Yes, it’s over.
Well, sort of.
Our lawmakers finally reached a bipartisan agreement to end the government shutdown, returning hundreds of thousands of federal employees back to work and raising the nation’s $16.7 trillion debt limit, reported The Washington Post’s Lori Montgomery and Rosalind S. Helderman. The measure also guarantees workers back pay for the time they were not allowed to work.
But the deal has a short shelf life. It only funds the federal government through mid-January. “Federal agencies would be funded through Jan. 15, when they might shut down again unless lawmakers resolve a continuing dispute over deep automatic spending cuts known as the sequester,” Montgomery and Helderman write.
And the deal only increases the Treasury Department’s borrowing power until Feb. 7, which sets the stage for yet another potential confrontation over the national debt.
If you’ve got some time to kill, you can read the full 35-page agreement here.
My advice if you’re a federal worker or an employee who may be affected by another shutdown: Save. And then save some more, because I wouldn’t count out another shutdown, soon and very soon.
Government shutdown stories of financial woe
The Post’s Joe Davidson’s Federal Diary story on Wednesday about the financial hardships furloughed workers were experiencing drew lots of Twitter reaction on his page @JoeDavidsonWP and mine @SingletaryM.
On Twitter @twogrilled tweeted in response to the story: “never should we see Gov’ments stubbornly elevate their egos ahead of the welfare of the citizens. #shame
On Wednesday I wrote about the importance of having an emergency fund even if you think your job is unemployment-proof. For a long time, long before sequester-demanded furlough days and the government shutdowns, people have blurred the line between needs and wants, not really distinguishing between the two. We all need to let the shutdown be a financial reset button when the feds get back to work.
Some of you heard me. On Twitter one of my followers @walkworthy4Him, Jacqueline Williams, a social worker, wrote: “INCREASING emergency fund by selling my mint condition Camry that I drive just once a week to church anyway.”
Here are some additional shutdown stories:
-- In a CNN Money article, a union survey found that more than 50 percent of government employees had to contact their credit card companies because they couldn’t pay their bills as a result of the furlough.
-- Unfortunately, everyone affected by the government shutdown will not receive back pay, reports the Huffington Post
Join the Color of Money Live conversation Thursday, Oct. 17, at noon ET.
I want to hear your shutdown stories, and I’ll also answer your personal finance questions.
My Girlfriend Is Watching My Wallet
In a recent chat, Washington Post advice columnist Carolyn Hax responded to a reader who wanted to know how to handle an upset girlfriend who didn’t think he spent enough on her for their second anniversary.
Here are the details:
-- The girlfriend purchased a pricey gift for the boyfriend.
-- The boyfriend said he didn’t buy a gift because he’s a new homeowner and didn’t have the funds but planned to purchase a gift when he’s financially stable.
-- The girlfriend didn’t like his reason, especially since he was able to go on two trips for bachelor parties this summer.
-- The boyfriend apologized but now is angry because he feels like his girlfriend is telling him how he should spend his money.
I like how Hax handled the situation. Read what she said.
Color of Money Question of the Week
Now, after you read Hax’s column, tell me: What advice would you give the boyfriend? Send your response to firstname.lastname@example.org, and put “My Girlfriend Is Watching My Wallet” in the subject line and include your full name, city and state.
Since the health insurance marketplace launch, many enrollees have complained about the problems setting up accounts and signing up for coverage.
White House strategist David Simas told The Post: “This is a question of volume and demand exceeding anything that people anticipated. I am confident people are working through these issues. . . . It is steady improvement.”
For last week’s Color of Money Question, I asked: “What’s been your experience trying to access the health care exchange?”
“I have tried on three separate occasions to sign-up,” wrote Phylandria Hudson of Jackson, Miss. “The very first day I actually input all my info to setup an account, but it couldn’t be created at that time. Since, then I haven’t been able to get back to that page. I just keep getting redirected to home page to start over, but nothing happens. The last time I tried was this past Sunday morning. I live in Mississippi and our state refuses to set up an exchange. This is important, so I will keep trying. I have plenty of time and can’t start using the coverage till January, so I’m confident I will have it by then. I really don’t understand the fuss. We have time to enroll.”
Tom Colling of Omaha said his experience has been very frustrating.
“I want to see what health plans are available in Nebraska and what the premiums would be without the subsidies. My initial problem was with setting up my account, specifically the identity validation piece that the site partners with the consumer credit reporting agencies. The first few times, it would not recognize my responses, and then it finally appeared to accept the responses, but then gave me a cryptic error message. “
But Leigh Haubach of San Diego had a positive experience. “I signed up for health insurance yesterday on California’s coveredca.com website,” Haubach said. “Each screen took about 30 seconds to work before it sent me to the next step, but it worked, and I’m absolutely thrilled.”
Keep the health-care insurance stories coming. Tell me about your experiences by e-mailing to email@example.com
Tia Lewis contributed to this report.
Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to www.postbusiness.com.