Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Pensions and suicide

Scott and I had an uncharacteristic fight last night.

We were watching The Biggest Loser, which was punctuated by television ads for last-ditch insurance to pay for funeral costs and "to leave a little something for those left behind."

Scott has a modest insurance policy, as a CBC pensioner, which would be enough to pay for his funeral and some expenses.

I've been bugging him to make sure I'm the beneficiary of the insurance. My jousting on the subject is usually met with a shrug and a stiff comment, something like this: "I'm not planning on dying anytime soon."

Last night, I decided to press the issue.

"You don't care about me," I said. "If you cared about me, you would have a will and a piece of paper stating what benefits I would get if you die."

It was a cruel jab, I admit it.

But it did the job. This morning, he called the CBC Pensioners Association and discovered that, indeed, he had no beneficiary listed on his policy.

As I suspected.

He also discovered that I was not entitled to one cent of his pension because I married him eight years ago, a year after he divorced his first wife, who gets 30 percent of his pension and a survivor benefit should he die.

I knew I wasn't entitled to his pension. I read through the fine print years ago. I told him so; he just wouldn't believe it.

And he doesn't have a will.

If I hadn't pressed the issue last night, and he died an early death, I would have nothing to pay funeral costs. I imagine I could fight to get the insurance but would be penniless in the meantime, unable to pay the rent, the bills or take my tiny sheckles to the grocery store.

I would have to go on welfare until I could find a Louie Low Rent job somewhere.

Even with the insurance, there would be no money to live, but at least I could buy a couple months of time to recover from early widowhood.

I find it highly ironic that, if Scott lives a long life, I will have been with him longer than his first wife. Yet I am not entitled to any pension whatsoever.

No credit for time served.

I was married to Mr. Big for six years but I don't get any of his pension, either. Big fought hard to keep me away from his lucrative government pension, which now pays him in excess of $250,000 a year in retirement. His former mistress, now his wife, will continue to live high off the hog while the mother of his children will live out her final years in poverty.

Both situations are unfair.

The present pension laws do not account for early retirement. They are based on the assumption that pensioners are, at the very least, over 60 years old and have been married to the same woman or man for all that time.

Scott was only 46 when he took his pension. He was married to door number one at the time, and there is no accounting for remarriage in the CBC pension system.

I could have fought Mr. Big on the pension, but I was only 35 years old with tiny children. I couldn't see beyond grade school. Big was adamant that I would receive none of his pension and he was prepared to fight.

I didn't have the energy, will or money to fight back at the time.

So I am screwed in that department.

Now some people would put the blame squarely at my feet. If I'd had a job instead of freelancing, I would have a pension.

Unfortunately, the career path I've chosen has no pension option. Freelancing means socking money away for a self-directed pension. Unfortunately, freelancing is a low paying way of life.

Even the full time jobs I've had -- in the not-for-profit sector-- had low wages and no pension prospects. (At my last job, the employer agreed to sock away $1,000 a year on our behalf. Caching!)

Should have listened to my mom and become a bank teller.

Single parenthood doesn't lend itself to job security. I read a study once which concluded that the only way a single mother could climb out of poverty was through remarriage.

But remarriage doesn't take into account the fact that most prospective partners already have obligations to children and old wives.

I have to say I'm worried that the system that protects seniors now won't be there for me in my dotage.

The present government is cold and uncaring. It's looking to cut. It sees people like me as losers who have made their own beds.

I'm thinking I might have more luck investing in the Salvation Army.

I don't expect to see much in the way of a government pension when I finally have to stop working.

I'm prepared for it.

If I can't make it, I'll just kill myself.

I'd rather be a dead writer than an impoverished one.

Seriously, suicide isn't much of an option. I have kids and soon I will have grandkids and it would be selfish to do that to them. But it kind of gets you thinking.

Even if I get a job at my age, I won't have any hope of accumulating a pension by the time these old hands wizen up.

I suppose the only solution is to become a YouTube sensation.

If you have any ideas I've love to here them.

Here's hoping there is more income in 2012. I don't think I can live on $4,000 if Scott meets his maker.

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