Lessons Learned Too Late In Life

How I wish someone had told me this decades ago. For most of my life I have been self-employed, such as in Real Estate, or an entrepreneur. I was always reaching for the brass ring, hoping that someday my ship would come in and I would be rich. I was too busy busting my butt to think about my retirement years, which seemed so far off.

Although I moved around a bit, somehow a statement from CPP found me about twenty years ago, informing me that, based on my contributions, my pension amount at 65 would be a whopping $65 a month. Like an idiot I still believed that if I just worked hard enough and smart enough I would make my fortune and I’d be okay in my retirement. What was I thinking?

After a series of unfortunate events I found myself living on the streets, then in men’s shelters. It was the lowest point of my life and I had little hope things would get better. My health was rapidly deteriorating because I went without my meds for six weeks. Eventually I got a place to stay and a job at Home Depot and things looked a little better. I decided to apply for my early pension just to supplement my meagre income. To my considerable surprise CPP notified me that I could apply for what they called “income splitting” with my ex-wife, who had worked at pretty normal jobs all her life, contributing to CPP. My early pension was $479, not the $65 I had expected. It was a very pleasant surprise.

Fast forward a couple of years and I’m back where I started, trying to eke out a living on ODSP (disability) who take my pension off dollar for dollar, so I am not much further ahead. They do, thankfully, pay for my very expensive medications, or I would be long dead.

The issue is that I’m left trapped in a place I loathe, London, Ontario, a city with the highest unemployment in Canada and a bleak economy. As hard as I try, having submitted almost eight hundred detailed applications for any job I can find, no one will hire me at my age. I have been trying to either return to BC or move to Ecuador. I can’t afford to return to BC because my ODSP benefits will end and I can’t get benefits in BC for three months. My current meds are almost eight hundred dollars a month, so the idea of paying for them for three months is out of the question. ODSP only allows you to get one month’s supply at a time, so you can’t stock up.

The requirements for permanent residency in Ecuador are a pension or guaranteed income of at least $800 a month, so my pension doesn’t qualify. I have applied for my disability pension which might barely meet these requirements, but I was denied and I’m currently appealing, but it might take up to a year to resolve. Of course in Ecuador I also have to pay for my meds, which, although much cheaper, will still run a few hundred dollars a month.

So, I’m basically between the proverbial rock and a hard place, with few options, all because I didn’t pay attention to my pension decades ago. There was always some excuse about not making contributions, or it just wasn’t “top of mind”, but I sure regret that now. Whatever your situation, take it from me, make your contributions or get a private pension plan of some kind, paying close attention to what you will receive and when you qualify. The day you start getting your pension may seem a long way off, but, believe me, it will come sooner than you expected. Learn from the mistakes I made and don’t find yourself trapped like me.


Memories of My Father

It’s truly hard to believe that it’s been eight years since my father died in my arms. It’s said that moments of great trauma stay with you forever and every single moment from hearing the first screams from my friend, Ans, are seared into my memory like they happened yesterday. Continue reading

James Taylor said it best – “you just call out my name….”

If you’ve been following my blog you know that life has not been kind to me lately. Just when I thought things were finally turning around for me with a job, albeit the worst job I’ve even had in my life with the worst company I’ve ever had the misfortune to work for, Stream Global Services, I was wrongfully dismissed last November. Continue reading

Healthcare in Ontario SUCKS!

When I lived in BC and was diagnosed with diabetes in 2004 everything I needed was covered by my medical plan. Not so in Ontariario. You have to fight for every dollar. The best example of idiotic care here is that they pay for insulin but not the needles to take it. Are we supposed to drink it? Needles are $40 a box, and, if like me you use six a day, that box doesn’t last very long.

As a diabetic the two most critical things for me are my vision and my feet. Complications of diabetes often lead to blindness and foot amputations, so it’s critical that the health of your eyes and feet are constantly monitored. My diabetic specialist recommended that I go for thorough testing on my eyes, so I booked an appointment with my ophthalmologist. After the testing which showed some areas to monitor, I was presented with a surprise bill for $127! Despite the fact that this testing is critical to my health OHIP doesn’t pay for it. I filed an appeal and after a YEAR of back and forth correspondence and a gazillion forms, all sent courier from OHIP at great expense, and a phone hearing, they denied my appeal, despite agreeing to my point.
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The death of Customer Service?

Apparently Facebook’s new search feature will allow people to search for certain key words from a number of sources. Hopefully it will search WordPress blogs as well. This post is about my disaster of an experience with BelairDirect, my insurance company. They only underwrite insurance in Ontario, so this won’t be of any interest if you are in BC, where ICBC handles all the insurance. I didn’t know how good I had it while I lived in BC.

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Christmas past

My memories of Christmas as a child have faded. We always had a tree and we got at least one gift. My parents struggled because they both worked, but put every dime into renovating the old farmhouse they bought for $10,000. It was heated with a big old stove with pipes running everywhere and we had no indoor plumbing. We had an outhouse (brutal in the winter) and a well.

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Another milestone

Proves that you are never too old to get fired. I’m struggling with whether it is worse to work at the worst job in my life, or getting fired from the worst job in my life?

It’s certainly been a rocky road for the last few years. The reason I ended up here in London was following a woman who ended up cheating on me. My life went straight downhill from there, ending up living in a shelter with no job and no money. I don’t know how I could have done anything differently but my focus was on basic survival and not getting back out West where I belong. Despite my miserable circumstances I hoped that I would at least be able to reconnect with my kids after seventeen years, but that didn’t happen either.
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For the record – Life in Boquete


Saturday, December 30, 2007

Headed to the Panama House for my usual banana pancakes. Met Dexter, the owner, who hails from Southern California. He started coming to Panama twenty years ago for the surfing, and moved here five years ago. He also confirmed that it’s not tough to get to stay here, but, of course, he bought a restaurant, so that made it easy. He agreed that Panama has languished in the shadow of Costa Rica for many years, and now it’s Panama’s turn to grow.
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For the record – My First Day in Boquete

Friday, December 28, 2007

My first full day in Boquete. Bit of a crazy one. Sonia had helped me shop yesterday. I bought a coffee maker ($7), cream, sweetener, and coffee. Went to brew coffee this morning and what I didn’t buy was filters. So much for my morning Java fix. I was starving so I headed off to the Panama House – the one that was closed yesterday.
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For the record – my trip to Panama

My trip to Panama

The original plan didn’t quite work, but what happened might have been a blessing in disguise. I had sold my truck and bought the car, intending to drive to Boquete, a trip I figured would take about ten days or so, apparently in my total ignorance. When I was turned back at the border and had to make some last minute plans to fly, I was a bit panicky considering it was Christmas Eve and all. Not only would it be very difficult to even book flights, but everything closed up early for Christmas Eve. On my trip back I doubted BCAA would still be open by the time I made it there.
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