Puppy Leaks

Your pet is a part of your family, and you'd do anything to keep your fluffy friend happy and healthy.

Sure any trip to the vet is expensive, but if your pet is usually healthy, you've probably just paid for their occasional medical care out of pocket. If you've never even considered pet insurance, you're not alone. While around 68% of U.S. households own pets, only 1% of those pets are insured, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA). But what would you do if your pet had a sudden medical emergency, racking up medical bills into the thousands?

A recent survey by the Associated Press found that 41% of pet owners are worried they could not afford the medical bills for a sick pet. Petfinder estimates the annual cost of routine vet visits is $45-$200 for dogs and $50-$400 for cats, but emergency vet visits can cost up to $2,000, sometimes more. If you couldn't bare to leave your pet untreated in the case of an unexpected health issue, but a $2,000 vet bill isn't in your budget, maybe pet insurance is something you should consider.

Pet insurance is actually not dissimilar from human health insurance. According to Penny Hoarder, like health insurance, when buying pet insurance, "You can choose from different levels of coverage, with each plan costing a monthly or annual premium based on how much coverage you choose."

Plans differ pretty dramatically in what they cover, and while some cover basic scenarios like accidents and injuries, others only cover accidents. Some of the most comprehensive (and most expensive) plans include accidents, injuries and genetic/hereditary conditions. But is an extra monthly fee worth the peace of mind?


Pet Life Today

Veterinarian Jean Maixner, co-owner of Animal Critical Care & Emergency Services in Seattle, thinks it is. "If you get the right policy, it can be an asset to the health care of that pet and have a significant impact on the bill that results from a visit in an emergency situation." She goes on to say that, "Some people can't afford the treatment so they ask us to euthanize their pet. It's absolutely horrible,If people had acquired pet insurance before the emergency occurred, they might have been able to move forward with some reasonable treatment to help their pet."

But while pet insurance may serve as emotional comfort, evidence suggests it just doesn't make financial sense. In an attempt to find a definitive answer about whether pet insurance is worth the cost, Consumer Reports compared the cost vs. payout of nine pet policies for a healthy 10-year-old beagle named Roxy. The vet bills over Roxy's life time came out to a grand total of $7,026. In every case, the total premiums that would have been paid to each of the ten insurance companies were higher than Roxy's medical bills.

But, you may still be wondering, what if Roxy had faced a major medical event, would the insurance have been worth it then? Even in that case, the magazine found, probably not.

Instead, to prepare for the event of a catastrophic medical bill for your pet, we recommend putting aside the money you would have used to pay an insurance company each month and creating a savings account. That way, if your pet lives a healthy life and never needs major medical intervention, you haven't wasted your money on an unnecessary policy, but you're still prepared should something happen to your furry best friend.

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Developing further skills can boost your career at any stage.

Whether you are looking for a new job or trying to grow in your current one, getting a certification can be a great way to improve your skills.

Anyone can put that they are proficient in a computer program on their resume but having a certificate can help you stand out amongst the competition and give credence to the strength of your skills.

But what's the best way to invest in yourself without breaking the bank? Some certification programs can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. We are going to walk through six of the best certifications you can get for $100 or less.

Tableau

Tableau's data visualization capabilities are comparable to Domo and Power BI.

Who is it best for: Those who work with analyzing and presenting data.

Cost: $100 for Tableau Desktop Specialist; additional certifications are available for a larger fee.

More companies than ever see themselves as data companies. Being able to understand data and use it to guide decisions at your company is often critical to taking on a leadership role. Not to mention, being able to present the data in a clean, attractive, and compelling way can help get buy-in from others in your organization or clients. That's why Tableau is a great tool to have in your toolbox.

Tableau allows you to create interactive visual analytics dashboards. In layman's terms, you can take data; create graphs, maps, or charts; and then allow end-users to interact with these graphics to better understand the information. It's a fantastic tool allowing non-technical users to gain insights for data-driven decision-making.

Tableau Desktop Specialist certification starts at $100 and has no expiration date. There are many videos on Tableau's site to prepare for your exam as well as Tableau Starter Kits allowing you to play around and learn the different capabilities of the program. Tableau offers a 14-day free trial as well as free license for one year for students.

Additional certifications after Desktop Specialist are Desktop Associate and Desktop Professional. Those working with a Tableau server may also be interested in a separate certification as a Server Associate or Server Professional.

The Federal Reserve sets the guardrails for the federal funds rate, and through that helps control the money supply for the nation.

When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.

A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.

One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.

The Federal Reserve The Federal Reserve


The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.

This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.

The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.

Getty Images/Maria Stavreva

Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.

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