Tag Archives: healthcare

Hold the pepperoni

With the exception of the mortgage on our house, we live a debt-free life. I was raised to believe that if you can’t afford to buy something outright, then you can’t afford it at all. As a result, I’ve never had a car payment; I never pay interest on my credit card; and my husband and I have been socking away money for our daughter’s college education since she was a baby. We’re as fiscally responsible as they come. Why, then, you might ask, do we, and others in our situation, continue to worry about money? The answer is both simple and imponderable: healthcare.

Statistically, more people are driven to bankruptcy by medical bills than anything else. Horrific illnesses and accidents are rarely foretold, and are, therefore, difficult to plan for. That means that in order to ensure that you can weather whatever unforeseen disasters come your way, you have to plan for the worst case scenario. (If that doesn’t take the joy out of buying a new car, nothing will.)

The process of reviewing our financial portfolio starts out innocently enough. What do we envision retirement looking like? What do we need to amass money for? In our case, we expect retirement to look a lot like life looks now, without the job part. Based on that, the question is, will our investments, social security, and whatnot, be enough for us to live on after we retire, even if we retire at 65? That seems like an optimistic retirement age when you consider that, actuarially speaking, I’m expected to live until 94, and Andrew until 92. (I’m guessing that a deeper dive into my misspent youth might cause the actuaries to adjust down a bit, but we’ll worry about that another time.) Clearly, the longer we work, the brighter the financial future gets, but when dealing with imponderables, it’s best to avoid bright light.

After a thorough review of our portfolio, we’re comforted to know that we’re wealthy enough to have pizza every night for dinner if that’s what we want to do. Unless… What happens if one of us has an unexpected, uninsured illness? If we live the pizza lifestyle, over twenty years we will have spent $109,500. That would surely be enough to cover a medical expense or two. When you start looking at your spending habits in that light, it becomes clear that you’ll never have enough money.

If it’s true that we’ll never have enough money, it begs the question, why bother to worry about it at all? So we spend $15 here, $15 there. What the hell, it doesn’t matter, until it does. Better hold the pepperoni.

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Why not give it a shot?

I went to an acupuncturist for the first time last week. I’ll understand if you’re skeptical; I am too. Nonetheless, I plan on returning for three more visits to see if it will help the pain in my elbow. I have tendonitis, tennis elbow to use the vernacular, and two weeks of Ibuprofen, three times a day, did nothing to alleviate the pain. When I realized that this condition could be with me for months, I decided I had to try to find something to make it bearable.

The acupuncturist is a nice enough woman. A Caucasian, she reinvented herself after giving up a stressful career in high tech. Her bedside manner is a bit lacking, but if she’s successful I’ll happily forgive her. Apparently there isn’t a prescribed pattern of needles for tendonitis, so she opted to treat me for my auto-immune disease, anxiety, and arm pain. Based on the results, she’ll tweak the needle placement on subsequent visits.

I slept better that night than I had in a while. Was it the acupuncture or a coincidence?

This weekend I watched a Chinese film called Farewell My Concubine. Set in Beijing, the story follows two opera singers from1924 through 1977. We see their lives under the rule of warlords, during the Japanese occupation, and through the Cultural Revolution; each era more alien and unfathomable to my Western sensibilities than the one before. But I understand and accept that these things happened, even if I can draw no parallels to my own experience.

To put things in a lighter perspective, if, when I weigh myself, the scale shows that I’ve gained weight, I curse my lack of self-control, and immediately begin plotting how to lose the weight. If, however, the scale says I’ve lost weight, I weigh myself again in disbelief. Why is one accepted without question, and the other subject to scrutiny?

My very limited understanding of acupuncture is that it stimulates the body to release steroids and endorphins. A Western doctor might give me a shot of cortisone, a steroid. If my body can be coaxed to produce its own, why not let it? And if it’s widely accepted that exercise causes your body to produce endorphins, which “react with opiate receptors to reduce our perception of pain,” isn’t it good to be able to do that without half an hour on the elliptical?

There are many things we learn to accept as truth without experiencing them on our own. Here’s one I can try for myself. I’ll let you know how it works.