Dustin, Author at Engaged Marriage

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About the Author

Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.

How to Find an Affordable Therapist

By Dustin | Help

Going to therapy can be a challenging proposition. Thankfully, the stigma surrounding therapy has diminished in recent years, with more and more people realizing it’s a good and often necessary part of mental health.

But even if you do find the right therapist, the cost per session can be a huge roadblock. A single therapy session can cost $100 to $200 or more out of pocket. That can quickly add up beyond the average person’s ability to afford.

Combined with the struggle of finding the right therapist for you, therapy can start to seem like it’s just not worth it. But fortunately, there are some strategies for finding affordable therapy when you need it.

Check your health insurance policy

People go to therapy for a variety of reasons — their marriage is in trouble; they’re suffering depression or suicidal thoughts; they need help with grief or loss.

If you have health insurance, one of the first things you should try is contacting your insurance provider to see what they’ll cover. Health insurance doesn’t always cover everything when it comes to therapy, and even if you are covered, your out-of-pocket costs may vary.

In general, most insurance companies offer coverage for some mental health issues, if they’re considered medically necessary. Most likely, your insurer will want an official mental health diagnosis before providing coverage.

Another possible obstacle to finding therapy your insurance will pay for: you may have to find a therapist who’s “in network,” which may not include a therapist you’ve found that’s right for you.

Go for counseling at church

Or choose another religious or spiritual group that you belong to. Many pastors, rabbis, and imams are trained in family and marriage counseling, which they provide for free or at low cost.

Some churches and religious organizations even have room in their budget specifically to help with the counseling needs of church members.

Of course, not all religious counselors are equally equipped to handle the more complicated aspects of a troubled marriage (for example, when it comes to sex). But if they can’t handle your problems themselves, they may be able to provide a referral to another marriage counselor, or to community resources that can be of help.

Inquire at your local community center

Not every therapist has their own practice. There are many licensed and qualified mental health professionals who work at community and public health centers and can provide lower-cost treatment.

Check with community centers, hospitals, and peer support or recovery groups in your area. You may also qualify for psychiatric help from the state, if you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness. You should check with your state’s department of health to see what they provide and if you qualify.

There are also several phone numbers you can call if you need more immediate help with your mental health.

Approach your employer

Whether your employer provides health insurance or not, they may offer some counseling assistance outside of that. Larger companies sometimes have employee assistance programs that can help with a certain amount of counseling sessions.

Wellness programs are becoming more common in the workplace, and don’t always take the form of fitness programs — some companies even offer incentives for their employees to look after their mental health. Check with the human resources department at your workplace to see what they offer.

Try online counseling

In-person counseling can be a challenge to manage and schedule, especially when taking into account the COVID-19 pandemic. Online therapy can be a viable and affordable alternative.

Online therapy apps and services often charge a lower rate than in-person therapists, and are easier to schedule and attend. Therapy apps like ReGain, TalkSpace, and others can provide therapy for a wide variety of needs.

Inquire at a local college or university

An often overlooked option for those seeking affordable therapy is inquiring at the local college or university. Many schools have students or are studying mental health counseling or psychology and looking to complete an internship before graduating. A student mental health counselor is supervised by an experienced professional, so patients do not receive inferior care, and their rates are often considerably lower.

They also often have a smaller caseload, and so can provide more individualized care, and because they are studying to get their degree, they may have more up-to-date techniques and information that older therapists who are more set in their ways might not employ. Depending on the internship programs at the school, you may even be able to get counseling for free.

Finding the right therapist for you, especially one you can afford to see on a regular basis, can be a challenge for even the most patient. But looking after your mental health, relationships, and general well-being is of paramount importance, and looking for affordable alternatives is worth exploring and could pay off — in more ways than one. 

4 Personal Finance Tips for the Self-Employed

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

4 Personal Finance Tips for the Self Employed

By Molly Barnes, Digital Nomad Life

If you’re self-employed, you’re not alone. Despite a slight dip in April, self-employment figures have been rising consistently, hitting their highest level in three years at 9.876 million in March.

The economy is changing, and how people work is changing with it. That creates a need to adapt in other areas of life, too, including relationships and finance.

But how do you do that? Factors such as long hours; inconsistent income, and the uncertainty of self-employment can cause stress you might not find in a traditional workplace environment.

And that doesn’t begin to address the potential disconnect between your own goals and those of your partner. To meet these challenges, consider the following:

Separate your accounts

Creating separate business and personal accounts can help you track your income and expenses more easily, as well as keeping your records straight for tax purposes.

When it comes to financing, you can fund your business out of your own pocket (in fact, you may have to), but you also may be able to call upon outside sources like investors and crowdfunding. Seeking bank loans is another possibility. 

Obtaining outside financing means you’ll have less control, which could lead to greater stress because you’ll also be responsible to others for creating success. But you’d be motivated to do that, anyway. 

Separating your accounts can help your relationship by making it clear to your spouse that you’re not using family funds to pay for your own dreams — at least not immediately or directly. This can give your partner assurance that you’re putting the family first and add to the level of security in your relationship.

Aim high, budget low

You have big goals for your business, but that doesn’t mean you can count on a certain income. In fact, one of the trickiest parts of self-employment is not knowing how much money you’ll make from one month to the next.

When you’re creating a personal budget, start with your lowest monthly income as your baseline. This can reduce your stress level as much as possible, while at the same time keeping you from overspending.

List your regular expenses, like utilities, rent/mortgage, car payment, fuel costs, food, etc., and go from there. Don’t forget costs like insurance, property taxes, and an emergency fund. Then you can add nonessential items like eating out, taking in a movie, streaming services, social club memberships, and so forth. 

If you’ve got money left over after the essentials are paid, it may be tempting to reinvest in your business. But remember to think of your relationship, too. If you don’t spend anything on personal enjoyment, it will be easier to burn out. And neglecting to invest in quality time with your significant other can lead to hard feelings, possibly causing your relationship to suffer.

“Investing” implicates time and attention, as well as money. Finding the perfect work-life balance can feel like an unattainable goal. But you can approach a reasonable balance by creating boundaries between your home and work lives, both will benefit in the long run.

Have a backup plan

Obviously, having a backup plan is important when you’re running your own business. Unlike a traditional job, there’s no employer to act as a safety net if you make a mistake: It’s all on you. Consider these building blocks for your backup plan.

Insurance

Just as insurance is necessary for your personal life, it’s important for your business, too. The Small Business Association lists six types of insurance small businesses should consider — some of which may be legally required in your state. 

Protection against liability for product defects and injury, accusations of negligence, and property loss because of bad weather or other unforeseen crises are just some of the possibilities you should consider.

Credit

You’ll also want to have good credit if you need it, not only for investments but also to provide a cushion in the event of hard times. Know your credit score and understand the factors that go into it. Then you’ll be positioned to build your credit standing so you can prepare for success and provide a safety net for the future.

Technology

These days, having a backup means backing up your computer files, too. Store copies of all your important files on an external hard drive and/or the cloud. But if you put anything online, make sure your password’s protected and be aware of phishing and ransomware scams. 

It’s also important to be able to weather any storms, literally. In addition to saving your changes regularly, invest in a surge protector for your electronics and other hardware. You may even want to consider a backup generator so you can keep working if the power goes out (especially if you live in an area prone to weather disruptions). After all, any disruption in work is a disruption in income. 

Include your partner

One surefire way to build resentment in a marriage is to make major life decisions without your partner’s input. If you were traditionally employed, you wouldn’t take a job in a different city without talking to your partner. You shouldn’t make big self-employment decisions without their input, either.

Not only will talking to your significant other keep you both invested in your life together, but also you’ll access a different perspective and a wealth of ideas you may not have considered, both of which could benefit your business.

It can be a challenge to stay engaged in both aspects of your self-employed and married life. But if you include your partner, create personal and financial boundaries, and have a Plan B, you’ll put yourself in the best possible position to succeed.

Why Does Marital Status Affect Car Insurance Rates?

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

Car insurance for married couples

Auto insurers measure how much of a risk you pose against a number of factors. These include demographics, location, profession, driving record, type of vehicle, credit score, and claims history.

But did you know they also take marital status into account and offer lower rates to married people? 

Why insurers charge married people less for car insurance

While this doesn’t seem fair on the surface, the insurance industry has its reasons for using marital status to determine car insurance rates.

1. Single people are often younger 

Research shows that car crashes are higher among young people. This is largely due to their lack of driving experience and engaging in distracted driving behavior like texting and driving. 

In the U.S., teens are most at risk of car crashes. In the UK, it’s drivers aged 21-29 who have the most car crashes. Whether teen or twenty-something, younger drivers are more reckless.

As single people are often younger, insurance companies view them as riskier drivers.

2. Married people are seen as more responsible

Once you get married, mortgages, bills, and steady jobs tend to follow.

Insurance companies see married people as more mature, responsible, and financially stable. Even males 25 and younger (who typically pay the highest insurance rates), receive a discount on car insurance when they wed, provided they have no major blemishes on their driving record.

3. Married people with kids tend to be safer drivers

What else follows marriage? Kids.

Once a baby arrives, parents tend to become safer drivers. According to a survey by IDriveSafely.com, despite the fact fretful babies and toddlers pose a distraction while driving, 82% of parents still believe that they became safer drivers with a baby in the car.

Parents of teenagers also become more aware of their driving behavior as they try to set a good example when their teen learns to drive. 

4. Married couples are more likely to take bundled packages 

Many insurance companies offer home and car bundles or multiple car policies at discounted rates.

As a family with multiple drivers or multiple policies, you’re giving the insurance company more business. That, for one, makes them happy. In addition, being a homeowner or adding life insurance is another indicator of financial responsibility, so insurers are willing to reward you with lower rates. 

5. Married people may drive less

Married people may use one car to drive to work, social events, or the grocery store, which means one partner is driving less. Less miles can lower your premiums, even if you’re not married, so chat to your insurer if you are driving less. 

Living the single life can also mean being out at night and drinking more. This not only adds more miles to the clock but also increases the risk for drunk-driving accidents.

Married people with families, on the other hand, are more likely to stay home, safe and sound. 

Single vs married: How much do you pay?

According to The Zebra, married people pay, on average, $75 less per month than single people. But this isn’t only directed at people who never married. Divorced and widowed drivers are also penalized, paying $86 and $50 more, respectively. 

So when did this practice start? Many insurance companies refer to a 2004 study by the National Institute of Health conducted in New Zealand using data collected between 1988 and 1998. It showed that out of 10,525 participants, 139 driver injuries occurred. The study concluded that never married people had a higher risk of driver injury than married people. 

The problem with this study is that the sampling was small, the accidents few, it tracked driving behavior in a different country, and it is now hopelessly outdated.

Should marital status influence car insurance rates? 

It makes sense to include factors like age, location and type of car you drive. Younger inexperienced drivers are more likely to be involved in car accidents. A high crime area increases the risk for car break-ins and theft, and an expensive car will cost more to repair. 

What is being questioned is why factors like gender and marital status are used to influence rates. In some states, like California and North Carolina, insurance companies are no longer allowed to use gender to determine rates. Five states (Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Montana) also ban marital status. 

The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) advocates against using non-driving behavior, like marital status, gender, education, occupation, and credit scores, to determine rates. The number of car accidents, traffic violations, and miles driven are more solid indicators of risk. 

Single, separated and divorced persons also tend to have lower incomes and hiking their car insurance premiums adds to their financial strain. The CFA sees it as discriminatory against low- and moderate-income Americans.

Insurance companies say research backs them up, but is it fair to treat all single people or all married people as an equal risk? I guess that’s a question for the actuarial tables to answer.

4 Ways to Support Your Spouse Working from Home

By Dustin | Communication

Support Your Spouse Working From Home

Many people enjoy the opportunity to work remotely from home, and it has become an increasingly more popular setup over recent years. While this type of flexibility and arrangement certainly has its perks, it can often be a difficult situation to successfully navigate living at home with your spouse whose office is also your shared home.

Here are some of the best ways you can support your spouse working remotely for a happy work/home life balance.

Gift Some Blue Light Glasses

Is your partner having trouble winding down at night after a long day in front of the laptop?

It’s most likely a side effect from overexposure to blue light. This particular type of light that gets emitted from computer screens, or other digital devices, not only can have adverse effects on the eyes themselves, but it can also throw off one’s circadian rhythm, which lets the body know when it’s time to fall asleep at night, resulting in a lack of quality sleep.

However, stylish blue light glasses can be great to look into for your spouse should they be struggling to maintain a consistent sleep schedule since working remotely. As more time is clocked in front of the screen, blue light glasses block these higher energy wavelengths of light, protecting the eyes—allowing for better sleep and a less cranky partner!

Preserving a healthy sleep schedule has many health benefits, and this simple gift can make all the difference on screen-heavy days.

Discuss Workspace Options

Just as each marriage and relationship is unique, so are people’s working styles.

While some individuals thrive in group settings and enjoy the company of others as they complete their work, others may find it distracting and prefer a quieter or private working environment. Additionally, each job will have different requirements when it comes to meeting schedules or working hours.

Having an open conversation and communicating with your work-from-home spouse can provide great insight as to what type of support they need from you, as well as prove that you value the time and effort they put into completing their daily tasks.

Even finding small ways to create a calming home office space, like helping to keep things tidy or incorporating soothing colors, can be a great form of encouragement. Dedicating a set space for them to complete their work offers an outlet should the distractions of working from home take over.

Plan a Staycation

For remote employees, it can be difficult to recognize when to power off for the day when their office space is also their home.

Specifically now, with travel being discouraged due to the pandemic, a great way to help your spouse make use of their vacation time in a safe, but fun, way is to plan a staycation.

Taking advantage of their earned vacation time is something that some remote workers may be hesitant to do at this time. However, taking needed time off work can help prevent burnout and is overall beneficial to one’s mental health.

A staycation allows for the luxuries of a typical vacation without breaking the bank, less time needed to plan, and is a safer option to relax during this time of limited travel.

Small Reminders

Sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest difference, especially when considering the specific disadvantages that come with remote work—including a lack of motivation and a feeling of disconnect from their coworkers or team.  

Taking on small tasks, like offering to make the bed or a cup of coffee in the morning, are easy acts of service that can help motivate your partner on the days they may feel less motivated to get up for work.

If your partner values a routine and remote work is a newer setup for them, trying to maintain a sense of normalcy in their workday can go a long way in showing your support.

Whether this means having a conversation with them on their lunch break like you typically would if they were in the office or slipping a note in their laptop, there are small ways to show your love around the house. 

As remote work seems to show that it won’t be going anywhere for some time, learning to navigate having a spouse work from home is a crucial step in maintaining a happy marriage during these times.

Communicating with each other and offering small forms of encouragement can make a major difference in the job satisfaction of your partner.

3 Keys to Winning with Money in Your Marriage

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

3 Keys to Winning with Money in Your Marriage

“Always remember that you are a team. God has made you to work together. By combining your individual perspectives and respecting your partner’s strengths, God will use you in ways that you could never imagine and you will achieve goals that often seem impossible.”

For decades, I have written this paragraph (or something closely resembling it) on every card that I give to newlyweds. The advice is hard won, through years of making mistakes in my own marriage – mistakes which all began with money. 

My experience with disastrous money discussions began early in my marriage. In August of 1988, I had been married for ten, short weeks. Arriving home from work, I gathered the mail from the mailbox as I entered our apartment. Our monthly bank statement stared at me from the pile of assorted magazines, advertisements, and bills. 

I opened it, never expecting what met my eyes. I glanced down the row of cancelled checks. Everything seemed in order. 

Then, I saw it – the total at the bottom of the page. Our account balance was nearly zero! 

We were broke! 

How could this be possible? We weren’t living extravagantly (at least it didn’t seem that way). 

Numbers don’t lie. 

I realized that I needed to do something – and do it quickly – if we were to avoid disaster. 

A month later, I had written a budget, detailing exactly how we were going to spend our money. My husband arrived home from work and I announced unceremoniously, “We are out of money. I have come up with a plan. We need to move to a cheaper apartment. Oh, and I need you to get on board!” 

Predictably, this conversation did not go well. 

Clearly, I had a thing (or two) to learn about money conversations (and communication, in general) in a marriage. 

That was over thirty years ago. Since that time, Larry and I have learned to work together as a team. We have lived debt free, paid cash for cars, and bought a home with cash – all while raising four sons on an income which was consistently under the US national average. 

How did we do it? 

We followed these three “rules of money engagement”. 

1. Respect Your Partner

Every good partnership begins with mutual respect. Clearly, when I took it upon myself to determine how we would spend money as a couple (without even consulting my husband), I was disrespecting his position as my life partner. 

You are not autonomous in a marriage. When the pastor said, “You are now one”, it meant that you no longer had to navigate life alone. Your spouse is your team mate. 

In sports, a good coach never leaves a vital player on the sidelines – and certainly doesn’t fail to share the playbook with him. 

Larry and I often tell couples whom we are counseling, “If you aim at nothing, you are sure to hit it.” 

A budget is your roadmap, allowing both of you to know the game plan. It lays out the steps that you are both committed to taking to reach your goals. When it comes to money, if you refuse to involve your spouse in the process, then you’ll find it difficult to make headway. 

Mutual respect equates to mutual decisions. 

2. Appoint a “Designated Driver”

My husband is a last born. He lived at home until we married, paying his parents a moderate amount of rent. I am a middle-born, who moved out of my mother’s home at the age of twenty, lived with roommates, and figured out how to navigate life on a low income. 

Not only were our experiences different, so were our perspectives on money.

Despite the fact that we were both making just $5/hour, my husband and I had exactly zero conversations about budgeting before we married. 

Three weeks after we wed, I freaked out when he came home and announced that he was headed over to Radio Shack to spend $50 on some sort of electronic stereo component that (in my opinion) we absolutely did not need.  

I “calmly” (okay, not calmly at all) shouted at him that unless he intended to eat that pricey toy, he’d better not leave the apartment. I needed that money for groceries. 

He was stunned. “Why not? I looked at our checking account. We have the money in the bank.” It had, simply, not occurred to him that there was another purpose for that cash. 

I showed him the nearly empty cupboards. Suddenly, Larry completely understood that his decisions impacted our family. He was no longer a free agent. He was a member of a team. 

That night, we agreed that neither of us would spend over $10 without first checking with the other and I was appointed the family budget guru. No, I didn’t have complete control. I could not unilaterally begin making monetary decisions. I tracked the expenses, totaled up the budget columns every month, and set the agenda for our monthly budget meeting. 

If you’ve ever heard the saying, “Too many cooks spoil the broth,” it’s true. The more hands dipping in and out of the family coffers, the greater the confusion (and possibility for errors). 

Figure out which of you is best at tracking the numbers, and let them do the driving. (They will, seriously, enjoy it.) However, all the family financial decisions are talked about and agreed upon during a monthly budget meeting. 

3. Recognize (and Embrace) Your Differences

There is some truth in the old saying that “opposites attract.” Most likely, you were attracted to your partner because you recognized something in them that was lacking in yourself. 

When you meld these differences into a single plan of action, you can make amazing headway on goals. 

My husband is a spender and I am a saver. 

As the “budget nerd,” I become so obsessed with counting nickels and dimes, that I forget how to enjoy spending the money after we reach a goal. Alternately, my free-spending spouse has learned to check in with me before making a purchase. 

Half way through a recent, weekend getaway to Madison, Wisconsin, I began to feel guilty about the money we were spending. 

Larry took my hand and reminded me gently, “Honey, you did a great job planning this trip. You got us a deal on the hotel. You researched the cost of every attraction and restaurant. We saved up money for this trip. Every penny that we are spending is coming out of that fund. I need you to relax, be in the moment with me, and enjoy yourself. You have earned it.” 

He was right. 

Here’s the bottom line when it comes to money and marriage: When you each lean into the other’s strengths, your life becomes more balanced, more stable, and more peaceful. As a couple, you’ll be able to grab great, big goals with both hands and refuse to let go. 

It all begins with freely admitting and embracing that you are stronger together, working as a team, and respecting your partner. 

About the Author

Hope Ware has been a writer and public speaker for 35 years. Married to Larry since 1988, she has four sons and has homeschooled for 20 years. 

Hope and her husband raised their sons debt-free, including paying cash for their home, on an income which was consistently under the US national average. They discovered the secrets of spending less, saving more, and living with a spirit of joy and abundance. 

Hope and Larry dispense humor and practical advice about finances at their website: www.underthemedian.com and on their popular YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/underthemedian/ 

When she’s not speaking or writing, you’ll find her speed walking while humming songs of the 70’s, creating vegan versions of classic American comfort food, or singing jazz and spirituals with her friends and fellow musicians in the Heritage Ensemble.

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