Monthly Archives: July 2016

Only Child’s financial woes continue – thanks to outside sources

Only child stews about financial woes

Only child stews about financial woes

Despite inheriting some of my mother’s ability to live frugally and have a financial budget, I am still having too many instances of running out of money the last week of the month. What really ticks me off for this month is that all the financial woes are caused by other individuals or government departments or banks screwing up.

Take yesterday as a big example of what can go wrong:

I was (and still am as of today) waiting for Service Canada, the GST people, Ontario Government and the like to sort out three payments I’m supposed to receive from forms filled in on my tax returns for 2015. So far I have not received the once a year Seniors grant all seniors get if we apply for it annually  (which I did). And for us low income seniors there is the property tax and energy credit – this one goes into your bank account once a month for 12 months and the GST rebate, put in your account quarterly. All should have been put in this month of July and they usually are. You have to have your assessment from the CRA first – well I got that over a month ago and had filed my 2015 income tax returns same time as every year – last week in April. But the money hasn’t been put in my bank account for any of those three.

To add insult to injury, I couldn’t access my bank account online yesterday to see if anything had been deposited. Neither could any other Scotiabank customer. Scotiabank was having computer server difficulties from an upgrade done over the weekend. I didn’t check my account on the weekend so don’t know for sure if the inaccessibility was all weekend or all Monday. What I do knowis  that when I checked – mid- morning Monday and several more times during the day to about 4.45 p.m., I still couldn’t sign into my account.

I wasn’t going to waste my time with a trip to my bank branch with nothing to deposit and no idea if there would be enough there to withdraw anything. (more on that first part shortly). Okay, so I decided to do the telephone banking. Wouldn’t hurt for once. But I couldn’t get very far there. When you get the recorded voice it tells you to press 1 for text and press 2 for screen. No option for land line phones. Excuse me – we don’t all have smart phones. So I pressed nothing and got a repeat of the recorded message. I hung up and had to call customer service. At least I got a good service representative who knew her stuff and not only gave me my bank balances (Nope! No government deposits then or today either when I was able to access my accounts online), she also agreed to pass along my complaints to her supervisor and from there it would go to a manager. I requested that manager call me back about it. Besides the complaint about the telephone service missing the third option, I also complained about the misleading pop up on the bank website when you tried to sign in to your account. The pop up had Scotiabank’s apology for the inaccessibility online but suggested bank customers could use their mobile apps as that function  was still working.

Is all this access setup (excluding the outage) discrimination for those who don’t have all the latest technology?

And being a former journalist, I dug further. At the Canadian Outages website  I found out more information including a lot of other disgruntled Scotiabank customers. And some of them like me have computers and land lines. No smart phones with mobile apps, not that everybody with a mobile could connect to their Scotiabank with the mobile app – it wasn’t working all the time either. Check out the Canadian outages website – there are more comments on the bad Scotiabank service. Even though I am not for all of this excess technology, the basic online account and being able to access it I find is necessary. If you think I’m lazy, think about people with mobility issues who can’t exactly dash off to their bank branch.

And I am still waiting for one of my major business clients to pay me for a writing course I taught for them (and their patrons) in June. I’m still waiting for my cheques despite submitting signed contract copies twice (one as far back as the end of April)  – the second submission (all by email) was because the client’s administration department had lost one of the first submissions. The person I was dealing with in person for the course did his part re getting the process going for my cheques and has been diligent in following up on all my inquiries. It’s the administration and financial departments there that messed everything up.

So that is why I am sitting (and fuming) with less than $75. to buy necessary health supplements and food.

Now if I was a lazy bum and not a senior, maybe I could blame myself.

But it’s not my fault and I’m doing all I can to get things fixed and moving.

No wonder I’m cranky a lot.

At least I did receive notice from Service Canada (via regular mail) that my GIS is being continued for 2016 to 2017 and it and my OAS (both for seniors) have been increased. They gave me the amount. Supposed to start with this month’s payment – tomorrow – in my bank account.

Now, let’s hope it gets deposited July 27, 2016 and I can see it online.

Seeing is believing – that’s my motto for living. “Hope” is a four-letter word.

Cheers (I think).

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

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Filed under Bank service complaints, Banking, Clients, finances, Life demands, Mother, Old Age pensions, Poverty

Only Child does stay vacations

Sailboats at Toronto Harbourfront Centre on Lake Ontario

Sailboats at Toronto Harbourfront Centre on Lake Ontario

When I was a child, my mom and I used to travel around Toronto by public transit (TTC) – buses, streetcars, and then the subway when the first line was opened. Some TTC galavanting was for shopping but Mom picked good and interesting areas, such as the Danforth, which had the big “dime stores” as they were called. You know Kresge’s, The Met and Woolworth’s. Yes, that’s dating me, but it was an adventure to go into all three stores before Easter to get that Easter hat. And stopping at the restaurant counters at The Met for a hot dog and ice cream was a treat. We also stopped in butcher shops and greengrocers. Sadly, the “dime stores” are all gone although Woolworth’s upgrade Wal-Mart is still around, in malls. And “dime stores” would never fly in these expensive times. Instead we have the Dollarama and Dollar Tree chains – which I actually like. They are the 21st. century’s Kresge’s and Met.

Mom also took me to places like the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) and to visit family and friends.

So, recalling all the above, and for the sake of my almost empty wallet, I’ve decided I’m doing a lot of visiting local touristy sites in Toronto, the free ones. Sure, I still hope to do my annual visit to my cousins in southwestern Ontario, but there is still the rest of the summer.

Besides my once or twice a week trip down to the Danforth for groceries, I also head for some of the events there, such as Taste of the Danforth – a celebration of food (yes, I’m a foodie), not just Greek in this Greek area of Toronto, but Italian and Asian. The nearby park, Withrow Park has several weekly evening events such as a Farmer’s Market and Shakespeare in the Park.

On Sunday I headed down to Toronto Harbourfront Centre on the shores of Lake Ontario. Since the street has been made more pedestrian, cyclist and streetcar friendly, it is easier to get around and also looks better. The Car doesn’t rule here anymore as cars are confined to two lanes. In fact all the traffic – pedestrian, cyclist, streetcars and cars – have their own lanes. There is also art in two buildings, although the outdoor art seems to be missing this year, a boardwalk to walk along the lake, lots of boats and ships – some you can book rides on. If and when I can afford it I’d like to take a two-hour tour on the Tall Ships.

Each summer and early fall weekend, Harbourfront has a theme and the foods and music are tied into that. Last weekend it was Latin music. And there are craft booths, two stages, grass (the fake type, which might be a blessing in this summer’s drought-ridden Toronto), and some restaurants. One building which used to have two or three restaurants and several small shops is now down to one restaurant – a pub and grill – and the Sobey’s grocery market (now expanded) on the main floor. It looks like the rest is being renovated but gone is my favourite – Tilly’s – you know the company known for travel clothes, especially the Tilly hat. The beaches are clean of mess and overcrowding. And it is fun to sit on a bench along the boardwalk and people watch.

But  my favourite part of Harbourfront is the Toronto Music Garden. Every other Sunday at 4 p.m. and one evening a week, classical music is presented by various musicians from all over. It is relaxing to sit on the grass steps (real grass here) or benches and listen and watch. And just walking through the other parts of the garden and looking at the flowers is amazing. I spent a lot of time trying to take photos of bees landing on the echinaccea.

Perhaps the highlight of this afternoon was helping a family from Cincinnati find what they were looking for. I was walking from Union Station (where I exited the subway and I prefer to walk from there than take the streetcar – the lineups are too long) to Harbourfront and waiting for the light to change when I heard a woman from behind call out something about needing direction “Any locals?”

I turned around and went up to them and started chatting with the woman. She had her smart phone out and said there was supposed to be an LCBO Market on the corner here. After I found out from her that she wasn’t looking for a Farmer’s Market (there are lots of those around closeby), but that she meant an actual store, I explained that the LCBO is the Liquor Store outlet but there was a Sobey’s Grocery right just down the street in Harbourfront.

“I’ll walk with you as I’m going that way, too,” I said.

She introduced me to her husband and their two daughter and we all shook hands.

We asked each other questions such as how long had I lived in Toronto and how long were they here for holidays. They asked about Casa Loma and I told them how to get there and also mentioned another historical place, a house set up in the early 1900s, Spadina House, just across the street from Casa Loma. When we arrived at the corner with Sobey’s, she said, “That’s the place.”

I looked at the sign: “Sobey’s Urban Market.”

We parted ways at Sobey’s, but it was good to help someone to find their way – literally. As I did explain – I get lost too.

Afterwards I thought of so many other places they could look into and the dine Toronto  blog for restaurants that are rated.

One of those slapping your head for forgetting situations.

But, I’ll be going to some of the places I wanted to tell this Cincinnati family about.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Part of the Toronto Music Garden including some echinaccea

Part of the Toronto Music Garden including some Black-eyed Susans and Lavender

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Filed under 1950s, Cities, Getting lost, Helping Others, Holiday Travel, Holidays, Mother and Child, Only child, Public Transportation, The Danforth

Only Child says my health ate my life

Only Child's garden waiting for her attention

Only Child’s garden waiting for her attention

With apologies to a writing colleague for the twist on the title. Elizabeth Verwy’s book is a self-help book for workaholic entrepreneurs and is called My Business Ate My Life.

With me it’s my health that is interfering with the rest of my life. The health issues keep increasing, but when they are caused by someone else or something else, then I get very angry.

When I was a child back in the 1950s, like many children I fell a lot and scraped my knees. One such fall was a comedy of terrors. My friend Mare and I were chasing after a large rubber ball that went off into the air and landed on the road right by the sidewalk. As we arrived at the side of the road we both grabbed for the ball at the same time and we both fell with Mare landing on top of me. I don’t know about scraped knees – this time I got a deep wound in my head. But Mom took care of me.

Fast forward to last Thursday evening when I was touring the garden of a member of my garden club. No, I didn’t trip in the garden – it was on the way going off the property. I was following the concrete walkway from her house to the sidewalk, got near the sidewalk, stepped out and went flying head first, crashing on my knees. I let out a horrible scream and other gardeners (including the homeowner) came running to help. I was given gauze and baby wipes to clean it somewhat and a couple drove me home (a 10-minute walk) where I thoroughly cleaned the wound, put two kinds of disinfectant – Tea Tree Oil and Hydrogen Peroxide on it, then Polysporin. Then I covered it with the gauze and bandaids to supposedly hold the gauze in place. I hobbled to the drug store for more gauze and bandaids.

This is  an accident that should never have happened. Unknown to me beforehand (I had never been to this place before and when I arrived I walked onto the property from the lawn – well it was a garden tour), there was a steep step at the end of this property walkway. After the fall one of the other gardeners (not the homeowner) pointed out this very steep step. It is twice the size of a curb “step” and there is a big space between it and the only other step. This other step is very tiny. And no railing on either side.

In other words unless you are familiar with the property you wouldn’t know of this accident hazard.

Since then I’ve wasted time, energy and money to wash, disinfect, pile on an anti-bacterial cream  and  re-bandage the deep cut twice daily. And worry, worry if it was getting infected. It appeared maybe on the weekend. The medical walk-in clinic near me I go to is closed Sundays during the summer so I didn’t get there until yesterday. The doctor said it wasn’t infected. Apparently the liquid coming out is something natural that sometimes happens with scrapes and cuts. But he gave me more instructions (and gauze) to take care of it including signs of infection.

I still have the worry until it is better. And this homeowner isn’t getting off scott-free for her negligence. I’m not the only senior who was there that evening or who probably would visit her place. And it is not just seniors who could trip and fall.

So, I’ve decided as long as the cut doesn’t become infected, I won’t sic the city by-law officers on her. But I will give her a strong talk about her homeowner responsibility here –  she really should do something to rectify the situation – at least get railings in so people will know there is a step there. The health experts keep saying we seniors should hang onto the railing when going up and down steps. And I do – when there is a railing.

And just to make this ironic. In the plaza where the medical centre I go to is, there is now a medical supplies store. The steps outside this supplies store are those not close together and they are much smaller than where I fell. But, there is no railing on either side of the steps.

Now, excuse me, while I attend to more of my health issues. I take supplements and put the eyedrops in my eyes when I get to it. That seems to be my motto. And I still have the damn bandage change to do this morning.

My health issues are eating my life. No wonder I’m behind in spending time with family and friends, my writing and my gardening.

I’m too damn busy dealing with health issues.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under Health, Health Seniors, Life demands, Only child, Responsibility, Seniors and falls

Only Child warns pensioners to be wary of government pension setup

Only child contemplated government red tape with pensions

Only child contemplates government red tape with pensions

When my late dad turned 65, the Canada Pension Plan was just coming into existence. The CPP was legislated in 1965 and came into effect in 1966 . So, of course Dad never paid into the CPP when he worked for the CNR as it was then called. Of course CNR paid a pension. My mother died before she reached 65.  Dad died at 66.

Fast forward many years and my generation – the so-called baby boomers-  are dealing with the current federal government pension plans and Guaranteed Income Supplement. And if you think once we sign up and get approved it is all smooth-sailing and we will get our regular monthly increments, sometimes with additions, think again.

There are many Federal Rules and Regulations that can screw up those receiving pensions. I know this from first-hand experience.

Because I can’t afford to retire (I didn’t say the pensions etc. were enough to live on), I still am self-employed. I am grateful that I am doing something I love (writing, editing, teaching writing) and would probably chose to do so until age 70. Then I would just write – to me, writing is for a lifetime. However, how many pensioners who have to work to make ends meet are working at something they love?

To make a long story short, if you are still self-employed and getting CPP you can elect to still contribute until you are 70.

Watch it here folks. If your self-employment income (after business deductions) is below a certain amount, you don’t have to pay into the CPP for that tax year. So, I followed this rule, didn’t have to pay,  and the powers that be at CPP punished me for that.

The b******* clawed back my CPP.  The monthly decrease is a mere $1.47 so I’m not quibbling about that. But they arbitrarily decided to deduct all the difference in the same month’s payment instead of spreading it over 12 months. And they pick a month barely three months from when they send you the notice letter so that if you do dispute it (which I did) your three months timeline for disputing runs into that month of cut-off. Yes, I disputed, after contacting my MP, and did the dispute for lots of time for the CPP rulers to do as the letter said can be done – have a different set of CPP rulers go over my situation.

Well, I got notice that I’m not getting it reversed. This notice came after the full clawback deduction in May’s payment. Their excuse? Legislation says they can’t repay once they do the clawback, once it is taken off. What do you want to bet they didn’t even bother to re-check it?

Sure, there is more procedure if I disagree. I am planning to take all that to my MP and hope his office will help me with that.

But in the meantime I’ve run into more government red tape – with the Guaranteed Income
Supplement (GIS). I did apply for it originally (as per government instructions) when I applied for the OAS.  Last year I got notice from the government (read Service Canada – they do all the government dirty work with us citizens) that I would be receiving the GIS monthly – how much extra, that it would be added on to my OAS for one payment, plus the first month of all that I would get a lump sum for past months.

Great. I thought.

My suspicious radar should have been on alert. June 30, this year, I received another application form for 2016 and 2017 GIS. I thought once you applied that was it. I did know they could claw back if your taxable  income went up too much. Well, for 2015 my taxable income went down, enough to put me below the poverty level for a single person (according to the Ontario Government). I thought they got the information about a person’s income from the CRA (they do; I checked with Service Canada). I always file my income taxes and on time. And this year for a change I don’t seem to have made any math errors. (And yes, I signed out of paying anymore into the CPP.) So, why are they sending me this application form, which arrived June 30, when the note with it says that if I don’t fill in this form and get it in by June 30, my GIS could be stopped until they receive it and then I would get reimbursed and the payments would continue?

What? Okay, if  I have to reapply, fine. Just get the damn form to me on time to do so.

I phoned Service Canada June 30 afternoon right after receiving this nonsense in the mail. The fellow I talked to checked into my account and said there was money there in my account to be paid in July. But he suggested that I fill out the form and deliver it to Service Canada on Monday just to be on the safe side.

Which I did. I had questions for the Service Canada employee at one of the desks. After waiting 30 minutes to do so, this fellow was not very helpful and wasn’t very polite either. He did give me one piece of information for filling in my form but he wouldn’t check into my account to see if the money there is OAS only or includes the GIS. His excuse “We don’t have the means to do this like where you phone Service Canada.”

Oh, please. Now I have to waste another 20 minutes to half an hour on hold at Service Canada and also worry if I filled in the form correctly because I just sat down at one of the tables and finished filling in the form and then handed it in at the front. I did find it is sent by courier, not Canada Post, so if there is a Canada Post strike it won’t be stuck in regular mail.

And if you think this is just me whining, think again. Some of my friends have told me similar stories of what has happened to them.

If any of you reading this have any bad dealings with your government pensions, I would like to hear.

Meantime, I’m going to set up an appointment later this month with my MP.

But first, I have some client work to finish. That got slowed down because of all this government red tape.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under finances, Income Taxes, Old Age pensions, Only child