What is most important?

A few weeks ago, Gail wrote how important it is for people to identify what is really and truly important to them.  She mentioned that Canadian's living on government assistance may have as little as $16,000/year or less to live on.  Well, I would like to share with you a real example of this - my grandmother.

Born in 1929, she grew up on a farm in Alberta before her and her family moved to beautiful British Columbia where they had their own homestead.

At 19 she married my grandfather, 10 years older than her who was just back from WW2.  He became a game/wildlife trapper and she a housewife.  They had two children together and raised them on the farm that her parents had started.

My grandfather passed away in 2001 at 81 years old - they were both still living at their homestead at that time, living on government assistance - that to be honest, I don't know if any of us really knew how much they had...but at least they both had it.

Now, my grandmother is 85 and dementia has been slowly taking it's grip of her.  She did not have an inheritance from her parents, her and my grandfather had perhaps a few thousand dollars saved away in the bank.  My grandmother had never worked outside the home, never contributed to CPP...she never even had a driver's license (not for a lack of driving). So, she has government assistance....but what is that, how much does she get as an elderly person in BC?

Old Age Security (OAS) provides $6,579/annually
Canada Pension Plan (CPP Survivor Benefit) provides $2,823 annually
Guaranteed Income Supplement provides $7,378 annually

The grand total comes to $16,781, hit Gail's number right on the mark...so what can she afford with that?  How much does it cost to live now?

Well, my grandmother lives in a assisted living home in BC. The rates are regulated by the province, and there are no other choices if we want her to be close to home - they are the only option in my small home town.

Here's a bit of a summary - after rent, medical care and clothing (she starting to need adaptive wear, so she's buying one or two new pieces a month) - she's got about $100 left a month.

You don't see a phone here, cable, gifts, emergencies, entertainment..no books....you see the bare bone basics to live.  You also don't see much flexibility for saving - which she does, we bank whatever's left over for her so that when she does need something extra - and not extra in the way we might think of it - she can afford it.  The last 'extra' for example, was a $915 wheelchair cushion.

And what if she didn't have dementia...it would be no different; other than she would know that she was missing out on buying gifts at Christmas for her children, grand-children, great-grand children...that she would know it takes a year to save for a new part for her wheelchair.  There are no outings, no extras, no treats.

My grandmother is my inspiration to work hard, save hard.  To drive myself in my career so that I can live a good life now without sacrificing my life tomorrow.


  1. Very good post! I feel the exact same way. I don't want to live on government assistance alone its a scary thought. Its funny how my Mom and T's Dad have the same view any time we say that we're saving for retirement we get asked "Why? So you can be taxed more and have to pay your OAS/GIS back". T retorts we don't want to qualify for GIS! I get that maybe we're not living as frugally as we could be and that we would have trouble maintaining this lifestyle in retirement but I also wouldn't want to live the way my Mom has to (her house is literally falling to pieces around her because she can't afford to maintain it). Its why I worked hard to pay down my debt, why we saved so much for a downpayment, and why we are saving :)

    1. Thank you! When I read Gail's post I thought I just had to share my grandmother's story - because she's exactly the scenario that she talks about...but a real person.

      It's so hard to find the balance between 'now' and 'later' - my mom figures that Jordan and I are miles ahead (even when if feels like we're behind) because we actually talk about it and plan, even if all the plans don't work out.

  2. Your grandmother sounds like an inspiration. What happened to their farm? Many farmers here don't have much for retirement savings but farms are worth so much money now that they can sell them and live comfortably.

    1. The land is only worth what someone will pay for it...and if no one buys it when you need the money, it's not worth anything. My grandparents were 'land-poor' for their entire lives.

      That said, it doesn't really answer your question. The property got tied up with some legal battles, and she was able to sell it for just the debt that was owed.


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