Sunday, October 28, 2012

Why Did My Credit Score Drop?

I have been doing very well with my budget.  My bills are being paid on time with a little extra.  Our debt is gradually dropping.  I checked my credit score, and I was shocked by what I saw... My credit score DROPPED!

Immediately, I began searching for any bills that I had not paid.  I couldn't figure it out.  Why did my credit score drop?  I found nothing!  I felt like crying.  All that hard work for absolutely nothing positive!  Travis had no idea what happened.  Let's just say, I freaked out.  I began thinking that nothing good is going to happen for us.  I began thinking that we'll never own a home.  I began thinking what's the point in even trying to pay off my debt - it won't help me anyways.

A few friends of mine know a lot about credit scores, mortgages, loans, and business-y stuff.  One night, while we were all hanging out having a few drinks, I brought it up to them.  I asked them, "How do people do it anymore?  Why is it my credit score drops when I do everything right?"  They started asking me a few really smart questions that I would have never thought of.

The greatest debt I have is student loans.  The credit cards are really nothing.  When I confessed to my friends how much I owe each month to student loans, it was roughly 60% of our net income.  Yup, that's right.  We pay 60% of our take home pay to student loans.  Because our credit card debt is so low, it's actually not a negative thing since we pay it off each month with a little bit of roll-over.

Your credit score is actually affected by your income to debt ratio.  I did not know that!  While we sat here thinking that if we paid off my student loans within 10 years, it would be better for us and that my credit score would improve.  Nope, it sure doesn't.  Your debt needs to be AT THE MOST 40% of your net income.  To qualify for better interest rates, your debt needs to be about 30% of your net income.  If your debt is over 40% of your net income, it reflects negatively on your credit score.  So even though we are paying off my student loans at the lowest current rates they offer for a 10-year repayment plan and paying off the principle, it doesn't increase my credit score.  Sure, we'd be saving more money in the long run... but it isn't helping us now get our footing in the real world.

If I increase my repayment plan to 20 or 30 years, it will boost my credit score and give us lower monthly payments.  It could possibly boost my credit score enough to qualify for a mortgage.  I brought up consolidating my loans... is that a good thing or a bad thing?  In my situation, it would be bad.

Because I am pretty well organized with my student loans, consolidating would not do me any justice.  It would negatively affect my credit score.  I have a variety of different student loans - some at low interest rates and some at high interest rates.  Consolidating would give me a higher interest rate than majority of my student loans.  The best decision for me is to keep them separate, pay the minimum balance, and then use what I have left to pay off the principle on my highest interest rate loans.  Consolidating would cause me to pay about the same or significantly more than if I just keep them separate and first pay off the higher interest rates in comparison to the principle balance for each.

So there you have it.  To help your credit score and prevent it from dropping, you must keep your debt at or below 40% of your net income.  If that means pushing my student loans off to a 20 or 30 year plan, then so be it.  It will definitely benefit us more than paying off the student loans right away.  After all, we still have our 10 year plan to paying them off - it just shows on paper that we plan to have it paid off in 20-30 years, showing that we are more financially responsible and trustworthy with our credit.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Feeling Down: Update

Due to our low income and lack of health insurance, I went to the local Neighborhood Health Clinic yesterday morning.  I was very pleased with my visit.  My nurse practitioner knew exactly what I was talking about.  Why that is such a relief, I don't know.  Normally, when asked why am I being seen, I have to explain that I have two birth defects.  When I say Intestinal Malrotation, I get confused looks and am asked, "what is that?"  It's not very comforting to hear medical providers have to ask ME - the patient - what is Intestinal Malrotation.  It's actually scary and makes me worried that I'm not going to get appropriate care.  I've seen doctors answer my questions with shrugs and "I don't know".

First, when I went in, the Medical Assistant was new.  I'm totally cool with working with new people.  They have to start somewhere, and I'm very patient with them because I understand what that's like.  She was very sweet.  Her biggest obstacle was the computer to enter information into - and the program looked complex so I can't blame her for taking a while.  Hey, at least she wasn't poking me with a needle!  In Bloomington, I had a new EMT practice putting an IV in my arm....  about 45 minutes to an hour of agonizing pain in my left arm!!  But hey, they gotta learn some time to save another person's life!  I'll be a guinea pig.

This nurse practitioner asked ME the questions.  When I told her where my pain was, she began asking me the important questions.  When I told her where the pain was located, she began asking me if I had other conditions that could be causing the pain - such as kidneys, pancreas, appendix, or my right ovary.  She asked me if I had acid reflux, and when I said yes and told her what I took for it (Gaviscon for those who are interested in awesome heartburn and acid reflux relief - it's great!  I recommend it!) - she was able to explain to me what she thought was happening.  I felt relieved that someone at least had a hypothesis!

***Warning: Gross, TMI part!  Details are important, but if you are sensitive to gross details, skip this part***

My nurse practitioner asked me some important questions that I think others who experience Intestinal Malrotation pain should know.  So I am going to share those with you.  First, she asked if I was constipated.  I said yes.  She asked how long had I been constipated.  I told her it ranges, probably on and off for 3-4 days, sometimes more, sometimes less.  This had her concerned.  She asked if my stools were hard.  I said, no they are soft.  She explained that constipation usually involves stools being hard.  Since mine were not, she asked about the size of my stools.  I told her they are very thin.

The nurse practitioner then asked if the pain I have been experiencing felt like burning.  I said no.  It feels like something is stuck.  It feels full.  And she asked if I had pain after eating.  Immediately, I said yes.  My husband was with me simply because I was in so much pain I couldn't drive well.  He and I have witnessed everything together, so we are totally cool with discussing such details with each other.  And because of my condition, he'll ask me occassionally about these details if he notices anything abnormal.  There have been times when I've been in the hospital that I was seriously drugged up on pain meds that he's had to speak on my behalf, or I've been unconscious from pain that he's had to speak on my behalf.  Anyways, this is when he stepped in and said that when I eat, my stomach automatically swells while I'm eating.  By the time I've finished eating, I look 3-4 months pregnant (and we know because I was at one point in time!).  I told my NP that I get extremely tired after eating.

She asked me about nausea, and I said yes.  I always feel like I'm going to vomit.  Because I have not, my NP said that my bowels have not twisted, but they could be positioned awkwardly.  My NP said that if the pain persists and I do vomit, I should go to the ER immediately. However, she said that something is causing a small block, and that's making it painful.

She asked me about gas - have I been passing gas more frequently or burping more frequently.  I said yes.  She thinks that my Intestinal Malrotation and my acid reflux are working against each other and creating more pain.  She believes that I could be experiencing a common side effect with Intestinal Malrotation relating to Intestinal Peristalsis - meaning that something could be preventing my digested food from moving through my intestines.

Because of my symptoms and history, the NP prescribed me Docusate to help with constipation.  So far, I have been taking 2 a day as prescribed - and while I am passing stools - it feels like my freaking miscarriage.  It hurts so much, I can't even work or sleep.  Not going to lie, I've been back and forth to the bathroom, crying every time.  I'll be in there for over an hour with little or no luck.  Who gets laxatives and still can't poop?  I guess, people like me....

***OK, we've passed the gross part.  YOU CAN READ NOW!***

Because my pain is in the upper abdomen and along the right side of my abdomen, it can be difficult or time consuming to find exactly what is causing the pain.  So many important organs fall along the right side of the body, and with patients that have Intestinal Malrotation, their intestines are included on that right side.  The Neighborhood Health Clinic cannot do x-rays on the spot.  So I have to wait until Thursday to get abdominal x-rays.  It takes about a week for her to receive the x-rays, so I have another appointment with her that following Thursday.  She's going to collect my medical records and review what procedures I have had done already, and see what tests and procedures I should do now after she reviews my x-rays.

I'm very lucky I have a job that is flexible with me.  I've still managed to pop into work once in a while.  I worked half a day yesterday, even though I was in pain.  Everyone told me not to bother working today.  My father-in-law has been very sweet about it.  He's been making sure I'm still OK, checking on me once in a while.  He brought me icecream last night, but I was in such pain I couldn't eat.

Travis has been my rock - as always.  I love him so much.  He's been taking care of me every second he can.  I don't know what I'd do without him.  Last night, I cried for so long.  Here I have a degree, but with my condition I can't have a career.  I can barely work with this kind of pain.  Here, I have so much in student loans to pay back, but I can't even use my degree.  Hell, I can't even find a good job with my degree.  And I told Travis I feel guilty.  I've put us in debt to have a degree.  I was the reason we were in medical debt.  And here I am... I can't even offer a good paying job to help cover expenses and give us a quality life - a normal life.  All I want is to be content and normal.  With my condition, how on Earth will I be able to have kids?  I can't just take a day, two days, or a week off of being a mother.  He can't do it all alone.  I feel so completely responsible for the stress we are under and the debt we currently have.

I do have hope.  Today, I was able to finally purchase health insurance for 6 months.  I researched health insurance for pre-existing conditions and I found one through MultiPlan.  My plan is only $117 a month.  I have no lifetime limit.  For pre-existing conditions, anything that costs $0-$10,000 is covered up to 70%, with the maximum that I would be required to pay is $3,000.  Between $10,000 - $15,000, it is covered 80/20, with the maximum that I would be required to pay at $4,000.  From $15,000 to $2 million, it is covered 100%.  For anything that is not pre-existing, I have a $50 co-pay, and for health and sickness visits, I get 3 for 6 months.  My health insurance is covered through STAR Financial.  On top of that, most hospitals, doctors and specialists in Fort Wayne will accept this plan.  No procedures or treatments will be denied coverage.  However, I was required to get life insurance, which is included in my $117/month plan.  My life insurance is through Fidelity.  Can't say I won't need it... after all, Travis and I combined almost died 4 times during our relationship - so who knows! lol It couldn't hurt.

If you have a pre-existing condition and are looking for a plan similar to mine, I would recommend calling 1-866-421-7010 to get a quote.  The individuals I spoke to are Chuck and Yvonne.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Feeling Down

Recently, a couple of people I know personally told me that they loved reading my blogs.  WHO KNEW?  I didn't think anyone really read them, so I stopped blogging back in August.

This is my confession.  I'm lazy.  Let's just be honest here.  If I don't have to do it, I won't do it.  Unfortunately, such a vice is more hazardous than enjoyable.  It's definitely my biggest sin... SLOTH.  It sounds terrible.  It's not an attractive trait at all.  And I've realized it's a habit that's making me unhappy with life.

I think what happened to me was that I settled in my disappointments about my life.  I focused on the negative.  I look at our bills every month and look at our income, and I cry.  I think of the amazing apartment we had in Bloomington, the joys of being free to roam, and seeing my friends and family randomly at my door every single day.  I loved it.  We had our furniture, whether it was hand-me-downs or purchased, and we were happy.  We had our privacy.  We had our alone times.  Travis and I really loved being just the two of us.  And then I look at where we are today...

I love our family.  They have been incredibly supportive.  We'd be homeless if it weren't for our generous and loving family.  I've been blessed.  But it breaks my heart every day to see our income is less than it was before moving to Fort Wayne, our monthly bills are the exact same amount as when we lived in Bloomington, we've sold a good portion of our furniture, and we pretty much live in a bedroom at my father-in-law's and my grandfather-in-law's home with the rest of our items stored in a friend's warehouse.  This is not where I expected to be 10 months after moving to Fort Wayne to pursue our life together.

Being a recent graduate, I'm scared.  I'm scared that Travis and I will never afford a home of our own.  I'm scared that I'll never have the career to support my family.  I get frightened when applying for jobs - as silly as it is - because I'm afraid I don't know what I'm doing or how to sell myself to a potential employer.  After all, what experience do I have to offer?  I'm intimidated by the amazing talent that my fellow peers have.  And most of all, I'm scared about my health.

Ok, ok, I know, tons of people have heard the story.  I have birth defects.  Intestinal Malrotation (IM) and Bicornuate Uterus (BU).  With no health insurance, I don't go to a doctor like I should... like I need to.  We just cannot afford it right now to go as often as I need to and to pay for the medications and treatments I need.  What makes it worse is the pain.  It hits me out of the blue.  And when it does, I cannot do anything.  It's paralyzing.  If I had the money to afford medications and regular treatment, I wouldn't be in such pain.  We've tried applying for MedicAid, but I have to be disabled or pregnant.  We've tried applying for the Healthy Indiana Plan, but we were told it'd be 2 years before I could receive insurance since the waitlist is so long.  Previously, when I applied for insurance on my own, I was given a quote, then told I was denied.  Fingers crossed, Travis may have a job at a local popcorn factory that would give us insurance.  If he gets the job (which I'm confident he will), we'd have a 90 day period to wait before we can finally have insurance through his job.  I'm counting down the days....

These past 24 hours have been pretty agonizing.  My IM and GERD have been giving me a lot of pain and issues.  I noticed something wasn't right last month.  When I called the local Neighborhood Clinic to schedule an appointment, they said there wasn't any openings for over a week.  When the receptionist asked for the reason behind my visit, I told her I had no idea if it was my IM or GERD giving me such terrible pain.  I don't know what's going on.  She scheduled an appointment for me for tomorrow morning.  We're taking money out of our emergency fund for my visit tomorrow.  I can't wait any longer to find out what's happening.  We will see what's going on with my innards tomorrow.  I'll keep my followers posted.