Recommit to Your Money Goals During Financial Literacy Month

From USA.gov – Remember when you made that promise to yourself to get a better handle on your finances this year? Well April is the perfect time to reassess your progress on your money goals as part of Financial Literacy Month. Not sure where to start? Then let us help you! Start by ordering our free Financial Foundations Toolkit to get the advice and confidence you need to make sound money decisions. This toolkit will teach you:

  • How to save for college or retirement when money is tight
  • What you should do right after a job loss
  • What your insurance rights are in serious medical situations
  • How to avoid financial scams and identity theft
  • And more

Then make sure to follow along all month as we share more tools and resources you can use to manage your finances and set money goals you can achieve. Here’s a sneak peek of what you’ll learn this month:

  • Week one we’ll talk all things credit, scams and consumer protection.
  • Week two you’ll find tools and tips you can use to plan a comfortable retirement.
  • Week three we’ll tackle money management throughout all phases of life.
  • Week four you’ll learn how to invest your money safely and wisely.
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Benefits.gov – Equity Investment – Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Program

The Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program, part of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), was created in 1958 to fill the gap between the availability of venture capital and the needs of small businesses in start-up and growth situations. SBICs exist to supply equity capital, long­term loans and management assistance to qualifying small businesses.The privately owned and operated SBICs use their own capital and funds borrowed from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide financing to small businesses in the form of equity securities and long­term loans. SBICs are profit­seeking organizations that select small businesses to be financed within rules and regulations set by SBA. Specialized SBICs (SSBIC) are a particular type of SBIC that provide assistance solely to small businesses owned by socially or economically disadvantaged persons.

SBICs invest in a broad range of industries. Some SBICs seek out small businesses with new products or services because of the strong growth potential of such firms. Some SBICs specialize in the field in which their management has special competency. Most SBICs, however, consider a wide variety of investment opportunities.

General Program Requirements

To obtain SBIC financing, you should first identify and investigate existing SBICs that may be interested in financing your company. Use the SBIC directory as a first step in learning as much as possible about SBICs in your state, or in other areas important to your company’s needs. In choosing an SBIC, consider the types of investments it makes, how much money is available for investment and how much might be available in the future. You should also consider whether the SBIC can offer you management services appropriate to your needs. Only companies defined by SBA as “small” are eligible for SBIC financing.

Loan Terms

This program provides equity investment as opposed to debt financing. The difference is that debt involves a loan that needs to be repaid on certain terms. An equity investment involves an Investment company that buy a piece of your business. They become co-owners in the business. These type of investments are negotiated by the investor and the company and therefore do not have standard terms like a debt financing (loan) program. More information about preparing for the investment is located at:
http://www.sba.gov/aboutsba/sbaprograms/inv/esf/inv_sbic_financing.html.

Application Process

To find information about active SBICs, please visit the National Association of Small Business Investment Companies (NASBIC) website at:http://www.nasbic.org

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USA.gov – March 31: Last Day to Enroll in Health Insurance through the Marketplace

If you don’t have health insurance, or would like to change your coverage, you still have time to apply. March 31 is the last day you can enroll in 2014 coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. After March 31, you won’t be able to apply until the next open enrollment, unless you experience a qualifying life event. Get more information on how to apply for health coverage. https://www.healthcare.gov/how-do-i-apply-for-marketplace-coverage/

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10 Holiday Tips from USA.gov

10 Holiday Tips from USA.gov

10 holiday tips from USA.gov. You can share, e-mail, or print the 10 Holiday Tips by downloading the PDF version at www.usa.gov/holidays.pdf.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Grant Geek Diva!

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One Person’s Entitlement is Another Person’s Safety Net

Well, I can’t actually take credit for the title of this post. The credit goes to my sister Ashley Duncan who said this during a great conversation we were having the other day.

safetynet

But, it got me thinking she is onto something.  It seems to me so much of the time we get caught up in the details of things that we forget about the context.  And, in reality, context is everything.  There are so few absolutes.  For example, we all know the 1st amendment guarantees free speech, but you can still get in trouble if you yell fire in a crowded theater when there really isn’t a fire.  And when I was in public health school many years ago I took a law class called “Public Health Law and Human Rights”, where we studied legal cases about the balance between individual rights and the public good.  For example, if someone was infected with a communicable disease that would put others at risk of catching it by being around them, that person could be forcibly quarantined.  As much as people like to argue for individual rights with no limits, there are practical things that make it complicated because we are part of a broader society whether we like it or not.  I guess that all-too-common saying – “It’s Not All About You!” is true.

I keep hearing all these people argue about government spending and entitlements and complaining about all the money that is being spent on things like welfare and food stamps, so I decided to do some research.  What I found was very interesting.  For one thing, yes, the USDA did fork out more than $20 million in excess financial assistance last yearbut OOPS, it didn’t go to food stamps, it went to farm subsidies for crop insurance.  There were no overpayments for nutrition assistance (AKA foodstamps). (http://tinyurl.com/kqtmn2u). Excess payments averaged $209,000 excess per payout.  I know, I know.  It’s not nearly as bad as the welfare mom who spends $20 on a steak instead of buying 5 packages of Oscar Mayer bologna with that $20.  She’s so irresponsible.

Of course, anyone who knows anything about “entitlement programs” knows that welfare and food stamps are very small outlays when compared with Social Security and Medicare, which is a form of socialized insurance.  Is Medicare an entitlement or a safety net?  Well, it is definitely an entitlement, based on the definition.  But, most reasonable people would also say it’s a safety net for the millions who rely on it.    All these responsible people are so concerned about the outrageous amount of money that the government will have to spend if the United States offers universal health care.  Well, here’s an interesting fact.  While many criticize “socialized medicine”, if you look at the numbers globally, the US has the highest per capita health care costs of most industrialized nations, even those with universal health care (see chart below).  What?  You mean providing a “safety net” might actually be a more efficient use of funding than keeping low-to-moderate income people from having insurance?  What people often don’t think about is that even without universal health care taxpayers are still footing the bill for the trips to the emergency room that uninsured people make to get health care because they don’t have any other way to get it.  That’s an expensive safety net, isn’t it?

File:Total health expenditure per capita, US Dollars PPP.png

If you want some more information about the potential for saving money by offering universal health care, take a look at this interesting site that documents several studies in several states that have been conducted over the past 20 years, showing lots of ways we can save money while offering health care to everyone.  Maybe safety nets are not such a bad investment after all?

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Gallagher Was Right, continued from 10.13.13…

My first question on this topic was “Does anyone remember this little thing called the Democratic Process?” http://wp.me/pqLsD-9I for reference.  Today’s post addresses my next question….

Question 2.  Are certain members of the House of Representatives really stupid, intellectually lazy or just really entitled? cuthand

Is anyone else worried that members of Congress might not understand how the basic democratic process works?  I am.  If this is true, then they are incompetent to do the job they were hired for. This is the only explanation I can think of that makes their actions make sense because smart strategists they are not.  The strategy of shutting down the government to try to stop Obamacare was stupid because shutting down the government isn’t directly related to Obamacare at all.  If they wanted to be smart about stopping Obamacare, there are many strategies they might have employed. They could have done phone campaigns to call consumers and scare them, telling them they shouldn’t log on to healthcare.gov because their computers might blow up or they could have hired hackers to go in and mess up the system.   Many “sheople” would have believed them.  But instead they shut down the government?   How could this affect Obamacare directly? It hasn’t even started yet. Anyone with any knowledge of how government programs are developed and initially implemented would realize this.  Shutting down the government isn’t going to shut down a program that isn’t yet operational. At this point, Obamacare is only in the marketing phase. In fact, I think what the Republicans have done is classic free marketing. I used to date a guy who was an actor in New York City. He was in a production of Inherit the Wind – the play about the Scopes Monkey Trial.  There were always a group of crazy anti-evolutionists who would protest around the theater before the opening night of the play.  He loved it because it was free publicity and helped them have sold out performances every night without having to pay for marketing.  The Tea Pots would have been much better off not talking that much about Obamacare and working within the ongoing legislative policy process that will continue and work to make small changes as the program is implemented.

The lack of willingness to do this, which is basically a lack of willingness to follow the rules, is not an American value I ever learned…it’s called ENTITLEMENT, which I find interesting since the Tea Party folks constantly carry on about the need to change ENTITLEMENT programs.   No one likes entitled people. They are the people who cut in line and demand things they have not earned.  This is a traditional American value?  Really?  Most conservative people I know are the most vocal about having to earn your stripes and having to work to get to the top.  In fact, I could be called conservative in this way. Nothing makes me more annoyed than a whiny 20 year old just out of college pissing and moaning that they aren’t CEO of the company right away and making $100,000 without having to work like everyone else did to achieve success.  I have noticed that entitled people tend to not be very rational either, more like little kids who break things and then have a tantrum because the thing they broke is broken.  Like engaging in behavior that resulted in the shutdown of the federal government, then lodging a protest about the government being shut down. So they are basically having a tantrum to complain about the very thing they created.  Hmmmm….this brings me to my 3rd question, which will be the topic of my next post.  Come back soon!

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Gallagher Was Right – Congress Really is the Opposite of Progress!

When I was in college, I loved the comedian Gallagher.  One night while watching him, just before he took out the Sledge-O-Matic and began smashing watermelons, he said “If pro is the opposite of con, does that mean Congress is the opposite of progress?”  I thought that was hilarious and have remembered it for 20+ years.  Now I don’t think it’s that hilarious. I think he may have been right.  how-much-is-gallagher-worth

I’ve been watching this anti-Obamacare crazy process play out since Day 1 of the government shutdown with a variety of emotions – amazement, anger, dismay, fascination and horror.  I am a really busy person and I don’t usually watch the news that much but I’ve been glued to the TV since it started. I can’t seem to pull myself away.

At first I was perplexed and I guess a little naïve.  I thought no way would people who were voted in to run our country be so irresponsible as to let the government actually shut down for any length of time. Really?  Then as I watched it play out I became disheartened. I admit I don’t do well with lack of reason.  I can interact with any reasonable person and I love to debate even political topics but when people start talking crazy I kind of shut down.  I know that politics can be complicated and it has its games. I get that, but the depths of grotesqueness to which politicians would go to avoid responsibility for their actions and to play with people’s lives left me feeling pretty disgusted.

Here are some of the things I’ve been thinking about and questions that keep coming to mind:

Question 1.    Does anyone remember this little thing called the Democratic Process?

I was under the impression that the Democratic Process was a foundation of life in the United States. In fact, I agree that people have the right to disagree about the specifics of anything, which is part of the Democratic process.  Although I lean pretty liberal myself, I’ve stood up for the Tea Party’s right to express their opinions because I understand that when people feel like government isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do, the people feel that they need to take action. Even if the content of what they think isn’t in agreement with what I think, I respect their passion to move forward on what they believe in. I think it’s important for government to be a little shaken up every so often.  But not SHUT DOWN COMPLETELY!

I thought everyone who completed 5th grade civics class knew the basics about how our government works. Now I’m starting to think I was delusional for believing that.

Here’s a quick refresher.  There are 3 branches of government.

1. The legislative branch AKA Congress which can be further broken down into the House and the Senate.

2. The Executive Office AKA the President; and

3. The judicial branch AKA the Supreme Court.

When someone wants to make a new law, they introduce this little thing called a Bill. Ever heard of it? If you grew up when I did, just think of the SchoolHouse Rock song– “I am Just A Bill Stuck on Capitol Hill”.  A bill can be introduced by a member of the house or the senate or the president or regular old folks like you and me.  To become a law, it has to be approved by both the legislative branch and the executive branch. If it is approved by both of these branches it becomes a law. It can also be reviewed by the Supreme Court if someone thinks it is unconstitutional.

Sorry to disappoint those folks that either forgot about this or live in delusion land, but Obamacare already went through every step of this process. It was approved by the House and the Senate, signed by the President and even reviewed by the Supreme Court.  Further, no one can say it wasn’t discussed ad nauseam as a cornerstone of the 2012 Presidential election.  Romney and Obama discussed it A LOT at every presidential debate. And the American people as a whole voted for Obama as President. And he won by several percentage points.  If the American people were super unhappy about the prospect of Obamacare, then they would not have voted for Obama as President.  It has been being talked about since at least 2009.  No one tried to sneak it through illegally.

It’s a law. Period.  That’s life.  Wake up whiny little Tea Pots. You lost!!!  Please quit whining and do something productive like governing the country you were voted in to govern. If you have issues with the implementation of this law, that is quite all right.  That’s what the political process is.  The details of policies and how they are implemented are changed all the time. In fact, I would almost guarantee that some things about Obamacare will change as it is implemented because it’s an ongoing process.  But there was nothing illegal or sinister about the way it was passed.

My contention with the democratic process is that the process itself is not negotiable.  If you want something to change in the US government, you have to figure out ways to make it change within the framework of the process.  This leads me to my second concern (which will be the topic of my next post, so come back soon!).

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