will improve their performance. Simply put, a strategy is the decisions that you need to make your marketing tactics give better results. A marketing strategy is a basis of:

  • The creation of brand awareness.
  • Generating interest in your brand.
  • Making new sales.
  • Keeping your customers engaged.

No business can attain real financial success without a proper marketing strategy. For it to be successful, many factors need to be considered in the creation of a strategy. Here are five important decisions that old businesses need to evaluate

Who is Your Target Customer?

Come up with a narrowly defined set of target customers. Who will you be serving as your customer? Clearly defining a narrow set of customers should be your first order of business. You can’t do effective marketing sans this step, and yes, it may mean saying no to some potential customers who might buy from you but ultimately distract from your goals. You will need to master a high level of discipline for that. Never forget your internal customers: your staff. Ensure that the working conditions are safe, sanitary, and provide an atmosphere for productivity and innovation.

What Unique Benefits Are You Offering?

Establish the unique benefit that your business offers to clients. Does whatever you are selling — product or service — deliver the benefits that your customers are really looking for? That should be the center of your business. If the answer is no, you have some work to do to improve your product/service.

Take the time to do some research on your market, your own offerings, and any research or scholarly information that can offer insight into what you might improve. For example, if your company provides industrial plumbing supplies, look for resources like infographics on advanced water treatment, statistics on modern construction, etc. that might reveal a product/market/service you’re missing.

Know Your Competition

Understand who your real competition is and study them carefully. If someone (a potential customer) has a problem and is looking for a solution, they will be on the lookout for options to compare against what you offer. Your product or service needs to be properly differentiated from your competition. For you to be able to differentiate your products, you need to understand who your competition is.

Come up with a brand that’s clearly different from your competition. Picking out your competition is one thing, and making sure that your product or service clearly stands out from theirs’ is another. If done right, it’s a very simple process. List down your plans and rank them in terms of priority on your homepage. Avoid overcomplicating things – people just need to know one or two things to make a decision.

The final part of knowing your competition comes from your own capacity to understand your market. If your outdated degree, or lack thereof, is impeding your progress, take it upon yourself to educate yourself. Just by searching “MBA no GMAT online” you can find programs that can improve your knowledge on your own time without having to take the extra time traveling to and from a school.

Running a successful business doesn’t have to be hard. If you have a successful marketing strategy — regardless of what you are selling — you will be successful. And that’s the only way old industries can keep up with this fast-paced market.

http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/business-direction-3-ways-even-the-oldest-industries-keep-up-to-date

By: Hannah Whittenly

 

Click Here: http://www.marialucassenhq.com/contact/ To request free consultation 

Zero Doubt and Zero Resistance!

Have you been watching all the webinars and videos about how to achieve your goals that have been offered by all the Network Marketing Experts and Personal Development Coaches in the past three or four weeks? I did. Some evenings I had signed up for two or three, counting that they all would have a replay or encore session. Many had great tips and practical action steps to get started. However, writing them down, is the easy part. Creating your game plan for 2016 is not an activity that can be accomplished in half an hour, but needs some in-depth and realistic view at those areas that you want to get better results in the year ahead.

Running: Going forward at a fast speed

Running: Going forward at a fast speed

Mindset

This blog post is not about how to create a results driven game plan, but more about your attitude and expectations about yourself to be able to work diligently and consistently on those activities that move you in the right direction. What is the biggest obstacle that will block your road to success?

It is human nature to doubt the outcome of a decision to become reality. The opposite of doubt is belief. When you make a choice to do something you either think it will happen, you belief you can do it, or you doubt that it will work and you are not committed to give it your 100%. Some of us are naturally positive thinkers and have a clear vision of achieving their plans. But the majority of us, has learned in life that not everything will happen the way you want it.

This is a conundrum that can temper any action you take because you look at each step from all angles and then let some weak excuse determine if you’ll do it or not. Why is it that some are achieving anything they want and others struggle? It all comes down to stories you have made up throughout your life that keep popping up any time you need to take action. You know which ones I mean.

 

Solution

There is really only one solution: ignore all the BS that you have been feeding yourself and step up! Get over the feel-good-feeling of lamenting to yourself why you are living a mediocre lifestyle and your to-do-list that still shows tasks from two years ago. It serves you to think that you cannot become the person you were destined to be. You prefer the comfort of your family, friends and the job you have for the last 5 or 10 years blaming the economy for not changing. However, a coin has 2 sides and with everything you do or not do, you make a choice that affects the rest of your life.

Change is not easy. Small changes can have a big effect over time. Creating a new habit asks for determination and discipline. It is like learning to ride a bike. First you need someone to hold it, then you are left by yourself and it works. And when you get better at keeping it in motion, it becomes fun and you enjoy the ride! It takes courage to take a new direction.  For those who have a big goal to accomplish consider that the journey to get there is part of the process. The road can have bents and bumps, but at the end you know your destination. Have faith and trust your guts that you were created for doing something significant.

 

Dare to be you!

For me, I know where I’m going. I have not everything figured out yet, and probably will have to adjust the course. My game plan for the year is broken down in monthly action plans. Each month I will evaluate what I completed and amend the plan for next month accordingly. Writing this blog post has let me express how I think about my own habits and feelings. And that I really am a coward that does not walk what I talk and preach about. Something has to change!

Indeed, the only way to leave a legacy and to fulfill my mission in this life is to do whatever it takes. Therefore, my 2016 motto: Be Committed, Be Confident, Be Consistent! This quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt says it best!

Zero Doubt!

Thus I declare going forward:

Zero Doubt! Zero Resistance!

Time To Chose A Health Insurance Plan Is Now!

November 1, 2015 was the end of daylight saving time, but on that day open enrollment period for Health Insurance started! With all the festivities happening in the last two months of the year, it is wise to look at this important matter as-soon-as possible.

Who?

People that have a job should get the information for enrollment from their employer. Each company that has more than 50 full time workers needs to offer affordable health insurance. If you want to shop for health insurance on the state’s health insurance exchanges you are not eligible for the premium subsidy.

For those persons that are self-employed or do not work, you do need to buy health insurance for 2016. There are 38 states that use the federal online insurance marketplace at HealthCare.gov. The other states have their own website that offer various plans in all 4 tiers. Besides the official marketplace websites, many insurance agents, non-profit organizations and community centers are offering assistance to consumers that want to buy insurance.

Staying Healthy Through Preventive Care!

Staying Healthy Through Preventive Care!

When?

First, here are some important dates to remember:

  • Enrollment between 11/01/2015 and 12/15/2015                          coverage effective 01/01/2016
  • Enrollment between 12/16/2015 and 01/15/2016                         coverage effective 02/01/2016
  • Enrollment between 01/16/2016 and 01/31/2016                         coverage effective 03/01/2016

What?

Quite a few states have re-designed their website to make the process easier and better understandable for consumers. All states and their health insurance marketplace have to offer a basic plan that just covers the necessities. These plans often have the lowest monthly premium. But be aware that the deductible for these plans usually is high. People that are very healthy and do not have medical conditions that require many doctor’s visits or expensive treatment can benefit greatly from this kind of plan.

Many families with children, or persons that have a history of health issues, are better off selecting a plan from the next tier. The premiums are higher, but the deductible and out-of-pocket expenses will be lower. On top of that, the government offers a subsidy for plans in this tier only that is based on your household income, number of persons and the cost of a Silver Plan in your area. Below is a table that shows the income limits for 2016.

Income Levels For Subsidy in 2016.

Income Levels For Subsidy in 2016.

How?

Now, most marketplaces have new tools that will make comparing and shopping easier. Calculators can help in estimating total cost of health plans offered by factoring in premiums, copay and other out-of-pocket expenses and deductibles. It is important to know your family’s health situation and future medical requirements to find the best plan offered. That could mean that you might need to change to a different carrier to get the best deal.

When looking at the different plans keep the following in mind:

  • Check that your medication is covered and find out what the cost will be. You find this information on the insurer’s website or call their customer service.
  • Look at this year’ and last year’s out of pocket expenses to and see what amount is not covered by the insurance. The maximum amount can be more than $6,000 for an individual. Therefore, it is prudent to think of a way how to pay for any medical emergency.
  • Check that your doctor is in the insurer’s network next year. Choosing care and treatment from a doctor and facility from the plan’s list of preferred providers can help save money.
  • Consider contributing to a Health Savings Account (HSA) if the deductible is more than $1,300. For family plans the minimum is $2,600. You can use the savings for medical expenses tax free. All contributions stay with you, even if you change plans. Another benefit is that the contributions are tax deductible when filing your annual income tax return.
  • Under the Affordable Care Act, many preventive health care services are free.  The website healthcare.gov lists all preventive care services by group such as adult, women and children. Visits to certain doctors, screenings for cholesterol, diabetes (type 2) or Hepatitis B are included. Women can get free mammograms and FDA approved contraceptives. Also, many vaccinations for adults and children are free when provided by a doctor or other provider in the plan’s network. This is true even if you have not yet reached the deductible. Check out the information on the website as some services are limited to certain age groups.

You have many options to enroll. Either online through the federal or the state market place, or an insurance agency website. You also can go in person to enroll at a community center, church or insurance agent that offer free assistance. I advise you to not just think about what happened last year when you and your family were healthy. Instead, I urge you to be responsible and to consider “what if I get sick?”

Health Care is a serious matter for you and your family. Especially, if you have children, you can’t afford to have no insurance. You owe it to those that depend on you and cannot make that decision to do what is best for them and you. It is hard to take care of toddlers or children when you are sick yourself.

If you got value from the information in my post and it did help you making a decision on this important matter, l would like to hear from you. Leave a comment below and share the post with others you know that might benefit reading about this subject.

Everyone loves paying less!

Everyone loves paying less! Taking deductions for expenses when completing your tax return gives anybody a good feeling. Since we all use a car to get from A to B, this post will give you a basic understanding of how you can profit from this provision in the US tax code as-well-as some practical tips that ensure you have adequate backup.

There are 3 fundamental decisions to make:

1. First question each entrepreneur, small business owner or network marketer should answer is if the vehicle is solely used for business. That means that you do not use the car to quickly run an errand or to drop your child off at a football practice. If the car is 100% used for business purpose all expenses are deductible. However, if you use the car for both personal and business activities you can only deduct the cost of business related trips.

2. Another choice to make is which calculation method to use. For most tax filers taking the easy route, and just using the standard mileage rate to calculate your deduction, is the best option. Just be sure to use the correct amount for the year, because there is a different rate for a car owned and a car leased. Yet, for many business owners who use their automobile exclusively for work, the use of actual cost is often more beneficial. This selection allows tax payers to include the following expenses: gas, oil changes, repairs, car washes, tires, car insurance, annual registration fees, license (renewal) fees, and depreciation if you own the car, or lease payments.

3. Persons that have more than one job then need to determine the principal place of work. Where is the location that you conduct most of your occupation? Factors to consider are time and activities performed, and how much you earn. This job will be considered your main or principal place.

 

Make sure you add this  to your expense log!

Make sure you add this to your expense log!

Do you have a job?

People that have a part time or full time job at an office, store, school, etc., and whose income is more than the revenue earned in the part time business, the commute from home to the office or other work location is not tax deductible. Only if the work site location is temporary, out of the metropolitan area, and does not last longer than a year, the drive to and from this place are tax deductible. Persons that have more than one job often don’t know that they can deduct the cost for going from the first job to the second job on the same day.

 

Are you self-employed?

When you work out of a home office you can deduct any trip you make that has a business purpose such as a client visit in his office, a sales meeting at a restaurant, or attending a workshop related to your work.  Just to be clear, your home is the place where you actually live.

The above tax rules are only applicable for people that own their car. When you lease your car, or when your employer provides a car the tax regulations get more complicated if it is used for both personal and business activities. I will not explain these specific rulings in this blog post because I only wanted to paint the big picture.

Take action!

To get you started collecting evidence for tax inquiries you need to record all trips you make. Either you spend a few dollars and buy an auto mileage log book at Office Depot, create your own Excel spreadsheet, or download an app such as MileIQ , Triplog and MileagePad. Many apps have a basic free version or free trial, and then charge a monthly fee – some as low as $1 a month. Maybe it is time to use modern technology and save some time and effort.

I hope the above information is useful to you. I’m planning more blog posts on tax deductions and maybe I do a few videos on this subject too in the next few months. Help me become better in serving your tax questions or business matters by commenting below. Feel free to send me a message if you have a question regarding transportation deductions. And if you prefer to use electronic documentation click here to download my mileage log.

 

Be Better Next Time Around!

It’s done! Finally, filed my taxes just in time for the deadline of April 15. This year, I got upset with myself as it took way too much time to get it done. It was not the actually online completion of the interview return preparation, but getting all my backup documents ready to enter in the software that caused my mood to be dismayed.

Check off what's done!

Check off what’s done!

Many people that know me think I’m organized and have everything neatly filed away. Until a certain extent that is correct. I have a filing system for all paper statements and invoices. I also have a filing system on my computer, but I have to admit that they are not very effective if you print everything at the time that you file the income tax return.

 

Keep For 3 Years

Since you have to keep receipts, statements, invoices and other documents to support your income and your expenses for at least 3 years, there is a lot of paper to keep. The IRS prefers hard copies of the supporting documents. If you, like me, are a single business owner it is easier to keep the required paper backup for Schedule C details. However, if you have staff that you pay or a production manufacturing, inventory and other real store features, you will use an electronic accounting system that will produce reports.  This does not mean that you than can shred all invoices and other papers that are important for tax evidence.

An alternative to keeping paper copies is to scan all receipts, tickets, checks, etc. and keep the supporting materials in digital format. This works well if you do regular back-up of the computer files and keep them in a safe location. Whatever medium you use, it needs to be able to produce any document that the IRS asks for in case of an audit. The IRS has the right to go back for 3 years or longer depending on the reason for the investigation. More details can be found in the following publications:

Starting a Business and Keeping Records

Travel, Entertainment, Gift and Car Expenses

 

Organize Your Stuff

This weekend I explored some online suggestions for implanting a more effective system. Here is what I found in my research of this topic. It is important to look at the significance of the document. Original certificates (birth, marriage, citizenship, school, etc.) need to be in a safe place. This also applies to insurance documents.  Best is to scan them first, so you have a backup that is always accessible, and then put them in a fireproof safe at your house or in a lock box at your bank.

Next, all statements from utilities, decide to go paperless, so you can access them on the website and download into a folder either on your computer or in the cloud. Statements from bank accounts, credit cards, or retirement accounts can be handled in similar fashion. However, if you have big ticket items that have a warranty or payments for large incidental events such as a wedding, a hard copy can provide a proof of payment that you can keep with the invoice.

To go digital, might be a bit of work to set it all up, however, this is probably the easy part. If you rather have paper copies, you need to set up a large filing box or a drawer file cabinet that can keep hanging folders. Store the files that you frequently use in the front and those that keep important records for occasional need more in the back.

What about all those receipts that you need to keep as supporting documents? If you do not want to keep them in a shoe box, then you might want to sort them in the different expenses that are reported on schedule C. Here is a list of expense categories that an entrepreneur, small business owner or internet marketer can deduct. Depending on the kind of business and the volume of transactions you can have all or just a few. Choose the ones that make sense and add the others during the year. I will explain each more in depth in a future blog post.

 

Expense Categories on Schedule C:

Advertising

Car/truck

Commissions and fees

Contract labor

Depreciation

Employee Benefit Program

Insurance

Interest for mortgage

Legal and professional services

Home office

Supplies

Licenses and taxes

Travel, meals and entertainment

Utilities

Wages

 

One way to be neat and organized!

One way to be neat and organized!

What System Suits You

The filing system can be simple and does not have to cost a lot. One method is to use envelopes for each category. Personally, I found an unused accordion file folder that I will use for 2015. These expanding file folders come in all forms and sizes and are not very expensive either. You now can file the receipts as soon as you get them, or collect them and sort them once a month if that suits better.

For many people the burden of keeping receipts is a task that often turns into a search for misplaced and missing items. Since many savvy business persons have smart phones, it is much easier to download an app and then make a picture of the receipts on the go. Some Expense Trackers are only for Apple iOS and others only for Google Android system. Some are free and others have a small monthly fee. Besides organizing all receipts and payments, these apps also help to keep tab on what  you spend. If you do not have a fancy phone to download apps, many offer web based programs too. And if this is still too cumbersome, pen and paper or an excel workbook can serve the same purpose.

I hope this information gave you some ideas on how to prepare and organize tax supporting documents more efficiently. If you have a tip on how to keep track of all business expenses, feel free to comment.

My favorite way to pay for business expenses.

Are you an entrepreneur, a start-up small business or a sole professional business person? You might want to reconsider how you pay for everything for your business.

Do you use your hard earned money to pay for business expense?

Most people who have a business, but are not hundred percent committed, will get involved in a business by using their personal check or credit card for the initial sign-up fee. Many entrepreneurs also use personal savings or financial help from family and friends to pay for any purchases for the business. And before you know, some month down the road, you are still using your own personal monetary instruments.

Do you want to be more efficient?

In fact, for tax purpose and financial reporting it is easier if the business has a separate bank account. To mix personal and business expenses is not efficient bookkeeping. The Internal Revenue Service requires the business to substantiate all entries on your tax return. If business purchases and personal payments are combined on one account it creates a complication to reconcile the statement details.

However, you still need to keep any receipts for purchases, invoices for monthly expenses like electricity, rent, internet, etc.

You can find more information on this subject on the website of the IRS. http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Recordkeeping

Using Other People’s Money to pay for Business Expenses makes Sense!

Reasons why Other People’s Money is beneficial.

When you have a credit card (OPM) specifically for the business, the statements provide a great backup for keeping track of costs and help classify them into categories. Not only will a good record system help you at tax time, but it also can give you details for monitoring the progress of your business and help secure future financing.

Credit cards tailored to small business often have a reporting feature that gives analytics on how the total sum is spent. Actually better is when the provider offers the option to upload the details in to a software program such as Quickbooks or Quicken.

A credit card can help with cash flow issues that a small business owner might face if he needs larger quantities of parts for manufacturing his product or more stock of merchandise. However, if the card is used for large sums, the business owner needs to be sure that he can pay off the monthly charges every time.

Many credit cards for small business also provide a rewards program that could help in lowering cost of travel expenses, office supplies or cash back. An important factor to consider is how the points are accumulated. Does the card issuer offer 1 point for every dollar or are there categories that earn more points?

Here is more HELP:

Most franchise companies, network marketing or internet businesses provide lots of details on the company and the product or services to new business partners. However, there is little or no help on any legal or financial implications. But it is not too late to get on the right track to have a sound and successful business.

Check out my free report on How to Launch your Small Business Without any Hurdles. Click Here.

If you got value from this post or have any comments, please let me know. I always enjoy connecting with my readers.

Oh, yes! It’s FREE!

Have you filed your tax return yet?

How do you file your yearly income tax return? Do you go to a CPA firm for assistance, do you visit a tax preparer such as H&R Block or do you prepare your own return using software you buy?

Depending on your situation your only option could be a professional service. If you have a side business or small business you would be wise to get help from a reputable company that knows about taxes. Also, if you had a big change in your personal life such as buying your first house, getting a baby or maybe inherited property, consulting a CPA will give a thorough advice on how to handle this best for tax purpose.

But if you do not fall in any of these categories you could qualify to file your return for free!

Two ways to file a free income tax return.

  1. Do-it-yourself

The IRS offers a special on-line service that you can use if you are comfortable doing your own taxes. If you have a W-2 from your employer and no other deductions, this is an easy filing from the comfort of your own home. In order to qualify for the free programs you have to consider a few limitations:

–        Your gross income in general has to be lower as $60,000

–        Often you can only file if you are in a certain age group

–        And some programs only allow individuals to file tax returns in certain states.

You can find more details on the different software providers on the IRS website.

File your Tax Return for Free!

File your Tax Return for Free!

 

  1. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

For those persons that do not understand the tax terminology, do not have access to a computer or prefer that someone with more knowledge takes care of their tax return, they can find help from specially trained Volunteer Income Tax Assistants. The IRS yearly recruits persons that learn to do income tax returns in specific locations throughout the country. The VITA program offers free help to low-income residents, persons that are disabled or over 60 years old, and that earned less than $53,000 in 2014. The AARP has a similar program that provides tax assistance to seniors.

Click on this link to find locations in your area. You also can call 211 to find a site. Often a community center, library or accounting school will open their facilities at certain times. Some locations require an appointment and others only do walk-ins. If it is really busy, you might have to wait before a volunteer preparer can assist you.

Either way, make sure you have all documentation with you, so you do not have to go back to retrieve something you forgot. You definitely need your Social Security card in order to start at a VITA site. And if you do not have health insurance through your employer you need to prove that you got health insurance on the market place (Form 1095-A). To maximize any lawful deductions and credits, you need to show the preparer that you qualify for it. Therefore, it is better to have more evidence as needed so bring all medical receipts, travel logs, insurance payments, kid’s day care invoices, etc. to get all that you qualify for.

Lastly, I want to mention that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) this year can cause a penalty, even if you paid for your health insurance through the market place. When you purchased a silver tier health plan you also had the option to obtain a subsidy and reduce your premium payment. Now at tax time, the tax preparer will compute your annual income and maybe it is different from the amount you used when purchasing insurance. If you benefited from a subsidy that was too high this may affect your tax refund or tax liability.

I hope this information helps you to prepare for filing your income tax return this year. Do you have any suggestion on filing an income tax return? Feel free to leave a comment.

Hurry, only 7 days left to enroll for Health Insurance!

Are you still not sure if you need a Health Care plan for you and your family? You rather pay the high fees for physicians, emergency care and prescription drugs when you or your children have an ailment, disease or accident? And you don’t mind paying a penalty for not complying when you file your income tax return?

The penalty for being uninsured in 2014 is either a flat dollar amount, $95 per adult with a family maximum of $285, or 1 percent of household income, whichever is greater. Penalties in 2015 will be 2 percent of household income, or $325 per person, unless they qualify for an exemption.

But maybe you work for an employer that is considered a small business since it has less than 50 full time employees? Those firms are exempt from the mandate to provide health insurance.  However, if you work in a larger company and your company does not offer this benefit, the penalty that the firm needs to pay for every full time equivalent employee is $2,000. Companies that employ between 50 and 99 full time persons can postpone offering health insurance until 2016. The IRS has specific guidance on how to compute the total number of full time equivalent employees for a firm.

http://www.irs.gov/uac/Small-Business-Health-Care-Tax-Credit-Questions-and-Answers:-Determining-FTEs-and-Average-Annual-Wages

What can you do to get coverage?

The best strategy is to talk with your boss or human resource department. Show them this video about an affordable health care solution that also gives employees an opportunity to choose a low cost plan. This option can be combined with a Health Savings Account when the deductible is higher than $1,300 for a single person and more than $2,600 for a family plan. See my last post for advantages of a Health Savings Account.

Take a tour of the Health Care Market Place here.

 

Take a Tour of the Health Care Market Place.

Since January 22, 2015 the IRS accepts individual income tax returns. Many CPA firms, tax service providers and the volunteers of the AARP or Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program sponsored by the IRS are busy preparing Tax Forms. Individuals that purchased their own health insurance this year’s filing needs 2 additional forms. Form 1095-A is a statement that shows your coverage and will be mailed out in February by the Health Insurance Market Place. This information is need to complete form 8962 to reconcile the subsidy if you got this at time of purchase or get tax credit now.

With open enrollment closing in just one week there is not much time left to contemplate. Feel free to contact me on any matter discussed in the post regarding taxes or health insurance.

Thank you for reading my post. If you like the information let me know through a comment or by clicking the follow button on this page.

Only 28 Days to Chose A Health Insurance Plan

Are you ready for filing your income taxes this year? Have you all your papers together? Did you get health insurance or will you pay the penalty when you file your tax return?

You still have 28 days to get health insurance as open enrollment period is till February 15th, 2015. The Affordable health Care Act (or Obamacare) requires everybody to have health insurance for 2015.  At the moment there are 40 million Americans that have not yet enrolled.

Many people do not have the financial means to purchase health insurance. In the past, they just did not buy it, and when they were sick they often could not pay for the treatment in the emergency room or hospital. Fair enough, many people that did not have insurance paid their doctor’s visit, medication and any surgery or clinic stay.

Either way how you think about this law, health insurance is required, just like having car insurance and home insurance.  So what is it about?

 

Employer Sponsored Insurance

The ACA law requires employers that have more than 50 full time employees to offer health insurance. Luckily, many companies fall in this group. People that work for these employers usually have an option out of two or more plans. Depending on their family situation they can choose the one that best fits their needs. However, if  an employee does opt out of any plan offered, and would get a health plan on the open market, they will not be able to get a subsidy, even if they would qualify.

 

Health Insurance Exchange

If you work for an employer with less staff or who has cut your hours to make you a part time employee, you need to look on the federal, state or private market place to find affordable health insurance. You can either go to an insurance agent or to a local community organization that has counselors to assist in navigating the websites and pick a plan. But you need to be mindful that these might advise you to purchase a plan that is offered by the sponsoring insurance provider.

All states and the Federal Government have their own websites where you find all plans offered. This can be a daunting task if you are not well informed. There are different plan tiers, deductibles and benefits that vary and numerous insurance companies to choose from. Depending on your family situation you may qualify for a subsidy, but how much would you get? And if your income is below a certain amount, you could also get assistance in out-of-pocket expenses. Let me help you get a better understanding on how to determine what plan you need.

 

How to get the best plan?

You need to consider a few things when choosing a health insurance plan.

–        First, get your total family income for 2014 by either taking the details from your W-2 or the last paycheck of the year.

–        Next, how many people are in your family that need to be covered.

–        Then, you need birth dates of every one.

–        Lastly, I would look at my healthcare expenses for the years 2013 and 2014, so I can estimate the amount that I have to budget.

The number of people that need insurance and your total income control if you get a subsidy. Below is a chart that gives the income limits for a lower premium.

 

2015 wage limits for subsidy

2015 wage limits for subsidy

Plans in the market are grouped into 4 categories: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. In order to qualify for a subsidy, you have to purchase a Silver health insurance plan. Usually, these plans have a lower deductible that the Bronze plans.

 

The question now is:

how much health care expenses will I have in 2015 that warrant to take a Silver Plan with a higher premium, but a lower deductible and maybe qualify for a subsidy?

 

High Deductible?

When you are a healthy person and you do not have children, then you probably could choose a plan with a high deductible. However, when you have children, your health care expenses could be quite different. Looking back at the total cost for health care in 2013 and 2014 will give you an idea of how much you will spend in 2015. If it is less than the deductible in the Silver plan you could take a Bronze plan with a lower premium and save money that you can use towards out-of-pocket expenses. But if it is not substantially more then you could compute the savings of a bronze plan for the year and see if you are better off purchasing a Silver plan.

As I mentioned before, every person’s situation is different and you definitely should look ahead on what is happening in 2015. If you plan to get pregnant, or have a surgery that is necessary for your health, then you need to take this into consideration.

All plans cover the same preventive care that is free of charge even if you have not yet met the deductible. Vaccinations, screenings for cholesterol and high blood pressure, mammograms and other tests are free. See the full list here. Only caveat is that these services need to be performed in-network.

 

High Expenses?

For those that do not qualify for Silver plan with lower out-of-pocket expenses, you can reduce cost by taking a supplemental plan that gives you access to a nurse 24/7/365 by phone or you can talk with a doctor for just $5. This will save on high unnecessary emergency room visits or long wait times to get a doctor’s appointment. Reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention find that more than 50 % of ER visits do not need treatment within an hour. And according to another report 76% could have been treated better at other outpatient care facilities.

 

My recommendation:

If you are ready to purchase health insurance now I recommend that you check out this private members only market place, which has dedicated licensed brokers to help you navigate the insurance choice options.

If you are an owner of a small business that is looking into offering health insurance, please contact me for any assistance.

I realize while writing, that there is so much more that influences a thorough decision for choosing a health insurance plan. I do not want to make this one lengthy post, thus I will talk about the benefits of a high deductible plan in my post next Sunday. Stay tuned for Health Insurance – Part 2.

Feel free to get in touch with me about this post or to leave a comment below. Let me know if this information was helpful for you.

 

 

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