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Money Talks 

Our Kids VT Money Issue — timed to coincide with tax season — is intended to start conversations about family finances. Talking about money can be as tricky as discussing religion or politics, but sometimes it helps to hear another parent's perspective.

For example, I recently spoke with a friend, a mom-to-be, who was looking into adding a baby to her health care plan. "Wow," she confided, "family plans are expensive."

"Tell me about it," I said. My family's coverage costs about $1200 a month. And that's just for the premiums; the insurance company doesn't really start paying for things until we've met a $5000 annual deductible.

Fortunately, my employer covers a chunk of the monthly cost, and contributes to my health-savings account. But it's still a sizable price tag.

My friend is facing a similar situation, so I encouraged her to do what we did before my partner, Ann-Elise, gave birth to our second child: sign up for Dr. Dynasaur, a Vermont program offering low-cost or even free health care coverage for kids through Medicaid.

Parents have to meet income requirements to be eligible, but Vermont's threshold is relatively high compared to other states. Back in 2008, our family made just under $60,000 a year, and we qualified.

It was hard for me to accept help from a government program designed for people in need. But after a frank conversation with Ann-Elise, I swallowed my pride for the sake of my family and took a leap of faith into the social safety net.

I'm so glad I did. Dr. Dynasaur covered our kids for two years. During that time, our son had two visits to the emergency room, one of which involved a trip in the back of an ambulance. If he'd been on my health insurance, we might still be paying those medical bills.

After talking with my friend about Dr. Dynasaur, I started thinking about how we spent the money the program saved us. We fixed up our house so we could sell it and buy a bigger one, and we paid tuition for community college classes that helped Ann-Elise go to nursing school. We used it to advance our long-term goals.

In this issue, Ken Picard interviews a financial planner who helps families identify, and quantify, their own long-term goals.

Of course, there's a lot to be said for saving small, too — and our writers do this month. Three moms share their thrifting tips in "Secondhand Strategies." In "Go Ask Dad," local pops explain how they teach their kids the value of money. In "Out to Eat," Cindy Morgan reviews a restaurant that won't break the bank. And Carolyn Fox offers a fun and functional crafting project made from stuff you probably already have around the house.

We hope you find this information useful and enriching. Please drop us a line and let us know what you think. We'd love to keep the conversations going in next month's "Readers Respond" and on our website,kidsvt.com.

— Cathy Resmer, executive editor

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