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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Make Your Tax Dollars Work for You - Take the Credit!

Make Your Tax Dollars Work for You - Take the Credit!It’s tax time again, and every day I hope my W-2 will come in the mail. I am anxious to see how much my husband and I owe the state of Arizona, especially since we didn’t pay any state taxes in 2009. Rather than having state taxes deducted from our paychecks, we decided to give that money to the elementary school run by our church. That’s right – we donated our tax dollars to a school! The money we donated will be used to provide tuition assistance to students in need. We love the school and believe in the work that it does, which is more than we can say about many of the government programs run by the state.

We were able to do this through something called the CTODP - Catholic Tuition Organization of the Diocese of Phoenix. Arizona allows residents to donate up to $500 ($1,000 for married couples filing jointly) to a Catholic school of their choice and get a tax credit. The first time we heard about the CTODP it was late in the year, so we didn’t participate because we had already been paying state taxes all year and couldn't shell out more money. The next year, however, we changed our withholdings so that no state taxes were withheld, and the extra money in our paychecks we donated at the end of the year. We know we might owe Arizona some money if our tax liability is more than the $1,000 we donated, but we are prepared for this. And even though we might still owe a little, we were able to help kids who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend a great private school, rather than funding the state government. Now that’s using my tax dollars the way I want to!

Until hearing of the CTODP, I didn’t know what a tax credit was; I was only familiar with deductions, and I never contributed enough to itemize at the federal level. However, I have learned that there is a significant difference. Tax credits are much more beneficial to taxpayers than deductions. It works like this:

Deductions reduce the amount of income on which you pay taxes. If you make $60,000 and deduct $1,000 for a charitable donation, you will then be taxed on an income of $59,000. Though helpful, this won't make a huge dent. A credit, however, is applied after your taxable income is calculated, and reduces the amount of taxes you actually owe. So if you make $60,000 and owe the state $600 in taxes, and you have donated $500 to a qualified charity, you will then owe the state only $100. You’re shelling out the same amount of money, but you’re getting to choose where it goes, and you’re paying that much less in taxes. (Credits like this currently seem to only be available at the state and local levels, and not at the federal level. Charitable contributions can be deducted at the federal level, though to do this, taxpayers need to itemize deductions greater than the standard deduction determined by the IRS.)

Arizona also offers the Charitable Tax Credit, sometimes referred to as the Working Poor Tax Credit, where you can donate to many different charities and get a dollar for dollar state tax credit - up to $200 for individuals, and $400 for married filing jointly. A list of qualifying organizations can be found at http://www.azdor.gov/TaxCredits/CharitableTaxCredit.aspx. You can get both the CTODP and the Working Poor credits – what a great way to redirect your tax dollars to organizations you want to support! It also seems possible to donate to other private non-Catholic schools in Arizona, though you’d need to investigate this.

Though my experience has been in Arizona, other states offer such credits, to varying degrees. In my research I have come across Idaho, Michigan, and North Carolina, though one article I read claimed that about 20 states offer them. There are restrictions on the types of charities you can support – most are required to help the poor – so if your state offers a credit, get a list of qualifying organizations before donating somewhere. To learn about what your state offers, ask your tax professional, or if you’re doing your own taxes, the IRS has a link to each state web site at http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=99021,00.html. If you are in Arizona, information about the CTODP is at http://www.ctodp.org/, and information about the Working Poor Tax Credit can be found at http://www.azdor.gov/TaxCredits/CharitableTaxCredit.aspx.

It may be obvious, but state tax credits like this only benefit you if you pay state taxes. It’s important for you to know your tax liability, because the credit will only benefit you to that extent. For example, if you are only required to pay $350 in state taxes, and you donate $500 to a qualifying charity, you will not get that extra $150 back. In Arizona, however, you can carry forward any unused credit for up to five years. If your income has remained steady, you can look at last year’s state tax return to get an idea of what your tax liability is this year.

If your state offers credits you qualify for, this is a good time to change your paycheck withholdings since we just started a new year. It’s also a good time to make a resolution to support some good work!

If you’re curious about the history of this type of tax credit, some articles of interest can be found at http://pewforum.org/publications/articles/charitytaxcredits.pdf or http://learningtogive.org/papers/paper63.html.

Take the credit!

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

We Listened To A Lender Go From Making Homes Affordable To Making Modifications Impossible

Strategic Default
I would not have believed this if I did not hear it for myself. I listened while a banks’ “home retention” representative refused to let a homeowner pre-qualify for the federal government program, Making Homes Affordable aka Home Affordable Modification Plan aka HAMP. THE LENDER’S REASON for the refusal: The home owner was “contesting” the foreclosure action started by the same lender. They would not accept his HAMP pre-qualification app over the phone. Mind you, the HAMP program let’s homeowners enter into a temporary 3 month lower payment trial period. During the trial period the homeowner sends the lender the required financial documentation in order to get a permanent modification. The application and approval for the 3 month lower payment trial period usually happens over the phone. The approval is given within minutes after a homeowner provides the lender with his or her income and expense info over the phone. Basically the lender’s “home retention” rep enters the income and expense info into a computer program…then POOF!!!...the home owner can be approved on the spot. However, in this case, the lender refused to let a homeowner apply over the phone because the homeowner hired a lawyer to defend the lender’s foreclosure case.

At times, people will ask me to conference in during phone calls with their lenders. In this case, Paul (name changed for privacy) asked me to assist him with a loan modification, so we called the lender together. It was America's Servicing Company, a division of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. The “home retention" rep went through the standard verification procedures: name, social security, property address, & phone no#. Paul explained to the rep that he was in foreclosure. Paul told the rep that he was advised by his lawyer to call the lender for a loan modification. Paul then asked the rep about the HAMP program. The lender’s rep said “Yes, we provide modifications under HAMP, however you cannot apply over the phone because we were advised that you are contesting the foreclosure action.” Paul and I were totally stunned. I then asked “are you telling Paul that he can’t apply for the HAMP program and get an immediate 3 month pre-trial modification JUST BECAUSE he is defending himself in court” Initially, the rep said the software program would not allow Paul to apply. Then the rep got hung up on the word “contesting”. The rep tried to raise a distinction between “contesting” a foreclosure and “defending” a foreclosure. The rep implied that Paul was trying to claim he “should not be in foreclosure” that’s why Paul is “contesting” the foreclosure. The rep kept asking “Are you trying to say ‘you should not be in foreclosure’”...

Now let’s cut to the chase. It is clear that the lender’s “home retention” rep didn’t truly understand what was going on. Why would the lender deny Paul this option for a loan modification? Why would the lender’s be advised about defending a foreclosure case? What does it mean to “contest” a foreclosure and why does it affect Paul’s ability to apply for HAMP over the phone?

These are my thoughts: The lender wanted to discourage Paul from aggressively defending the foreclosure. It always benefits a homeowner to defend a foreclosure case, even though they owe the lender money. When a homeowner defends a foreclosure case, they invariably gain some leverage and extra time. There are more courts requiring mandatory settlement conferences between homeowners and lenders thus this creates pressures for settlement. It becomes a time consuming, costly affair for the lender. It comes to mind that phone conversations are recorded, so perhaps these recordings can be admissible in foreclosure cases? What if Paul said to the rep “I am not contesting the foreclosure” or “Yes, I should be in foreclosure, I owe you the money”.

If Paul were approved over the phone for the 3 month pre-trial modification, then the foreclosure action would be stalled. Most important, Paul could tell the judge he received a 3 month pre-approval and he expects to receive a permanent modification. This flies in the face of the abysmal record regarding lenders and HAMP. Beginning March 2009 up to including December 2009, there were 787,231 homeowners in a pre-trial period and only 66,465 homeowners with a completed permanent modification. Hmmm let’s see, what if the lenders collect monthly payments during the trial period and the homeowners ends up not receiving a permanent modification. What’s 787,231 homeowners times $1400 per month mortgage payment? That’s about $1.1 billion a month. Now let's multiply that by 10 months. You do the math and read between the lines.

I wonder how lenders treat homeowners who DON'T defend themselves in foreclosure. Are lender's denying the 3 month pre-trial mods to these homeowners? Hmmm.

I want to add that the “home retention” rep was respectful to Paul. In fact, I believe that this rep believed that his employers’ policy was wrong. He was sympathetic and supportive, however he had to do what he is ordered to do…he had to do his job.

At the end, Paul was unable to get the 3 month pre-approval, so Paul will bring it to the judge.

Now you know so take control.

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Heart + Sweat = Cutting Student Debt

Heart + Sweat = Cutting Student DebtFor five years in my late twenties, I didn’t work what most people refer to as a “real job” (though the emotional and sweat equity I expended begs to differ). I was a volunteer in Arizona, and the work I did was as real as it gets! I lived and worked with pregnant women who were homeless or alone, serving as a staff member of a wonderful community called Maggie’s Place. Day after day, I had the extraordinary privilege of watching expectant mothers grow – and not just in their middles! Women came to us uncertain and scared, often having experienced violence, substance abuse, abandonment, or other forms of suffering. In the shelter of our welcoming home, made up of 20+ women and up to eight babies, mothers who lived at Maggie’s Place could learn about parenting, health, education, employment, housing, budgeting, communication, setting boundaries, and a myriad of other subjects in which skills are needed to make it as a single mom. These mothers were the strongest women I had ever met. How was I so blessed to get to share in their lives?

In 2004, I was three years out of college, and growing restless at my job in Pennsylvania. I knew I was fortunate to have grown up in a stable home, and I wanted to do something to help others who hadn’t. I had considered volunteering somewhere full time after high school or college, but didn’t know how it would be financially possible; I had about $13,000 in student loans. I also wasn’t sure where my skills could best be used. However, after several years of feeling unfulfilled in my work, I decided to finally give volunteering a shot.

Though not sure where to start, I discovered a web site for Catholic Network of Volunteer Service (http://www.cnvs.org/), an organization that matches volunteer hopefuls with places that need volunteers. Shortly after I submitted a profile about my background and the type of work I sought, a staff member from Maggie’s Place contacted me. I couldn’t believe it - the community sounded perfect for me! It was in the southwest (I needed a break from the northeastern winters), and seemed to offer most of what I was looking for. The application process began, and I was invited to fly out to Phoenix for an interview in April 2004. The five days in Arizona solidified my desire to volunteer at Maggie’s Place, and upon my return to Pennsylvania, I arranged for a year-long leave of absence from my job. I was sure that I would get the volunteer bug out of my system within that year. Little did I know that I would stay with the Maggie’s Place community for five years!

After a busy summer of tying up loose ends, I loaded down my ’93 Saturn for the long-dreamt-of drive across the country with my best friend. Our week on the road was everything such adventures should be, and I arrived in Phoenix refreshed and excited for this new chapter in my life.

The work of Maggie’s Place was right in line with my values, and my gifts were a good match for the young and growing organization. I loved working with the moms and babies, and I knew I was truly making a difference. Mothers and their babies could stay in our homes for up to six months after the babies were born, so there was time for the moms to really get on their feet. I had thought I was the one who had something to teach, but I learned so much from the moms of Maggie’s Place! Our community was rich and diverse, with each member bringing a unique flavor to the mix. The other volunteers came from around the country, each wanting to use her abilities for the good of others. I was surrounded by a supportive community of people who shared my goals and ideals, and each day brought new joys. The work was hard – don’t get me wrong – but it was meaningful, and I went to bed each night knowing that I had given all I could to whatever challenges the day had presented.

Occasionally I was able to fly back east for family gatherings. Each holiday I was home, relatives would ask how on earth I could afford to be a volunteer. After all, I didn’t earn a salary, I had no 401K, and I had student loans to pay off. What was I thinking? How did I buy stuff? Wasn’t I wasting my hard-earned degree in English education? How could I live without a job? When was I going to rejoin society?

Despite my best attempts to explain, I don’t know if my extended family ever completely got my situation. While volunteering is not possible for everyone, it is often a more viable option than most people think. Here’s how it can work:

The country is full of non-profit organizations that provide services to various populations – families, youth, children, elderly, women, and men; people who are homeless, abused, hungry, disadvantaged, or in crisis due to any number of circumstances. There are projects in education, health and medicine, disaster relief, environmental protection, and community and economic development. There is more than enough work to go around.

Many of these non-profits are run primarily by volunteers, individuals from various backgrounds who commit to work for the organization for a certain amount of time – typically ten to twelve months. If both the volunteer and the placement site desire, these commitments often can be extended. In exchange for their work, volunteers do not earn a salary, but rather receive living stipends. These stipends can range widely, depending on the other benefits the organization offers - I have heard of monthly stipends from $50 - $800 - but basic needs are provided for, one way or the other. If an organization provides housing and transportation for its volunteers, the stipends might be lower. If volunteers are expected to pool their money for a shared apartment and utilities, their stipends will be higher.

For example, during my volunteer time at Maggie’s Place, my monthly stipend was $350. In addition to that, I received room and board, health insurance, access to community vehicles, and auto insurance while driving those vehicles. My only monthly bills were for my cell phone, personal car insurance (since I had chosen to bring my car), and asthma medication. Granted, there weren’t wads of cash left over, but I was still able to afford a few plane tickets home and the occasional meal out. The community was committed to living simply, so it didn’t matter that I couldn’t buy the latest trends or newest gadgets. I was living with formerly homeless women who might have given birth on the street if not for Maggie’s Place; how could I complain about what I didn’t have? Besides, with so many housemates, we could always borrow from someone!

Clearly, I did not choose to volunteer for the financial perks. However, volunteering offered one huge bonus that I wasn’t initially aware of – AmeriCorps Education Awards. AmeriCorps is a federal program in which non-profits can participate, allowing a year or two of full-time volunteering to be possible for many people. At the end of a ten to twelve month term of service, AmeriCorps members are eligible to receive an Education Award of up to $4,725. This money is a voucher that can be used to repay federal and state student loans (Stafford and Perkins loans are common ones), and you may receive two awards in your lifetime - a total of $9,450! This amount is for full-time service; smaller awards are available for part-time service.

You may ask “How do I pay my student loans while I volunteer?” Most federal and state loans qualify for forbearances, which means the borrower doesn’t make payments while volunteering. And while interest accrues while you volunteer, the government will pay that interest when your loan comes out of forbearance. So with two AmeriCorps Awards, plus over $600 of interest that was paid, I was able to knock over $10,000 off my student loans! After applying that money, my loans were paid up for the next seven years, and my remaining balance was quite manageable. Additionally, my husband Jim, whom I married after my first two years of volunteering, served as an AmeriCorps member in the Maggie’s Place office after our wedding. The combined $20,000 off our student loans made it possible for me to continue serving with the community long after I thought I could.

If you have gotten by without student loans, or if you haven’t been able to afford higher education, AmeriCorps Education Awards can also be used to pay for schooling after you have completed your volunteer time. And some schools will even match your award! Not a bad deal, eh?

Before you quit your job, ignore that student loan bill, and commit to your favorite cause, you’ll need to do your homework. Know that:

  • Not all non-profits have volunteer programs or offer AmeriCorps Education Awards, so investigate.

  • There are requirements on the number of hours of work volunteers must log, and regulations on the types of work that can count as AmeriCorps hours; these should be explained to you by the organization you go through to volunteer. I was required to log at least 1700 hours between 9-12 months of service; getting those hours was not a problem.

  • AmeriCorps Awards typically cannot be used to repay private loans, so know who your lenders are.

  • Education Awards are considered taxable income in the year you use them, so be prepared to part with a bit of the money.

  • Awards must be used within seven years of earning them.

  • You don’t have to use the award all at once, and you can split the money between different lenders and/or schools. Full information about AmeriCorps programs can be found at http://www.americorps.gov/.

As a volunteer, my days were full, often with tasks I never thought I could do. I managed a fleet of used, donated vehicles; sorted hundreds of maternity and baby donations; became equally comfortable with the wealthy and the impoverished; assembled and disassembled all kinds of furniture; grew in public speaking, problem solving, and time management; learned all about the social services in the greater Phoenix area; pulled off great celebration parties with little money and donated items that always arrived at the right time; witnessed the births of three babies (and even gave birth to my own!); and saw some of the best and worst characteristics of humanity. Though we did not grow rich monetarily, Jim and I grew rich in so many other ways.

Don’t know where to start searching for a service site that matches your interests? In addition to the AmeriCorps web site, I recommend visiting http://www.cnvs.org/ and http://www.pallotticenter.org/. If you choose the hard but rewarding road of service, you won’t regret it. Happy hunting! All the best.

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Paying for Someone Else's Mistakes

unemployment
I was a log home designer for over five years when the housing market imploded and the credit lines dried up. Once that happened, my job, along with countless others, was cut. I was fortunate enough to qualify for state unemployment compensation (UC) benefits, having worked and earned many times over the minimum requirements. The initial application process was easy enough; I answer employment history and salary questions, and they go back to my former employer to confirm it. All it took was a few days of waiting, and I was sent my Notice of Financial Determination, congratulating me on qualifying for benefits.

My job search started immediately, but with the housing market in a state of disrepair, no one in my area was looking for drafters. Countless resumes and cover letters went out, but next to nothing came back. When it did, I was told either that I was overqualified for the position or that they had decided to restructure from within. The months ticked by and having no firm offers, I became very concerned that I would be left without any form of income to help support my family. A few weeks before my benefits ran out, the President signed into law a bill extending UC benefits for millions of people like me who were in jeopardy of losing them. I was ecstatic, thankful for the lifeline that would help keep my family afloat.

While filing for EUC, I received a notice in the mail from the state saying that my benefit year would be ending, and that I would need to file a new application to continue receiving benefits. I went through the same application process, and within a few days got a letter in the mail with my Notice of Financial Determination. Everything seemed in order; it gave my weekly benefit rate and length of time I qualified for, but it also had some new information. It said that my qualification of benefits hinged on additional information.

I placed another call to the state asking what additional information they needed, and without asking any questions simply told me that I did not qualify for any more state UC benefits and would be kicked back to the EUC program. Once the EUC funds ran out on my claim, there was nothing else that I could do because I no longer had enough credit hours worked to support the claim. I was devastated, having just been told by the state that I qualified for six more months of benefits only to have them take it back.

So I filed my bi-weekly claim the Sunday after that depressing conversation, watching my funds deplete, wondering if I would ever find a job. I checked my bank statement that week, and to my surprise I found two deposits made. One was the EUC deposit, the one that I was expecting. The next was the regular UC from the state; you know the one I didn’t qualify for a few days before...

By this time I had the UC service center on speed dial, and immediately called them up to ask what in the world was going on. The person that I talked to said that I re-qualified for the state UC benefits and never should have been told otherwise. They also stated that I should have been taken off of the EUC program list to avoid overpayment. They proceeded to tell me that with people being laid off and filing for unemployment in record numbers that they had to add extra staff to support all the claims being filed. They told me that the UC service center employees basically train for a week, and after that they are on their own. A week is plenty of time to learn all the ins and outs of the entire UC system, you know.

The lack of knowledge of the people that I was interacting with at the UC service center coupled with a computer glitch that allowed both of the payments to be processed made for a huge mess that could have easily been avoided. I asked what exactly the overpayment meant for me, and all they would tell me was that sometime in the future they would expect it to be paid back. I told them I thought that was fair. After all, it was a mistake and the money did not really belong to me. I asked to make sure that they had taken me out of the EUC program to avoid this happening again, and they assured me it had been taken care of.

Fast forward two weeks when I filed my next bi-weekly claim and the same thing happened. I checked my bank statement to see if they had corrected the error, and alas, they did not. So now I had two more weeks of overpayment to worry about. Another call was placed to the center, but this time I was not as happy. I told them the whole story, about how I was in the wrong system and was overpaid the last time I filed. I explained that I was told that the problem was taken care of and that the overpayment would not happen again. But it did… The only reply I received was that they were terribly sorry, but the money would still need to be repaid.

I thought about that for a moment, and asked why I should have to pay back someone else’s mistake. The first time it happened I had no problem with it. It was an oversight/computer glitch and I was told it was taken care of. The second time, however, was not my fault. If the people that they have on the phones handling the claims knew what they were talking about I would not be in this mess. It was frustrating to basically hear “I’m sorry but too bad… It will still need to be repaid…” They told me that it would be several months before they got the information sorted out, and not to worry about it until then. So I didn’t.

About four months after all of this went down, I was finally sent an informational letter stating that the repayment of benefits would begin with the next time I filed. There was also something about an appeal form, but that was not sent with the packet of papers I received. I called the center again, but they told me that my time to appeal the repayment had passed and there was no way to get out of it. I explained to them that it was their oversight that caused the headaches, but they would not hear it. All in all, I was overpaid a total of seven weeks, which totaled about $2500. So in the end, my checks were cut in half to repay the amount that never should have been as high as it was. The balance has finally been repaid and life goes on, but what a headache it was getting here.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Move Your Money

Came across a great video clip from the folks @ MoveYourMoney.info. Clip features scenes from one of the greatest American films of all time -- It's A Wonderful Life -- and it really helps to make their message as compelling and convincing as possible. I was going to describe the clip here, but I think I'll just post a quote from the final seconds of the four-minute movie instead:

"...If you leave your money with the big banks, they will use it to pay lobbyists to keep Congress from fixing the system..."
Yup.

Here's the clip:

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Expect the Unexpected: How Life Insurance Can Actually Save Your Life

Many individuals who need to secure life insurance policies for themselves and their families neglect to do so because of the dreaded health screening. Not wanting to be gouged for higher premiums based on pre-existing health conditions that may or may not justify the price difference, many roll the dice on the financial security of their families and go without. However, very few people consider that the health screening required by most life insurance companies could actually be a blessing in disguise. Sure, the results of the testing may cause you to pay more than you wanted for life insurance, but what if the same health exam that you have been avoiding could play a role in actually improving your health, or even saving your life?

I know first hand that such a thing is possible – my husband might be dead today if we had not applied for life insurance two years ago.

When I became pregnant with our second and third children (twins) I began to press my husband to get the life insurance that he knew we both needed. We had been married for four years and had one child already, so life insurance should have been a priority long before then. However, my husband, like many others, hated the invasiveness of the required health screening, assuring himself that he was as healthy as a horse and did not need anyone trying to prove that he wasn’t. The reality was that we needed to be taken care of in case of his untimely demise, and knowing that eventually pierced his heart - we soon called a life insurance agent about policies for him and me. The application process went very smoothly; our agent was kind, helpful, and prompt. We even scheduled an in-home health screening for our convenience. Everything about this insurance company and their representatives was impressive – that is, until the nurse came to our home for the health screening.

Our first impression was positive - the nurse was friendly, professional, and surprisingly not preoccupied with trying to discover hidden illnesses or ailments that we had not disclosed. She asked some basic health questions, drew my husband’s blood, and took his blood pressure reading. The reading, however, seemed to confuse her, as if she had not been nursing for very long. Eventually she became convinced that her gauge was broken, and left to get another. Upon her return visit, she still could not figure out what was going on with the blood pressure reading and had to consult with one of the insurance company’s doctors. As a former athlete and someone who knew that he had elevated blood pressure levels in the past, my husband was surprised that this nurse could have botched such a standard procedure; no one else he had ever encountered found such a simple task to be so frustrating. Later that day we got a call from the insurance company. Their doctor advised my husband to be seen by a medical professional immediately. The nurse was no novice – she had just never seen a reading that high before and assumed there must have been a problem with the meter. My husband’s blood work proved that what she had seen was no mistake, but a crisis for an unsuspecting family.

After getting a second opinion from a local clinic, my husband rushed to the hospital for emergency care. Although he felt fine, my husband’s blood pressure was so high that the emergency room doctors were astounded; they had never seen anyone with such high numbers who was not having a stroke. One of the doctors actually asked him, “Did you walk in here?” The reason that they were so shocked was because his blood pressure had been measured consistently at approximately 290/185 – according to the American Heart Association, a normal reading for a healthy adult is a less than 120/80. My husband was immediately hospitalized and placed in the intensive care unit (ICU). Having no experience at all with hospitalization, he asked me why he was constantly being monitored by nurses and visited by different doctors. I explained to him that the ICU is where hospitals treat people who are facing extreme health deterioration and may not have much longer to live. That week he spent in the hospital was a very sobering time; it made us appreciate not only life, but the need to be prepared for the unexpected in life.

Now, after two years of consistent treatment and monitoring, we are ready to search for a life insurance provider again. My husband’s health has improved, but not so drastically that it will not negatively affect our insurance premiums. However, we are extremely thankful that the entire ordeal took place – had it not been for the life insurance company’s health exam, my husband might have lost his life. He recalls how by the time he arrived in the emergency room he had begun feeling a little light headed. Had we not applied for life insurance, that day I might have just advised him to lie down and get some rest, not knowing that he was in grievous, mortal danger.

Now I have a much more meaningful understanding of the old adage, “Expect the unexpected.” Our family can expect this: 2010 will be the year that we find a life insurance provider to suit our insurance needs, even if we have to shop around and pay slightly higher premiums than most.

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