December 6, 2012

Teeth! And Money! And a Broken Economy!

Posted in Finances, Health, Life happens at 9:34 pm by otherdeb

I need to have some dental work done.

This is partly the result of having rotten genetic, and partly due to having not paid attention to my teeth when I was younger.

I needed one extraction (a fragment left from when the Union dental clinic refused to treat me), and I need either another extraction or a root canal/post/crown.  And I also need some periodontal work.

I have dental insurance under Medicaid, but…

It covered the first extraction completely, and would cover me if I have the second extraction instead of the work to save the tooth.  For some reason, while extraction are considered important, saving the tooth is considered cosmetic.  Makes no sense to me, but I don’t make the rules.

So.  The tooth that needs the root canal/post/crown is not at an emergency point yet.  The problem seems to have just started.  The dentist even noted that I probably was not yet in pain from it (true).  So I have a little time.  Fortunately, my new dentist seem to have reasonable price for such things.   Unfortunately, it’s still more than I can do on the pension I get.  I have decided to do some knitting to try to raise the money to get the dental work.

My situation is, sadly, becoming more and more common, as the economy worsens.  People in my age cohort (and in others) have managed to amass debt that, while they were working, they could handle.  Then some emergency raises its ugly head, and the debt starts to snowball out of control.  First, one payment get missed; then one or two more;  eventually it becomes a question of “Do I pay my rent and eat, or do I pay my bills?”

Given that it is often taking people significantly longer to find work than it used to, thing continue to get wore, and the next thing is that you are dealing with collection agencies — some reasonable, some not-so-reasonable.  Then the credit rating slip, and it become harder to get a job because employers think that a credit rating shows whether or not a prospective employee is reliable.  (HINT:  It doesn’t, but – again – I don’t make the rules.)  And the longer one is unemployed, the less likely one i to find work, because HR department seem to think that a bad economy is no reason for a person to not be able to find a job.

The plain fact is that the system is broken.  And there is not much those of us at the bottom can do to change it.  And, when YOU need them, the protections that have been taken out of your salary all the years you did work might not be there for you.

This, my friends, is the new normal.  And so long as the CEOs can legally get away with paying less taxes than their secretaries, it will continue to be vastly broken.

What we really need to do is to stop listening to the rhetoric, and tart looking at the actions of those who make our laws.  Look at their voting records.  See who would destroy programs designed to keep peoples’ head above water.

And protect yourself.  Build an emergency fund that can cover at least six months of unemployment.  Start socking away money for your retirement.  Do not assume that your kids will be able to support you in your old age; the way things are going, they will be lucky if they can support themselves and their immediate families.

Do not live above your means.  No one else really cares if  you have the latest, shiniest toys.  And if they do, unless they are willing to help you acquire them free and clear of any strings, you are better off finding other company.

Further, take what steps you can now to improve your health.  With the rising costs of medical care, it’s really the only edge you will have  against the depredations of time.

From the perspective of a 60-year-old who has found the American Dream she was raised on to be akin to a nightmare in some very significant ways, you need to do this, or you will regret it down the road, when reality comes back to bite you.




  1. natalieford said,

    Things are not much better in the UK despite our NHS – the Conservative government is trying to remove all of our state funding despite everything that their centrist (Liberal Democrat) coalition partners try to do.

    • otherdeb said,

      Hi Natalie — welcome to my little corner of the blogosphere!

      Sadly, “centrist” and “moderate” seem to be dirty words around American politic these days. I remember when I was growing up that people could disagree about basic issues but still treat each other civilly. Those days seem to be long gone, however. Name-calling and ad hominem personal attacks seem to have taken the place of reasoned discourse. I hate it, and I fear for the future if it continues.

  2. Janet Wilson said,

    I can’t say things are a lot better in Canada, either. And although I did try to put some money aside for retirement, it never seemed to work. I was still at the stage where one accumulates stuff, and the income barely covers it. I don’t think the concept of “downsizing” had been heard of, and even “simplifying” was something to be done in the far future. Even now, I don’t see how anyone can ever put away enough money to cover six months of unemployment, good idea though it is. It’s like leaving two car-lengths between you and the driver in front — as soon as the space exists, it’s filled with two other cars.

    • otherdeb said,

      Oh, when you realize what kids out of college are getting paid as starting salaries, it’s amazing that they cannot put an emergency fund away…when I was at $BigFincancialCorporation, the managers hired out of college were starting with $90K+ salaries, while we secretaries were lucky to make half of that. But they were often in worse debt than I was, because they felt they had to live a high-maintenance lifestyle.

      And, yeah, covering my daily costs often meant skimping on retirement, and whenever I was lucky enough to get a small windfall, something happened to not let me put it away. For example, when my mother died, my sister and I told the bank to hold 10% and 20% (respectively) out of what we inherited to cover taxes. The bank, for some reason, only held out 1% and 2% (again, respectively), and we both ended up with tax liens, which took forever to pay off, and accumulated interest and penalties along the way, even though we had not been the one withholding the wrong amounts.

      For me, putting away money has always been in tiny dribs and drabs, and whenever I would get something put aside, an emergency would raise its ugly head. Either my wallet would get stolen, or the roomie would fall for a scam, or my sister would need a car payment…I’m sure you are far too familiar with the drill. And even if the emergencies were small ones, the costs do add up.

      You are right though, that these days it is almost impossible to create an emergency fund, especially if you are retired. But hope springs eternal, and I have done impossible things before, so I will keep trying until I succeed.

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