The pension question: Years may be anything but golden

Then her mother became ill. Her father had died a decade earlier and someone needed to provide her with care

Ruth Clark is 57 and trying to put her life back together.

If something doesn’t change soon, Clark will enter her pensionable golden years “barely above the poverty line.”

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Clark worked for years as a librarian at the University of British Columbia.

“It was a career. I had 25 years invested in my career there,” she said.

Then her mother became ill.

Her father had died a decade earlier and her mother was sick enough that someone needed to provide her with care.

Clark’s sister was busy caring for her own family and father-in-law.

“Since I was not married and had no kids, it was easiest for me to do it,” Clake said.

Quitting her job meant she didn’t qualify for employment insurance.

Her claims were disallowed because she was not looking for meaningful work.

“They didn’t consider trying to find work I could do at home because I was caring for my mother to be work,” Clark said.

Her mother’s condition deteriorated and other complications ensued.

With no income, her siblings gave her some money monthly to pay for her own costs – insurance on the car, the phone, things like that – but Clark found herself having to cash out money from her RRSP to help pay for living costs.

After her mother died, Clark started to look for work, applying at hotels to do cleaning, at the TNRD and TRU libraries, hoping to resume her career, to insurance companies, pretty much anywhere.

She has even applied out in the oil patches of the Prairies, but never gets a call back.

“I guess it’s because of my age and I’ve been out of the conventional workplace for so long,” Clark said.

“How am I going to get a job?”

She has fought off foreclosure on the house that has been in the family for years and is now doing it again, although getting financing is difficult.

There are three tenants living with her, providing $1,575 in monthly income.

Her car – the one her dad, once the city’s clerk and one of the few actually declared a freeman of the city, used to drive – just topped 300,000 kilometres.

She’s trying to create a home-based business, but financing continues to be difficult to access.

She’s not alone.

Suzanne Goguen of the Seniors Outreach Society in Kamloops said she works with mostly low-income clients.

Sometimes they’re surviving spouses, homemakers who have not worked in years, if at all.

Sometimes they’re seniors with disabilities.

Most are trying to survive on $1,200 a month, which isn’t easy when rents are about $700 a month, Goguen said.

 

“My concern,” she said, “is will [the politicians] consider the fact that some people can’t work past 65 because of mobility issues, of family issues, because they have no housing, so many issues.”

– Kamloops This Week