Saving for retirement depends on whether you listen to The Beatles or Bon Jovi

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The United States may be feeling the pain of tariffs now, but they will hurt China in the longer term, says former Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein.

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8 simple tricks for saving more money

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Energy-saving solutions let homeowners cut costs while helping the environment

If you’re still using an old sprinkler system, you could be wasting water — and paying an unnecessarily high water bill.

Rachio, a smart sprinkler company, offers technology that is installed directly into your home irrigation system. Once the hardware is in place, you can connect to it through your Wi-Fi.

From there, you can control how the different zones of your lawn are watered. If you have tomato plants or a section of your lawn you want watered more frequently, for example, you can program the system to make those areas a priority.

Rachio’s technology gives you a few options for scheduling your lawn’s watering.

A fixed schedule lets you schedule watering on certain days, at certain times, for certain lengths of times and in certain areas of your lawn.

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A flexible monthly schedule lets you schedule your watering for every month, based on climate data and your geographic location. A flexible daily schedule updates every day based on the soil’s moisture.

Through an app, you can control the system remotely. That means you can check your phone to track your water usage, skip a scheduled watering or turn your sprinklers on.

The system is voice-enabled, so you can ask Google or Alexa to turn off the sprinkler if you have visitors coming and you do not want them to get drenched.

The company recently launched its third-generation product. The price ranges from $229.99 to $279.99, based on how many zones you want it to cover.

The company estimates its customers have saved more than 36 billion gallons of water. That can lead to lower water bills. Some municipalities will offer a rebate for purchase of the product.

“Across the board, all of our customers are seeing some sort of savings after using Rachio,” a company spokeswoman said.

Drug Price Controls Could Cost in Access to Life-Saving Medications

Drug Price Controls Could Cost in Access to Life-Saving Medications

As the Trump Administration finalized a new regulation designed to lower prescription drug prices through the transparency of making costs known through advertising, two Republican senators also introduced legislation to cap domestic pricing at foreign levels.

It’s a proposal that Axios has called a “sharp left turn” for otherwise conservative senators and something “that could have been written by Bernie Sanders.”

Project 21 Co-Chairman Stacy Washington, in a Kansas City Star commentary, criticizes the idea:

That might sound like the sort of America-first policy we need to reduce health care costs. But it’s not. Though unquestionably well-intentioned, Hawley’s bill would likely backfire and deprive Americans of lifesaving medicines.

The “Transparent Drug Pricing Act of 2019,” sponsored by Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Rick Scott of Florida, would – like the Trump Administration’s rule – make the costs of drugs more readily available to patients and interested consumers. But it would also prohibit the pharmaceutical industry from “charg[ing] American consumers more for prescription drugs than they charge consumers in other industrialized nations like Great Britain, Canada or Germany.”

Stacy warns that Americans who now enjoy top-rate, high-quality health care have “too much to lose” in embracing prescription drug price controls.

In her commentary, Stacy explains the reason why drugs can sometimes cost so much in America compared to other countries (a “benefit” that comes at a cost):

But there’s a reason for this price disparity. Many other countries set strict caps on drug prices. For instance, Canada’s Patented Medicine Prices Review Board has the power to force drug companies to lower prices. The United Kingdom simply refuses to cover drugs that bureaucrats deem too expensive.

Such restrictions make drug companies unable or unwilling to sell their products in many foreign countries. Americans have access to 95% of cancer drugs released worldwide between 2011 and 2018. But Canadian patients have access to just 58% of those medicines. Patients in the United Kingdom have access to just 74%…

Ultimately, Hawley’s bill would just bring foreign price controls stateside. That’s bad news for drug companies, which already face massive barriers to success. Bringing a new drug to patients is expensive, time-consuming and risky. Only 12% of experimental treatments ever make it to market. All told, it costs approximately $2.6 billion and takes up to 15 years to create a single drug, according to the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development.

Drug companies spend a lot of money to develop new and innovative medications, and they need to recoup their spending on these and failed drugs through market pricing. This is allowed in the United States, but other countries sometimes demand and impose the lower prices. This may cost those countries in terms of the timeframe for the drugs becoming available or their availability altogether. The inability to make back its investment may well keep the pharmaceutical industry from being able to move forward on the research and development of new and improved drugs.

Stacy adds:

America has led the world in drug development for decades. Since the turn of the century, the U.S. pharmaceutical industry has invested more than half a trillion dollars developing new drugs. More than half of the world’s new cures come from U.S. labs…

Hawley’s bill would stop these advancements dead in their tracks. Price controls would deter research and development investments. Today’s incurable diseases might remain incurable forever.

To read all of Stacy’s commentary – “Missourians Would Lose Under Josh Hawley’s Well-Intentioned Drug Pricing Bill” – in the Kansas City Star, click here.

I’m financially unfaithful to my partner

The irony was that Jackson worked at a financial institution and was even an interim CEO at one point; she knew how to budget and run an organization. But she wasn’t carrying that knowledge into her own life. After leaving her job—with the intent of starting her own business—Jackson was unemployed for a year and burned through $50,000 of her 401(k) savings. “It was pretty much a $50,000 vacation for a year,” she says. “After I blew that money, I tried to get back into the workforce, but it was a time when jobs were down. So I couldn’t even get a job in my industry.” Jackson was forced to move back home with her family when she found herself out of money. “That was very humbling, to say the least,” she says. “Having to ask for money for gas to go on an interview is extremely humbling when you almost made six figures less than two years prior.”

That was the turning point for Jackson, when she was forced to learn the value of saving and investing. Now, she’s in a relationship with someone she calls an investor—but she hasn’t fallen into her old habits of lying about money. “He wants me to invest everything, but that’s going to take away my spending power,” she says. “I told him, you’re going to have to talk to me and tell me how I can spend some of my money on investing to increase my spending power in the future. And once I started teaching him how to speak in my language and then I started learning how to speak in his investor language, we could have a great dialogue.”

Jackson steers clear of certain places and sites now, she says. “I’m not going to go to the bar every day, even though I may be tempted to,” she says. When she does go out with friends or coworkers, she often carries cash so she can only spend a finite amount of money. Every day, she puts on different hats—that of a spender, investor, and giver—to manage her money responsibly. “I’m a financial fornicator,” she says. “I’m addicted to spending money. Spending and being a spender is not bad, but I was addicted to overspending; I got a significant high off of spending a significant amount of money. So every day, I’m tempted to spend money.”

I didn’t tell my boyfriend about all my savings—or my $15,000 raise 

Unlike Jackson, Jennifer* was dishonest with her ex-boyfriend not because she was spending too much money—but because she was not spending enough, according to her partner. For six years, Jennifer has received financial assistance from her parents, usually about $600 or so a month. Jennifer held onto most of the money that came from her parents—whether it was a gift for her college graduation or monthly financial support. “So I have all that money saved and never told my boyfriend about it,” she says. 

Jennifer describes him as a “very, very, very big spender” and says that as a saver, she already felt significant pressure to loosen her purse strings. She worried that divulging her financial standing would only make the problem worse. “It’s always been a pain point in our relationship,” she says. “I’m very thrifty. But I consider myself a person who spends money in a smart way. I will treat myself here and there, but I’m very good at saving money.” Since her ex was already trying to exercise control over her spending habits, Jennifer found it easier to lie about her money. Then, she could fend off his complaints by saying she couldn’t afford to spend more freely. 

Jennifer used the same logic when she got a sizable promotion: She went from making about $45,000 to more than $60,000 and chose not to tell her ex about her raise. “I just didn’t want to talk about it anymore,” she says. “I didn’t want him to push me to spend money that I didn’t want to spend. I also saw him spending money in a way that I would have never supported–I judged him for that a lot, and I thought it was stupid of him. I was actually saving more money every month even though I was making significantly less than him.”

The top 6 things Americans are saving for today

Many of us struggle to save money, especially when life’s temptations get in the way. It’s therefore encouraging to see that U.S. adults have their sights set on a number of critical goals. Here are the top things Americans are saving money for, according to GOBankingRates.

1. Retirement

Your golden years aren’t going to fund themselves, and while Social Security will help foot the bills, it’ll only cover a portion of your expenses during retirement, especially if you want to live comfortably. That’s why it’s crucial to save on your own during your working years, and thankfully, 29% of Americans are focusing on retirement as their primary savings goal.

This year, you can contribute up to $19,000 to a 401(k) if you’re under 50, or $25,000 if you’re 50 or older. If you don’t have a 401(k) through work, you can save up to $6,000 in an IRA if you’re under 50, or $7,000 if you’re 50 or older.

Even if you can’t get anywhere close to maxing out either account type, saving smaller amounts over time will work wonders for your nest egg. Case in point: Socking away just $100 a month over a 45-year period will leave you with $343,000 in retirement funds, assuming you invest your savings at an average annual 7% return during that time.

2. A home

Second to retirement, buying a home is what Americans are targeting their savings for, with 27% wanting to become property owners. There are plenty of good reasons to buy a home, such as the tax breaks and stability involved. And in some cases, a home can be a lucrative investment.

If you’re eager to buy a home, aim to save enough for a 20% down payment, as this will help you avoid primary mortgage insurance, or PMI. PMI is a premium that gets tacked onto your monthly mortgage payment, thereby making homeownership more expensive for you.

At the same time, read up on the costs of owning a home. Aside from property taxes and insurance, you’ll also need to worry about upkeep, so make sure you can swing those maintenance and repair costs on top of the other expenses you’ll face.

3. Vacation

Taking vacation might seem like a frivolous goal, but there are actually a number of health benefits involved. Unplugging for several days at a time could be crucial in alleviating stress and avoiding burnout at work.

A good 20% of Americans say they’re saving for a vacation, which a far better approach than racking up debt in the course of getting away. And while there’s nothing wrong with using some of your hard-earned cash to take a trip, make sure you’ve tackled your more pressing financial goals first before allocating money to things like hotels and airfares. In a worst-case scenario, there’s always the option to take a staycation, which will still give you the break you need.

4. A car

An estimated 20% of Americans are socking away funds to buy a car. Given that many jobs aren’t accessible by public transportation, a car is a solid investment in your career and quality of life. But before you spend a small fortune on a new car, consider buying a used vehicle instead. New cars depreciate drastically the second you drive them off the lot, and if you buy a used vehicle from a reputable source, you might slash your monthly car payments in half without incurring too many extra maintenance costs.

5. College

The cost of college seems to be going nowhere but up, so much so that Americans now owe over $1.5 trillion in student debt. The fact that 14% of U.S. adults are saving for college is therefore a good thing, as it might lead their children to take on less debt in pursuit of an education.

If you’re going to save for college, however, it pays to do so efficiently, and to this end, you should consider opening a 529 plan. These plans offer tax-free growth on your savings so that once you fund your account, you won’t pay taxes on investment gains provided you use that money for qualified education purposes. Some states offer tax incentives for funding a 529 as well, so it pays to explore your options and see which plan best suits your needs.

6. Child- and family-related expenses

Having children can throw your finances for a loop, which explains why 13% of Americans are saving to absorb the extra costs that may be in store for them. If you’re having a child, you’ll need to not only account for expenses like healthcare, food, clothing, and supplies, but also, child care.

Though the cost of child care will vary depending on where you live, infant care in a day care center now costs $211 a week on average, while a nanny costs an average of $580 a week. Saving ahead of time for this expense is therefore a very wise idea.

Saving money is by no means an easy thing to do. The upside? If you’re good at it, you’ll achieve your most important financial goals without racking up debt or stressing over money in the process.

___

The $16,728 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook

If you’re like most Americans, you’re a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known “Social Security secrets” could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. For example: one easy trick could pay you as much as $16,728 more… each year! Once you learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we’re all after. Simply click here to discover how to learn more about these strategies.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

These people in their 30s are doing a simple thing to get rich. Here’s what they learned

Patel, who has already paid down his $40,000 in student loans, says the best piece of advice he was given was to start early and to have a goal. “That’s the most important, the goals,” he said. “Why are you doing all this stuff?”

Never jump on the bandwagon, Patel says, even when you see everyone else doing something. It’s too tempting to give into momentarily impulses and moods. You put money into stocks, then the market falls, then you’re tempted to dump the stocks and flee the market. “It’s the opposite of what they’re supposed to be doing,” Patel said.

Whatever you do invest in, Patel says, you should know very well, as Warren Buffett says. Learning your investment backward and forward is a No. 1 rule.

Doing a Google search on an investment isn’t enough. Watching HGTV isn’t enough to get you into real estate investing. The home-flipping network makes it seem very easy.

“It’s not,” Patel said.

The hardest thing about investing, Patel says, was coming up with the capital in the first place, since the cost of living in Connecticut is high. “Buying real estate takes around $50,000 or $60,000 to buy a property,” he said. “You need to do your homework on the financing options.”

Lifestyle creep is a real danger, Patel says. “You want the better car, a nice watch, nice clothes,” he said. “At a certain point you can enjoy some material things, but you have to keep your lifestyle down to earth.

“You can’t have it keep going up and up and up.”

Check out 5 Money Lessons Everyone Should Know by Age 30 via Grow with Acorns+CNBC.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.

The Top 6 Things Americans Are Saving For Today

Many of us struggle to save money, especially when life’s temptations get in the way. It’s therefore encouraging to see that U.S. adults have their sights set on a number of critical goals. Here are the top things Americans are saving money for, according to GOBankingRates.

1. Retirement

Your golden years aren’t going to fund themselves, and while Social Security will help foot the bills, it’ll only cover a portion of your expenses during retirement, especially if you want to live comfortably. That’s why it’s crucial to save on your own during your working years, and thankfully, 29% of Americans are focusing on retirement as their primary savings goal.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

This year, you can contribute up to $19,000 to a 401(k) if you’re under 50, or $25,000 if you’re 50 or older. If you don’t have a 401(k) through work, you can save up to $6,000 in an IRA if you’re under 50, or $7,000 if you’re 50 or older.

Even if you can’t get anywhere close to maxing out either account type, saving smaller amounts over time will work wonders for your nest egg. Case in point: Socking away just $100 a month over a 45-year period will leave you with $343,000 in retirement funds, assuming you invest your savings at an average annual 7% return during that time.

2. A home

Second to retirement, buying a home is what Americans are targeting their savings for, with 27% wanting to become property owners. There are plenty of good reasons to buy a home, such as the tax breaks and stability involved. And in some cases, a home can be a lucrative investment.

If you’re eager to buy a home, aim to save enough for a 20% down payment, as this will help you avoid primary mortgage insurance, or PMI. PMI is a premium that gets tacked onto your monthly mortgage payment, thereby making homeownership more expensive for you.

At the same time, read up on the costs of owning a home. Aside from property taxes and insurance, you’ll also need to worry about upkeep, so make sure you can swing those maintenance and repair costs on top of the other expenses you’ll face.

3. Vacation

Taking vacation might seem like a frivolous goal, but there are actually a number of health benefits involved. Unplugging for several days at a time could be crucial in alleviating stress and avoiding burnout at work.

A good 20% of Americans say they’re saving for a vacation, which a far better approach than racking up debt in the course of getting away. And while there’s nothing wrong with using some of your hard-earned cash to take a trip, make sure you’ve tackled your more pressing financial goals first before allocating money to things like hotels and airfares. In a worst-case scenario, there’s always the option to take a staycation, which will still give you the break you need.

4. A car

An estimated 20% of Americans are socking away funds to buy a car. Given that many jobs aren’t accessible by public transportation, a car is a solid investment in your career and quality of life. But before you spend a small fortune on a new car, consider buying a used vehicle instead. New cars depreciate drastically the second you drive them off the lot, and if you buy a used vehicle from a reputable source, you might slash your monthly car payments in half without incurring too many extra maintenance costs.

5. College

The cost of college seems to be going nowhere but up, so much so that Americans now owe over $1.5 trillion in student debt. The fact that 14% of U.S. adults are saving for college is therefore a good thing, as it might lead their children to take on less debt in pursuit of an education.

If you’re going to save for college, however, it pays to do so efficiently, and to this end, you should consider opening a 529 plan. These plans offer tax-free growth on your savings so that once you fund your account, you won’t pay taxes on investment gains provided you use that money for qualified education purposes. Some states offer tax incentives for funding a 529 as well, so it pays to explore your options and see which plan best suits your needs.

6. Child- and family-related expenses

Having children can throw your finances for a loop, which explains why 13% of Americans are saving to absorb the extra costs that may be in store for them. If you’re having a child, you’ll need to not only account for expenses like healthcare, food, clothing, and supplies, but also, child care.

Though the cost of child care will vary depending on where you live, infant care in a day care center now costs $211 a week on average, while a nanny costs an average of $580 a week. Saving ahead of time for this expense is therefore a very wise idea.

Saving money is by no means an easy thing to do. The upside? If you’re good at it, you’ll achieve your most important financial goals without racking up debt or stressing over money in the process.

How to Overcome the Top Money Worries Americans Face

Financial worries are a fact of life for most Americans, and there are some common areas of concern that affect almost all of us. In fact, a recent survey conducted by Northwestern Mutual showed that 59% of Americans are worried about the rising cost of healthcare; 55% are concerned about unplanned financial emergencies; 53% worry about unexpected health emergencies; 48% worry about their income; and 48% worry about how much money they’re saving.

With so much to be concerned about, it’s not surprising that the same survey found money was the dominant source of stress for Americans, ahead of worries about both personal relationships and work issues.

And while these issues are worth worrying about, stressing about them won’t fix them. Instead, it’s a good idea to take a few concrete steps to tackle these big areas of concern so they can stop causing anxiety. Not sure how to do that? Here are some suggestions for alleviating the biggest financial worries most Americans face. 

Image source: Getty Images.

How to handle rising healthcare costs and plan for unexpected health emergencies

Healthcare has gotten more expensive in recent years, with healthcare costs outpacing inflation. As care prices rise, it’s no wonder so many families are worried about how to handle both higher prices for routine procedures and big costs for major emergencies.

In order to be prepared to cover costs if you or a loved one gets sick:

  • Make sure you have the right insurance coverage: If you anticipate having high healthcare needs, it’s worth paying higher premiums for more comprehensive coverage. Consider past healthcare spending and future life changes — such as having a baby or planned surgeries — when selecting your policy during open enrollment each year. If you buy individual insurance, check Healthcare.gov annually to see if you could be eligible for subsidies, and compare prices on policies in your area. 
  • Invest in a health savings account (HSA)If you have a qualifying high-deductible healthcare plan, you can take a tax deduction for money invested in an HSA. There are annual limits on how much you can invest, and you should always try to max out your HSA whenever possible. Unlike flexible spending accounts (FSA), which must be provided through an employer, you can open an HSA yourself with any brokerage or financial institution. And unlike many FSAs, you don’t lose the money you didn’t spend if you invest in an HSA. Funds can be invested and allowed to grow from year to year. When you withdraw money from your HSA, you also don’t pay taxes on withdrawals, which means you benefit from both tax-deductible contributions and tax-free growth. 
  • Talk with your doctor about keeping care costs down: A study from Duke University found costs rarely comes up in discussions between doctors and patients, with financial issues broached in only about 30% of clinic appointments. In cases where cost was brought up, cost-savings strategies were discussed in close to half of all cases. These strategies include switching pharmacies, strategically timing tests after deductibles are already met, and switching to lower-cost treatments. 
  • Take advantage of free preventative care: Most insurance policies, even those with high deductibles, cover disease screening and other preventative care. By taking advantage of all of this free care, you can stay healthier and hopefully catch problems before they become hugely expensive issues. 

How to prepare for financial emergencies

Financial emergencies are another major concern for most Americans, largely because most people don’t have the cash to cover unexpected expenses that crop up. But by planning in advance for inevitable emergencies, you won’t have to worry about a surprise cost you can’t pay for.

The best way to make sure you’re ready for a financial emergency is to have an emergency fund in a dedicated savings account. This fund should ideally have three to six months of living expenses. Saving this much is likely to take a long time, but you can start by saving roughly $500 to $2,000 for a fund that will cover most emergencies.

If you get a tax refund or a bonus at work, putting this money into a savings account is a great way to get your emergency fund started. You could also pick up a side gig temporarily until you’ve saved up a few hundred or a few thousand dollars for an emergency fund. Or you can sell unnecessary items to build up your fund quickly.

You can also work on growing your emergency fund over time. Try to cut back as much as possible on spending until you’ve got this money saved, foregoing eating out and other unnecessary expenses until you’ve got your cash cushion. If you save aggressively at first, you can build up at least a small fund and then work on growing it with automated monthly contributions of $50 or $100, or as much as you can afford. Once you have an emergency fund, leave the money alone unless a true emergency crops up. And if you spend the money on an emergency, cut back on spending again and work to aggressively build your fund back up. 

Since this process takes time, you may also want to look into applying for a 0% APR credit card, which is a card that will charge no interest on purchases for a limited time after the account is opened. Most accounts give you 12-15 months interest-free. Keep this card available to cover emergency costs while you work on building up your emergency fund so you won’t have to worry about paying interest should an unexpected expense happen to you. 

What to do if your income is too low

Boosting income is a bit trickier than the other items on this list, but there are definitely steps you can take to increase what you earn. Some ideas to raise your income include:

  • Negotiating your salary when you get hired for a new job; 
  • Asking for a raise, especially if your salary is below what people in comparable positions are making;
  • Looking for a new higher-paying job;
  • Increasing your skills; and
  • Taking on a part-time side gig on evenings or weekends.

The nice thing about boosting your income is that there’s no limit to how much more money you can make. So get creative about looking for side gigs, or put together a convincing presentation today for your boss about why you deserve a higher salary. The more extra income you have, the easier accomplishing other financial goals will be and the fewer money worries you’ll have. 

How to boost a savings rate that’s worrying you

If you don’t feel you’re saving enough, tackling some of the other items on this list can help — including raising your income and opening dedicated savings accounts for healthcare and emergencies. But you also need to make sure you’re on track to save for retirement and other big goals you want to accomplish. To start saving more:

  • Live on a budget that prioritizes savings. By making a detailed budget, you can allocate a set amount of money to savings, and work other spending around that. 
  • Automate contributions to savings accounts. If you have money transferred automatically to your 401(k), emergency fund, or other savings accounts on payday, you can make sure you get contributions made to these accounts before spending money on anything else. 
  • Bank your raises. Each time you get a raise or earn extra income, automatically transfer the new funds to savings so you never get used to living on the increased amount. You’ll save more without feeling as though you’re sacrificing. 
  • Have dedicated savings accounts for different goals. You should set detailed goals for how much you want to save for specific things, such as retirement and vacations and a home down payment. Have a separate account for each type of savings so you can track your progress and so you’ll be more motivated to put aside funds.

Now you know how to tackle some of your biggest money worries

Hopefully these tips will help you take steps today to reduce your financial concerns. While healthcare inflation, wage stagnation, and retirement shortfalls are big problems that are going to require systemic change, at least there are things you can do now to ensure you don’t have to worry quite so much. If you can save for care costs, build up an emergency fund, find ways to increase your income, and take steps to boost your savings, you’ll have a lot less reason to be anxious about money, and should sleep much better at night. 

   

Washington to offer 1st ‘public option’ insurance in US


SEATTLE — Washington is set to become the first state to enter the private health insurance market with a universally available public option.

A set of tiered public plans will cover standard services and are expected to be up to 10% cheaper than comparable private insurance, thanks in part to savings from a cap on rates paid to providers. But unlike existing government-managed plans, Washington’s public plans are set to be available to all residents regardless of income by 2021.

The Legislature approved the plan last month, and Gov. Jay Inslee is scheduled to sign it into law Monday.

The move thrusts Washington into the national debate over the government’s role in health care, with a hybrid model that puts the state to the left of market-only approaches but stops short of a completely public system.

Instead, the state will dictate the terms of the public option plans but hire private insurance companies to administer them, saving the state from having to create a new bureaucracy — and guaranteeing a role for the insurance industry in managing the new public option.

Lawmakers in at least eight other states including Colorado and New Mexico have proposed their own public option measures. But so far none have passed legislation implementing a public option.

Backers acknowledge the rate caps at the heart of the plan risk creating coverage gaps in rural areas. But they hope to persuade doctors to accept lower rates by bringing the state’s purchasing power to bear. The savings would be used to sell the plans at a competitive price.

Inslee, who is also running for president, embraced the idea based on early work by a state legislator and later officially requested the public option bill.

Its sponsor, Seattle Sen. David Frockt, a Democrat, said the hybrid system was a compromise.

“What’s important about this plan is that the government is coming in and taking a more aggressive role in regulating the cost drivers of health care,” Frockt said.

The core proposition of Washington’s plan, dubbed Cascade Care, is that it will save consumers money by capping payments to doctors, hospitals and other health care providers.

The cost cap is central to the program’s long-term survival: Set it too high, and there will be no savings to pass along. Set it too low, and the state runs the risk of providers declining the plan, leaving it to whither as consumers seek alternatives that provide more choice, said Jennifer Tolbert, director of the Kaiser Foundation’s state health care analysis program.

The question is especially critical in Washington’s rural counties, many of which were already hit hardest by health care cost increases.

To attract providers, Washington lawmakers chose a relatively high figure to start: The plan caps payouts at 160 percent of federal Medicare rates.

That’s more than other states have proposed. In New Mexico, lawmakers considered using Medicaid rates, among the lowest paid to doctors and hospitals by any insurance plan. Lobbying firm Manatt estimated that could have translated into cost savings for consumers of more than 20% compared with similar private plans on the individual market.

By comparison, Washington’s higher pay rate for doctors is estimated to save participants only 5 to 10%, according to Jason McGill, Inslee’s senior policy adviser on health.

But even at the higher rate, the plan risks leaving coverage gaps in the least-populated counties, said Democratic Rep. Eileen Cody, an early architect of the plan who chairs the House Health Care and Wellness committee.

The state has already had problems guaranteeing private coverage in those areas. Two counties were recently at risk of having no insurers offering individual plans, and others have only a single hospital or hospital network, allowing providers to drive up costs.

The result has been rural areas bucking the state’s broader trend of moderate cost increases: A quarter of Washington counties, mostly rural, have seen triple-digit increases in the cost of premiums for a benchmark bronze-level plan in the last year alone, with some rising by as much as three times the increase seen in King County, home of Seattle, according to data from the Kaiser Foundation.

Another unique aspect of Washington’s plan is its hybrid management model.

Despite its name, the public option won’t be provided by the state itself, and state employees won’t deal directly with patients.

Instead, the measure directs state health care authorities to hire one or more private insurance companies: The state will determine the broad outlines of the public plans, but private companies will handle day-to-day administration, including enrolling patients and paying out claims.

“It’s an attempt to keep the insurance companies in the game,” said Aaron Katz, a University of Washington professor who teaches health policy and has studied U.S. health care markets.

Like earlier decisions to have private companies administer parts of the Medicare and Medicaid systems in some states, Washington’s hybrid model tries to preserve some competition while fixing problems like stability and coverage gaps, Kaatz said.

But it also has the effect of weaving insurance companies further into the fabric of public health care — potentially creating a barrier for later efforts to move to a completely public system.

“The size of the business that we are giving to private insurers makes it ever more difficult to ever extract ourselves from those dependencies,” Katz said.

It’s also a departure from public option proposals that have cropped up in other states, where lawmakers have mostly tried to broaden eligibility for programs like Medicaid, said Emily Blanford of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Still, a hybrid model theoretically has some advantages, Blanford said, including allowing the state to start from scratch designing rates and provider networks without needing a new program and staff.

Struggling Financially? 6 Steps to Turn Things Around

Financial worries are a fact of life for many Americans. But you don’t have to accept that money struggles will be a problem forever. There are concrete steps that will help you take control of your money by tackling some of your biggest financial concerns.

In fact, here are six steps you should seriously consider taking ASAP so you can turn things around if you’re having a hard time managing your money. 

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Get on a budget

This is common advice for a reason — it’s nearly impossible to manage your money effectively if you have no idea where it’s going. You need to figure out what you’re currently spending on, decide what changes you want to make, and give each dollar you earn a purpose. As part of your budgeting process, allocate at least some of those dollars to accomplishing financial goals. 

There are lots of different kinds of budgets. For people facing financial struggles, a detailed budget that deals with every dollar is the best place to start, meaning your budgeted spending and saving matches your expected monthly income. Start by tracking your spending for 30 days to see where your income goes naturally. Then, allocate a set amount of money to different categories of spending and saving, while also leaving yourself a little wiggle room by budgeting between $50 and $100 for unexpected expenses.

If you can’t make the income and outflow numbers add up, you know you have a serious problem that requires bigger changes. But, if you’re able to tweak the numbers, reduce spending on certain areas, and divide up your monthly income into needs, wants, and saving, you’re in pretty good shape. Try not to exceed your pre-determined spending limit because a budget does you no good if you don’t use it.

2. Cut expenses 

One of the big reasons for making a written budget is to identify areas where you’re overspending. If you can reduce outflow on nonessentials, you’ll have more money left over to do important things such as paying off debt and saving for your future.

Some common areas where people can cut spending include dining out, gym memberships, cable TV, shopping, travel, and entertainment. Try working out at home, taking your lunch to work, using coupons, and looking for free events in your area.

But if you have a big budget shortfall, you may need to cut more than your spending. Selling your expensive car and buying a cheaper used one, downsizing to a less expensive apartment, moving to a cheaper area, or taking in a roommate are all major cost-saving options that would have a huge impact on your financial situation. 

3. Save up an emergency fund

If you are living paycheck to paycheck with no money saved at all, of course your financial life feels out of control. An emergency fund can help you regain control while keeping you out of debt.

Emergencies are inevitable, so set aside a good amount of cash to cover them. Ideally, you should have three to six months of living expenses saved up in an emergency fund so you’re prepared for big disasters such as a job loss or serious health issue. But you can start small with an emergency fund — especially if you have a lot of consumer debt to pay down.

Include saving for an emergency fund as a line item in your budget and put at least something away for emergencies every single month. Don’t touch the cash in your emergency savings account unless you have a truly pressing financial need that you’d otherwise have to turn to a credit card or personal loan to cover. When you do tap the fund for emergencies, you need to build it back up so it’s ready to help you out for the next expensive surprise you encounter.

4. Stop incurring new debt and make a debt payoff plan 

Most people who are struggling financially are dealing with debt. If you’re one of them, paying off what you owe could free up a huge amount of cash you can use for other things.

If your creditors are currently charging you high interest rates, or if you owe lots of different creditors, consider refinancing debt using a low-interest personal loan or transferring the balance of your cards to a 0% APR balance transfer card. Lowering your rate and consolidating your debt makes paying it off much easier. Paying off one lender instead of many can help you send as much extra cash as possible toward paying down debt.

If you can’t consolidate and refinance debt, or if you’re still left with multiple creditors, decide which creditors to pay first. There are two different approaches: You could use the debt snowball method and pay off debts with the lowest balance first, then shift extra payments to your debt with the next lowest balance. Or, you could use the debt avalanche method and pay off your highest-interest debt first, then move on to the debt with the next highest rate. Both approaches can be effective, with the debt avalanche saving you the most money, but the debt snowball can help you stay motivated as you see debt balances disappear. 

Once you’ve paid down your debt, make a commitment not to go into debt again. You can do this by living on a budget and having a robust emergency fund to pay for the unexpected expenses that crop up.

5. Earn extra income

You can only cut spending so much, but there’s no limit to the extra money you can earn. Asking for a raise, taking on a side hustle or joining the gig economy can boost your earnings substantially. This extra money can be used for debt repayment, savings, or giving you enough cash to cover the essentials. 

If you plan to ask for a raise, come prepared with evidence of your professional successes and, ideally, with data showing others in a similar position are earning more. If a raise isn’t justified right now, ask your employer how you could earn one in the future. The company you work for will likely be happy to see you’re taking initiative and will provide you with insight into new responsibilities you could take on or skills you could develop to advance your career and move to a higher pay grade. 

6. Automate your financial life

Financial management is tricky because it can be tiresome to force yourself to sacrifice and be responsible with money every single month. But you can eliminate a lot of temptation and ensure you’re using your money wisely by automating your financial life.

Once you have a budget with a set amount of money allocated for savings and debt repayment, set up automatic bill pay and automatic transfers to your savings and investment accounts. Set up these transfers to happen the day you get paid, then limit yourself to only spending what’s left over.

If your money goes where you need it to without any added effort, you won’t have to force yourself to make the smart financial choice every time. You’ll just have to adjust to living on what’s available, as the rest of your money will be out of your hands. 

Take these steps today

Taking these six steps today could help you significantly improve your financial life. While it may seem like a lot of effort, it’s worth doing so you can invest in your future and alleviate your financial worries once and for all. Once you get started and see your debt balance go down and your savings balance grows, it will all be worth it in the end.

8 Simple Tricks for Saving More Money

Many of us struggle to save money, but without some cash reserves, we risk racking up serious debt when we’re hit with unplanned expenses. Unfortunately, the state of Americans’ savings is rather dire, with an estimated 40% of U.S. adults not having enough money in the bank to cover a mere $400 emergency. If your savings are in serious need of a boost, here are eight easy ways to accomplish that goal.

1. Sock cash away automatically

You can’t spend money you don’t know you have. If you’re serious about saving more, arrange for a portion of each paycheck you receive to get transferred automatically to your savings account. It can be $25, $50, $100, or whatever amount you’re comfortable with. The key is to make it automatic so you’re not tempted to blow that sum on something frivolous just because it’s there.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

2. Bank your raises

If you’re lucky, you’ll see your income go up from year to year at your job. And that gives you a great opportunity to pad your bank account. From now on, pledge to stick whatever money you get in raise form in the bank. The logic is that you won’t need that money to cover your expenses since you’ll be used to living on your former salary. And if that’s not the case — say, your rent goes up once your raise kicks in — you can access the amount needed from your raise to compensate, but put the rest of your raise into savings.

3. Eat at home

Restaurants are notorious for charging ridiculous markups on the items they serve so that a $40 meal can generally be made for just $10 in your own kitchen. If you’re eager to increase your savings, pledge to eat at home the majority of the time, if not all the time. Doing so could end up being just as good for your waistline as it is for your wallet.

4. Stop taking rideshares

Rideshares are unquestionably convenient, but their cost can add up over time. If you’re in the habit of summoning a car every time you’re feeling tired, lazy, or cold, it could be seriously thwarting your savings efforts. A better bet? Delete those rideshare apps from your phone, and stick to lower-cost public transportation and your feet as a means of getting around town. Biking to and from places also works.

5. Get a second gig

The more money you earn, the more opportunities you’ll have to save. That’s where a side hustle can come in handy. Whether you decide to freelance or consult in your full-time field, or do something totally different, like walk dogs on weekends, the money you earn from that extra work will make a nice addition to your bank account.

6. Refinance your debt

If you’ve got a loan or credit card balance eating up a chunk of your monthly income, refinancing could lower your costs, thereby leaving you with more cash to bank. Refinancing means swapping one loan for another with a lower interest rate so that your associated payments go down. Transferring your credit card balance to a card with a lower interest rate will have a similar effect.

7. Stop outsourcing tasks you don’t want to do

There are things in life that some of us find unpleasant, whether it’s cleaning our homes, mowing our lawns, or grooming our beloved pets. But if you really want to save more money, you may need to get on board with the idea of doing more of that work yourself. Doing so might really reduce your monthly spending, and you know what that means — more cash to put in the bank.

8. Hoard your change

Most purchases don’t work out to be round numbers. An easy way to boost your savings is to get in the habit of accumulating change, whether in the form of a physical penny jar or by using an app that rounds up purchases and sends the difference into savings. Keep in mind that some apps charge a modest fee for this service, so it pays to see if your bank offers this option for free.

The more savings you accumulate, the more protection you’ll have against unplanned bills and expenses — and the more freedom you’ll buy yourself to spend some of that money on more important things in the future. While all of the above tips will help you boost your savings, the most important thing you can do is actually commit to that goal. If you train your brain to make savings a priority, you’ll see results before you know it.