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Cheat Sheet Q & A:

Topic:  Health Insurance renewal

(Works for the St. Lucie County school district). We just got the proposed premium amount for next year's policy. Our premium is going from $602/month for a family plan to $1,084/mo for the same plan.  Can you believe that?  I know you can't do anything about but we are supremely frustrated and angry at this move and I just felt like venting.

Bottom line:  Thus far we’ve had only estimates for the renewal policies that will go into effect for 2014.  The best guesstimate to use as guidance has come from the Association of Actuaries, which has estimated that the average insurance policy will rise by 30% in cost for 2014.  I recently received the note above from a listener that’s provided the first local proposed change for an insurance policy that I’ve been made aware of and the news clearly isn’t good. 

The family plan for those that work in the St. Lucie County school district is set to rise by $482 per month or 81%.  I pulled the average teacher salary from grade school in St. Lucie County (2012) and show the average teacher salary at $46820.  The proposed increase is more than 10% of gross salary and the family plan employee cost would be $13008 for the year or 28% of total gross pay.  Now some might point towards potential subsidies that teachers may be able to gain access to (provided that household income in total would be low enough based on the number of dependants) but isn’t that backwards that full time career professionals may be turned into recipients of Government assistance because of the cost of the blatantly false Affordable Care Act? 

The unfortunate irony is that many will be receiving exactly what they voted for.  The NEA donated 90% of their money to Democrats in 2008 & 93% in both 2010 and 2012.  Meanwhile closer to home 100% the political donations of the Florida Education Association through the 2008-12 cycles were donated to Democrats:

As I frequently say, elections have consequences and unfortunately the Affordable Care Act will make the cost of health care less affordable for most people.

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Why you may not have received that modification:

Bottom Line:  The Federal Government and states (including Florida) have settled with Bank of America with regard to improper loan and foreclosure activity during the boom / bust era in housing.  That doesn’t preclude other people or organizations from pursuing lenders for other non-settled activity.  That leads me to this story regarding a new lawsuit filed in Massachusetts.

The new lawsuit charges that Bank of America deliberately thwarted attempts to modify home loans for homeowners who were potentially eligible under the HAMP program.  Whistle blowers from within Bank of America have come forward to say that they were told to do whatever was required to stall and/or prevent modifications from moving forward.  If the whistle blowers are telling the truth this would have included lying to homeowners about the process and eligibility.  The allegation states that by slowing down or thwarting the modification process, Bank of America was able to derive additional fee income from the HAMP program and/or potentially pushed homes into foreclosure (if that would be more profitable). 

If these allegations are proven to be true (and in time we’ll find out), the question should also be asked if this was a practice used by other institutions.  If you had been given the seemly endless runaround of “missing paperwork”, deadlines that had been missed, lack of eligibility that sounded incorrect, etc…  It’s possible it was all part of an ugly plan from within.  I’ll keep you posted as this story develops.


Companies where faith plays a major role in their operation:

Bottom Line:  Yesterday the online media company, Business Insider, released a story (link below) mentioning companies in which faith has historically played an important role (and with most how it’s still a daily part of doing business).  While Business Insider is often a good source of business information it does tend to be a bit left leaning in their approach.  So the approach to the story they put together was prefaced with the controversy last year with regard to Chick-Fil-A.  Regardless of the intent of BI, I admire companies that believe in more than just the dollars and cents of the business.  It’s more difficult than anytime previous to include faith in business activity in this ultra PC age but that’s exactly what the following companies have done and continue to do.  Here are some national companies that still include faith in business activity:

  • Chick-Fil-A
  • Tyson
  • Marriott
  • JetBlue
  • Interstate Batteries
  • Service Master (Merry Maids, Terminex)
  • Mary Kay
  • Curves
  • Timberland

If you’d like to read about the specifics you can click the link to the story. 


Netflix about to make a big splash with unique programming for your kids:

Bottom Line:  I’m increasingly impressed with the execution of Netflix.  Not only has Netflix positioned itself as the unquestioned leader of streaming TV content (with 89% market share most recently) but they’re fast becoming one of the most significant creators of content of any company in TV.  Yes any company in TV (including the traditional broadcast networks). 

While Netflix has already had success with its original series, House of Cards, and is trying to recapture the cult following of Arrested Development it isn’t slowing down on content creation.  Netflix has indicated that it will have 12 originally created series next year, which is a significant step forward.  The one missing element in the content creation thus far has been programming for your kids.  At least until yesterday’s announcement.

Netflix has reached an exclusive content creation deal with DreamWorks Animation Studios.  Netflix will develop TV shows and movies with DreamWorks that will only be available through the Netflix service.  If Netflix is successful with even a third of what they are set to create, they will begin to cement their path as the most relevant TV company as we enter the future of the TV watching experience.


Yes the world is changing - just look at the dictionary:

Bottom Line:  The gold standard of English dictionaries is Oxford English dictionary.  The dictionary has been updated for 2013 with the latest additions to the language that continue to reflect technologies’ influence.  The new words include:

  • Tweet (yes it was a word but a new primary definition is indeed a message sent through Twitter)
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Mouseover
  • E-Reader
  • Re-direct

What I’m most happy about with these new additions is the possibility that as I include them in Cheat Sheet entries – spell and/or grammar check won’t continue to flag them as incorrect.  If you use technology based terms and run the checks you’ll understand how frustrating that can be.


So home builders are the most confident they've been in years.  So is it time to worry?:

Bottom Line:  You may have heard the homebuilder confidence number than was widely reported yesterday.  It was newsworthy because it showed the highest reading in seven years.  So why do I ask if it’s time to worry…?

The last time when had a reading this high by home builders was April 2006.  Now if you made a real-estate buying decision based on the high level of homebuilder confidence at that period of time how would that have worked out for you?  April 2006 was literally one month removed from the absolute peak in Florida’s real-estate market (May of 2006). 

Now this doesn’t mean that I think we’re set for a repeat of what happened back then, to be clear – it won’t, but it could indicate that the rate of recovery could be close to a peak.  I’d already be anticipating that the rate of recovery in real-estate would begin to moderate after the summer buying season.  This homebuilder reading has previously provided an indication that may be used as a contrary indicator and I’m not convinced that this time it’s a better barometer of the long term real-estate outlook this time.