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Dude, Where are My Bills?

Went to pay my bills on EasyLine this morning and found the following on my Pay Bills page:

Dude, where are my bills?

Normally I would see about 35 different bills that I could pay. Today I wanted to pay my Bell or Telus bills, but they are not to be found.

Contacted TD via Twitter, who then told me to use their antiquated Secure Message system in EasyLine.

Never thought my list of bill payments was something I should keep a backup of ?

After checking my Phone TD Easyline App, more confusion. There seems to be a list of bills there, but it is very old and inaccurate? This one is an interesting one.

Pay My Bills

Dude, just want to pay bills! Where Dude, is TD.

Not Just Me?

Luckily Resolved

Luckily, the problem was resolved, and my bill list seems to have returned. I will make sure I have a backup copy.

Official TD Statement

We have been notified of an intermittent issue with some customer’s Bill Payees and Bill Payment function on EasyWeb. Please rest assured this issue has been escalated with high priority and our partners are working hard to resolve.

Message from TD Support

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How Much Can One Tooth Cost ?

A long story about bad oral health, and just one tooth. I wrote this back in 2011, but in 2020 there was more to write about.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

An important fact for many Canadians, if you lose your job, you lose your dental coverage as well. How important can a dental plan be? One tooth can add up to a lot of money.

How Much for Just One Tooth?

Over my life, my oral hygiene has not been the best. I have had extensive dental work done on most of the teeth in my mouth. I have learned to regret my poor oral hygiene habits of my youth. For this article, I will concentrate on a single bicuspid in my upper right jaw.

This tooth has had extensive work done on it. First it was filled due to it having a cavity, this must have cost upwards of $80 worth of work, which my parents insurance most likely covered. I most likely made the dentist’s life a living heck whilst this procedure was done (I am confident I am on a “patient from hell” list with the Canadian Dental Association).

Around my 30th birthday, I was eating a hard candy and I heard a snapping noise in my mouth. I ignored it, since nothing seemed to fall out of my mouth (I learned later that I cracked that tooth with that candy). This is not a good dental problem heuristic.

Root Canal

Teeth
A Questionable Smile

A year or so later, I started getting swelling in my upper right jaw. It was decided that the tooth beside the bicuspid was the culprit, so a root canal was done on that tooth. It turned out that this was the wrong tooth. That cost about $300 or so in procedures (remember this wasn’t even on that tooth). Most of this covered by my company dental insurance plan.

I noticed the swelling dropped, but the pain continued in my jaw. When I returned to my dentist a few months later he did a very unscientific test by turning around his observation mirror around and tapping teeth in my upper jaw. When he hit the bicuspid in question I jumped out of the chair and screeched in pain. This is where we came to the decision, we may have fixed the wrong tooth. Another root canal was scheduled, $300 more was spent, but this time on the correct tooth.

We then needed to think about a crown for this bicuspid. Another $900 later (only half covered under my insurance), a brand spanking new crown appeared on this mummified tooth.

Bridge?

Story over, you might think? Nope, the crown was a little tall, and I managed to knock it off chewing some gum. The crown had to be attached again (about $120 more spent). You must be done, right? Nope, I knocked the crown out again (another $120) and this time I was told that if it was knocked out again, there was nothing else to be done.

Another year passed, the crown became dislodged after it being “loose” for a long time, another $100 spent not reattaching it (and in fact not giving back to me the crown, I should have been allowed to keep it as a souvenir).

Now I had a whole in my jaw with some mummified roots under it. That needed to be removed, and that cost another $600 to remove.

Final Cost?

So, thanks to my bad oral hygiene as a youth, I ended up spending over $2000 to end up with a hole in my jaw where a tooth once was, and remember this is only 1 tooth (and not counting cleanings as well). Oh, and if you thought that was the end of the story, nope, because now I have to have  a prosthesis put in place as well (possibly up to another $1000 (at least)).

Good oral hygiene for your kids and in your youth pays dividends later in life (OK, maybe not dividends, but does not create debt or expenses later in life).

Epilogue and Addendum

During COVID, I noticed swelling again in my upper right jaw. It ended up being the original, incorrectly root canal’ed tooth. This meant the entire bridge had to be removed. This also meant two implants had to be set up to replace those gaps in my teeth. After all that, about $5000 more spent in the same area.

I ended up max’ing out my dental plan for the year. Starting to think socialized dentistry might be nice too.

If this keeps up my mouth could end up costing about $200K? I really hope not.

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Impact of COVID-19 on Small Business and Self-Employed

My daughter offered to write an article about the COVID-19 and its impact on her life. She is a self-employed Chiropractor, so she is directly affected by this Pandemic. Small businesses and entrepreneurs will be impacted by this harshly. She is also at risk due to asthma and lung issues. I offer this for your consideration. Note, this was written in May 2020, just as the Pandemic began.

COVID-19 From the Self-Employed and Small Business Perspective

Work from home if you can! No sick notes needed! Waived week long waiting period for E.I. applications! Relief funding for those unable to work due to closures! The Canadian Government is stepping in to pledge 1 billion dollars to help with the repercussions of the current COVID-19 crisis. I am self-employed as a chiropractor and my business will be affected by COVID-19, even if I don’t contract the virus. Somewhere down the line, there may be some relief funding specifically for small businesses and the self-employed, but I am not holding my breath that it will be any time soon. 

Currently in Ottawa, we have 10 confirmed cases. Schools, libraries, museums, and city recreation complexes, are all closed as of March 16th and will stay closed until at least the beginning of April. Private health clinics have not been given any guidance (as of March 15th) on whether to stay open or close. Hourly, we are checking multiple sources and updating our policies based on our best judgement of what is safe for our clinic but also protects our livelihood. 

Social distancing is effective, no argument on that one. I fully support trying to “flatten the curve”, and as an individual who would most likely end up very sick if she contracted this virus, I am happy to limit my social outings. However, being within a metre of other people is a part of my job. Touching people is my job. I sit in a difficult situation trying to balance having an income, and protecting mine and my patients’ (sub customer/ client/ consumer for other small businesses) health.

As a health care practitioner, I have always washed my hands between patients, my equipment and room has always been cleaned according to health regulations. Lately, I’ve upped my game, as much as possible, to keep my patients safe and my businesses going. I can’t get hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes are at a premium and I am continually being asked if it’s safe to come to our clinic. Even if we do stay open, there is no guarantee patients will feel safe and comfortable coming to the office to be treated. 

Financially, I feel lucky to have parents who have tolerated me living in their house since I graduated 18 months ago. I don’t have a mortgage or children. I also don’t have a spouse with benefits or a salaried income. I do have a load of student debt and am grateful for the Bank of Canada’s recent interest rate cuts. As an independent contractor I get paid based on the number of patients I treat. Full stop. Not salaried, no benefits, no E.I.. Working from home is not an option. Small businesses will feel the hurt from this situation for the next 6 months to 1 year. We are stressed. Yes, an emergency fund is vital. Most financial folks say 3-6 months worth of expenses is what you should have put away. There are people much more qualified than I am to comment on that factor.

Now that I have sufficiently indulged in standing on my soapbox and yelling my problems at the internet, here are some tips to continue to support small businesses if you are healthy, not self-isolating and able:

  1. That local coffee shop you frequent on the weekend or before work, continue to go if you are healthy and not at risk. Get some of their beans/ tea leaves/ product to use in your own home. Buy a gift card to boost their income and help them float until things return to normal.
  2. See if take-out or delivery is an option for your favourite local restaurant. 
  3. Keep your appointments with your health care professional/ hair-dresser/ personal trainer/ etc etc. If you are not able to keep your appointment, reschedule for a few weeks time rather than flat out cancelling. 
  4. If your gym/ yoga studio/ health clinic of choice has closed as a result of COVID-19, make a mental promise to yourself to go back, put a reminder in your calendar a month from now to get yourself back into your routine. 
  5. Stress has you online shopping? Need to buy gifts for a birthday? Choose a Canadian small business that has an online store.
  6. Ask if there is an opportunity online or phone interaction with professionals that have that capability like your accountant or nutritionist. 
  7. Monitor information channels that are giving accurate information on the current state of affairs rather than relying on social media or other social channels that tend to spark fear and panic.
  8. Educate yourself on the actual symptoms of COVID-19, and how the spread can be prevented. I am not writing this from a health care practitioner point of view, so I won’t give any advice.
  9. Save your advice on financial planning in case of an emergency for 6 months from now. The last thing a person in my position wants to hear is advice, however well meaning, on how they could have prevented getting into this awful position. Once we are recovering, that is the time to offer help on that subject. 
  10. Be Kind. We are all trying to make our way through this situation the best we can. Being angry, greedy or selfish will get you no further in life than being kind, patient and fair.

So before you start investing in toilet paper stocks, complaining you have to deal with your kids for 3 weeks, hoarding hand sanitizer or making jokes about the person sneezing in a coffee shop, think of the people in your life who are self-employed. Reach out, ask them how you can help support them, stop the spread of misinformation, and wash your damn hands

CORVID-19 self-employed
Simple Hand Washing Instructions

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Redux: Real World Example: Kids Allowances

Back in 2005 just when I was starting to blog, I never really knew what I was going to write about. So I wrote about the system I put in place to make sure that my kids got their allowances.

Real World Example: Kids Allowances

The 10 Bob Note When I was Young That Would Have Been a great Allowance
The 10 Bob Note When I was Young That Would Have Been a great Allowance

My wife and I wanted to get the kids on an allowance, so that they could learn about money. Inevitably, we’d forget to pay for a couple of weeks, try to catch up and eventually just gave up (much to the kids chagrin).

Interesting, we were trying to teach the kids responsibility and all it did was show how irresponsible their parents were (now THAT is ironic).  It’s funny as a parent your kids end up teaching you as much as you think you are teaching them.

About 6 years ago I was in the TD on one of my yearly visits, getting my bank fees waived for a year, and get them to fix something they had screwed up (I think it was my mortgage that year). That is when I asked about kids’ bank accounts. My brother sends the girls money every year, and we had got to the point where we didn’t want to just buy them toys with it. The poor woman whose life I was ruining for the day, said the accounts could be opened then (since the kids had SIN numbers), and the accounts would show up “under” my account on my on-line banking.

At the time, that didn’t seem that important, but at the end of it, it really was the most useful part of the exercise, as I could then may transfers to the accounts for free, whereas now I would send it with a $1.50 service fee.

A day or two later, a light went on in my head. I called the bank on the phone woman (who I now call once a year, because I do most of my banking on-line, but couldn’t figure out how to do what I wanted). I asked her to set up weekly transfers from my account to my kids accounts, thus assuring that the money was paid every week (whether I remembered or not). It is amazing at how my thinking patterns work, I am not a Fast Thinker, but I do have good ideas, eventually.

Well, it has worked, the kids get their weekly allowances AND they actually do things like:

  • Buy clothes that they really want
  • Have somewhere to put their uncle’s money and can then buy what they want
  • Buy presents for their friends birthdays (that one shocked me the first time it happened).

So it seems this experiment has worked, chalk one up for me.

In the end, it helped the girls understand money a bit more. We were not that heavy handed in terms of things they needed. We ended up paying for a large number of things, but we also didn’t make their allowances that big either, but I think the experiment worked out.

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Tales of Financial Persistence

A tale from 2014. Back then, as today AOL still exists and collects fees for dial-in access. They offer their email for free, but will let you pay for it as well. It takes financial persistence to rid yourself of these forgotten services. You may not even know you are paying for it.

Yesterday I was relentless in reaching my goal of erasing from my monthly bills. One of the most embarrassing charges, as a High Tech Financial Blogger, is paying for America On Line services.

It all started in 1993 when I first joined AOL, and I got e-mail address awhit34109 AT aol.com . Back then we needed dial-up access to get to the Internet. Back then, it really wasn’t the Internet, it was just a bunch of Newsgroups and Forums all complaining about things (so not much has changed really). Then AOL used to send you a CD often, in the mail so that you would sign up with their ISP software. It was a magical time, and I have used the e-mail accounts from there for a very long time.

AOL
The America On Line

Time passed, and the Internet changed. Suddenly I had Internet access that didn’t rely on a phone line and a modem to get connected? What? How is that possible? I was part of the initial trials of the Nortel 1 Meg Modem, which was in ill-fated product that got bulldozed by the Tech Standard DSL. Nortel missed out big time on that, but I had unlimited, always up Internet access.

AOL saw this change and they introduced a “bring your own access” solution. It was much cheaper, so I chose to stay with them, paying about $8 a month. I also got some emergency dial-up access if I needed it, and some other free stuff, and the AOL interface too.

Time continued to pass, many different e-mail providers appeared, and when Google introduced Gmail. AOL had already started to die (remember AOL/Time/Warner?) but I kept paying AOL, mostly because I was lazy and just never got around to it.

Finally yesterday, I called 1-800-AOL-HELP to cancel my fees based AOL, but evidently I can keep my AOL E-mail accounts too. After 140 minutes on hold (I kept track of it, on my phone, I had to wait that long to get through on the “I want to cancel my AOL” hot line), a nice young man tried to cajole me into paying $3.95 for some other odd service (basically for a version of McAfee that AOL would supply), but I stuck to my guns and said, “No, I want to cancel my AOL, but keep my e-mail addresses“. Evidently I succeeded, but I will see if they continue to keep charging me for this.

Save up to 50% on life insurance.

Christmas Wishes from the Past

I seem to do this a lot, so here are my Christmas wishes from years gone by:

Why is AOL Still Here?

This AOL service is evidently what is keeping AOL afloat, as there are countless lazy uninformed stupid folks like me that have just never cancelled their AOL and continue to pay $11 a month for a service they don’t need to pay for? Many folks think they are paying for their mail services with this, but no, you can keep your e-mail for free (it has been that way for a long time), you are actually paying for Dial-up access, McAfee software, and AOL service line, none of which I have used in years (yes, I should be derided and ridiculed for this).

Hopefully, I think after a lot of persistence (and a lot of Muzak on hold), I may have succeeded.

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