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Triage Part I: Coverage of Unemployment Seminar

“I’m very delighted to see the community binding together in this way, trying to help those who are unemployed and those who might very well face it,” State Rep. Ryan Haynes told a group of about 20 at an unemployment seminar, Tuesday, Sept. 15.

“I know these are very difficult economic times we’re facing right now,” he added.

Haynes spoke briefly at the seminar, themed “Seven Steps to Surviving Unemployment,” held at Town Hall and hosted by Steve Arnold, founder of Storehouse Advisory Group.

Arnold was joined by other professionals who gave workshop participants a “triage” approach to unemployment.

“In order to get through a situation like this, which is traumatic … you really have to approach it from a triage standpoint: what things I have to do right now to move through to tomorrow,” Arnold said.

Then, Arnold said, the unemployed person would be free to make and implement plans for his future.

Nick Smith, an insurance agent with John Bailey Company, discussed health insurance options for the unemployed.

“This is essentially your biggest obstacle,” he said, but added the unemployed were not the only ones who found themselves without health insurance.

Around 26 million Americans, or about half of all uninsured, Smith said, are small business owners or their employees. About 12 million uninsured are in transition.

He discussed COBRA at length, which allows an unemployed person to continue under his company’s group plan, but which requires that person to pay 100 percent of the cost.

A subsidy by the government can pay 65 percent of COBRA costs, but that lasts only for about the first nine months of unemployment, and only proves financially advantageous for about 50 percent of people.

But Smith said there were ways around paying that much out-of-pocket expense, one of which is “riding the COBRA window.”

After the first notice of deciding on COBRA is issued, a person has 60 days to make a decision. After the decision is made to accept COBRA, the first payment is not due for 45 days.

During that time, someone could have health insurance for virtually nothing.

“Piggy back and save some money,” Arnold said, adding he took advantage of the COBRA window and then rolled over into a private plan with a high deductible.

High deductible plans, Smith said, could save money for the average person who visits a doctor three times a year, and whose average doctor visit cost is $63.

“There are very significant savings you can find in transition,” Smith said.

However, he warned not to go more than 63 days without coverage of any type. That time limit, he said, was the most common deadline in insurance jargon, and going more than 63 days without coverage could prevent a person’s guaranteed insurability, and was enough time to create a “pre-existing condition.”

Arnold discussed retirement plans, and whether to cash a plan out, leave it alone, roll it over to a new employer or roll it over to an IRA.

With taxes and penalties, cashing a retirement plan out results in a loss of much of the money saved, Arnold said, and comes with terms and limits on re-investing.

If one had to cash out a plan, he suggested doing that incrementally.

The best option was a direct rollover to an IRA, Arnold said, because it is not subject to taxes or penalties and gives the holder control.

“You have unlimited investment options at your disposal, literally, the whole universe of investment options,” Arnold said.

“Because of that, you have higher quality investment options available as well,” he added. That could lead to higher returns, or lower costs.

Shawn and Katie Van Dyke, who founded the well known Web site, addressed the group about home economics, which Shawn said is more than the high school class many people remember.

“Actually, home economics has evolved into college courses and doctorate level programs,” Shawn said.

“Think of the things you plan in your life: you plan education, you plan our employment opportunities, our family’s social events, and the planning and organization of running your home.

“You are the chief economist of ‘Your Home Inc.,’” he added.

Shawn said home economics was about “working with what you have,” largely by increasing income or decreasing expenses.

When you’re between jobs, Shawn said, the first choice isn’t always an option. Luckily, the second choice can be easily accomplished.

Create a budget, Shawn urged, adding that if it was not on paper, it did not exist.

“You’re kidding yourself,” he said.

He recommended books by Dave Ramsey and Ron Blue for details on budgeting, but he and Katie have first-hand expertise in cutting expenses.

Katie, author of, has become well-known for her search for freebies, coupons and deals.

“I wasn’t on board at first,” Shawn said, but caught on after his family’s grocery bill was cut by about $300.

“These deals are out there … all it takes is a little bit of effort,” Shawn said.

“These companies want to give you their stuff because what they’re looking for is brand loyalty,” he added.

The second half of coverage of the “Seven Steps to Surviving Unemployment” seminar will be featured in the business section of next week’s farragutpress.


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