Medical bills are one of the reasons many Oklahoma families will have financial challenges or even file bankruptcy.
Oklahoma City mother Juliana Keeping is a local newspaper reporter whose blog, hithisiseli.com, is where she uses candid and humorous writing to talk about raising a child with cystic fibrosis. But in the last several months, she's written about a subject many find taboo, money.
"I re-examined the way I was spending and we found that we were throwing money away,” said Keeping.
It's a tough reality to face, but she has to. According to financial experts, medical bills are one of the top causes of bankruptcy, even for those like Keeping who have health insurance. Nearly 10 million adults will accumulate medical bills and struggle to pay them off.
"I could just use some direction overall on financial planning,” she said. “I'm saving but I need to know how much we will need to save and grow.”
Certified Public Accountant Erin Johnstone, owner of Vivid Numbers, took a hard look at the numbers and offered her advice.
"One of the first things we've been discussing is making sure she's putting money in her flexible spending account or a separate savings account because she knows she's going to meet her medical deductibles,” said Johnstone.
Johnstone suggests Keeping pays herself first. A certain amount from her bi-weekly paycheck will be automatically sent to her savings account to cover insurance deductibles, clothing, and travel. She also recommends putting savings in every month for one-time expenses like auto repairs and gifts, so if these things ever come up, the money's already set aside, and not available in a checking account.
The next step is writing out a budget and meeting monthly with her husband to discuss it. Keeping says this is where it has gotten tough.
“I want to save more and I want to save money faster but I need to know how much money I can save then stick to a budget that we make,” Keeping said.
Surprisingly, Johnstone recommends play money: a specific amount each month Juliana and Mark can each spend for the occasional indulgence.
More than 20 percent of adults will struggle with health-care-related bills this year.