Since North Dakota adopted its law in 2012, every state now requires a graduated driver license (GDL) program for any teenager to get behind the wheel of a car. And from what I've seen, there is significant evidence that these programs, which compel teens to go through an extensive and lengthy "drill" before graduating to full driver’s licenses, work. From 1996 -- when Florida passed the first GDL program -- to 2010, the death rate for 16-year-old drivers fell 68 percent, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. And 17-, 18- and 19-year-old drivers also had significantly fewer road fatalities. The Centers for Disease Control said in 2010 that the number of fatal crashes involving 16- and 17-year-olds dropped by more than a third, due in part to GDLs. And in the mountainous, winding road state of Colorado, officials cited GDLs for having reduced teenage road deaths by 60 percent in five years. Safer but still costly Auto insurers are quick to cite these statistics when it comes to encouraging state legislatures to adopt even tougher laws controlling teenage drivers. Among the restrictions they want enforced: no less than 65 hours of supervised practice, no other teens in the… (continue reading......)
Interested in buying a home? Then your first question should be: Is it a good investment? And right now the answer is probably yes. Housing values are soaring, up as much as 50 percent in parts of the Sunbelt. Buyers are competing with hedge funds to purchase the home of their dreams, and often are outbid by these "flippers" whose game plan is to sell in another year or two at a higher price. Use caution If this sounds all too familiar, it is. This scenario could be a retread of 2006, just before the overheated real estate market crashed and burned. And that is why many sadder and wiser heads are sounding a note of caution: Don't jump in too soon … or at too high a price. But the real question is: Where is the smart money going? And the answer is: Wall Street is pumping billions of dollars into mortgage insurers, which means that The Street expects the housing market upturn to continue. Here's some background. A mortgage insurer guarantees that when you get a home mortgage, you pay it back. If you were to die, become disabled or lose your job and be forced into foreclosure,… (continue reading......)
Wall Street's greatest talent is to make money with your money. And while Wall Street usually succeeds, you may not. So if your financial advisor, or someone wanting to be your financial advisor, contacts you about investing your Health Savings Account (HSA) somewhere other than in a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) bank account, take a close, hard look at what you are really being offered. Next financial frontier Recent stories show that Wall Street views HSAs as the next financial frontier, since it has already tapped into our 401ks and IRAs. That's because they can count how much we've socked away in these accounts. Americans now have $18 billion in HSAs, according to the Employee Benefits Research Institute, a non-partisan group that studies workers' benefits. And that amount could double by 2015, says one consulting firm, as more and more employers shift employees into them. HSAs are one of the few useful ideas Congress has come up with. It allows pre-tax money to be put aside and spent by those who earned it for their own medical care. It supplements high-deductible health insurance plans by allowing account holders to pay for deductibles and co-pays, medicine and other health care-related… (continue reading......)
The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has been limping along lately, with this puzzle still missing key pieces. But an important part of Obamacare is already here, and you can -- and should -- take advantage: The right to have free preventive health care. It only works, however, if your doctor understands his or her part in the claims process. These screenings include mammograms and colonoscopies. In addition, other preventive screenings may not carry a copayment, co-insurance or deductible. This includes screening for blood pressure, cholesterol, cancer depression and many others. But this doesn't stop doctors' offices from miscoding and turning your routine screening into a diagnostic procedure for insurance purposes. And guess what? Diagnostic visits do have copays or co-insurance. Righting code My wife's eye exam was supposed to be a routine screening. Her health insurance entitles her to one every two years. So she called and made an appointment. But when she read her health insurer's Explanation of Benefits (EOB) after the exam, it said that she owed nearly $100 -- the difference between her doctor's contracted rate with the insurer and her doctor's price for the office visit. So she called her insurance company to… (continue reading......)
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