What is the effect of Obamacare on “The Great Resignation?”

A lot has been written recently about “The Great Resignation” and how many people have left their work for greener pastures. You also can walk/drive down the street without seeing “help wanted” or “we are hiring” banners for everything from retail to restaurants to warehouses. It seems like companies are having to deal with major hiring issues over the last year (I know my company has).

There have been a lot of theories thrown out there, including the generous benefits that were given out during COVID, a mismatch of skills vs needs, and even so far as laziness on the part of some workers (lol on that comment). However, once key item I think has been left out of the analysis, and is one that FIRE people are well aware of. I speak of the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare.”

Before ACA, most workers got their medical benefits from their job, and to leave your job, you had to have one lined up with benefits – thus reducing the ability of people to switch. In addition, many service jobs (restaurants, retail, etc.) didn’t have medical, or had poor medical. In the end, a lot of people continued to work even at jobs they didn’t want.

With ACA, if you earn a lower wage, you can get subsidies that will dramatically reduce your medical costs. Where I live, minimum wage is $13/hour, or $26,000/year for a full-time job. With ACA subsidies, a 25 year old male would pay roughly $27/month for health insurance, or roughly 2 hours of paid labor. With that low cost, they could work sporadically, and still be covered. It also lends itself to job mobility, because if you are the one paying your healthcare (not your company) then if a better job comes along, you can jump immediately. I think this is a key reason why you are seeing folks being able to resign now.

Still, there are a lot of other reason to consider. One of the best analysis on this is the Wall Street Journal work on it (see video on it here). They go over how certain job areas saw a dramatic drop off in March 2020 (when Covid hit) and these are only just starting to recover (retail, restaurants, etc.) but some job functions (Warehousing, IT, etc.) actually grew from March 2020 on. A lot of people who got let go in retail took higher paying jobs with better benefits in warehousing (my industry). Now they’re being asked to go back to a retail job for lower pay & no benefits, and which could go away again in another pandemic. Not going to happen.

I think we are in for labor shortages for a while now – which is actually very historic for the US. For most of our history, there has not been enough labor for all the work that has been needed to get done – which is one of the reasons the US embraced the industrial revolution and immigration. People may need to get used to slower service at restaurants and retail stores not being open on Thanksgiving, Christmas and at 10pm at night.

Maybe that’s a good thing.

Read more

Mr. 39 Months.

Longevity – how do you predict how long you will have to pay for retirement?

The retirement answer man podcast has been talking about longevity this month, with lots of useful information in it. As part of that, they mentioned and interesting link to a website and calculator – the Living to 100 calculator.

The calculator uses a series of about 40 questions to get a good baseline on how much longer you will live, based on current actuarial tables and risk factors. Filling it in takes about 5-10 minutes, and then you will be able to download a readout that provides your expected life expectancy, and (based on your answers and current science) ways that you could extend that expected lifespan (like visiting the doctor annually for a checkup, regular flossing, diet, etc.).

It is actually cool, with some interesting results based off it. Obviously, it cannot take into account a lot of your genetic makeup (the area where they are making tremendous steps in extending life). I thought it was useful, and it does show me some of the things I could do in order to further extend my life. As many of you know, I am shooting for 97, where Mrs. 39 Months and I will celebrate our 75th wedding ceremony. I am not too worried about her hitting 99, as she has a lot of longevity in her family (aunt hit 102 before she passed, etc.).

Right now, my life expectancy is 86 years old (31 years from now). Things I could do to extend my life (in years):

  • + 0.5 You noted that you do not manage your stress as well as you could. Do a better job and you could add half a year to your life expectancy
  • + 0.75 Brain strengthening activities can help you delay or escape memory loss and perhaps Alzheimer’s disease. While you are already doing some, increasing your frequency of brain-challenging activities to twice a week could add three-quarters of a year to your life. Lifestyle
  • + 0.25 Moving to a place where the air quality is better could add a quarter of a year to your life
  • + 1.0 Minimizing or cutting out your caffeinated coffee consumption completely could provide you with about a year more in life expectancy
  • + 1.0 if it is ok with your doctor, taking an 81 mg aspirin every day improves your heart and brain health and could help you delay or escape a heart attack or stroke. Taking an aspirin each day, preferably in the evening, could add 1 year to your life expectancy.
  • + 0.25 Ultraviolet rays present in sunlight and tanning beds greatly increase your risk of skin cancer, including melanoma. They also increase wrinkles. You are already providing some protection for yourself. Further minimizing your sun exposure could add a quarter of a year to your life expectancy
  • + 0.5 There is a clear link between the inflammation of gum disease and heart disease. Do a good job of flossing daily and you could add half a year to your life expectancy. Nutrition
  • + 1.0 Getting your weight down so that you are no longer overweight could add an additional 1 year to your life expectancy
  • +0.25 The more you can get fast foods out of your diet the better. While you are already doing a pretty good job of doing so, completely removing fast foods from your diet could add a quarter of a year to your life expectancy
  • + 0.5 Osteoporosis (brittle bones) is a terrible disease that becomes more common with older age. Among the important ways to prevent osteoporosis, it is important to have adequate amounts of calcium in your diet. Add more dairy products to your diet or take 1500 mg of calcium a day. Doing so could add a half a year to your life expectancy.
  • + 0.5 You are already making an effort to cut back on your carbs. Further cutting back the carbs in your diet (basically anything white and French fries) to a serving every other day could add half a year to your life expectancy
  • + 1.0 Iron is likely an age-accelerator and increases risk for age-related diseases. Stopping your iron supplement could add a year to your life expectancy
  • + 0.5 Being more active in your leisure time, other than exercising, could add half a year to your life expectancy
  • Medical
  • + 0.75 Examining yourself for cancer could add three-quarters of a year to your life expectancy
  • + 1.0 Increasing your good cholesterol (called HDL cholesterol) to a normal or even higher level could increase your life expectancy by a year
  • + 0.25 it is wise to keep a record of your laboratory tests and other health data that might be hard for you to remember. Doing so could add a quarter of a year to your life expectancy.
  • + 0.5 Decreasing your systolic blood pressure (the first of the two numbers) to 120 or even lower could add half a year to your life expectancy
  • + 0.25 Decreasing your diastolic blood pressure (the second of the two numbers) to less than 80 or even lower could add a quarter of a year to your life expectancy

That is a total of 10.75 years – which gets me right around 97!

Not sure I will do all of them, but it gives you ideas on things to do to help! With medical science making improvements all the time, this is only the beginning.

FIRE and Pets….

Many of us in the FIRE community are pet owners/lovers. They become part of our families, and they provide comfort to us as we walk our path through life. Our kids love playing with them (and so do we), and it just makes life easier (even if we have to walk them in the snow at 6am in the morning….)

However, they do cost money. Food, toys, materials, Cat tray “poo” powder….and medical care. Just recently, we had one of our cats become very listless, not her usual self. She is pretty high-strung, so we didn’t really want to stuff her in a cat carrier and take her to the vet – but eventually we decided we had to. Once there, they took a look and then gave us an estimate of $2,400 to do all the tests and fix her up, due to a serious infection. Ouch!

Mrs. 39 Months and I both looked at each other, and discussed the issue. Our cat was 9 years old, and was still fairly active until this issue.  She has been  a member of the family for a long time, and we couldn’t see life without her. However, we were concerned that she would suffer at the vets for several days, and still not get well. We didn’t want her last days to be like that. Still the vet felt we had a good chance to “save her.”

We are glad we did, because it turned out she wasn’t doing well, and they actually held her for 2 days, while they did a series of tests and pumped some antibiotics into her. She had a major kidney infection, and it took a while just to stabilize her. By the time it was over, she was pretty traumatized, and we got hit with a $2,800 Vet bill. They had given us an estimate beforehand, so it wasn’t too much of a shock. We ended up having to give her antibiotics orally for the next 4 weeks to help finish it off.

So it appears we managed to save her (still a few tests to run) but we’ll end up spending about $3,500 for our Pet’s medical needs. That’s a significant chunk of change for most folks, including us. Luckily we have a large emergency fund, so we weren’t stretched too much, but for so many folks this would be a terrible heartbreak. You have to feel for folks like that.

Hopefully you haven’t experienced anything like that, but if you have, you have my prayers.

Mr. 39 Months

Well, that’s progress…..

As some of your recall, I have been working back through some health issues in 2018, and only recently got back to the level of lifting that I was at prior to those issues (huzzah!).

Well, this week I was able to finally jump to the next level on my lifting, going up in all of my exercises and increasing my weight lifted overall by about 10%! I’m now lifting more than I was when I started tracking this over 5 years ago, which is a tremendous boost for me, certainly a cause for celebration.

Health has been on the minds of many bloggers over the years, as everyone sees the benefits of FI (reduced stress, time to do the things we need to in order to improve our fitness, etc.). I typically read 1-2 posts a week from FI people that has some sort of “health focus” in it.

For Mrs. 39 Months and I, we try to eat a lower-carb diet, get plenty of vegetables and some fruit, and eat a decent amount of protein. I work out almost every day (lifting, biking, swimming) in an attempt to stay as healthy as possible. Mrs. 39 Months has some hip/leg issues (she’s had them since she was a kid) which preclude her from running, and make long-distance bike riding an issue. Still, we try and get out an move around as we move through our 50s and head towards our 60s.

It’s a good life, especially as we approach FI and can take even more time to concentrate on our health and on being together. Hopefully, you are taking care of yourself as well.

Mr. 39 Months

Medical Costs in year 1 of early retirement

As we get closer to FIRE, one of the things Mrs. 39 Months and I (and so many others) get concerned about is paying for medical costs prior to hitting age 65. In the US, Medicare picks up at that age, and though there are still medical bills, Medicare does help pick up a lot of the slack.

The current plan is to retire early at age 56 for me, 58 for Mrs. 39 Months, so that means 7-9 years in which we will have to pay for our own medical. I’ve written before about how, after reading “The Power of Zero”, I want to try to minimize or eliminate taxes for us in the first 5-10 years. If we do that and they keep the ACA subsidies in place, we should be OK. The problem is that first year.

The plan is to retire early in July 2019. Doing that, I would have several issues pop up which would make us ineligible for Obamacare subsidies:

  • Six months of pay at my six-figure salary
  • A deferred investment account my company has, which will yield me roughly $204K, all of which I will receive on the first day after I leave, and all it taxable
  • The need to live for the remaining six months, and thus to draw money from somewhere.

So my initial plan to use Obamacare won’t work for year 1 of my early retirement. I could use the Cobra to get my work insurance (Cobra is a program where you can get health insurance for up to 18 months after you leave a job, provided you pay both your part and your company’s part). Currently I’m paying about $9,800/year for my Silver plan at work, so I’m expecting that to pick up my company’s contribution, that would at least be double that = $19,600/year ($1,633/mo.).

I’ve spoken about using HealthSherpa before, to assist in your searches for healthcare. When I go online there and type in my expected income for year 1, I get no subsidies. I went with a silver plan (the most popular) and a PPO (we like the flexibility there. The system is showing me an Amerihealth NJ plan for $1,569/month (ouch) with an expected annual cost for medium usage at around $21,577 (or $1,798/mo.). Double ouch! So for that first year, I’m going to need to add an extra $1K a month to my expected medical costs, because I will make way too much money to get ACA subsidies.

Something to plan for and make part of our budget. Thanks to the FI community, at least I am aware of this kind of stuff, and can prepare for it. Also, just because we hit FI doesn’t mean we stop working. It’s possible that I find another position in my company or at another, or Mrs. 39 Months keeps working and gets a job with benefits. Either way, we’ll work it out.

It pays to know what is going on, so thanks to all those who write about this stuff (see links to right). I hope all your plans work out!


Mr. 39 Months

Another reason to pursue FI – Health

Well, for those older FI people, it’s a tale we have all experienced. You go in for testing, either your annual checkup or due to a medical procedure – and something pops up. In my case, I’m going in for an outpatient procedure for kidney stones, and I had to get a pre-Op checkup. The EKG came back with some “anomalies” on it, and suddenly I had to get a cardiologist to check me out before I could continue with the procedure.

Do I have a major health issue? I backpack, workout 4-5 times a week, do yardwork, etc. I have always considered myself a healthy person (maxed the Army PT test when I was in, never been operated on, etc.) This was a major slap in the face….

Well, the cardiologist ordered a stress test and an Echo Cardiogram (something that is a lot more accurate than an EKG). After a lot of back-and-forth, it turns out I have a healthy heart – just a genetic “tic” that will show up on my EKG. I can continue with the procedure.

Still, the world is full of stories of people who worked their whole lives, and passed away right before they were going to retire. FI people don’t want to be that person, so most of us practice two things:

  1. Saving significant money so that we can become financially independent and (potentially) retire early
  2. Enjoy life as we go through it, rather than saving excessively only to pass away before we can enjoy it

Mrs. 39 Months and I have started vacationing more and going to some of the sites we would like to see. We are both seeking to “de-stress” our day-to-day lives as well. In our conversations, we each have noted that “free time” (vacations, days off, etc.) is more important to us now than pay. I’m sure it’s the same with you.

So don’t work till you drop. Enjoy yourselves while you are on the journey, even as you prepare for FI.

Wish me luck on my procedure today!

Other posts of interest:

Mr. 39 Months

Healthcare IV

Well, as you remember from my last healthcare post, I checked out potential healthcare costs at the places we were thinking of moving to, once we hit our FIRE goal. We were lucky in that the healthcare was available, at roughly the same price we would pay if we stayed where we were. So much for Geoarbitrage in terms of healthcare!

I wanted to start exploring some other options for folks beyond the standard healthcare options.  As some of you may know, in the US there is an exemption to some of the requirements of the ACA medical act (Obamacare) due to religious exemption. “Members of recognized health care sharing ministries are exempt from the mandate to purchase health insurance by 2014 or face financial penalties. Enrollment with a recognized health care sharing ministry REMOVES your requirement under the healthcare mandate to purchase health insurance.” This enables the Health share organizations to provide an alternative to traditional medical insurance.

The general concept is that the individuals signing up form a “pool of funds” with their contributions, and share them with each other to cover medical expenses. You pay in money up front and monthly, and then the program compensates your doctor, pharmacy, etc. When asked by the doctor, you explain that you will “self-pay” but that you belong to a group that will compensate them with directly. You even get a medical card, etc. For existing conditions, they typically are not covered the first year, are partially covered in year 2, and fully covered in year 3+. When I checked for the two of us, our costs were coming in between $350 – $500/month.

 Part of the issue you may have with this form of health sharing system is the ethics that you are expected to adhere to in order to stay in the system. Some of the strictures could include:

  • Abstain from tobacco use in any form.
  • Follow biblical teachings on the use or abuse of alcohol.
  • Avoid abuse of prescription drugs, which means consuming prescription medications in a manner not intended by the prescriber that would likely result in bodily harm or dependency.
  • Abstain from the use of illegal drugs. Illegal drugs include, but are not limited to, any hallucinogenic substance, barbiturates, amphetamines, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, illegal intravenous drugs, or narcotics.
  • Exercise regularly and eat healthy foods that do not harm the body.
  • Some individuals who qualify for our medical cost sharing program but have certain pre-existing health conditions that can be improved through lifestyle changes will be enrolled in HealthTrac℠. This required program is in place for Sharing Members to improve their health while reducing the risk of developing or exacerbating serious diseases.
  • If a condition is accepted as pre-existing, that member will be accepted with that limitation (see question about Pre-Existing Conditions).
  • All decisions for membership approval are made in consultation with the prospective member and with the most complete information available.

A key point is the one below – membership must be approved by the program administrators – you don’t just get to enroll automatically.  In order to qualify for the exemption from ACA, the programs have to have ‘(II) members of which share a common set of ethical or religious beliefs and share medical expenses among members in accordance with those beliefs and without regard to the State in which a member resides or is employed. Thus, it is similar to belonging to a specific sect of a church in order to qualify. If you do not meet up with that program’s guidelines, they will not cover you – because to do so will put their program in jeopardy. Denial of pre-existing conditions seems to be another issue with this format. This may rub you the wrong way if you don’t follow that particular denomination, but you may be able to seek out one for your personally religious calling.  

These healthcare ministries are still very new, and the legal ramifications are still being worked out on them. They may be a compelling option in the future, but make sure you go in with your eyes wide open. I intend to keep this as one of my options as we get closer to FIRE.

Additional articles on the subject:

If this interests you, here are some Specific programs to investigate:

Anyone have further information, or things you want me to look into for Healthcare?


Mr. 39 Months


Healthcare III

Well, as you remember from my last healthcare post, I was looking into the internet and healthsherpa.com to identify potential healthcare costs for the period between 56 and 65 (when Medicare is supposed to kick in). I started out with my current area in southern NJ, and came up with a list of 7 different plans. Healthsherpa also gives you estimated total annual costs, based on light, moderate or heavy usage. We were coming in around $12K a year for insurance, co-pays, prescriptions, etc.

I next wanted to see costs for healthcare in states we were considering moving to once we hit FI – Delaware or North Carolina (near Asheville). Delaware would enable us to keep close to where we currently are, and Mrs. 39 Months family. North Carolina would be closer to my family, and would have the benefit of being in the mountains (something both Mrs. 39 Months and I grew up with, and miss since we moved to Southern NJ).

First I checked out North Carolina, using the same steps that we followed in Healthcare II posting. Mrs. 39 Months really liked Black Mountain NC when we visited last year, so I’m going to use that. After researching, it looked like we could get $580/month back in reimbursement.

After going through the other parts (it started with 7 plans, I put in that we wanted a PPO and Silver) it came up with 3 plans to compare, all coming in similar to the monthly cost that we were looking at for NJ. The expected spend still ends up being around $12K a year.

For Delaware, we did the same thing and came away with:

  • Monthly reimbursement of $1,489/month (wow!)
  • Overall annual costs of around $12K/year

So it appears that, as of right now, we can budget about $12K/year for medical, based on what HealthSherpa is telling us. I will continue to do research on this in future postings, and I’ll let you know what I can find out.


Anyone have further information, or things you want me to look into for Healthcare?


Mr. 39 Months

Healthcare II

Well, as you remember from my last healthcare post, I wanted to look into using the internet to research potential  health care costs for myself and Mrs. 39 Months when we retire early. I thought it might be of interest to folks to see what I found, and what questions this raised.

After looking through some of the sites that I discussed on my last post, I chose to go with Healthsherpa.com as my source for finding information. The steps I followed are:

  • Go to HealthSherpa.com
    • You can setup account if you want, and then log in to keep your stuff
  • Type in zip code . Very important. Some places have Healthcare exchanges, some don’t. I will cover some of those areas that don’t in another post.

  • Who needs coverage (me & spouse)
  • Put in ages, answer questions on disability, smoking, etc.

  • Put in number of people in household (2) and estimated income (I went with $60K)

  • Sherpa says that I can save $892/month on healthcare by reimbursement by government in my zip code (in southern NJ)
  • It asks for the qualifying event, and gives me a list. I chose losing coverage (since I’d be retiring)

  • Asks you to rate how often you use healthcare (low, medium, heavy) based on doctor’s visits, prescriptions, hospital visits, etc. Not perfect, but it will get you in the ballpark. I chose heavy use, because as we get older, we’d go more often

  • Let’s you go into detail on the plan (visits, prescriptions, etc.)
  • Also let’s you compare other plans & costs by clicking “view all 18 plans”

  • This sorts by lowest cost to highest cost, and has a screen on the left side that lets you filter your search. Since I wanted an EPO and Silver plan, I typed those in.
  • The result was a series of seven (7) different plans, ranging in price from $489/month to $2,076/month. Wow. The screen also lets you select up to three different plans to compare.

  • The three plans ranged from $489 to $589 per month. Some of the areas they compare are:
    • Deductible
    • Max Out-of-Pocket (OOP)
    • Primary Care co-pay
    • Prescriptions
  • This should help you get an idea of potential costs. Again, these costs reflect a reimbursement from the government of $892/month. If my income went above the 400% poverty level (around $64K right now), I would be adding about $900/month onto my healthcare bill.

Well, at least I’ve got a starting point for budgeting.

Next healthcare post, we’ll go over what to do when you have a state that doesn’t have a healthcare exchange.


Mr. 39 Months


Health Care – Post 1

Like many FIRE folks in the United States, the topic of health care takes a major part of our planning as we look to exit the rat race early. The current plan, as reader’s know, is to retire in 30 months, when Mr. 39 Months will be 56 and Mrs. 39 Months will be 58. Since Medicare doesn’t kick in till age 65, and we aren’t the kind of idiots who try to “chance it” by going without medical during the gap, we need to look for medical coverage to cover us for 7-9 years. Even though the healthcare issue continues to be a political football, we need to start planning. I won’t get into the politics here (thank god) other than to say that, as a “libertarian leaning” individual, I find it distasteful that politics enters into it at all.

Now that that is out-of-the-way, I wanted to go through my initial research on this, and what I found. I expect this will be an ongoing topic, as I update you on my findings and go through my logic as I approach FI and potential early retirement.

First some basic info:

  • Mr. 39 Months is 53, and Mrs.39 Months is 55
  • Overall health is good, though not as good as 20 years ago (i.e. no chronic illnesses, diabetes, injuries, etc.)
  • We have typically had a PPO plan (i.e. it allows us to go outside of our network fairly easy). An HMO plan is typically less expensive, but it is more difficult to seek doctors outside of a prescribed network. We both felt the additional expense was worth it for the flexibility
  • Mr. 39 Months job has typically been the one which has provided our health care (like so many folks in the US). The co-pay cost has gone up a lot over the last ten years, as health care costs and regulations have increased. At this point,  we are currently paying $9,835/year out of our paycheck (not counting co-pays and deductibles).
  • We currently have  a “Silver PPO” plan, which
  • As most folks know, you can’t easily deduct your medical expenses from you income taxes in the US (for 2016’s taxes, you could only deduct anything over 10% of your income – very difficult to hit).

Even though the healthcare issue is a moving target right now, here is what I’ve done.

  1. Figured out generally what we are looking for. The plan is to try to get a similar Silver PPO plan. While I’d like to look into an HSA type, I’m not dedicated to it. We will have to see.
  2. The plan is to live on around $72,000 per year. That is pretty generous (our current base expenditures are around $30,000 year + taxes). The extra is to provide $12K to each of us for an allowance ($1,000/month) for our expenses, $12K for medical, and $6K (just in case). This gets us to $72K. We are thinking of some “geo-arbitrage” in the US to potentially reduce the spending.
  3. With the new US tax law, we can deduct a base $24K from our income as a deductible. This puts us at $48K per year in income – well within the confines of the current US healthcare “assistance” level, based on being under  400% of the US Poverty level (which for 2016 was around $64,080 for 2 people)
  4. Looked for various sites on line to assist. Some of those I found include:
  • Healthcare.gov
  • Ehealthinsurance.com
  • healthsherpa.com

I’ll share what I found in my next healthcare posting.

Some other FIRE blog posts that I have found on the topic that folks might want to look into include:

  1. Our Next Life
  2. Root of Good
  3. The Green Swan
  4. Michael Dinich: Hacking the ACA

Mr. 39 Months