Reader Mailbag #63

Each Monday, The Simple Dollar opens up the reader mailbags and answers ten to twenty simple questions offered up by the readers on personal finance topics and many other things. Got a question? Ask it in the comments. You might also enjoy the archive of earlier reader mailbags.

As usual, we’ll start things off with a few links to older articles that directly answer questions I’ve heard recently. Three readers have written me for advice on expensive hobbies (particularly golf). Here are some thoughts on saving money on hobbies.
Ten Ways That I Save Money Golfing
The Tug of War Between Frugality, Hobbies, and an Emergency Fund
Making Expensive Hobbies More Financially Manageable
Evaluating Your Expenses – Entertainment & Hobbies

And now, some great reader questions!

I was reading your series on buying a house, and I have a question about that. Did you read a particular book or books that you would recommend for someone considering buying a first home? (Or maybe building, I’m picky)
- Chapeau

During our home-buying process, I hit the library pretty hard and looked at a ton of books. Mostly, I’d just make lists of questions that I didn’t know the answer to, then I’d hit the library and seek answers to all of them at once, then repeat a few weeks later.

The most useful all-around book that we found was, surprisingly, Home Buying for Dummies. It consistently had readable answers to most of the questions we came up with. Eventually, my wife purchased a copy of the book and it became quite dog-eared by the time we finally made our move.

My suggestion? Make a big list of questions. Go to the library and look at lots of different home buying books to find answers to your questions. When you find one that really seems to answer things well for you, buy a copy and then don’t be afraid to add notes all over the book. It worked really well for us.

I want to start a Roth for my wife and I through Vanguard but the minimum fund amount is $3000 each so it would be quite a substantial amount of money to buy even two funds for each of us. Do you have any suggestions how to start one through vanguard without so much start up money?
- Bob

Since you’re in a Roth IRA, there’s no tax penalty for switching from fund to fund. Thus, my suggestion would be that each of you start with the Vanguard STAR fund. It’s a well-diversified standalone fund that has only a $1,000 minimum.

Once you’re in that fund, have all of your contributions go there until you’ve built up enough to buy the minimum of whatever funds you want, then sell all of the Vanguard STAR shares and use the proceeds to buy the other funds. Then, change your contributions so that you’re allocating how you like.

This is exactly what I did with my Roth IRA – worked like a charm.

Have you considered reviewing children’s storybooks that deal with money management themes? We already own two (-The Peanut Butter and Jelly Game- and -Stock Market Pie: Grandma Helps Emily Make a Million-), and I’m familiar with a few other titles, like -Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday-.

I know Dave Ramsey has a handful of books aimed at kids, but I haven’t read them yet, and I’d be interested to hear someone else’s opinion of them.
- Jenzer

I’ve seen several books along these lines and they look compelling. I think most of them teach really good lessons in a way that young children can grasp.

So why haven’t I reviewed any? To be frank, I’m waiting until my son and daughter are a bit older – probably a year or so. When they reach that age, I’ll start reading such books to them and see how much the ideas stick in their heads. That, to me, will be the real test of whether or not these books are worthwhile.

I will probably start with some of the Dave Ramsey books, actually.

This won’t work for everyone but I am a 20-something that lives close to home. I just use my mom’s Sam’s card whenever i need to go there. Therefore I don’t pay for it. Not to mention, it is free to her because it is a necessary business expense.
- Ryan

I actually did the same thing when I was in college, more or less. My college was fairly close to a Sam’s Club, so my parents bought a membership and would often fill up their vehicle with Sam’s Club purchases when they came to visit. I kept the other card that came with the membership and went there quite often.

If you have a family member who would also benefit from a membership at a warehouse club, talk to that family member and discuss splitting the cost of the membership. You might find that, though $40 is too much to spend, $20 is a price point you’re willing to pay.

Personally, if you have adequate storage room in your living space, I think most people will get their membership’s worth out of a warehouse club.

If you have a little spare time, do you bother entering competitions, answering surveys, becoming a mystery shopper and the likes to make a little extra money, or is it just a waste of time?
- V

Most of the time, I don’t bother. The time investment is too much for the return – or the chance of a return, in the case of contests and other such things.

That being said, such things can be a simple distraction in the evenings – a way to fill commercial breaks with something largely mindless that can bring in a dollar or two. I usually use that sort of time to bargain hunt, for example.

However, if you’re devoting blocks of time that you could be using elsewhere, things like surveys aren’t worth it, in my opinion.

Whenever you mention watching TV shows or listening to music or watching movies, you always talk about buying them or renting them. Why not just BitTorrent them or use LimeWire?
- Kelly

Because I’m opposed to piracy. Whenever an album or a television show or a movie appears, a lot of people – most of them earning just a typical living wage – are involved in producing that item. They work hard to provide a good piece of entertainment.

Whenever you download a movie or a piece of music or a TV show, you’re telling all of the people that worked on the item that their contributions are worthless to you. That is inherently a lie, since you’re going through the effort of downloading it – if it has no value, you wouldn’t be putting forth the effort.

Yes, I know all about how the RIAA and the MPAA are evil. I also know that most people who use that as an excuse are looking to build a big grey area on the issue so that they can feel justified in their theft.

Having said that, I will say that there are much better solutions to this whole problem than the MPAA/RIAA or the pirates are advocating at this point. If this topic really interests you, I strongly encourage you to read Remix by Lawrence Lessig, which is an extremely levelheaded and intelligent book on copyright in the age of the Internet. His conclusions are really interesting, and I think that adopting some of those conclusions would make all of this a moot point.

How do you catch up on television shows you missed?
- Adam

This somewhat follows from Kelly’s question. I know a lot of people catch up on television shows via BitTorrent and other such services.

Fortunately, though, most of the shows I follow (like Lost, for example) have their episodes up on the web for free viewing. If I want to start a series from scratch, I’ll usually trade for the DVDs of the series, but, quite honestly, there aren’t many series that I would want to devote that much time to.

If a series is actually good enough that I could see myself watching the whole thing all the way through multiple times (a la Lost, probably), I would have no objection to buying or trading for the DVDs. The people that create such compelling work deserve the dollars.

Have you ever played the lottery?
- Chloe

When I was in college, I used to play the lottery fairly often, particularly scratch-offs. I really have no idea why I did this – it was more of a laugh than anything else.

At some point, I realized how much of a waste of money it was. This revelation came well before my ultimate financial meltdown, so it wasn’t a part of my financial turnaround. I just didn’t see the point any more.

If I’m going to “gamble” away my money, I’ll do it in a way where I at least have some control over things, like poker or blackjack. Otherwise, I might as well just agree to hand the casino or lottery commission a dollar and let them hand me back 93 cents over and over and over again.

Why are you always so self-righteous? Why do you look down upon everyone else?
- Tom

Comments on my writing alternate between claims that I’m self-righteous and claims that I’m overly humble. Frankly, I don’t see either one.

I think that any time you comment on someone else’s life, you run an enormous risk of coming off as self-righteous. After all, you’re suggesting to others how they should live their lives, and it often comes from your personal experiences and reflections and learning. In giving that advice, you inherently create an impression that you’re “right” and the person asking the question is “wrong.”

Very rarely is that true. My own life has taught me that you should never, ever judge anything by its cover. Quite often, the questions I receive are from people who are successful in most aspects of their life, likely more successful than I am. They’re asking for thoughts and advice on a certain area – money, careers, and so on – where they don’t feel as confident.

Because I respect the people that write in, I feel obligated to give them my honest answer. I consider it dishonest to sugar-coat things for anyone. So, I get right to the point – I tell them what I know and how I would do things. Quite simply, if I did anything else, it would be pretty insulting to the person who wrote to me asking for that advice.

Most of the posts I write for The Simple Dollar come directly from questions posed by readers. You deserve my honest take on things without sugar coating. To give anything else would be a failure on my part – and it would let you down, too.

If that means I sound self-righteous sometimes, well, that’s something I’m quite willing to take.

My wife was sick with appendicitis in approximately 1998 or 1999, absolutely no later than the year 2000. She was making payments of $10/month on the debt and eventually got it down to around $450. Then the hospital stopped sending monthly statements. So she called and they told her that the debt was forgiven and she no longer was required to make any payments. Again, this was no later than the year 2000.

Today we got a message on the machine from Allied collection services saying that they wanted to speak to my DW. She called and they told her they want to collect the $450 from the debt. This is a debt that is between 9 and 11 years old, and one that we were told was forgiven by the hospital! I told DW that I believe the debt is to old to be collected on and to not pay it and not make any agreements to pay or make payments. It is my belief that the debt is in fact to old to be collected and that we are not required to pay because we were told that the debt was forgiven.

I realize it is only $450, but the fact that we were told it was forgiven about 10 years ago makes me think that this is just a collection agency who bought up old debt and they are fishing to see who they can collect on today. We don’t even live in the same state anymore. I also wonder how they got our new telephone number and address. Also, if we refuse to pay this, can they legally put it on our credit report?

What do you think?
- Paul

The call came from a collection service. Likely, that collection service just bought your still-existing debt from the hospital (likely for pennies) and is now just fishing to get some return on their investment. I would ignore this collection agency, particularly if you have some sort of written evidence of loan forgiveness. If you do not, you can try contacting the hospital, but likely they no longer have the debt on their books at all.

In any case, it is always useful to get things like this in writing. If an organization forgives your loan, you should ask for some sort of documentation to that effect.

Got any questions? Ask them in the comments and I’ll use them in future mailbags.

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  1. Steven says:

    Can you elaborate on how trading DVDs is not a form of piracy?

  2. Michael says:

    The range of accusations from “self-righteous” to “too humble” is really one accusation of false humility.

    Another home-buying suggestion: contact your local realtors’ association about grants and programs. A lot of money is set aside to assist homebuyers right now, and local realtors will be happy to point you to it.

  3. KC says:

    People with low self esteem will always say you are being self-righteous. What amazes me is why do they continue to read? If I come across a blog or article that I think sounds self righteous I stop reading. I don’t comment…I just stop reading and often don’t come back. Why would someone continue to read something they think is pretentious? I suppose it is because they have low self esteem.

  4. Actually for starting a ROTH IRA, I would personally go with buying a target date retirement fund, whose asset allocation mix is modified to consist of less risky investments as you get older. Just pick your expected retirement date, buy a fund and watch your dream of financial independence getting accomplished ;-)

  5. Keith says:

    I think the practice of ‘selling’ debts should be outlawed. These debt collection agencies use unscrupulous tactics to get people to ‘pay’ their debts, many times debts that either are so old as to have already been written off or that were never theirs to begin with.

    I read a story about how these agencies even try to get the survivors of dead debtors to pay off their debts so they can ‘rest peacefully.’ How these people sleep at night I have no idea.

  6. Karen M says:

    I understand what you are saying about supporting the people who make movies/television shows, but how is “trading for DVDs” being supportive? No one related to the production of the show receives any money from a trade.

  7. My Journey says:

    For Paul,

    Every state has a statute of limitations for the collection of outstanding debt meaning unless mitigating factors are present an X year old debt can not be collected. Such factors may include acknowleding that it is your debt, so DO NOT say anything to these people that isn’t written down.

    I would research your state’s statute of limitations on debt collection and simply write a letter to them. ALWAYS USE certified mail and return recepit requested.

    If you want I’d be happy to look up your state’s SOL.

  8. Joyce says:

    I am 26 and I will have a $20,000 increase in income next year. Should I put my extra money into a company matching 401k or save up for a down payment for a house?

  9. jason says:

    re:trading v. piracy–trading things you’ve purchased for other things that other people have purchased is not the same thing as downloading something with no proof of purchase, so to speak. IANAL, but piracy in general usage seems to mean increasing the number of extant copies, even if they are ephemeral. Trading a DVD doesn’t do that.

  10. Emily says:

    In regards to Paul’s question, I second what was said about the statue of limitations. And there are also cases of fraudulent collectors trying to get money on forgiven or paid-off debts. That might not be what Paul is experiencing, but it is out there. There’s more about it at this Consumerist article: http://consumerist.com/5039903/fake-debt-collectors-are-trying-to-intimidate-you-out-of-your-money

  11. Keith, the idea of selling debts to be outlawed is short-sighted. If you purchase a bond in the secondary market, you’re doing the same thing.

    While you’re correct about the practices of SOME debt collection agencies, perhaps regulating the industry is more appropriate.

    As for Sams, my roomate and I split a membership in college. Now my fiance and I are able to use her mom’s membership, and she’s a member and Sams and Costco.

  12. Sunshine says:

    Good response on the “self-righteous” comments/questions. I think it was handled well and with minimal antagonism.

  13. Narendra Singh says:

    Dear Sir,
    This is regarding home made washing detergent. The video was O.K. but audio quality was not upto the mark. All the same through visual one can get the idea.
    I shall be pleased if you can quantify the different ingradients in weight measure, some figures are given in the video, the bottom 2/3 are not readable (legible) and I am not sure if it is $ or weight since the unit is not given.
    Would appreciate if you can give a write-up, since it would be more easy to comprehend practically after seen the visual.
    Hope you will find time to reply.
    Regards,
    Narendra.

  14. Kyle says:

    Tiny quibble: Poker is a game you can beat. Blackjack is not. You have a choice between handing them 97 cents for the dollar repeatedly if you play perfectly, or less if you don’t, but you’ll never consistently beat the house.

  15. Don Juan says:

    On the DVD-trading piracy question:

    The easiest way to keep this straight in my opinion is to consider the number of copies floating around that have been legitimately paid for.

    DVD trading/selling/giving away isn’t piracy because there is only one copy floating around. That copy was legitimately paid for so the it doesn’t matter who has their hands on it.

    If you download something illegally, you’re basically creating a copy of that media for your own use and not paying anyone for it.

  16. Samantha says:

    Trent- As someone working in the entertainment industry, I just wanted to say thank you for your note about piracy. As in any field, there are a few people at the top making a lot of money and many, many people barely getting by, just keeping their fingers crossed that the next job comes along before the money from the last one runs out.

    Anything on TV or in the theaters, even “low-budget” or reality productions require an astouding amount of work and most people put in ridiculously long hours for what can often be just-above-minimum wage in one of the most expensive cities in the US.

    What Trent said is right on – if you want to consume the product, it obviously has some value to you and obtaining that product through illegal channels is theft, even if enforcement is basically nonexistent.

    The current distribution model is flawed, but right now it’s what we have. My next rent check thanks you for paying the $1.99 to downlaod from iTunes or subscribing to cable or even using one of the legal free-viewing services like Hulu, which are advertiser supported.

  17. Steve says:

    For Bob’s question about Roth IRAs, I ran into exactly the same issue. If he doesn’t have $1000 to invest at first, I suggest he look at Fidelity’s SimpleStart program. They only require a commitment to deposit $200 per month into each IRA account, with no upfront deposit amount. I think the $200/month requirement goes away, too, once the account balance hits $2500.

    http://personal.fidelity.com/products/retirement/getstart/simplestart.shtml.cvsr

  18. Rick says:

    I take a different view regarding piracy, one which is supported by various studies. I download music and movies with no remorse. I believe that intellectual property is not property that you can steal. Thus my downloading has no adverse effect on the producers or artists of the material. If I didn’t download the media, I wouldn’t watch or listen to it at all.

    However, studies show that people who download music actually buy more CDs than those who don’t. I know this rings true in my case. I do realize that it takes effort and manpower to create movies and music, and thus I vote with my dollars. I buy the media that I like.

    Further, the movies and music producers should be appreciative of BitTorrent and other such file-sharing protocols. Through these I have found a number of both movies and music groups that I really liked, and subsequently went out and bought their media. I would have never found these had I not found them on ThePirateBay or SoulSeek, and thus would not have ever bought them.

    To conclude, movie makers and bands have made more money off of me through ThePirateBay and SoulSeek than they would have if these sites did not exist.

    The people that actually understand how to use these filesharing applications actually come out ahead of those that don’t.

  19. Jennifer says:

    Hello,

    I love your column! I do have a question.

    My daughter is almost two and at the time she was born is when the economy started to go downhill. So instead of investing in a 529 for her we started a money market for her. Most of the 529s I’ve researched are still losing A LOT of money, but her money market is only making 2%. At this rate we will never have enough in her account for college, so do we start the 529 now and hope we regain the losses when (and if) the economy recovers?

    Thank you,
    Jennifer

  20. cara says:

    Re: Roth with Vanguard – that’s exactly what I did. I started with $1,000 in the STAR Fund and set up automatic contributions. I’ve got a list of my desired funds, and when I get up to $3,000 I move that one of those. So far I’ve only moved money into one of my desired funds. I’m still building up my second $3,000.

  21. Ruby Leigh says:

    Hi Trent – First time commenting – enjoy your site!

    Kyle – you can beat the house at Blackjack – you just need to know how. Check out wikipedia for tactics. Although, I would only recommend playing for entertainment purposes.

    My question – Have you heard of AFullCup.com, it appears to be a coupon and deals sharing website. I can’t decide if there is any value in it, let me know what you come up with. Thanks.

  22. karyn says:

    From the little bit I understand, there’s a difference between downloading a movie with copywright and an aired TV show. We download old shows from series that we have “picked up” in later seasons. These shows were already aired; we’re just watching them at a later date, much like you can do on Hulu.

  23. Johanna says:

    Rick, you’re conflating two related but separate questions: whether it’s wise for artists to distribute some or all of their work for free, and whether it’s ethical for consumers to take an artist’s work without paying for it if the artist does not endorse such distribution.

    If the studies you describe say what you say they say, the answer to the first question might be yes, but that says nothing about the second question. If an artist chooses not to allow free distribution of her work with her blessing, she might not, in your view, be acting in her own best interests, but that doesn’t give you the moral right to override her decision.

  24. Anne says:

    Thank you for answering the IRA question. I keep looking at the STAR fund wondering if that’s my best option. And I’m almost certain that it is. I could, maybe, come up with $3k by next April 15th but this year is not shaping up like I thought it would. Unexpected dental work, car making funny noises, 9 year old computer on its last legs, sick grandparents, and on and on and on. I think I might have more success putting $1k from this month’s “extra” paycheck away and then just automating it.

  25. Nick says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with Rick. I download mostly music, but some movies. If it’s a band or movie I’ve never heard of, I’m not going to shell out $10-20 bucks to buy the cd/dvd. If turns out it’s something I like I’ll go buy the physical copy. Otherwise, no harm done- I wasn’t going to buy it anyways.

    There are tons of movies and cd’s that I’ve ended up purchasing through this method. 3 of my top 5 favorite bands were discovered through BitTorrent (and napster, back in the day). I now own every one of their albums, multiple t-shirts and posters, and have seen the bands in concert several times each. Each of these generate far more money for the band/artist themselves than simply buying their albums would.

  26. Jade says:

    I’m with you on this one Rick. If it wasn’t for Napster, there are several artists I would have never bought a new album from. Sample the other tracks on an album that don’t get played on the radio, listen to them a couple of times to see if they’re worth paying for (not the 30 seconds iTunes or Amazon gives you), and if I find myself going back to the same tracks over and over, I head down to my local record store to buy the album. I can try on shoes at the store and walk and run up and down the aisle in them before I buy them, why can’t I listen to the entire album before I buy it?

    I like to plunk out money for an album when it’s a good *album*, not because there are 1 or 2 good songs that get time on the radio but the rest of the album is garbage. I’ve been ripped off enough having to pay $16 for 2 songs, back in the day before iTunes…

    And no, I don’t have iTunes. I think it’s a step in the right direction, but even 79 cents a song is overpriced, considering that I have to buy my own CD to burn it onto, and buy a burner, and fight with said burner, and even in that case I’m just getting a compressed file with lower sound quality.

    This is why I buy music at my local used record store. Unless the artist consistently releases entire albums of good music, I don’t buy the music new, always used, I’m not putting extra money into some RIAA executive’s pocket. Now, if the executives took a huge paycut and gave everyone earning minimum wage a raise, I might be more inclined to buy more CD’s new…

    And if you don’t want to download stuff online to try out new music, how about the local library? You’ve already bought the music with your tax dollars.

  27. Michael says:

    Rick, while music pirates buy more CDs than non-pirates, that figure includes people who do not listen to much music at all. Music pirates buy fewer CDs than non-pirates who also like listening to albums.

  28. A.J. says:

    Kyle (#10) – With perfect play, Blackjack is somewhere closer to 99.3% on the dollar. Still not ideal, but low enough that you can write off that other .7% as an entertainment expense.

    Yeah…scratch-off tickets are a total waste of money. But there’s two ways of looking at them…either ‘a tax on the stupid’ or ‘a donation to your state’s education fund’. ;-) That said, I’m not opposed to buying a single ticket every few weeks…the enjoyment I get from scratching off that ticket is worth the 2-3 dollars I spend on it, to me.

    (Also, the fact that I won $1,000 off a $3 ticket a couple months ago by some sheer fluke doesn’t hurt any. :-D)

  29. Rangzy says:

    Nice explanation on the piracy front. Very convincing lines.

    And, good to see that it has started a healthy discussion as well (among comments). To me, every post / perspective in this chain seems agreeable.

    I totally agree with this: “If I didn’t download the media, I wouldn’t watch or listen to it at all.”

    Perhaps, piracy is bad for large corporations, since they focus on revenue. Perhaps its beneficial for starters, since they need more publicity first.

    Cheers!

  30. I get all my DVD’s from the library, for free. So, am I also telling the people who produced them that their products are worthless to me? I’m asking legitimately, as I don’t know the answer. Not trying to be a smartass. If the answer is yes, then how is using the library any different than piracy? Of course, I return the DVDs, but I probably wouldn’t watch them at all if I had to pay for them, even as a rental. It wouldn’t be worth the money to me at this point in my life.

  31. Kyle says:

    If you can find a reputable casino offering a set of blackjack rules that returns 99.3% on perfect play … well, I’m still not going to do it, but I’d be surprised :)

  32. Kyle says:

    @Ruby – you can beat the house by card-counting, which is illegal. That’s it. There are no other winning tactics.

  33. jeff says:

    What were your thoughts on the Lost Finale?
    It is one of the few series that I purchased the DVD instead of netflix. I thought the finale this year was amazing, even if it did leave me very upset with the writers for leaving me hanging like that.

  34. Frank says:

    Hey Trent, I have a quick question for you.

    My wife has a store credit card that is maxed at $2,500. The only payments they will allow her to make are the bill amount (so if it’s $100, she can’t pay $150 for example) or the full balance. She applied for a loan from her bank so she could pay the full amount off and the interest rate would be lower from the bank, but she was denied. I then applied (same bank) and was denied also due to insufficient credit history.

    We called the store to see if they could set up regular payment plans (the amount due each month varies, wildly) or if they could reduce the interest rate, to which they said no to both.

    My “quick” question is, are there some other options for her to get a loan in order to pay off the card so she’s not paying out the nose in interest?

    Thanks!
    Frank

  35. Samantha says:

    @Kyle Card counting isn’t illegal, it’s just frowned on by casinos and can get you thrown out or banned if they catch you. But it’s private property, so they can ban you for wearing green, if they want. Card counting is essentially just remember what cards have been played – it’s thought, which can’t be made illegal.

  36. Samantha says:

    @Kyle Card counting isn’t illegal, it’s just frowned on by casinos and can get you thrown out or banned if they catch you. But it’s private property, so they can ban you for wearing green, if they want. Card counting is essentially just remembering what cards have been played – it’s thought, which can’t be made illegal.

  37. Just a guy... says:

    Card counting is legal. Pure and simple. It’s not cheating and in fact, most casinos want people to try to count because most people aren’t as good as they think they are. If you do it in a way that is too obvious and too successful, the casino will kindly let you know that you’re 21 play is no longer welcome, but that you can enjoy the other games they have to offer. Also, if you play proper strategy and can count successfully, the odds actually turn in your favor depending on the specific table rules. If you count successfully, every casino in Vegas can turn in your favor.

  38. Michael says:

    @Kyle

    Card counting without the aid of a mechanical device is most assuredly legal and and the gaming industry would like you to continue to be fooled by the myth to the contrary. What is the case is that casinos, like many businesses reserve the right to refuse service to people that enter their establishment. People who are “caught” counting cards are typically removed from the establishment by security and asked not to return.

  39. Kyle says:

    @Samantha – you’re right, I phrased that poorly.

  40. Jules says:

    I nearly got bilked by a “collection agency”, too. Apparently these jack@$$es decided that I owed something like $440 for a hospital bill. Except that I’ve never been to the hospital in my life. I called them and asked about the bill: when did I incur this alleged payment (the very day I got a kitten), what exactly was the “treatment” I received, etc etc etc…needless to say they gave up after that.

  41. Damester says:

    Trent
    Kudos for addressing the criticisms about being “self righteous.”

    I read your blog daily, occasionally disagree but always respect what you say because you are honest and direct and you give a rationale for your opinions, when warranted.

    Some people clearly forget that a blog is about an opinion. It’s not a newspaper where you aren’t supposed to speak personally (except on the Op Ed page) or take a position.

    This is the curse of having an opinion these days. Somebody somewhere will have to label rather than just saying: Well, I don’t agree.

    I don’t think you have ever said or conveyed in your writing that YOUR way is THE way. I think you’ve gone out of your way to make it clear at times that this is YOUR take on something and not necessarily the way for someone/everyone else.

    Your writing (I don’t know you, so I make a distinction between who you are and what you write) strikes me as neither humble nor self-righteous. It is your opinion, freely given with no implied or otherwise obligation to take it as gospel.

    Passion can, at times, come close to what can be perceived as zealotry, but each of us has free will to choose what we believe and how we live (for the most part).

    So if someone doesn’t agree with your “take” on a topic, OK. We agree to disagree.

    If you want to read Trent, do so without labeling or judging. I really don’t get the sense that he does that. Perhaps it’s just a lot of people with guilty consciences about their own choices who perhaps have to face the reality of their own behavior when they read Trent–who is honest about his own humanity, challenges and failures.

  42. JoeK says:

    Trent’s point about gambling was that he’d rather play a game he has a little more control over, or a “feeling” of control. Rather play blackjack where he can make a decision (hit, stand, double down, split) that feels like it influences the outcome than play the lottery where it’s just blind random luck.

    And for the record: Standard Atlantic City blackjack rules using 8 decks, the game will return 99.37% of money played if played with perfect basic strategy. In Las Vegas, playing a 2 deck game with better rules, blackjack is seen to return 99.82% of money wagered (assuming perfect basic strategy). Of course this is over the long run, with the long run generally being accepted as 100,000 hands, or about 1000 hours of play. The swings in blackjack can be tremendous. And yes card counting can give you an advantage over the house, is not illegal, but is difficult to master. A professional blackjack player can expect to win about 1.5-2% of the money he wagers over the long run.

  43. I had the exact same problem with my medical bills. I paid small amounts for months and months until my balance was zero. Then I had to have an x-ray which was about $75. When I went to pay the bill they said I owed over $600. I asked for a statement, but I never received one. I checked my credit report as they said it had been turned over to collections but nothing was there. About a week after this situation I received a phone call from a collection agency telling me that the debt was from 2003. I politely informed them that I was unwilling to pay for anything that I did not have a statement for and until they provided this information that they not call me again.

    I have not heard from them since. If this had been turned into collections years ago it would be on my credit report, but it wasn’t. With the complete unwillingness for the clinic or collection agency to provide me with any statement it makes me leary of giving away my money. Who knows if they messed up with their record keeping and it wasn’t me being “confused” as they said was the case.

  44. Michael says:

    Some false dichotomies running around in these comments. Here are four intellectual property combos to help you work through the ethics of piracy:

    1. Illegal, makes (c) (copyright owner) money: sharing unknown bands & buying some records
    2. Legal, makes (c) money: buying CDs
    3. Illegal, doesn’t make (c) money: sharing/downloading music when one would have otherwise bought the music
    4. Legal, doesn’t make (c) money: library copies, rental stores, sharing with friends

    I think #2 and #4 are fine, and #1 is fine with the artist’s permission (even if the label didn’t give permission.) I also think most people who think they’re doing #1 are really doing #3.

  45. Kyle says:

    I stand corrected. The house edges in Blackjack in most casino rule-sets is a lot smaller than I remembered.

    http://wizardofodds.com/blackjack

  46. Tara says:

    Paul,

    If the medical bill wasn’t in fact forgiven, the date from the first unsent payment starts the SOL. So, if your DW was still paying this is in 2002, if your SOL is 7 years, they have every right to contact you currently(and take note, most debt collections make aggressive contact shortly before SOL is up).

  47. Tara says:

    Steve@HundredGoals.com,

    “If this had been turned into collections years ago it would be on my credit report.”

    This is absolutely not true. Just thought I’d let you know.

  48. Sheila says:

    Joyce (#8), do you have an emergency fund? If not, that’s the first place to stash the extra cash, IMHO.

  49. JoeOrange says:

    My wife and I have been working on getting our debt down for two years now. We have gotten our Wedding / Honeymoon off our debt, our credit cards are all paid off, and now we are just working on the medical bills from our first child (a 3 month old).

    Things are tight right now because we are use to a two income household but for the baby we are living off of one. We are getting by living thrifty and being smart about purchases.

    Last week our AC unit died and now we need to get it replaced. Do you have any ideas on how we should proceed with this situation? We are in the middle of getting several quotes for a replacement, but it is disheartening to do so well paying off debt then get slapped in the face just when you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

  50. Candi says:

    On the piracy issue, I simply stopped buying almost everyone’s music. Every now and then I get something off of itunes, usually just a single song. If I can’t share the music I want to share with whomever I want to, then I will just not support the music industry or its mostly so called artists. IfI want something in particular, I will hit up the used book and cd store till I find it. The music industry still doesn’t get my money and that suits me fine.

  51. Joey says:

    On the piracy issue, I also download freely. I’m no longer interested in paying for material that can be copied infinitely and losslessly; it just doesn’t make sense to me any more.

  52. Eric says:

    @Joey

    Then how are you any better than a common petty thief?

  53. EmmaE says:

    @Joey I’m no longer interested in paying for a car. That doesn’t make sense for me. So it’s cool if I just go take one from off the sales lot as long as I don’t get caught, right?

  54. Kyle says:

    @Eric

    How is it theft if nobody loses anything?

  55. I would like to throw my hat into the ring for “thanks” for your expression on the piracy issue. Yes, I’m another person tied in with the entertainment industry (TV and film, specifically). Let me put this bluntly: the money from Hulu, iTunes, and DVD sales goes into people’s 401(k)s. That’s how it works – some people get actual checks for it, but most of it goes into the union pension fund. So if you’re here commenting on this blog, talking about your own 401(k) match, but you think it’s okay to rob someone else of their 401(k) match, think again.

    And yes, there is a difference when it comes to borrowing DVDs, either from a friend or the library. When someone borrows my Firefly DVDs (which happens all the time!), they have to return them to me. If they want to keep them, they have to buy their own copies. And frequently, they do. But if they rip my DVDs? They never buy their own copy. That’s the rule, that’s the economy of the industry: if you want to keep it, you pay for it.

    Does this create a gray area? Where you could download it, watch it, and delete it – thus recreating the idea of borrowing? It’s an interesting idea… but I know better than anyone that most “pirates” don’t do this. I went to a tech college, after all – we were on the top 10 list for college piracy! People store the things they download. I’ve seen whole shelves of external hard drives holding this stuff.

    There are plenty of artists and filmmakers who’ve gone independent and use different distribution models (Jonathan Coulton is one who comes to mind). But thinking that others should adopt similar policies doesn’t make it either legal or okay for you to steal from other artists, just because you think they should change their ways. Sorry.

    In conclusion: stop stealing from someone else’s 401(K).

  56. KC says:

    Hi there.

    Your blog is one of the first ones I started following a few months back and after a little while I subscribes to it.

    I think the tone of your writing is just right. I don’t feel you are self-righteous, or talk down to people or that you’re too humble.

    I have found many of your articles extremely interesting and relevant. Others aren’t so relevant to me – I don’t have young children anymore and some of the articles around investments, etc don’t fit as I don’t live in the United States. I love reading your articles and look forward to receiving my emails.

  57. melissa says:

    Just another perspective on the Roth – my husband & I have our Roth IRA through Fidelity, because that’s the company that administers his employer’s 401(k) and stock options.

    We didn’t have any investments besides said 401(k) and options, and we didn’t have cash to throw at a big starting deposit. But I did hear over & over (here & elsewhere) that we needed to be contributing to a Roth. One of the options on Fidelity had no beginning minimum as long as contributions were automated & direct-debited from our checking account. That was easy enough for me, and now we’re putting $100 a month ($50 from each paycheck) into the Roth. I don’t know if this is something they always offer, or if there would be additional fees involved if you don’t have the other accounts we automatically have with them, but it’s something to look into.

  58. Kyle says:

    @stephanie – I also create intellectual property for a living, but I recognize what an absurd concept that is in this day and age. (And I also work in an industry where pay and job opportunities have been decimated by technology undermining our business model).

    No matter how you try to phrase it, no theft occurs if no rightful owner or user is deprived of property.

  59. Eric says:

    @Kyle

    Call it copyright infringement or theft, someone is losing the value of the sale that would have otherwise occurred in order for you to be able to consume the media, be it software, film, music or TV. It is absurd to think that just because it can be re-transmitted losslessly it justifies the act. Just because nobody “lost property” doesn’t make it any less morally repugnant. Trent pretty much sums it up when he makes the point that if you’re downloading and filesharing content, you’re equating the value of that work at $0. And if you’re deriving entertainment out of it, it certainly has some value greater than $0.

  60. My father cosigned a car lease for me a couple of years ago and I have been dutifully paying the $292 monthly since. A month ago my girlfriend, driving alone, totaled the car in an accident. My insurance will not cover anything. The body shop wants $9,000 to fix it and will not take installments. I know I can buy the car, if it was in perfect condition, for $14,000. I still have over two years of lease payments left.

    My credit is shaky. I’d seriously consider bankruptcy but I don’t want to mess up my father’s credit. I see no way out of this.

    Even if you or your readers don’t have advice, I’d be happy if this situation could shine some light on the dangers of leasing, insurance, cosigners, etc.

  61. Kyle says:

    “someone is losing the value of the sale that would have otherwise occurred in order for you to be able to consume the media, be it software, film, music or TV.”

    That’s counterfactual and there’s no proof of it.

    “It is absurd to think that just because it can be re-transmitted losslessly it justifies the act.”

    Every time I watch something on Hulu, it is copied multiple times before it reaches my computer. Your rights stop at the bits on my hard drive, and you have no right to tell me how those bits can be oriented.

    ” Trent pretty much sums it up when he makes the point that if you’re downloading and filesharing content, you’re equating the value of that work at $0. And if you’re deriving entertainment out of it, it certainly has some value greater than $0.”

    Do you value Trent’s blog at zero dollars?

  62. Kyle says:

    Just as it’s tempting to try to label anyone who downloads a thief who just wants something for free, it would be easy for me to label anyone who disagrees as a backward-thinking Luddite who fundamentally misunderstands the nature of property and the freedom of ideas.

    But I won’t, because I respect their position though I disagree with it.

  63. Kyle says:

    Here’s a good place to start for the complexities and controversies of intellectual-property and it’s legitimacy. I by no means am a libertarian, but I think they are some of the world’s foremost thinkers on property rights.

    http://libertariannation.org/a/f31l1.html

  64. Joey says:

    @ Eric:

    I don’t consider myself “better” than anyone. We all start out and end up the same way.

  65. Joey says:

    @ EmmaE:

    It’s not up to me what’s OK for you. You get to figure that out for yourself.

  66. Museum Director says:

    For excellent information on your rights when involved in debt collection, I recommend the following link:

    http://www.yourcollectionrights.com/?KCTrkrIdId=1391994&gclid=CO_-58WHzpgCFQQRswodbHrs1A

  67. Dee says:

    @JeremiahOlson

    How much money does your girlfriend have? How did she total the car? Does she have insurance?

  68. Sarah says:

    Oh, for heaven’s sake, folks. It’s called the “first sale” doctrine. Google it. I can’t believe there are people out there so cowed by the lies of the entertainment industry that they believe that lending or giving away a DVD that they paid for is “piracy.”

    I personally would like to see creators and workers in the entertainment industry get a fair return on their labor. However, it is not an exaggeration to say that their greedy evil legal overreaching has made them one of the significant threats to freedom in this country. They claim the right to control technology just because that technology *might* be used to access their work without their permission. They intimidate and bully people who are making use of their work that is arguably legal, knowing that most people don’t have the wherewithal to resist them. And by being so utterly unreasonable, they’ve managed to build up a generation of kids who don’t respect the laws that would otherwise protect their property. Nice work, guys!

  69. tightwadfan says:

    Paul – I’ve been contacted a couple of times by collection agencies for debts I didn’t owe. I got a letter from them as well as the phone calls. You didn’t say whether you had gotten a letter but if they call again you could get their address to write back.

    All you have to do is send a certified letter with return receipt, saying something like “I am writing because I do not owe the debt you say I owe. Therefore I request that you provide me with written proof of this debt.” There are form letters you can google for this situation. Legally they now have 30 days to provide you with proof and they can’t call you again within the 30 days. In both of my cases the debt was turned back to the original owner and since the debt wasn’t mine in the first place the matter was dropped.

    I think this might work for your situation. they may send you the last invoice for the bill showing you still owe $450. It sounds like even though the hospital forgave your debt, it may have gotten lost or not been recorded in their records. It is a shame you didn’t get something in writing from the hospital stating that the debt had been forgiven that you could use as proof now.

  70. tightwadfan says:

    Trent,

    I too see no self-righteousness in your blog, is Tom reading the same blog as the rest of us? You have always written about others with respect and tact even when you disagree, you’ve never said that your way is the best or only way. You’ve been getting quite a few of these ridiculously off-the-wall criticisms lately and I think some people just want attention so they make bogus, strident accusations to get a response.

  71. Shelly says:

    I just wanted to comment on the sweepstakes/surveys/mystery shopping question.

    While I understand your point, especially with the sweepstakes/surveys things (they can be time consuming for very little return, although you can find surveys that pay well for the time spent), mystery shopping is a whole different thing.

    I’m a mystery shopper. I don’t do very many shops because I’m picky about what I select, but the ones I do usually pay well and allow me to do something for free. For example, I’ve done several shops for a national restaurant chain that were really simple — I go for dinner and order an alcoholic drink to see if they card me. My guest and I get free food and drink, AND I get paid for typing up a quick report. It’s a great way to have a free dinner date with my husband!

    I’ve also had invites to do movie theater auditing — all you have to do is check to see that they’re playing the right trailers, take a few notes on the audience, and I believe you can stay for the movie for free (and get paid for the audit).

    The great thing about mystery shopping is that you can view the available shops in your area and only apply to the ones that interest you. I can’t imagine doing it as frequently as some, but I enjoy doing a shop every once in a while.

  72. John says:

    A comment on Paul’s medical debt.

    My view is that you received a service and should pay the bill regardless of how old it is. One reason our health care system is in shambles is because people don’t pay for the medical services they receive. You mention that it’s “only $450″ so apparently your financial situation has improved in the years since this debt was incurred. Pay the money directly to the hospital, get a receipt which you can than send to the collection agency as paid in full.

  73. Cheri says:

    First and foremost Trent, I was directed to check our your blog by a friend and still reading 4 months later..I thought I was a “frugal” person but I think you have me beat by a long shot..I do admire your resolve not to use bit torrent (or p2p)..I once had that determination not to use these um “options”, however as a user of Napster back in the day (before Sean Fanning got sued) I have alas unfortunately been hooked on P2P ever since..Also, I wanted to tell you that http://www.hulu.com has a pretty nice selection of tv shows on a variety of different networks that you can watch for free! You may already know about it (from their commercials feat. Seth MacFarlane, etc.)but if not, I thought I would enlighten you just the same! Keep up the good work!

  74. Andrea says:

    @Paul,
    You stated that your DW was making payments, but the hospital said they are giving up on asking you for it. Then you technically still owe the money (and by making payments you were acknowledging that you owed it) and in my opinion y’all should pay the debt.

    I dont work for any collection agency or anything like that. I just think that people should pay what they incur in debts.

    You got the benefit of the service, and by not paying what you owe (credit card, medical coverage, cars etc) it makes companies have to charge everyone else a little more to cover for those who dont pay. I dont appreciate that.

  75. Michael says:

    Why do we use the word “theft” for breaking the agreement of a copyright license? Pirating music is refusing to abide by the terms of a contract – either the contract the owner has with the copyright owner or the contract the copyright has with the government. There’s a word for that, but I don’t think it should be theft.

    I’m not saying piracy shouldn’t be an offense, but is it the crime of theft or is it something else? Defining terms might help here.

    We might define digital piracy as “breach of contract.” Copyright owners could make a civil case for damages/compensation because of the monopoly the government grants the holder to distribute that media. Stealing a CD, on the other hand, would still be theft since the property was taken from someone and is now in the hands of a wrongful owner only.

  76. Mister E says:

    @JeremiahOlson

    Why won’t the insurance cover the loss?

  77. mellen says:

    why do people use the term “self righteous” when they just don’t like what you’re saying? if you don’t like the answer (or can’t handle it), don’t ask the question…

  78. I just ordered the Ramsey books and expect to get them tomorrow. I’m excited to see how my daughter takes to them.

  79. Jessica says:

    @JeremiahOlson

    If you had full coverage insurance on the car (which you should since you were not the sole owner) the insurance should pay for the damage. Your girlfriend had your permission to drive the vehicle and should be covered under the policy.

    Insurance companies are notorious for not wanting to pay out on claims and for giving individuals the run around. Review your policy (or have a trusted agent/attorney do it for you, they can be hard reading thanks to all the legalese) to see what kinds of losses they cover, and under what circumstances. I wouldn’t just take “no” for an answer on this one.

  80. Mister E says:

    I’m curious about the “no” on the auto claim.

    I work for an insurer (although not auto and in Canada not the US) and I assure you that they can’t just deny coverage because they feel like it. Insurance, particularly auto, is heavily regulated and generally applicable laws and judicial attitudes fall squarely on the insured’s side, not the company’s. Even giving people “the run around” is very bad practice and certainly not done intentionally. If an adjuster denies a claim that should be paid and the company is taken to court and forced to pay they will incur more costs then had they just paid the claim in the first place and can even earn government censure in some cases or further damages for breaching the idea of utmost good faith. In all such cases their reputation would suffer. I don’t work on the claims side but I imagine that denying legitimate claims would be a good way to find yourself out of work. Insurer’s don’t mind paying legitimate claims, that’s what we do.

    Were you in breach of policy conditions?

  81. Michael says:

    Starting a Roth can kill 2 birds with 1 stone. Since you’ve already paid taxes on the contributions you make, you can turn around and withdraw those contributions without taxes or penalty (just don’t take out any capital gains or dividends). This means that the Roth is perfect to use as your emergency fund (if you can’t swing doing both at once). Put your first few years’ contributions into a money market account so it’s there if you really need it. And if you shop around, you can find one with a minimum that nearly ANYONE can afford. T. Rowe Price requires $50 per month (systematic purchase a.k.a. automatic bank draft). That is a whopping $12.50 per week. I think just about anyone with a steady income can afford that. T.R.P. is also efficiently priced: no sales charges or 12-b1 fees and low expense ratios (0.41% on their extended equity market index fund). Once you build up your account, transfer it to Vanguard. I actually kept my Roth w/ TRP because I’m very happy with them. I also have a rollover IRA at Vanguard. Invest now people! Stocks are on sale.

  82. TJ says:

    My husband has been hospitalized a few times in the last several years. At the time we had private insurance with a large co-pay and we discussed with the hospital a payment plan of $50 a month. Of course there are two bills, one for hospital charges and one for doctor charges. These are intrest free. I also believe there is some law where you can pay a minimal charge for medical bills and so long as you pay every month they can’t send you to collections. Anyhow, we have one bill left for bout $350 and someone calls from the hospital suggesting it would be in our “best interest” to pay this balance off and that it is “aging.” When confronted about the payment plan and asked about collections, etc he had no answer other that the above. I think the hospital was just trying to get the money NOW instead of later. I wish my husband had said…I’ll pay now…50% of the balance. Hey I want to get rid of it too but there is no point if it’s interest free.

  83. no_sked says:

    hospital balance: it was nice of the hospital to forgive the debt several years ago but unfortunately it has come back to haunt you. if you don’t pay it now, then it will cost you atleast that much in time/resources to fight it and the stupid issue will probably resurface in another decade. just pay it, get the documentation to prove it, and be done. you will sleep better at night and get a few less gray hairs… that’s worth more than $450 ;)

    mystery shopping- i have been doing so for several years and it’s not a waste of time. however, i do not see it as a way to make a little extra money. i do things that i normally do [or maybe do things that i would have to splurge on] and just alter my plan slightly to complete the mystery shopping.
    example #1: get the oil changed in my car for “free” instead of paying $30-40 out-of-pocket or listening to my hubsand cuss while he does it.
    example #2: treat my daughter to a popular smoothie instead of paying $3-5.
    mystery shopping can be a way to avoid paying for a product/service that normally costs more than i’m willing to pay; i choose shop evaluations are not difficult or overly time consuming. to me, it’s not much different than using coupons, which is a nominal time investment to avoid spending a significant amount.

    “spend avoidance” is not the same as saving money! i think trent does a good job of spelling out the differences AND providing reasons and methods to do both effectively.

  84. Kathy says:

    Re: Paul and The hospital debt.

    It sounds to me like you are being contacted by a scavenger collection agency. If your debt is past the statute of limitations, it is against the law for this agency to try and collect it. If you do send them money, this will reopen and reaffirm the debt and this delinquent debt will stay on your DW’s credit report for another seven years or whatever the statute of limitations on debts are in your state (in mine it’s seven years) and it will negatively affect her credit score.

    What you need to do is send them a registered “drop dead” letter telling them not to contact you. I would also request in the letter that they provide you written proof of this debt that they allege you owe. If they are reputable and the debt is legitimate, they will do as you ask. Scavenger agencies will not do this. You have rights under the Fair Debt Collection Act and scavenger collection agencies take advantage of the fact that most people do not know what their rights are and they use illegal tactics and intimidation to collect on debts that they have no legal right to collect.

    Just because a collection agency claims you owe money, doesn’t mean you should immediately cut them a check. My DH was harassed by a scavenger agency who claimed that he owed money on a store credit card that had been closed years ago that was paid in full and had no balance when he closed it.

    Scavenger collection agencies are the WORST. They have no regard for the law, either. Collection agencies have to follow the Fair Debt Collection act.

    Do you have it in writing that the original hospital debt was forgiven? The hospital should have given you something that stated the debt was forgiven and you do not owe them money.

  85. Maya says:

    I have a question for Trent and for any simple dollar readers out there.

    I just got my monthly statement from my credit card company, stating that my minimum payment due this month is “$0″. I currently have a balance of about $1,500 on this card.

    Even though money is “tight right now, I would really like to start putting away small amounts of money into a savings account and then focus on paying down my credit card.

    My question is: Should I take the $50 that I normally pay per month on this card and put it toward my savings or should I just pay $50 to my credit card company this month as usual?

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  86. Anne says:

    Allied Interstate is an unlicenced collection agency operating out of Fish Lake, Nevada. You can go on complaints.com to check out all the complaints about them. You do not want to deal with them or give them any money. I checked them out because we were getting three calls a day starting at 8 am from them for about six weeks. No one was there, these were auto-dial harrassment calls. We have no outstanding debts and are on the no call registry which made the calls all that more annoying.

  87. Michele says:

    Hi Trent, I’m a very recent college graduate, and the prospect of job searching right now, in addition to getting health insurance is pretty scary right now. Could you link any articles or books that I could take out from the library explaining health insurance in plain English, for someone like me with no experience with this stuff?

    I’m not sure whether I should be trying for single payer health insurance, or wait until I have a job. My state (NY) doesn’t seem to have any temporary insurance, according to the websites I’ve looked at, but I’m not sure how to tell which website is the real deal, and which one isn’t.

  88. tentaculistic says:

    I totally used Home Buying for Dummies too, and found it extremely useful. I bought/rented several other ones, but kept coming back to the Dummies book. It got dog-eared, highlighted, and all marked up, but I knew all the questions to ask (which didn’t always make the realtors happy) and basically took charge of the process from beginning to end. Great book.

  89. tentaculistic says:

    Debt collection – I got a call like this in January, a debt collections agency that said I owed $51 for a 2008 treatment… and somehow all the letters they claimed to have sent to my address I had left in 2006 weren’t getting through. I freaked out of course (collections!!), then asked for and wrote down 1- her company name, 2- her name, 3- her phone number, 4- her company’s phone number (so I could Google it), 5- the date and location of service, 6- details of service, and 7- exact amount owed. She seemed disconcerted by my asking for that kind of information, which made me really suspicious.

    The company name and phone info matched on Google, and more importantly the hospital agreed that it was their collections agency. I called back and asked for a written bill to be sent to me, which she did (and put a hold on my account so it wouldn’t affect my credit), and after checking out the bill I went ahead and paid it. But I’m glad to see that I wasn’t improperly suspicious!!

  90. Kristine says:

    Thanks for the note about privacy. As a former Creative director, I saw many talented photographers give up and get day jobs because images are too easily downloaded for free. It makes it very hard for new talent to make a living. Rather than encourage creativity, all prating does is stifle potential new voices.

  91. Maya says:

    To Michelle (comment #87): MSN’s website has some advice on buying health insurance.

    Go to msn.com and click on the Money section, then click Personal Finance, then click on Insurance. Once you’re in the Insurance section, scroll down to “Save on health insurance” for more tips. I suggest starting with the “5-minute guide” to health insurance article.

    Here’s the direct link to the “5-minute” article:
    http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Insurance/InsureYourHealth/Your5MinuteGuideToHealthInsurance.aspx

    I hope this helps and good luck with finding health insurance and with all your future plans.

  92. Sharon` says:

    Trent,

    I do love your blog. Maybe because your advice is often just plain Midwestern good sense and I am from Iowa, too.

    What I don’t love is all the attention paid to the people who want to call you “self-righteous”. Please just ignore them. If they don’t like the blog, nobody’s forcing them to read it. When my husband was working retail, they had the 80/20 rule, which basically means that if 20% or less of the feedback you get is negative, you’re doing fine. It seems that 20% or so just LIKE to complain. My humble opinion: Don’t feed the beast.

  93. Here is an update on the car situation. My girlfriend has no money. The question the insurance company wants answered is: where does she live. If it’s with me then they will not cover. If she lives somewhere else then they might cover. The answer is that it depends. My agent suggested getting a lawyer.

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