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Aug. 5, 2020 | Wednesday
Editorials and Opinions
Op-ed: Pandemic gives us chance to re-evaluate everything we do

We can move toward a more responsible society by first understanding the influences on our lives


Bill Garriock

Special to The Lake Report

The COVID-19 pandemic will end up being a transformational event for all people and for all of society.  

Not only have millions of people been infected by the virus and hundreds of thousands have died, but it has brought home to many that perhaps the way we have been living our lives is open to serious questioning.  Not only have many had serious health issues including dealing with death, but many have suffered irreparable financial harm. 

The social distancing or physical distancing, and self- and mandatory isolation, have caused people to have more time to assess the way they have been living. 

Not all of the time now available for reflection has been focused on thinking about the future; much time has been spent dealing with the result of personal decisions made in the past. And many of those decisions have been influenced by a bombardment of messages received through many traditional and alternative media to live a lifestyle which, in many cases, is really not affordable.

One of the insidious television commercials regularly viewed is one to encourage you to constantly keep track of your credit score, to see if there is more room to extend your credit by buying "things" and services to enhance your lifestyle.

It all looks so easy; it’s like winning the lottery without having to buy a ticket for the next draw. Credit Karma, the company behind the credit score, earns revenue from lenders who pay the company when Credit Karma successfully recommends customers to lenders.  

It is clear that this is not a public service. In fact, the company had been very successful. It is about to be acquired for $7.1 billion by Intuit, an American business and financial company located in Mountain View, California.  

This company spends 28 per cent of revenues on selling and marketing, to entice you to spend beyond your means. It has a very profitable net income of 23 per cent of revenues.  Encouraging you to live an unaffordable lifestyle is indeed rewarding for this company!

The other great appeal is to withdraw money from your home in what is dubbed a reverse rortgage. All you have to do is be over 55 and own your own home.  Easy peasy!  

And you can take up to 50 per cent of the equity in your home out over time to continue with your unaffordable lifestyle.  

As one commercial says, "Why buy only one hot tub when you can have two?"  However, there are at least two problem with all of this.  Interest rates are higher than a conventional mortgage and once you have 'consumed" half the equity in your home, there is nothing left to borrow.  So, sell your house and hope that you don’t live too long.  

From 55 years old to 85 or 95 is 30 or 40 years and those are long time periods to have your main source of income coming from a reverse mortgage on your home.  

And part of your new expenses will be the interest that is paid on the money you will have withdrawn.  It all costs … but then there is always pet food to eat when the money is gone.  Or you will have to have "Big Government" take care of you when you are sharing four to a room in a care facility.

The good news is that we have an opportunity to reflect on our own responsibilities and to think about how we wish to live our lives going forward.  Perhaps in this interim period we have actually achieved more of a balance in our lives.  

Maybe being connected to our office 24/7 really isn’t necessary. Generations before us never were and they survived and organizations prospered.  

Maybe all of us should seriously question some of the things we assume to be true and how we live as individuals and as a society in total. Perhaps it is time to press the reset button.

* Bill Garriock lives in Niagara-on-the-Lake.