10 Ways to Spend All Your HSA Funds Before 2015 - December 17, 2014 by zeldalegacy

If you have an HSA, there is more than one way to use your funds (of course it may be more prudent to accumulate them for really large bills or for use during retirement).

In any case, check out this link some ways to use HSAs funds that you might not have considered.

<a href=”http://via 10 Ways to Spend All Your HSA Funds Before 2015 | GOBankingRates“>10 Weirdest Ways to Use Your HSA Dollars

Filed under: At Work, Healthcare Tagged: HSA, WPrightnow
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Michael Osborne quoted in Toronto Star: Bitter fallout from The Beer Store’s sweetheart deal - December 16, 2014 by zeldalegacy

Michael Osborne comments on the battle brewing over The Beer Store’s retail monopoly
The Litigator – Affleck Greene McMurtry, LLP

The “Cadillac tax” on high-priced employer plans, which goes into effect in 2017, should help keep premium growth down. Say what⁉️ - December 15, 2014 by zeldalegacy

This is an excerpt from an article on Fiercehealthpayer.com I find these kinds of statements and assumptions amusing.

Not all the news is bad, however. The average rate of increase for both premiums and deductibles has decreased since the Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2010, according to the research summary. Deductibles went up more than 10 percent per year from 2003 to 2010 but only went up 7.5 percent after that, while the rate of increase for premiums dropped from 5.1 percent in 2003-2010 to 4.1 percent in 2010-2013.

The “Cadillac tax” on high-priced employer plans, which goes into effect in 2017, should help keep premium growth down. That said, it’s too soon to tell if the historically low growth rate in healthcare spending will continue, according to the research, especially if the larger economic recovery also continues in stride.

Obamacare has little if anything to do with lower premiums and deductibles; just look at the timeframes that are regularly cited.

The so-called Cadillac tax has nothing to do with premium growth. It has everything to do with the growing burden of out-of-pocket costs on average families. Employers, both public and private, would be foolish to pay this tax on high cost health plans. What they will and have been doing is simply lower the value of coverage to lower cost (but not the growth rate) and shift that burden to plan participants. So, if you measure spending based on what is paid by health benefit plans, it will appear spending is lower. If you measure it including what is paid by individuals and their plans; well that’s quite a different result.

The greatest impact will be on public employee plans, multi-employer Union plans (though they have some relief from the law) and very large employer plans all which historically have been the most generous. Employers have been making adjustments to avoid this tax for several years.

For public employee plans, taxpayers will likely pay the new tax, for others the actual burden will be on workers in way or the other.

Filed under: Healthcare Tagged: Cadillac tax, Obamacare, slowing premium growth, WPrightnow
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Pura Vida, or Reflections on “The Good Life” - December 15, 2014 by zeldalegacy

by Vanessa Blakeslee

Since 2008, the year I originally wrote this essay as part of my application for the Gift of Freedom Award, the conversation about the challenges women writers face in the literary arts has only grown more heated—the VIDA count revealing women writers getting published and reviewed at disproportionate numbers compared to male authors, women stepping forward and sharing their personal stories about misogyny, abuse, even rape. All revealing that the challenges we face both as individuals and as a community aren’t going away anytime soon. How far we’ve come, I thought, both for myself and for the women writers I know—for women and girls everywhere. And yet how far we have to go.

Here’s the famous quote by Woolf, followed by the original essay I wrote in response.

“Five hundred a year stands for the power to contemplate…a lock on the door means the power to think for oneself.” –Virginia Woolf

Pura Vida

3434623631_48b32dda13_oIt’s late in the afternoon, the air hot but breezy on the hillside where the house sits. Inside, I’m still typing on the laptop when my boyfriend’s Toyota roars up the driveway. The car door slams and he lumbers out, all business attire and briefcase; I shove off the laptop and hurry in my bare feet to the front door and unlock the gate. Right away I can tell the stock market hasn’t been good to him today, by the way his face droops down to the floor.

“You’re still writing?” he asks. He slumps in a chair and rifles through his briefcase. He says, “I don’t understand how you can just sit in this room day in and day out, and just write.”

“Are you kidding?” I reply. “When I’m writing a story, I’m inside another world. But having this room all spring for myself, this quiet space and the time to write, is a huge gift.”

He rubs his palm across his face and rests his chin in his hand. “I gave you those numbers so you would have some other women to hang out with, but you haven’t called anyone. God knows David’s wife just goes to her mother’s and does Pilates every day. I have a hard time believing that staying cooped up isn’t going to get old for you.”

“Why is that so hard to believe? All my life I’ve had to steal time to write. Now I finally have a few short months to do that.”

“But you’re not working,” he says.

“All I’ve done up until now is work,” I reply. “And I’ll be working again, probably several jobs, after this. Right now it’s time to write. And I thank you so much for helping me.”

“Okay,” he says, sighing. “I’m just an idiot who’s been in an office for nine hours straight.”

by Renee Barron

by Renee Barron

“You’re not an idiot.” I walk over and cradle his head in my arms. He’s tired; when he looks up I see the dull weariness in his eyes. “You’re wonderful,” I say.

We hold each other for a minute, and outside a light rain patters on the porch. Then I hear someone calling from our yard. We look up and a small but sturdy old woman with a hamper tucked underneath one arm trudges up the steps. She rests the hamper at her feet and produces an empanada for us to admire. “Tres cientos colones,” she beckons.

He attends to the woman, and I scramble to count the coins from my change purse. We buy four empanadas, and the woman showers us with many thanks. She picks her way down the steep driveway and back onto the winding road.

Afterward, he disappears for a nap, and I return to my story-in-progress. But I can’t stop thinking about the woman and what he and I were at odds about just before she showed up at our door. After a decade of juggling serving jobs for alcoholic bosses, adjunct teaching jobs with salaries that barely filled my gas tank, and tutoring high school kids on weekend mornings, six months ago I finally planned, saved, and borrowed to accompany him for the spring to Costa Rica. While he worked at his trade desk all day in downtown San José, I would write fiction as often as I could. And write I do, five days a week. But what I hadn’t anticipated was how the world still tries to pull that precious writing space away. Now time and money are quickly running out, my story collection only halfway complete. He is working hard, too, to support both of us.

Costa Rican women at work, by Ali Eminov

Costa Rican women at work, by Ali Eminov

And then I think of the woman selling empanadas. She has probably spent her whole life laboring just to feed and clothe herself and her children, and at her wrinkled age is hiking the country road with a heavy hamper of empanadas for sale. What kind of artistic joy might she have stumbled across as a little girl, only to have scarce moments at drawing or play-acting squashed by the basic need for survival? How different am I from that woman—or are we more similar than I might care to know? She’s baking empanadas all morning to peddle them up and down a long, hilly road in the afternoon sun; I will soon return to teaching wait-listed college classes with no healthcare or retirement benefits, and have little space or energy left to give a lengthy creative project the attention it demands. For it’s the space that really matters when mining the depths, rather than the time.

Time can be stolen—a couple of hours here, and couple of hours there—as I know from trying to write the novel I started in my early twenties. But I didn’t realize until this past year, when I unearthed the failed novel from my files, to what degree the project hadn’t lifted off the ground due to lack of space. By working full-time, earning graduate credits part-time, and adjunct teaching, I had simply lacked the space to delve deeply enough inside the novel’s heart and its characters for any extended period beyond the three full days off my schedule allowed each month. Just as important as the physical space of a secluded room, perhaps even more important, is the inner space needed for the artist’s vision to really thrive. How many women like myself are seeking to keep that inner space free while on the surface, are merely struggling to survive?

I wonder.

I write for awhile, and as the sun sinks lower and its rays seem to light the palms on fire, my boyfriend yawns like a jungle cat and pads out of the bedroom wearing a sarong. Now rested, his spirits are lighter. He pats me on the head and asks if he can read my story when it’s finished.

“It’s not like I’m at home all day, doing nothing,” I say. “I’m writing. That’s what I love to do most in the world. Pura vida, right?” I crack a smile, pleased at my twist on the saying Costa Ricans toss about with pride—in English, “the good life.”

“You’re a good woman, Babette,” he says, using his pet name for me.

I close the computer and look up. “There’s one thing,” I say. I have put off mentioning this for a few days now, until the several hundred dollars left in my bank account can no longer be ignored. “I came down here so we could be together, and also to write. But my savings are almost gone. Unless you can support me, I need to go home and get a job.”

He says nothing. He’s lost a lot of money in investments lately, and his home in Florida is still sitting on the market after four months.

“I hate asking you this,” I say. “More than anything. But I’ll go find a waitress job tomorrow if I need to do that. Master’s degrees or not.”

“Okay,” he says finally. “I’ll do what I can.”

I jump up and give him a big hug and a kiss thank you.

Somewhere in the darkness of the early morning my boyfriend stirs and cuddles up next to me. He hugs me tight and burrows his face in the small of my back. “I love you so much,” he says. “I’m just afraid that one day you’re going to have enough of just being with me and writing, and you’re going to leave.”

“I’m right here,” I say, reaching out of my half-sleep and patting his arm. “And I love you, too.”

“What if you need to take some job in Wisconsin or something?”

“I don’t know,” I say. “I hope not.”

It’s still dark out but nearby a cock crows. Outside our window, the birds begin to twitter.

I listen and marvel at nature, how the animals give each other room to be free.

The next morning, I want to sleep in but he wants me to get up and make him breakfast. So I fix some eggs and see him off to work. It’s a Friday, I finish the first draft of a story and would like to work on it more over the weekend, but he keeps our dance card full on those days: barbecues at his boss’s house, jaunts to the beach or farmer’s market. Sometimes on weeknights he wants me to help him entertain clients who fly in on business, and so we eat steak dinners at fancy hotels until ten p.m. All this I keep up for the writing life I’ve been able to carve out for myself this spring. I’ll worry about our relationship later—how I constantly feel indebted to him, the big deal he makes if I want to write on the weekends instead of pulling my weight in his social circles. That I don’t speak up and insist on having a few hours more on the weekends to write, because he’s bought that time with me.

Pura vida, they say. I wonder.

Costa Rican prostitutes, courtesy of Costarican Times

Costa Rican prostitutes, courtesy of Costarican Times

And I keep wondering about the other women I see here in Costa Rica. One night we go downtown to hear an acoustic band—live music is my boyfriend’s passion—and we pass the hotel/casino that’s also a famous whore bar for the rich sport-fishermen, businessmen, and other gringos stopping through San José. You can tell the whores by their oversized purses, tight clothing, and surgically-enhanced breasts. They trot across the street on the arms of the older American men, and I wonder how many of these women would be so much more if they didn’t need to do this to pay for basic necessities because the barrios they come from in Honduras or Nicaragua are without electricity and running water. I shudder to think how many other educated, middle-class American women are closer to those women than we would care to think—still hanging onto the arm of a man, clipping as fast as we can just to keep up.

 

About Vanessa Blakeslee

Vanessa BlakesleeVanessa Blakeslee’s debut short story collection, Train Shots, was released in March, 2014 by Burrow Press and is the winner of the 2014 IPPY Gold Medal in Short Fiction. The book was also long-listed for the 2014 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Vanessa’s writing has appeared in The Southern ReviewGreen Mountains ReviewThe Paris Review Daily,The Globe and Mail, and Kenyon Review Online, among many others. Finalist for the 2014 Sherwood Anderson Foundation Fiction Award, she has also been awarded grants and residencies from Yaddo, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, The Banff Centre, Ledig House, the Ragdale Foundation, and in 2013 received the Individual Artist Fellowship in Literature from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs. Vanessa earned her MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Born and raised in northeastern Pennsylvania, she is a longtime resident of Maitland, Florida. Blakeslee’s debut novel is scheduled for release by Curbside Splendor Publishing in Fall, 2015.


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An Historic Agreement: Public-Private Partnership to Safeguard Yemen’s Future - December 14, 2014 by zeldalegacy

The stakes are high in Yemen’s ongoing political transition, but recently the Yemeni government and private sector took steps to ensure that this transition will lead to greater security and opportunity for all Yemenis.

Yemen’s recent history has been marked by popular demand for better governance and a more democratic policymaking process. This demand has been seen from the 2011 popular…


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Afghanistan National Business Agenda Outlines Priorities for Economic Policy Reform - December 14, 2014 by zeldalegacy

Afghanistan’s image in the news media is often shaped by negative stories focused on security and political challenges. What is often not highlighted are a number of successes, achieved over the past several years, in shaping the country’s economic policy and democratic governance. These reforms have improved the business enabling environment and made a positive difference in the lives of small…


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Only World Group Berhad IPO - December 13, 2014 by zeldalegacy

Only World Group Bhd, a leisure and hospitality services provider, is scheduled to be listed in Main Market of Bursa Malaysia on 18th December 2014. The Initial Public Offering (IPO) consists of 56.4 million new ordinary shares at an IPO price of RM0.88 per share at RM0.50 par value. […]

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Kronologi Asia IPO Oversubscribed by 35.5 times - December 12, 2014 by zeldalegacy

Kronologi Asia Berhad Initial Public Offering (IPO) received an overwhelming response with its public portion of 4.74 million shares. It was oversubscribed by 35.50 times. The IPO attract 5.545 applications or 172.98 million shares. Notices of Allotment will be dispatched by post to all successful applicants on or before […]

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Do you have to make your Required Minimum Distribution? (RMD) - December 11, 2014 by zeldalegacy

From the IRS

IR-2014-112, Dec. 8, 2014

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today reminded taxpayers born before July 1, 1944, that they generally must receive payments from their individual retirement arrangements (IRAs) and workplace retirement plans by Dec. 31.

Known as required minimum distributions (RMDs), these payments normally must be made by the end of 2014. But a special rule allows first-year recipients of these payments, those who reached age 70½ during 2014, to wait until as late as April 1, 2015 to receive their first RMDs. This means that those born after June 30, 1943 and before July 1, 1944 are eligible for this special rule. Though payments made to these taxpayers in early 2015 can be counted toward their 2014 RMD, they are still taxable in 2015.

The required distribution rules apply to owners of traditional IRAs but not Roth IRAs while the original owner is alive. They also apply to participants in various workplace retirement plans, including 401(k), 403(b) and 457(b) plans.

An IRA trustee must either report the amount of the RMD to the IRA owner or offer to calculate it for the owner. Often, the trustee shows the RMD amount on Form 5498 in Box 12b. For a 2014 RMD, this amount was on the 2013 Form 5498 normally issued to the owner during January 2014.

The special April 1 deadline only applies to the RMD for the first year. For all subsequent years, the RMD must be made by Dec. 31. So, for example, a taxpayer who turned 70½ in 2013 (born after June 30, 1942 and before July 1, 1943) and received the first required payment on April 1, 2014 must still receive the second RMD by Dec. 31, 2014.

The RMD for 2014 is based on the taxpayer’s life expectancy on Dec. 31, 2014, and their account balance on Dec. 31, 2013. The trustee reports the year-end account value to the IRA owner on Form 5498 in Box 5. Use the online worksheets on IRS.gov or find worksheets and life expectancy tables to make this computation in the Appendices to Publication 590.

For most taxpayers, the RMD is based on Table III (Uniform Lifetime) in the IRS publication on IRAs. So for a taxpayer who turned 72 in 2014, the required distribution would be based on a life expectancy of 25.6 years. A separate table, Table II, applies to a taxpayer whose spouse is more than 10 years younger and is the taxpayer’s only beneficiary.

Though the RMD rules are mandatory for all owners of traditional IRAs and participants in workplace retirement plans, some people in workplace plans can wait longer to receive their RMDs. Usually, employees who are still working can, if their plan allows, wait until April 1 of the year after they retire to start receiving these distributions. See Tax on Excess Accumulations in Publication 575. Employees of public schools and certain tax-exempt organizations with 403(b) plan accruals before 1987 should check with their employer, plan administrator or provider to see how to treat these accruals.

Filed under: Retirement Tagged: required minimum distribution, RMD, WPrightnow
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The Cretaceous Tortoise and Hare - December 11, 2014 by zeldalegacy

[Cross-posted at Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs.]

Once upon a time, in the autumn of 2011, I submitted an artwork requested by one Scott Persons of the University of Alberta via Art Evolved

Three years later, the resulting set of three illustrations — a race between an Olorotitan and a Tarbosaurus — was finally published in the press release for a study of hadrosaur locomotion by Dr. Phil Currie and Scott Persons, which a few readers may already be familiar with, either independently or via the Chasmosaurs Facebook page. There is also a podcast about the research. Here, for your delectation and privilege (or indeed indifference and ennui, so please you) are the illustrations at a much larger size, which can be opened out in a new tab/window for full-view if you wish. Much of the comic expression in the dinosaurs’ eyes are missed in reduction — something which I hadn’t accounted for when I drew them.

SPRace1Png-1400SPRace2Png-1400SP Race edit 2 Png-1400The Aesop analogy subsequently repeated in the article was one which had actually occurred to Scott as a result of my original submission, as quoted in my linked Himmapaanensis post above: ‘…this is a charming twist (and one I had not anticipated). I like it very much!’ I readily confess that my simple little ego was considerably flattered by this.

There is also a story behind the flag-waving Protoceratops, who was originally accompanied by a much more incongruous figure (again, for the sake of this post’s conciseness, please see the first link for this). I don’t know, you’d think I had a penchant for such a thing

Prints of the illustrations were donated to the silent auction at the Alberta Dinosaur Research Institute fundraising dinner this past weekend. Sean Willett of the Dragon Tongues podcast (whom Marc and I had the great pleasure of meeting and speaking to at the first TetZooCon, and for whom David recently completed a new logo) had very kindly placed a bid on them. He informs me that the prints finally sold for over 0.

Photograph by Sean Willett.

Photograph by Sean Willett.

Of course, given that it has been three years since their creation, there are several things I would do differently now. So consider this the appropriate disclaimer/apology for any obvious shortcomings. I do know, however, that I would relish more such opportunities for playful pictures accompanying serious research in formal publications. Can we make this A Thing, please?

 


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