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Investing: And he’s an expert!

Back in 2006, I read a lot more columns on investing. Garth Turner was an expert at the time, but he got the Nortel thing very wrong. Always take this kind of advice with a large grain of salt. He was also a former Minister in charge of the CRA as well.

“If you own Nortel, or a mutual fund holding it, don’t bail out now… If you do not own Nortel, then this is the time to start accumulating it.”

– Garth Turner November 27th 2000

So Garth Turner is a respected Canadian Financial person, and he got it so wrong, it hurts, so remember that when someone gives you a “sure-fire” stock tip. There are no sure-fire stock tips out there (yes, from me too).

Oh, and in case you were wondering what other interesting things Garth has said:

“I am constantly amazed at the assumption people make that they can manage their own finances… most people can’t. They don’t have a clue how to pick stocks.”

– Garth Turner in a 2002 personal investment column regarding those unfortunate enough to have lost on Nortel

Just remember that anyone can TELL you what to do with your money (including me), but eventually, you are the one that has to live with the decisions, so you had better be doing some research of your own!

Of course, there is the “legend” of J.P. Morgan:

Legend has it that when the elevator operator in Baruch’s office building started asking him for stock tips in August 1929, the financier knew it was time to get out of the market. He was dead right!

I found these quotes on Rick Mercer’s Blog, a great blog with lots of interesting information (I think).

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What’s important?

I have had a few folks comment on how I seem to be obsessed with money.

Let me assure you I only talk about money because it fascinates me.

The most important thing in my life is my family.

Family is the most Important Thing

On a Sunday you should take stock of everything in your life you are thankful for (or Saturday if that is your day of rest).

Debt reduction is important, Family and Friends though, are the most important.

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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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Self Insured Company Disability Plans

As part of the Nortel Bankruptcy, one of the biggest victims were employees who were on disability. The disability insurance ended up in a mess, and those on disability lost their benefits. I knew a few folks who were directly impacted by this, and it makes me very upset thinking of them. Could this happen again? You’d hope not, but nothing much has changed.

More Insurance that Doesn’t Quite Insure

Behold the plight of the 400+ Nortel employees (Canadian) who have been living on disability insurance. They will be cut off from their benefits. This has come to light in the media finally. Nortel officially disappeared a while ago.

How can this be, you ask? Nortel and other large companies typically self insure these kind of plans. This means though it looks like you have your insurance with a large insurance company, you don’t. Your policy is held by your employer and is paid out by your employer (when you make a claim). To the large company it is much cheaper to have the insurance company simply administer the Insurance Policies. The money comes from the large company directly (rather than simply paying premiums to the insurance company and have them profit from the programs).

So what is the problem? The obvious issue with Nortel, is that the company does not exist any more. Anyone who is owed money through this kind of disability policy is now only an unsecured creditor, and is likely to get very little (if any) more money. The fact that this debt can be dodged by the firm by simply declaring bankruptcy is bad (in my opinion).

So what can be done? For the folks at Nortel, not much more. They have hammered out a deal to get whatever moneys they can. As of the cut off date, however, they will be without income, leaving them few options to live on. They may have access to the Canada pension plan disability, but not much else. For those that have disability insurance with large firms that are currently self-insuring, they should be contacting their MP’s right away to have put in place some kind of protection system for this kind of insurance policy.

Former Legislation

There are two pieces of legislation on the books about this topic:

  • Bill S-216 An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement to protect beneficiaries of long term disability benefits plans (authored by Senator Art Eggleton)
  • C-476 An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and other Acts (unfunded Pension Plan Liabilities) (author Wayne Marston (Hamilton-East-Stoney Creek))

Talk to your MP and MPP about these two acts and why they died.

Pension reform is needed as well, but these “policies” being held on the companies books as debt liabilities and not like a pension (which is held by an Arms length company, that is funded by the Insuror), puts 1.1 Million people at risk currently (according to the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (from the CBC post Disabilty Insurance at risk for 1.1 Million)).

If you are in this kind of disability insurance program, you may be at risk and it would be in your best interest to follow up on this issue.

What really upsets me, is I paid for this insurance when I worked at Nortel, and it was a very expensive premium that was paid for peace of mind, yet the money effectively went into the companies coffers, instead of a safe place in case I needed it?

The worst part of this whole story, is I know people directly effected by this cut off, and they are the ones who need help. We shall see how this shakes out, but if anyone knows more about this, please feel free to comment.

Addendum

I am most likely in the same situation now. I am a Civil Servant and my guess is that the Government self-insures. This couldn’t happen again, could it? Remember Nortel was too big to fail. The government couldn’t declare bankruptcy, could it?

Other Nortel Disability Stories

From the archives 2010

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Are there times when Never is better than late financially? That question comes up in finances all the time. FOMO or Fear of Missing Out is a strong driving force for some.

Spoiler Alert, no, is the answer to the above queries (except the last one, that is up to you).

Now I am most certainly not talking about paying off debt. In the case of debt late is better than never. Being on time, however, is the correct answer.

Better late than never?
Time Waits For No One But Sometimes NOT Doing it is Better!

In investing being “late to the show” can be problematic. Sometimes it is better to just ignore it, and try to find something else.

If you bought into the Tech Boom in 1999, you most likely lost your shirt, if you didn’t bail out. Some folks, however, who were in at the ground floor, might only have been lightly singed by the great drop. If you got into Debt Financing in 2007, again, maybe should have given it a pass.

If your friend invites you over for “just a party” but you get wind of it being an Amway recruiting party, never is a better choice.

Certainly with Ponzi Schemes Never is better than Late.

The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) can make us jump into things at the wrong time. Better wait than late, is a better view.

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