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.