Maribel Martinez
The Unaffordability of the USA Maribel Martinez

Two expenses that are better in other countries

Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

My boyfriend and I work together in the same department. We both make a decent amount of money working at a university in a city with a cost of living slightly lower than the average in the United States.

Lately, we’ve been having discussions about our finances and our retirement plans and have asked each other this question that I am sure many people across the country ask themselves every paycheck:

Where does my money go every month?

We’re both single parents on one income (we don’t live together and don’t share expenses unless we eat out or travel). Neither one of us is a big spender. The only debt we both pay for is our mortgages. We work hard and like to enjoy ourselves without going crazy. But we both struggle every month to enjoy disposable income to have fun and not worry about money all the time. We don’t live paycheck to paycheck, but we’d just like to have a little more in our savings and worry less.

We both know people who do live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to make ends meet, so we consider ourselves lucky.

Our conversation about finances was triggered after my boyfriend’s daughter had to spend a few days in the hospital for a kidney infection difficult to diagnose. The insurance bills he received in the mail were staggering, as expected. Even though he is financially savvy, this one bad episode has made us think about the reality many people face.

If having one bad moment in a year made someone who makes a decent salary struggle, how do people who live paycheck to paycheck survive?

Neither one of us is a financial expert by any means, but we think are some things that just seem wrong with the system in the United States. I’ll discuss only the two that affect us directly (I’ll spare you a lesson on how absurd it is the minimum wage has been the same for 10 years).

Photo by Vanessa Bucceri on Unsplash

I am lucky my son is old enough he doesn’t need daycare, after school or any babysitting. I jump with glee that I don’t have that expense anymore.

But my boyfriend is not as lucky. He pays $1,000 a month for daycare. That’s just for one kid!

This brings up several questions:

The obvious one, why is daycare so damn expensive?

And how do people afford to have over one kid?

People in many other countries have it much easier than we do. Not only does every civilized country in the world provide months of paid maternity leave, which relieves you from needing daycare for a while, but their governments also subsidize daycare costs to every citizen regardless of income.

Surely citizens in those countries pay much higher taxes than we do, but higher taxes don’t seem to faze anyone in those countries.

Without getting political or stating that the United States should follow the example of other places in the world, does daycare really need to be more expensive than someone’s rent or mortgage? Is it possible we are being ripped off by these businesses?

Surely there’s a way daycare could be more affordable that doesn’t result in higher taxes, government subsidies, or taking a second mortgage on your house.

The high cost of daycare is one reason I had only one child. I considered fostering or adopting at one point but realized I couldn’t afford the expense of childcare. I am sure I am not alone on that thought.

Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash

One hospital visit. That’s all it took to hit the yearly out-of-pocket maximum of $6,000 on our employer’s health insurance.

We’re both state employees and our jobs provided us with great health insurance. But damn! It only took spending three days in a hospital room to make us realize how incredibly expensive our health system is.

We already knew this, but hadn’t had to face it until now.

Again, we’re lucky nobody in our families has a health condition that requires regular doctor’s visits, surgeries, or expensive medications, and we won’t hit that amount every year. But there are plenty of people who have health conditions that make them hit their own out-of-pocket maximum every year. There also many people who have terrible insurance coverage, have to pay for their own insurance or have no insurance at all. Many people have to file for bankruptcy because of healthcare costs.

My family lives in a country in Europe with government-provided healthcare. Again, higher taxes make this possible. Four years ago, my dad had major heart surgery. Though he recovered from surgery just fine, he has to visit a cardiologist regularly and takes multiple medications that have had side effects on other parts of his body and requires him to visit several specialists.

If my dad got bills from the hospital, he would hit his out-of-pocket maximum every year. He may even have trouble finding insurance at all.

Again, I am not trying to be political, claim we need to follow Europe’s examples, provide solutions or run for President. But there has to be a better way. Does healthcare have to be so expensive?

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