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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.

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.

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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I ran into an interesting financial faux pas a few months ago, when Mrs. C8j decided she needed new glasses (her eyes are deteriorating at a high rate it seems). I checked my insurance to see and yes she was allowed to buy glasses this year, so she went out and bought a nice new pair.

Optical Device Glasses

I have replaced these glasses since this photo

Mrs. C8j has her own insurance (which is nice for a full part-time job), so she first submitted her glasses claim to her insurance provider and was told, “No, we won’t pay for these because you already had new glasses, in this time period”. I believe the obscenity yelled by me was similar to #WTF! , I was not well pleased, but from this I learned that timing is everything when it comes to Optical Device Insurance Claims.

The interesting point is that both Insurance Companies claim you can purchase glasses every two years and they will cover an amount for the glasses (with a bunch of riders about styles, types of lenses etc.,) up to a maximum of about $250 (not the real number). In theory then, if Mrs. C8j went and bought $600 worth of glasses, the arithmetic should end up:

  • Insurance Company #1 pays about $250
  • Insurance Company #2 pays about $250
  • We are $100 out-of-pocket on the glasses

Fine and dandy, and that was the (flawed) assumption we went forward with, but the mistake we made was how each insurance company computes 2 years.

How can this be? I will try to elaborate

  • My Insurance company computes two years as a calendar event. If I buy glass on January 1, 2012 or on December 31st, 2012 I can then buy a new set on January 1st 2014. This is a nice way of calculating two years (and it was what I was used to with insurance).
  • My Wife’s insurance computes two years, as two years from the day you last bought glasses. Mrs. C8j had bought glasses in September of 2012, thus she wouldn’t be allowed to buy another pair until September 2014, and that is where the problem arose.

This is where the consternation on my part arose, Mrs. C8j purchased new glasses in March, thus we ended up only being reimbursed by my insurance company for their “cut” of the glasses pay out, only.

I don’t think anyone is “at fault” here except myself for not checking closely with BOTH insurance companies before telling Mrs. C8j about when the insurance might pay out, but remember with Insurance (and all things financial) check dates, riders, provisos, and the fine print closely before acting!

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Guest Post: How Hard Could it be to Book a Hotel Room?

As my regular readers know, I have a great dislike for Guest Posts, however I do allow for a few, especially those offered up by someone I sleep with (yes Mrs. C8j). She ran into quite a quandary doing something she has done many times before, and assumed it would be quite simple, or maybe not?

It shouldn’t be this hard, should it??

I do consider myself sort of savvy in the hotel booking process.  After 6 years of booking hotel rooms for many teams, for  basketball tournaments, I thought I was well ready for the process.  In my attempts to book a hotel on-line, I found many twists and turns in the road.

History: Lovely Cajun daughter (LCD) #2 sent us a text saying she has applied to graduate from school and graduation “weekend” will be May 9th to 12th.  Her actual ceremony will be on Monday, May 12th but there are events planned all weekend.  (Apparently it’s a lovely way to spend Mother’s day).  Unfortunately, we missed the memo about booking some kind of lodging for that weekend long before you actually know you will graduate.

The simple steps to do this should be:

  1.  Google “hotels near Wolfville, Nova Scotia, multiple websites and pages appear.  Hmmm, enter the dates you want.  I enter the seemingly famous weekend, “There are NO rooms available for those dates, do you want to expand your search.”  OK, let’s go outside of Wolfville.  Found some in Windsor, but don’t really know how far that is……..Here’s one, HOW MUCH??  OH, by the way, that one weekend is HIGH season in the middle of mid-season.  After much back and forth between the BCM and myself, I relent and book a room with 2 double beds.  (for potentially 4 of us, but better than nothing)
  2. Text LCD and tell her we have a room, by the way, “how far is Windsor?”  Oh, not far, maybe 20 min.  Hmmmm, time to look at rooms there again.
  3. A different hotel in Windsor looks great, bigger room, bigger beds, breakfast, pool with water slide for Big Cajun Son (just in case he comes)
  4. Expedia site gives me a good price, that is cheaper than the first Inn.  I enter all pertinent info, press book and voila, print confirmation and cancel room at the first Hotel (see step 1).
  5. HOLD ON, What do you mean I just paid IN FULL for 3 nights.  CRAP!
    Cancel reservation on Expedia for Super Pi Hotel  Print cancellation confirmation
  6. Let’s try booking through the hotel, type Super Pi Hotel in Windsor NS into Google, find site.  OK, re-enter all info, find the same room, seems to be 1 dollar more per night, OK I guess.  Press book, wait for confirmation email…………….HOLD ON, what do you mean you are charging me in American funds, what is going on???  Turns out I’m not on the OFFICIAL Super Pi Hotel Web site, just one that looks like it…….
  7. Cancel Booking (again!!!!)  print out cancellation confirmation.  Big Cajun Husband now believes I am incompetent (not really, I think I was actually chuckling and trying not to have a laptop computer hurled at me).
  8. Google Super Pi Hotel again, after a few wrong turns find the OFFICIAL site.  Enter dates, info, CAA number, the room got even cheaper, yeah!  We even decided to book an extra night.  Re-enter credit card number totally expecting Master Card to freeze my card.  Press book, get confirmation, print out, put in “safe place”.

Now we just have to decide and figure out how we are getting there, hopefully it’s not this exciting.

For those husbands reading this who are thinking, “I could do better”, I dare you to say that a loud to your wife after she has done something similar. Yes there is no such thing as the Super Pi Hotel chain, however if you replace Pi with say a number between 7 and 9 you might have the real Hotel Chain name.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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