Ask the Experts

Interfacing With Insurers

A storm hit my hometown over the summer and really did a number on my parents’ house (my old childhood home), particularly the roof. My parents, of course, called up their insurance company right away. But the insurance company was just awful, and didn’t really tell them anything, so they got it fixed themselves and then went back to the insurance company to get reimbursed–only to get more arguments and more denials. It’s been terrible for their finances, which are already a little strained with me in school and the holidays coming up. I’m so frustrated for them, and I don’t understand why insurance companies are allowed to deny claims for little nit-picky reasons. Shouldn’t there be laws against this? How can my parents fight back?

Insurance is something that we want to have but hope never to need, and when we do have to make a claim, the process can be frustrating–and sometimes unfair.

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Earth and the Economy

I have some great friends here, at school. Some of them are very, very different from each other. For instance, I have some very liberal environmentalist friends, and some very conservative, business-minded friends. Everyone gets along pretty well–until we have a few drinks, anyway. Then I’m suddenly in the middle of the great moral debate of our time. My liberal friends think that unchecked business interests are destroying our Earth. My business-minded friends think that hippies are ruining business with unnecessary regulation.

I know you guys don’t get political, but I’d love some context on this. If I’m going to listen to this debate, I at least want to understand it. What’s the case for destroying the environment to create jobs? And what’s the case for destroying jobs to save the planet?

It sounds like you’re in a tricky debate. Part of the issue may be rooted in the way you’re phrasing the two sides of the debate (part of it may also be rooted in those drinks you’re having–maybe you should take it easy next weekend!). To you and your friends, it seems, the conflict between the environment and business is a zero-sum game. Is that so?

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Pacing Purchases

I’m graduating this year, and so is my longtime girlfriend. We have some big plans, but we don’t totally agree on how we want to spend our money. We both have jobs lined up and we both have some help from our parents so, we can afford to make some big purchases–but we can’t afford to get all of what we want, so it’s become kind of an issue.

We both agree that we want to buy a house rather than rent, although we’re not sure yet how we’re going to manage who owns what (we’re not married yet, but that’s coming soon, I think!). We want to live near the shore and I am very convinced that I want a boat–just a little one, obviously, not a yacht or anything. Meanwhile, she wants certain appliances and other really specific stuff for the house, and some of it is really expensive. She thinks I’m being frivolous, and I think she’s being a little intense–we don’t even know yet what sorts of appliances will be installed in the house we buy, and she already wants to replace them! Any advice on figuring out how to divvy up our budget?

It sounds as if you have some big plans for your post-graduate years! It’s good to have financial goals, and it’s hard to give specific advice about your finances without knowing more about your income and your existing savings. With that said, it sounds like your spending plan is very ambitious–something that you seem to recognize as you wrestle with the competing priorities that you and your partner have.

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Mortgaging Your Future

I know I will have a lot of student debt after college, but is it possible to get a mortgage as well?

It is common knowledge that college will put you into debt. You may be reluctant to get even further into debt after you graduate, however, you may want to buy a home. Fortunately, the federal government can help with a number of programs designed to assist students and those getting onto the property ladder for the first time.

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Legal Limit

I got a health checkup before school. Now my parents want me to see their lawyer. What are they afraid of?

Parents continue to be responsible for their children even when they go to college. It is natural that in our litigious society they want to make sure you are legally prepared for any eventuality.  When something goes wrong mom and dad usually end up paying for it. With over 15 million civil lawsuits filed in America every year, it pays to have some knowledge of legal liability.