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What was H1N1?

Remember H1N1 and the excitement about it? Seems like a long time ago (2009), and it was, but let us remember what we learned back then.

There was a lot of information out there about Swine Flu and H1N1, so as a public service, here is a useful video from the CDC about what Swine Flu is, and better still, what symptoms might suggest you have it (and what to do about it).

I am not going to comment about whether you should get vaccinated or not, because so far I have personally heard of:

  • Parents at my son’s Nursery school getting into an  altercation shouting at each other about whether their children should be vaccinated.
  • Seen incredibly long lines of folks who are NOT in the high risk groups all wanting to get vaccinated (ahead of the high risk groups).
  • People writing letters to the editor implying that if you don’t get vaccinated and you get H1N1, you should be denied hospital care (see the Friday Ottawa Citizen).

Let’s all be calm (like we were during the Great Financial Meltdown of ’09), and take a pill (or not, if you so choose).

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TV Trends: You are wrong!

From my viewpoint most of the “self help” shows on TV these days consist of an expert telling a dupe (or dupe couple) that they are wrong,

The array of shows seem to follow the following formulas:

You Aren’t Wearing That!!!

Two people treat you like the “cool” kids did in High School (i.e. they berate you for your taste in clothing and ridicule you until you agree with them). While this is entertaining, I suspect I could well be one of their victims, as I am not a “victim of fashion” (to quote Rough Trade) I wear what is comfortable to me mostly (I have suits that I wear when I need to show I can dress like an adult).

You are FAT!

There are a bunch of these shows that either take morbidly obese folks and attempt to get them to lose weight by making them exercise a lot and change their lifestyles or something similar to this. These shows typically are like the jocks in high school making fun of the “geeks and fatties”, except the hosts then attempt to help them lose the weight. I applaud the attempts, but they all seem superficial and I would be very interested to see follow up shows 1, 2 and 5 years after to see if folks keep off the weight.

I’d fit into one of the “hey you need to lose those last 30 lbs” shows right now (under full disclosure).

You can’t Drive or Fix Your House!

There aren’t that many shows about this, but they are quite funny to watch, but in a very  mean way. You watch folks who just don’t understand how to drive or how to do any kind of “home fixit” things and you watch the hosts laugh at them about it, and attempt to fix this issue.  I must admit I do watch these shows and laugh, but I also feel guilty for doing it. I am also not a “fix it” kind of guy unless it is a computer, then I am ok with that.

You Spend How Much Money?!?

This last type of show is more in my neck of the woods, but again it is painful to watch them. The hosts usually try hard to show the couple or person the folly of their way (I like Gail Vaz Oxlade’s show, but can’t watch it because the stories of how the people got into debt drive me insane).  It is important to help these people, but it is important that these people realize that all of this is a lifestyle change, not just a quick fix. Again, follow up with these folks after a while might be very interesting.

I am astounded at some of the folks who go on this show and let their financial misfortunes be put on TV for all their friends and family to see. I think I would sooner see naked pictures of me on the net, than publish all of my financial failings (fear not, I suspect there are no naked pictures of me out there, and if there are, nobody really cares).

Congrats Preet!

Why am I writing about this? Preet over at WhereDoesAllMyMoneyGo won the W Network Expert challenge so he will be doing his own personal finance show pilot and we wish him the best of luck on that.

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Nothing Like a Pandemic…

Written in 2009 just as the H1N1 Pandemic was starting. Seems quite mild in comparison to COVID19 doesn’t it?

… to make the financial markets even more jittery. The WHO has now moved up their scale for the pandemic to 4 out of 6 and that may mean more jitters in the financial markets.

This will make for some very interesting trade decisions in the next few days, is my guess, since a lot of produce and such come from Mexico, will we see an embargo? Will this drive up food prices (which are already sky rocketing)? Inflation, did you order Inflation with your Global Financial Apocalypse? Sorry, it comes with the deal.

Kiss the Mexican tourism trade good bye for a while, not many folks will be wanting to go Loco down in Acapulco.

Swine Flu again? I’m sure Maple Leaf is deliriously happy to give consumers ANOTHER reason not to buy their products. Stay away from pig farms would be the best advice for now.

Let’s hope this ill wind does not kill off any kind of rally.

Tax Day – 2

Yup remember Thursday at midnight you’ll need to have filed and PAID for your tax bill if you live in Canada. Not sure if they are giving Swine Flu dispensations yet, but get it done folks.

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Doctor Fees

Yesterday I received in the Canada Post a very interesting package from my family Doctor. I am one  of the lucky Canadians who actually has a family doctor that I can go see on a regular basis (and make appointments with). He is a good Doctor, and has served me and my wife well over the years.

Critical Illness Insurance

Lots of Fees to Pay

The mailing outlined to me the fees that my Doctor will be charging for various services not covered under the Ontario Health Insurance Program, which included:

  • Prescription renewal (over the phone) $11.72
  • Back to work note  $14.45
  • Wart Removal $20.00
  • etc., etc., etc.,

I wondered why some of this stuff wasn’t covered under the OHIP program, but I am not going to  stop my Doctor from getting paid for services that he does either. If you are asking my opinion, this kind of extra charging is what is going to kill OHIP and I think all this should be paid for in some fashion as part of my medical taxes (but we can discuss that further later, just my opinion).

I then turned the page and saw that in fact this was not just a list of service fees, it was my Doctor offering me an extended warranty program (effectively). For a fee, I can either enroll myself and/or my family in the Coverage plan, and many fees would be waived.

Naturally with any good coverage plan there is the Basic or Standard Plan and the Premium Plan. In the Standard plan a few of the services are covered (mostly administrative), however under the Premium Plan I can get full coverage from all service fees:

  • Basic Family $100
  • Premium Family $130

Let me be clear very few of these services are actual medical procedures (Wart removal, uninsured vaccinations, TB Skin test and driver’s physical seem to be the only services that are Medical in nature, the rest are simply administrative services (notes, referrals, etc.,)).

I did have a “WTF” moment after I finished reading the letter (and then I read the front page which explained it all to me, yes, I should have read the letter in the order it was sent).  I am not happy about having to pay for these services, but this seems to be the Normal Business Procedure for Doctors these days, but now, my Doctor is branching out into the Insurance Business?

The business of running a Doctor’s office is not a trivial one, I fully agree, and there is an overhead involved that needs to be reimbursed in some fashion, but is this the best way to recuperate your operating expenses? None of these expenses would be covered by my Health Insurance at work (I don’t think, I should check), so I am the one that must pay for these services (if I need them).

More Fees Coming?

What is next? My Doctor will start offering Health Insurance like Sun Life? Might not be a bad idea really, if he starts selling Health Insurance he’d make good coin there too.

Any opinions on what my gentle readers think of this program?

  • Should I sign up for it?
  • Is it justified that my Doctor offers this?

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Pensions and Trust

Another story from the past (2008), just about when Nortel Networks was about to fall apart 

Yesterday I spoke of the Class Action Suit against my current  former employer  (Nortel Networks) by employees who were part of the Pension Fund that the company discontinued this past year. Needless to say the announcement of this class action suit has caused a great deal of discussion in my company and I find the discussion points fascinating.

Nortel

This was the now Embattled Nortel Pension Plan

As background in the mid-90’s there was a great deal of discussion about how the Defined Benefit pension plan was useless to younger employees because all it did was constrict their ability to put money in their RRSP’s due to a very high Pension Adjustment (I sat on a study committee about this topic), and so there was a push to introduce a new pension plan that was less restricting in terms of Pension Adjustments. A new pension was brought in, which many people adopted, but I just never got around to changing.

Two years later another “investors” pension came in, where you could try this new pension which had an even lower pension adjustment or you could opt out effectively as well. Again, more people moved around, but this time, I wondered, why the company wants me out of the existing Pension? My answer was, it must be good, so I stayed in it.

Last year it was announced that the original pension program was going to be stopped and capped (i.e. the value you have in it now, is not lost, but nothing new can or will be added to it), along with the cancellation of any retirement health insurance and other benefits that were part of this retirement package (many older employees were exempted from this decision, anyone 52 and older at the time is what I remember).

The loss of the pension and the health benefits is a significant kick in my retirement plans, and with this class action suit not including me, as I wrote yesterday, I must rework my retirement plans due to this.

The interesting discussions that have started in the company is, “Why would you trust the company to take care of you when you retire?”.  Many current employees are complaining that they aren’t part of the class action and are thus out in the cold, and their comments are being answered with the, “Why did you expect the company to honour their agreement?”, which seems odd to me.

Do You Trust Your Company Pension

I guess my first reaction to this is, why wouldn’t I? If when I got hired, I was told there was a pension program in place that I would be part of, after 2 years, and that it is part of my benefits package, why would I assume that this was something I couldn’t plan around?

If I didn’t think I was going to be at the company for a long time (which I didn’t at the time) I might make other plans for retirement as well (assuming the pension would be small) but I certainly wouldn’t assume that it would be unavailable or changed in the future.

In Canada (I believe) private pensions are governed under fairly strict rules of conduct and funding, and it is unlikely that a private pension would “collapse” and be unavailable due to mismanagement (I didn’t say impossible, I said unlikely), and they are run as a 3rd party Entity from the company (thus if the company went bankrupt, the pension shouldn’t be an asset that creditors could plunder to get their money back). If I am incorrect in my assumptions, I assume one of my readers will correct me here.

I made the assumption (after being at the company for more than 8 years) that the pension might be a part of my retirement plans, and if I somehow made it to retirement age at the company, it would be very nice, however with this change in the pension, that is no longer the  case (I sill have a great deal of equity, but I have lost benefits and growth of the fund).

I guess my question to my readers is, what do you think of this?

  1. Is it fair for a company to change their pension system to help them survive financially? This pension plan was a heavy strain on the company’s capital spending.
  2. Is it correct for an employee to assume their pensions are “safe” and will not be changed because of the agreement of employment they signed when they were first employed by the company?

I have my opinions (which I think you can guess by my writing), but I am always interested to hear what my readers think as well.

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