Category Archives: CARP

Only Child declares war on Empire Life Insurance

Only child prepares to battle more human screwups

Only child prepares to battle more human screwups

Mother’s Day was good. My son Martin and his girlfriend Juni took me out for brunch and afterwards he came with me back to my house to do a few odd jobs and talk computer and other stuff with me. He removed the cover from the air-conditioner (the jury is out if and when the a/c will be used this year with the cold weather still) and put in the heavy top part of the patio umbrella. He didn’t have to hammer the nails back into the patio table as the arborist did come through and fix their damage. (See my added comment from last week’s post). Martin also helped me save and include old newspaper photos into Power Point (from the Toronto dailies online through the Toronto Public Library research connections). These are  for the memoir writing course I’m teaching next month.

I walked with him to the bus stop and after he boarded the bus I went to the nearby Home Depot to buy some bone meal. Because the weather included sporadic short showers I didn’t do any gardening and accepted that. Spent time reading newspapers and a book. Okay will all that.

Then yesterday – Monday – arrived and all the shit that brought. Again due to other people’s bad judgement/stupidity. Sheesh! I can get into enough trouble on my own without all this outside stuff.

First I got through five (yes, five) issues – some health-related but most connected to snafus with the house, city services and a utility. So, I phoned the dentist’s office to book an appointment but couldn’t get one until next Monday, did follow-up phone calls on the windows manufacturer coming to fix a problem with a window (under warranty but appointment has been postponed several times partly because of weather and partly they only will come when their techs are in the area), the city for follow-up on my complaints about garbage not being picked up two weeks ago – only one on the block, Rogers for a falling-down cable outside in the back, and my house insurance company for something else (this one was not a screw-up – I just didn’t understand the info mailed to me).

The other item in the mail is one of the big problems now.

Empire Life Insurance where I have my life insurance – they picked up my policy from a company they absorbed a few years back – are up to their old tricks. In a nutshell, they increase your premiums annually if you are a senior and don’t have any extra saved in your premium fund. So, they send a threatening letter (worded politely) if you don’t send X number of dollars – basically one quarterly premium payment increased – they will cancel your policy.

Is this right? Sounds like they are taking advantage of us seniors.

They have done this before and I have waged war and called them on it. Two years ago, after several angry phone calls to their call centre, I was connected to someone who could do something. We talked and she said that she would arrange it that I would no longer get these letters and that the increase would automatically be applied. She followed up with a letter.

Last year, thats is what happened. This year? Empire Life Insurance is back to their old tricks. I have the threatening letter now, when the fiscal year for the premiums isn’t until August. I have the current May bill to pay (with 30 days grace – I’m waiting for my government pension later this month or the deposit from the new editing client after the Victoria Day weekend when she is back from holidays – then I can pay).

So I am on the warpath again. I will collect all my information from the last time and phone to try to get it straightened out – AGAIN. I am also going to try to sic CARP (I’m a member) on them. Two years ago I tried the Insurance Bureau of Canada complaint department but they weren’t helpful. If this isn’t solved I will have to cancel my policy and have no life insurance unless I can find something else suitable that I can afford (I’ll ask CARP) so my son can pay my funeral costs and debts without using his own funds. Life Insurance is paid out before any will is processed.

Empire Life Insurance will also get bad PR from me.

You know the old saying about life being a bowl of cherries with the pits. I seem to be living it against my will.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under CARP, Consumer action, Family, finances, Health Seniors, Life Insurance, Only child, Problems, Worrying

Only Child’s thoughts on living poor

Only Child and her son Martin who helps her survive.

Only Child and her son Martin who helps her survive.

Except for a couple of years, I have been living on or below the poverty level for nearly 18 years. So I think I speak with some “personal authority” on how it goes.

It is a mixed bag, but unfortunately you lose more than just money. Many not-so-good traits and habits happen. Living constantly in survival mode has turned me into a skeptic, made me cranky, angry, sometimes rude, pessimistic or overly optimistic, which I know doesn’t make sense. I have learned to watch the optimism because that can too soon change to the opposite.

Money may not buy you love (the jury is out on that one), but without enough money to live on, I do some things others might find crazy or unbelievable. My biggest financial issues don’t usually include food (more on that one in a sec), but health and home  (including utilities’ escalating costs and repairs). Despite scrupulous monthly budgeting, my health expenses always go above budget – the last few months hundreds over budget. The latest is my prescription eyeglasses which have to be replaced. My vision (excluding the glaucoma) is the same as when my eyes were tested the end of 2014 when I purchased my new prescription glasses, so getting a new pair of glasses now doesn’t please me, to say the least.

Saturday I had just returned home from the first round of grocery shopping, placed my bags of groceries on the veranda between the front doors and hauled out my keys. The keys slipped from my fingers and fell to the ground. When I bent down to retrieve them, my sunglasses fell off, landing on the soft bags. One frame side (the part attaching to the ear) fell off. I was very angry at God (not watching out for me)  and after putting the groceries away and eating a light lunch, I rushed to The Bay Optical where I had originally purchased the glasses. They can’t be fixed permanently because of how it broke off and the company doesn’t make those frames anymore. So, a whole new pair of glasses. Of course, the one-year warranty was up but the optician glued the frame back on and after I went into my poor senior-living status and I asked, she did agree it could be glued on again until I could afford a new pair. Because my vision is the same, so same prescription, the cost is a bit lower – but still more than I can afford now, what with house and property repairs – the eaves trough situation I had blogged about previously and the one property thing I was saving for – some tree and branch removal issues. Hopefully the temporary remedy my son suggested for the eaves trough will work a bit longer than planned. Trees must be done this spring, the earlier the better before leaves appear and plants around the trees pop up.

The health issues escalate the supplements and now there are the monthly eye-drops and having too much income to qualify for the Ontario government drug co-payment play for seniors. The government scrapped the increase on this plan (I would still be above a few hundred dollars in income to qualify). But the deductible starts all over again each Aug.1. Fortunately my son will now pay the difference.

That brings up something on a broader scale. CARP (formerly  Canadian Association of Retired Persons) has stated that many seniors don’t get prescriptions filled because they can’t afford them. CARP is lobbying the government for a Canada-wide drug prescription plan for seniors – heck everybody could use one, at least up to a higher income level.

As for food, I do budget and usually stay within it each week, occasionally go a few dollars higher, but then sometimes I’m under budget. Not easy. Here’s my little secret – I ration my food, not only spreading out meat and fish dishes into several meals, but dividing up some fruit such as oranges into two or three meals (depends on the size of the orange). I buy lots on sale and yes, there are some tinned meats and fish in my food repertoire. In spring and summer I have a vegetable and herb garden, so that helps.

The garden is one big reason I continue living in a house. I also like this house (despite the property problems that crop up). My garden, my writing, my family and friends, reading, TV, walking help sustain me.  They have to. I can’t afford even a few concerts and plays, travel only to visit family (I am grateful for that) or the occasional day trip to Aurora and the like. Bucket list? Can’t afford to carry through with anything on a bucket list.

Living poor is a struggle. Perhaps the only plus is learning to be resourceful. But at what cost? Your health? And one thing I have learned from experience – mine and others. You can’t depend on God to help. Just look at all the poor people, especially the homeless. God helps those who help themselves? More like, just help yourself – if you can.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

 

 

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Filed under CARP, finances, God, Health, Health Seniors, Healthcare coverage, Home and Garden, Life demands, Old Age, Poverty

Only Child looks at possible changes to seniors’ pensions

Only Child contemplates possible changes to Canada's old age pension

Now that I have Canada Pension Payments all set up for pre-age 65 receipt, I have to worry about the Old Age Security Pension. So do other baby boomers rapidly moving into senior territory. Canada’s Prime Minister Harper is sending out word that he wants to change the focus and framework for the Old Age Security pension. Among other insinuations there is talk of upping the starting age to 67 and perhaps clawing back the payment amount excluded for tax deferral.

My late Mom and Dad would roll around in their graves. Probably their spirits are sputtering around, if spirits can sputter. Dad lived only a year and a half beyond age 65 and I don’t recall if he ever received OAS. Between 1965 and 1969 (Dad died in 1965), the eligibility age was transforming from 70 to 65. (Are we going to regress on this age thing now?) Mom died at 63, so she received no OAS. She did have Dad’s Canadian National Railway survivor pension and when she died I got the survivor benefit for a few years, from the age of 23. Now when I’m getting close to the so-called retirement age I could use that CN pension money. Too bad it couldn’t have been deferred until now. To paraphrase a friend, getting old isn’t for the faint at heart (and I add, “but all the money stress can kill your heart”). Another friend, an editor and writing instructor who has hit the 65 mark, said she probably won’t be able to retire until she’s 90. I’m looking at 70, to slow down in my writing, editing and writing instructing/speaking business. Not unusual for many of us freelance writers today. It’s a good thing it’s creative work and work which I love.

So, what is the Harper Federal government’s pension change idea? According to a National Post story (published Jan. 26, 2012 http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/01/26/major-changes-coming-to-canadas-pension-system-harper-says-in-davos-speech) and posted on The Canadian Association for Retired Persons (CARP) website at http://www.carp.ca/category/news/carp-in-the-news/  Harper made this announcement late last week at The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. This same story also includes some statistics about OAS costs estimated to rise to $48 billion in three years and to a possible $108 billion in 2030 because of the growing number of seniors. We seniors and seniors-to-be will increase our numbers from the current 4.7 million to 9.3 million in 2030. And Prime Minister Harper will be one of them. I know – he’ll get a good government pension, but possible changes to MP pensions are being considered. In the meantime, putting himself in our shoes might be a good idea.

Wasn’t there a science fiction book written years ago about killing off seniors once they reached age 60? That, of course, is not an option, and let’s be clear here, is not one suggested by Harper. But perhaps he forgets that we seniors and seniors-to-be are a force to be reckoned with. Many of us belong to CARP; we are baby boomers and it is in our blood to fight for our rights. We also have the capable and eloquent fighter for seniors’ rights, Susan Eng, leading CARP’s involvement in this. Check out links to videos of her interviews with Canadian media at http://www.carp.ca/category/news/carp-in-the-news/

Meantime, I’ll keep on writing, editing, teaching writing and speaking about writing…and using my CPP payments once they begin to arrive in a few months. Apparently there are no problems with funds for the CPP.

Comments anyone? Especially from countries besides Canada? What is your old age pension system like?

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Baby boomers, CARP, Old Age pensions, Only child, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Seniors, Susan Eng