COLUMN: Tough to feel secure with an extra 60 cents

Monthly increase to OAS doesn’t add up to much

I took a few moments out of my day last week to mull over what I would splurge on if someone handed me an extra 60 cents this month.

I quickly discovered it was far more time than I needed.

To be clear, I didn’t set my standards high.

It’s not like I’m under the impression that this kind of windfall could maybe, just maybe, allow me to retire early – unless, of course, I’m only planning on shaving a few seconds off of my anticipated 2037 retirement date.

And no, I did not make an error typing out that year.

I’ve seen the paperwork that says I still have 18 years before I can retire from my current position with an intact pension.

Nope, I set the bar low. Very low.

Candy bar? Nope – good thing it’s a treat I no longer indulge in.

Gum? Nope – not unless you catch a sale on those 24-packs at Costco, and divide the total price by 24.

Can of pop? Sometimes, if you buy generic from a machine in the Walmart lobby – but again, not something I indulge in any more.

Loaf of bread? Nope.

Litre of milk? Not a chance.

Litre of gas? Nope – but, oh boy, wouldn’t that be a nice price to see return to the pumps?

As a lovely senior I know who recently received a 60-cent-per-month hike to her Old Age Security commented quite emphatically to me recently – shortly after receiving her first deposit of the quarter – the sum buys very little indeed.

“You can’t buy milk, you can’t buy a coffee… you can’t buy anything,” she said.

The increase is a 0.1 per cent jump from the last quarter.

According to the Government of Canada website, the increases are legislated under the Old Age Security Act, and calculated four times a year using the All-Items Index from the Consumer Price Index (CPI), “so that benefits keep up with the cost of living.”

The senior I spoke with received an OAS boost of $1.17 per month in the first quarter of 2018 (that’s a about a litre of gas, if you buy it in Aldergrove on the right day).

Last quarter, the per-month increase was $4.17 (a jug of milk!); July to September 2018, it skyrocketed to $7.08 per month (that’ll get you two bagel six-packs at Save-on Foods this week); and, for April to June, it was $2.93 (just shy of what you need for a can of Clover Leaf tuna at Superstore).

I realize there are various factors used in calculating the amount each OAS recipient gets, and that the pension is likely not the only source of funds for these individuals.

But with the cost of pretty much everything seeming to always be on the rise – and by far more than 0.1 per cent – it’s hard to envision 60 cents providing an improved measure of security in one’s old age.

Tracy Holmes is a reporter with Peace Arch News.

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