Money and Business

Unaffordable Care Act

Chart -2015 to 2018

My former company’s retirement plan is conducting their annual enrollment period for healthcare insurance this month. The retirees, their spouses and dependents may select one of several plans during the open enrollment period.

I went on the website to make our selections for the coming year and, much to my annoyance, the premiums are going up yet again. I decided to look at the recent history of the rates and came up with the chart above. The image has neither legends nor scales, but I am going to explain them.

The four vertical cubes represent 2015 through 2018 and the height of each shows the relative amount for the premiums. I limited it to these four years since that is the period when the Obummercare mess has screwed up the system for everyone, not just ACA exchange subscribers.

The chart applies only to Damsel’s insurance premiums that we pay monthly. I did not do the complex analysis of my Medicare and Medigap (for the 20% that the .gov doesn’t pay) which I may do one of these times. Below are the results according to the chart above:

  • Increase from 2015 to 2016 – 10%
  • Increase from 2016 to 2017 – 30%
  • Increase from 2017 to 2018 – 12%

That’s a whopping total of 52% increase over a period during which we realized NO additional cost of living compensation. We are on virtually a fixed income. The last Social Security cost of living increase was exactly canceled out by an increase in my Medicare part B premiums.

This is yet another example of how the Government screws us up by trying to “help” us.

RV Shopping

RV Shopping

So how does this Thor Palazzo 33.2 look parked in front of or house? Just kidding – the image is a composite of our abode with a transparent .png of the coach lifted from the Thor Palazzo website.

We have been giving some serious thought to upgrading our motorhome even though we only acquired it last December. We have found that there are some shortcomings with our RV choice. The three major things we want to improve upon are: 1) engine cockpit noise, 2) rough riding suspension (like the truck it really is) and 3) the lack of air conditioning capacity.

The latter item is the big one on that short list since we visit deserts in the summer. Hell, we LIVE in a desert in the summer. The A/C is an 18,000 BTU unit but fails miserably when it’s 110 outside. We’re lucky if it gets the inside temperature down to 95° under those conditions.

There are a couple of RVs we’re looking at to resolve the problems above. Each of them under consideration likely solves the three problems described.

We also have a wishlist above and beyond the short list that I won’t elaborate on here, but Damsel would be pleased to have a washer/dryer stack on-board, and we both like the idea of extra living space when pop-outs are deployed. Further, we can’t afford to add more than a couple feet in length over the 32 footer we have if we’re going to be able to get it through our RV drive.

In my research, I have only found a couple of floorplans that meet the length limitations while having a few features that we like (and some that we don’t). I think that we might have to take some time in doing trade off evaluations to make a final decision.

A Twentieth Century Icon – Howard Hughes

Howard R. Hughes, Jr. 1904-1976Between 1965 and 1980, I was employed at Hughes Aircraft Company, generally at the Culver City Facility that contained both the Hughes Aircraft Company (which developed and built electronics systems) and the Hughes Tool Company (which developed and built aircraft and a few oil drilling tools). Sort of backwards, I know, but so were a lot of things in the Hughes Empire.

I found the long-lost poster seen at the right today when I was opening a picture frame to scan in a certificate I earned in my Ham Radio activities (DXCC for those who know) and found the poster was in the same picture frame. Frankly, I cannot remember putting it in there, but there it was in near-perfect condition. I scanned in my certificate (for another purpose) and also this poster, since I was scanning.

IMAGE: Iconic Howard Hughes portrait along with some of the Hughes legacy icons. Click on the image to enlarge to poster size.

Since I was suddenly dropped into the topic of the famous Howard Robard Hughes, Jr., I went out to Wikipedia and looked him up. I found an extremely interesting entry about Hughes’ life and times, much of which I had been previously unaware. It was intriguing and I was riveted to reading it all the way through, disregarding the references, of course. I can’t attest to all of it being true, but since I was there towards the end of Hughes’ life, I know some of it is gospel.

I never met the man, but others I knew and trusted told me of times when they had seen him come to Culver City for various visits in which they had caught a glimpse or two of the man. He had mostly gone full reclusive after I had been there a year or two.

If you’re interested in icons like Hughes, I recommend reading the Wikipedia Article (disclaimer – I can’t guarantee any of it is true, but it IS interesting).

Gas Under Two Bucks

Under $2Gas prices have been coming down all over the country since the summer season ended. The lowest prices here in our town are still over two per gallon, but when we were going down to the Northwest Valley today, we saw gas advertised for under $2.

Having recently made a commitment to a new gas consumption entity, we have been tracking gas prices. When we take delivery of the new beast after Thanksgiving weekend, we will need to top off the 80 gallon tank. Searching on Gas Buddy reveals a lot of prices near the delivery location to be just a shade over two bucks; hopefully, those will go down by the time we get there.

One of the business magazines (I don’t link to any Bloomberg sites because they are rabidly anti-second-amendment) speculates that gas prices could fall to $1.70 or below by Christmas. That will be good for us since we will be going to Palm Desert California one more time before then and gas will probably keep coming down in price.

Considering Retirement Alternatives Planning

IRA Calculator (click on the image to enlarge)

Hmmm . . . I guess the acronym for the title of this post is CRAP. Oh well, that is not important.

I was thinking about the eventuality of me not being here for the Damsel or vice versa. We each have our own IRAs and have each other as beneficiaries. I wanted to see what would happen to my Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) amount should I not be here or what the withdrawal implications of hers would be if she were to be gone. Hard stuff to think about but it’s gotta be done.

I looked around on the (insert famous savings institution here) website and did not find much information on my specific concerns. Next, I used an on-line search engine with appropriate keywords and found several links. One link to the Charles Schwab IRA Calculator proved to be the exact information I needed to know since it was specific to the beneficiary of an inherited IRA.

I needed to enter several relevant items: the balance of the account as of 12/31/14, date of birth, date of death, type of inheritance (spouse), beneficiary’s date of birth and an estimated annual rate of return. The calculator itself updates immediately with each new entry. I actually like this calculator better than the one found on my IRA holder website.

The answer to my original question of “what happens if . . . ?” is – nothing! When I go, she inherits the IRA just as it is and will continue to have the required minimum distributions just as it does today. If I should inherit her IRA, RMDs won’t be necessary until the year where she would have turned 70½ and the distributions would be based on her date of birth, not mine. The IRA distribution scenarios are identical whether we’re here or not.

Banks and Bankers

bucks.pngAfter we sold the property in Kalifornistan, we were relieved at last from the jumbo mortgage and the ludicrous L. A. County property taxes, not to mention the cost of insurance, utilities and upkeep. All of a sudden, there was a place in the budget for putting some money away, rather than allocating funds to the aforementioned money sinks. That was the good news.

The bad news is that when the mortgage balance went to zero and our combined checking and savings account were less than a specific (and large) minimum, the bank where we held the mortgage began charging us about a dollar a day in “fees.” It seems that when we did some refinancing a few years ago to provide the funds for building the Arizona home, “they” required us to sign up for this fancy bank product which provided brokerage services, bonus interest rates, bigger discounts, and fee waivers for many common banking services, none of which we needed.

Damsel and I are 15 and 33 year members of two credit unions whose memberships were available as benefits from previous employers. Both have competitive interest rates for the savings accounts and the checking accounts are free of charge. Plus, our only credit card is issued from one of the CUs (we don’t use it much, but it’s good to have).

So, I fired the bank today. It was the obvious thing for us to do. I electronically transferred the funds out of the bank to our joint savings where we have our retirement accounts. I went to the bank branch office here in town and asked them to close the accounts, which they grudgingly did.

While having a branch here in town was convenient for us to deposit checks, etc., we now can electronically deposit our checks to either credit union via scanner or smartphone. That is even more convenient than visiting the local branch. I think we did the right thing in firing the commercial bank.

Exiting California

Lisa Benson Cartoon

We are now completely disassociated with Kalifornistan, save for our friends and relatives there. We will go back for visiting purposes, but our money and property will be elsewhere.

And, we’re not the only ones leaving the formerly Golden State. Millions of retirees, like us, are out of there. Plus, businesses and manufacturing jobs are moving. The Lisa Benson cartoon above adds some snark, but a very good article by Daniel J. Mitchell links the changes in California to a steady flow of jobs to Texas and other places.


Much of my writing is focused on the real-world impact of government policy, and this is why I repeatedly look at the relative economic performance of big government jurisdictions and small government jurisdictions.

But I don’t just highlight differences between nations. Yes, it’s educational to look at North Korea vs. South Korea or Chile vs. Venezuela vs. Argentina, but I also think you can learn a lot by looking at what’s happening with different states in America.

So we’ve looked at high-tax states that are languishing, such as California and Illinois, and compared them to zero-income-tax states such as Texas.

With this in mind, you can understand that I was intrigued to see that even the establishment media is noticing that Texas is out-pacing the rest of the nation.