I am a Civil Servant

I keep hearing from various media outlets and bloggers how much money is wasted on the Government and such, and inevitably out of these discussions comes statements about the Civil Service, and I now feel that I have the right to comment on this stuff (having worked in both the Private and now the Public Sector).

Let’s go over a few of the more interesting points that some folks seem to have an opinion about:

  • I am  paid by your taxes, but strangely I also pay taxes as well. One media outlet seemed to be implying that Civil Servants didn’t pay taxes, but I can assure you, I pay taxes just like everyone. No free ride here.
  • Pretty much everybody can easily figure out from information readily available how much I make, which is disconcerting, since when I worked for Nortel, people could guess but they couldn’t be sure they knew how much I made.
  • Someone does drive me into work in the morning (these days), but he or she works for OC Transpo, I don’t get limousine rides to work every day (yes, someone asked me that exact question when they heard I worked in the government).
  • Are we all lazy? Let’s not go there on this one, let’s just say I have seen good and bad in both the Public and Private sector, and leave it at that. Some might argue I am a Lazy Sod, so maybe you shouldn’t ask me?

From what I can tell, a lot of misconceptions folks have about Civil Servants (or Public Servants) seems to come from the perks that Members of Parliament get.

The major issue I keep hearing is that I have a “gold-plated free pension”, which is an interesting fallacy, that again comes from the MP side of things. Yes, I have a very nice pension (that many people do not have, so I do realize that having a pension is a great benefit), that was negotiated with an elected government, but is in no way “free” to me. I pay a great deal of money into the Pension Plan, and will more likely have to pay more soon, to retain this privilege, but I did have this same privilege when I was at Nortel (until it all fell apart).

Yes, the taxpayer pays for part of my pension, but that is because they are the folks bankrolling my employer (i.e. the Federal Government), so again, I am kind of paying into that too.

Unlike Members of Parliament, Civil Servants take 35 years to get a “full” pension. Members of Parliament get a FULL pension after 6 years (oh and I don’t think they put much money in on their side either).

A Civil Servants “full” pension can be calculated as (assuming they work for 35 years in the Civil Service):

70% of an average of your 5 best years salary, which is then discounted by how much CPP you will get paid (once you are CPP eligible)  {simple isn’t it ?}

What’s the point of all of this? Just me venting at some of the more asinine commentaries I have seen on the Media and in the Blogosphere lately. If anyone cares to try to refute or ridicule my opinions, have at it, I am prepared to discuss whatever points you like on the topic of the Civil Service and it’s Pension system.



St. Valentine’s Day Financial Massacre

Today can effectively be for some of us effectively a recreation of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, in terms of our Credit Cards.

This one is an interested twisted tail to follow, so I’ll try to not wander down too many dark alleys, but it is this simple, right about now (February 14th) the Credit Card bills are arriving for the stuff you bought after Christmas (or stuff that didn’t make it into your Christmas bill, which would have shown up in January).

How bad could that be? Who spends lots of money after Christmas? You do!!


Valentine's Day Sentiments to Live By

Remember that big screen TV that you got for 40% off at the Boxing Day Sale? How about all that stuff that was on sale for Boxing Week/Month/Quarter? There is a tremendous amount of money spent after Christmas, and you might have planned for your Christmas spending splurge, but did you plan for your January spending binge? My guess is no (and if you didn’t have a post-Christmas spending binge, good on you (but are you sure?)).

In my house my daughter’s tuition appears on my Credit Card (we still have money to pay that off so that is good), but it is a HUGE number to appear for St. Valentine’s day, isn’t it?

Oh and all those, “live now, pay later” deals you got from the Furniture Mega-Store or the Electronics Mega-Store all have to start getting paid off now too. Future Shop’s new “don’t pay for 3 months” has a new catch, yes, you don’t have to pay it all in 3 months, but now you have to pay at least 1/3 every month leading up to the payment.

Are you now feeling the effects of a Saint Valentine’s Day financial Massacre?


Let’s All Sell Out

As I have said previously I am a big fan of Suze Orman and her no-nonsense attitude about debt and such, however she did something recently that puts her in a different light for me.

Last week Ms. Orman announced a Debit Card approved by her which sounds innocuous until you started to read the fine print, and this is what is causing me to rethink my opinion of her. While I have no problem with someone hustling to make a buck (heck I do it myself as you have seen with my Quicken Review and other things I have talked about) but this new venture has me scratching my financial head.

For those about to hit the Comment button and want to leave some comment about The pot calling the kettle black or something like that, feel free, but my opinion is someone who has thrust themselves into the Public Eye making statements about getting rid of debt and such, and then they endorse something that  seems to fly in the face of some of their own advice. Now I am not putting her in the same grouping as Garth Turner, but it still concerns me.

Some of the highlights being mentioned by other financial bloggers (nothing like financial bloggers to stir the pot (evidently Suze has made some very derogatory remarks about we Fin Bloggers as a species)):

  • This is a DEBIT Card (not a credit card) yet you must pay a yearly fee of $32 for it? Yes, banks charge me for the same thing, but why do I pay someone other than my bank to access my money? It’s only $3 a month, but I don’t pay anything to PC Financial.
  • The card will share your spending information with TransUnion and hopefully they will take this into consideration for your credit score (I am badly paraphrasing what she says, you can read the transcript of an NPR interview where she explains further)
  • She has promised the fees will not go up.

The major problem seems to be that Credit Rating Clearing Houses (like TransUnion) do not now take into consideration your bank or cash spending patterns, they look at Credit Card transactions (hence the name Credit Rating I guess), but Ms. Orman is promising that she is going to try to get the Credit Bureaus to use the information from her card to help repair your credit scores, and this is where many Fin Bloggers have been piling on.

I have no doubt that Ms. Orman may think this is a noble quixotic quest, however, whether she can change how the system works remains to be seen, and my issue is with her lending herself to a product in the industry that she analyzes. Am I being naive to have these doubts, maybe, but this what is next? The Suze Orman set of Mutual Funds (with a 4.0% MER?) or something like that? It makes it harder to believe an analyst once they are part of the industry they are analyzing (if I am not being too obtuse).

Will Ms. Orman lose any prestige? I doubt it, my guess is the only folks she has irked, are we Narrow Minded Financial Blogging Bigots, and frankly she wasn’t making much money from us, anyhow. If she succeeds and helps repair some Credit Ratings, good on her too!



Make Your Hobby Pay

One of the main ways to get yourself out of debt quickly is find another income flow, and use that income to help pay down your debt level. These days, simply lowering your spending is really for chumps and losers, all you need to get out of debt is mo’ money. All of us have hobbies and ideas that we can easily turn into a money-making enterprise, all we need do is apply ourselves, and the money will start rolling in.

The next time you hear some loser financial geek talking about lowering your spending, just smile knowingly that all you really need to do is increase your income, because you have got the talent to make mo’ money. Why should you change your lifestyle just so that you have lower debt? You deserve to live the high life all you need is some more ca$h to help support it.

With that in mind here is a list of some helpful skills that you might have that you can easily turn into cold hard cash, quickly:

  • Everyone can write, so become a financial blogger, because there is tons of money writing this kind of stuff! I’m working for slave wages, but I am sure there are folks who make a mint doing this.
  • If you can dig a hole and irrigate, you can become a farmer, there is money to be made running a farm and it doesn’t take much of your time either, just ask a Farmer how easy their life is.
  • If you can sew, why not start making clothing at home and compete against companies that use sweat shops in Viet Nam to make their apparel. A good seamstress can make up to $5 a day doing that
  • Selling soap and those kind of products can make you a pretty penny, and all you have to do is alienate your friends and trick folks into coming to “parties” and then rope them into buying some soap (maybe even some soap on a rope).

Come to think of it, maybe just spending less might be a little easier? Living within your means isn’t that bad an idea after all.



Dickens and Finance Revisited

No don’t worry, I won’t be doing a Canadian Personal Finance version of a Christmas Carol or Scrooge, but I will look back on a very short post I did when I first started writing this tome, and I am still astounded by the clarity of the statement by Dickens:

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.”
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, 1849

An astoundingly clear observation even in Victorian times, spend less than you make and you are doing fine, why is that message so hard to understand?

Oh, you’d like a quote from a Christmas Carol?

“Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it.”

There is your money quote, and then you can have a more festive quote:

” . . . every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.” to the man who “knew how to keep Christmas well”

A festive thought for this season too.