Volunteering- Be very careful about what you choose.

I’ve had quite a few volunteer experiences since I retired in 2017 and I am here to report on them all. I did a post on volunteering when I first retired. Nothing like real live experience to see how things work.

Clinical Trial at UBC

My first volunteer gig was being part of a clinical trial at UBC. The idea was to test an iphone App called BrainHQ to see if it improved your memory. There were already many studies on this app so I am not sure what was new about this study. The study involved two groups, one that used the app and one that did not. Sadly I was in the group that did not get the app until the end of the 6 week study. Of course you want to know the results but so far they have not published the results. There were many cool things about this volunteer gig. If you are interested in participating in clinical trials, some are online. Here is the link.

  1. I could walk because I was close to Vancouver General Hospital’
  2. We attended an activity three times a week for 6 weeks that included some exercise, games, spreakers and conversation.
  3. I got tested on a whole lot of cognitive function tests and they gave you the results at the end so you can see if you are loosing it.. or by how much you are loosing it compared to people your age. The testing included an MRI which is why I took one point off.
  • Rating
  • Fun factor 7/10
  • New friends 0/10
  • Worthwhile use of my time 10/1
  • Treated with respect 9/10
  • Overall Rating 9/10

BC Science center tried to recruit me to stand in the lobby and click a clicker to count the people coming through. You much be joking.

ESL tutoring

The next volunteer gig was assisting at English as a second language classes at Mosaic in Vancouver which is a huge organization. I have recently recertified as a teacher in British Columbia so I thought I could get some recent experience. I was supposed to be a teachers assistant to the real ESL teacher. I was assigned to a class with about 10 people who had close to no English comprehension and were from multiple different countries and from ages 20 – 90. One elderly person was deaf and cognitively impaired. Another person had some learning disorders. There were about 5 people who had potential to learn English. My job was to help students when they were doing small group work. This will rank as my worst volunteer experience ever.

  • Long bus trip to the classroom.
  • Waste of my time
  • Was told I was not to make any suggestions to the 25 year old tutor.

Rating

  • Fun factor -1/10
  • New friends 0/10
  • Worthwhile use of my time 1/10
  • Treated with respect 1/10
  • Overall rating 1/10

Review of the literature on non- symptomatic Covid 19.

I volunteered for this as my real job had involved a lot of health care research and it thought this would be a good use of my talents. I was assigned and the question and wrote a paper on the topic for a group at UBC. This was early 2019 and there were not many papers on the topic so it was rather a short job but interesting. I have been very interested in the whole COVID 19 process. About 2 years later a received a lovely thank you letter from UBC that I am thinking about framing. I was invited to an online think tank on Zoom but there were about 30 people talking over each other.. OMG. Won’t do that again I said to myself. So I decided I had had enough of this project. It was overwhelming. It was my first experience with grandstanding.

Rating

  • Fun factor -9/10
  • New friends 0/10
  • Worthwhile use of my time 10/10
  • Treated with respect 7/10
  • Overall rating 7/10

Immunization clinics

Fast forward to Covid 19. I volunteered at the immunization clinics for Vancouver Island Health Authority in Courtenay. I was responsible to herding people through the lines to the nurses and making sure everyone was feeling comfortable with the process. Then I would site in the after care space chatting with people. I feel that this has paid all my debts to society. It was very well organized. I was hard to stand for 4 hours. But I enjoyed chatting with the wide variety of people coming through the clinic. The big surprise at the end was the goody bag given to all the volunteers at the end include many gift cards and a bottle of wine. Who knew????

Rating

  • Fun factor -9/10
  • New friends 0/10
  • Worthwhile use of my time 10/10
  • Treated with respect 9/10
  • Overall Rating 9/10

Habitat for Humanity online auction

I volunteered to research objects donated to the Restore to see if they are valuable enough to put in their online auction. This involved going into a dark and dusty closet can pawing through cartons of old stuff. Stuff included pseudo vintage snow shows, copper tea post, vintage figurines and other strange things that I could not identify. Since this was a new job, I set up a process to do the online search and set up a file with the results. The Restore is a busy spot and space it at a premium. It was interesting to see why kind of thing people donate. This was a surprisingly time consuming activity. I went to a few meetings. Not my cup of tea.

Rating

  • Fun factor -0/10
  • New friends 0/10
  • Worthwhile use of my time 5/10
  • Treated with respect 2/10
  • Overall rating 5/10

Sitting the quilt

While on Hornby Island I did some shifts sitting in the courtyard among the businesses selling tickets for a quilt raffle. This is the ultimate meet and greet job. You get to chat with everyone passing through Hornby Island for all over the world. What could be more fun?

Rating

  • Fun factor -10/10
  • New friends 1/10
  • Worthwhile use of my time 5/10
  • Treated with respect 9/10
  • Overall rating 9/10

So what lessons have I learned?

  • Volunteer work can be physically demanding so be sure you have the stamina to do the job.
  • Do you like the person who is hiring you?
  • Do you thrive on chaos. Some do! Not me.
  • For me it is important to have some interest in the work
  • I like doing meet and greet and I am good at it. And it makes everyone feel good.
  • Its hard to find a fun and interesting volunteer job.
  • What has been your favourite volunteer gig and why? Or why haven’t you volunteered?

artwork is by ALPIN KELLEY on Hornby Island

The Challenges and Opportunities of 2022

It seems like the year has Zoomed by, and I mean that literally and figuratively.

I just Zoomed off a French language meet-up as I couldn’t understand.  But I have been able to understand the DuoLingo conversation groups I have been attending every Wed for the past year and half and I have met many interesting people from all over the world.  We have bonded and I even met one participant from Vancouver while she was on Denman Island and I was on Hornby Island last summer.  We spent a lovely afternoon getting acquainted In Real Life in French.   Unfortunately Duolingo is discontinuing these free conversation groups but one of the groups will be switching to Meetup and still continuing on Zoom.  

And while we are talking about Zooming I have been practicing my mandolin on Zoom with my friend Barb who is learning the Ukulele.  Lessons learned.  Get the music score that includes musical notation so you can play the notes at the same time. My favourite is the Campfire Songs that has the chords for guitar, ukulele, mandolin,  banjo and mandolin.  I look forward to playing with more people more next year as I build up my repertoire.  

When I first started blogging I did a post about all kinds of volunteer opportunities.  Covid19 has made this more challenging.  Nevertheless I volunteered with Habit for Humanity to help out with their on line auction.  This involved going into their deep dusty closet store room and looking at all the weird and wonderful things that people have donated and doing some research on the value of the items.  It was pretty interesting to try to find items in Ebay and determine the value.  The best hit was a silver platter that I was able to estimate a value of about $ 1000.  Looking for vintage dental equipment?  This is the place!

I have been more conscious about how we are all getting older as I see friends and friends of friends passing away as well as seeing the mortality and morbidity from Covid. I have been getting my own affairs since your life can change in a nanosecond.  I found a lawyer in Victoria that manages estates when you die.  I have set up a Power of Attorney with a lawyer here.  I found a company to manage my investments and an accountant who relieved my anxiety about loosing my Old Age Security. 

I was also concerned about what would happen to me if I ended up in the ER without being conscious.  After several inquires online I discovered a package called My Voice you can download  from the Ministry of Health.   You can designate a Responsible Person to make some decisions about your health care on your behalf.   The document requires signatures by the responsible person and two witnesses.  I called several notaries and they would not witness the document.  I then called 3 friends and we had a signing party at the Griffin Pub.   The final part of this process was a document called MOST.  Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment. It is a document that your doctor signs and keeps a copy.  In theory if you end up in the ER, they can access your medical records with your GP.  I remain skeptical about this really happening. But all you can do is put the pieces in place. I was advised that I should put all this information on my fridge door in case EMS came and apparently this is where they look for information.  I’ll believe it when I see it.

I continue to find condo living to have it challenges.  Most recently I received a 63 page document for the annual general meeting. You would think that after 40 years of condo living I would have it all figured out but alas, this is not the case.  No one can truly process 63 pages of legal-ese about what you have to do if you renovate.  I really think that a single family dwelling might be less irritating.  Some friends have opted for a rental situation and both have 4th floor units with a view.  However, there are no shortage of stories of hostile neighbours in single family neighbourhoods as I found out when parking in a no parking zone in Comox.   I did a short drive around looking for non condo options and there are some. But I finally decided all you can do is manage how you react to the nit picky strata council and neighbours.  After looking at the alternatives around town I come back to the great river walk beside the condo where I live and decide it’s too good to move.  It is different every day of the year and continues to give me solace all year round.

One of more challenging project of the year was participation in a choir.  We had performances in the spring and Dec that required a lot of work and time to master the music.  Here is a link to the performance from the spring on You Tube.   My favourite part of Christmas is the music.  I just can’t enough of it.   COVID has inspired many online events including an online choir out of the UK.  If this doesn’t bring goose bumps nothing will.  Best wishes to all my followers for a better 2023.

Here is a 2 hour podcast of Christmas music compiled perhaps in 2020 or 2012 by a departed friend DJ David Wiseman on Hornby Island.

‘Your home is not your castle’: buyers face the unforeseen consequences of condo living – Capital Daily

If you’re buying a condo or townhouse in BC, it’s probably a strata. But, from fistfights and fines to a fence that divided a community, stratas have been marked by stories of disappointment and rage
— Read on www.capitaldaily.ca/news/your-home-is-not-your-castle-buying-into-a-strata-victoria-bc

This makes my issues small by comparison. I find strata ownership challenging. There are a lot of unknowns. It’s hard not to get emotional about it all. As this article suggests it’s a free for all. Better governance might improve the situation.

Transferring RRSPS to RIFs for Canadians.

Its tax time and the weather is gloomy so lets do our financial planning.

RRSPs must be converted to a RIF by December in the year you turn 71. I describe the process I to make this happen. I’m not a financial professional so don’t take my experience as advice. Here is a summary of the process.

Step 1 Contact your bank to set up an RIF and request they transfer assets from RRSP to RIF

Step 2. Find out from the bank how much you must withdraw each year and how much additional money you can withdraw and how often.

Step 3 Find out from the bank when and how the withdrawals will occur.

Step 4. Calculate the amount you will get, how much gets deducted in taxes and what impact it will have on your income.

Registered Retirement Savings Plans transfer to RIF

I found the process to set up the account and organize the withdrawals to be quite confusing. This process took a lot of time and effort. The forms have a lot of details about rules and regulations and request a lot of information about your finances. It might be different for you depending on which bank holds your RRSP.

My bank has the forms posted online. I tried to fill out the forms online, print them out, scan them in and upload them, but the files were too big to upload to the bank’s system. So, I mailed the to Head Office in Toronto. I then went through multiple phone calls to the bank as found they had not set up the account. Finally, the account was set up and the bank transferred my assets from the RRSP to a RIF. Several months later the bank sent the forms to me in the mail. So, it appears you don’t need to be proactive, you can wait for the bank to contact you.

I was offered monthly/quarterly/semi-annual/annual options for the minimum withdrawal on the 10th or 24th of the month.

Minimum annual withdrawal from RIF

Once you have transferred your assets from the RRSP to a RIF, you must set up a minimum withdrawal. Income tax is not deducted from this minimum amount. You can transfer mutual funds or stocks to a TFSA or you can transfer out cash to a checking account or TFSA. The bank will automatically transfer cash from the RIF to your checking account or TFSA on the dates you have specified in your application. However, if you want to transfer stocks or mutual funds from your RIF to a TFSA you must call the bank before the withdrawal date to put in a request for a transfer of assets.

Transfers of amounts above the minimum payment.

If you withdraw more than the minimum amount you must pay a withholding tax. You could withdraw the full amount if it were not for tax implications.
10% on amounts up to $5,000
20% on amounts over $5,00
30% on amounts over $15,000

Oddly enough, the first year you withdraw or transfer assets from an RIF, you have to pay withholding tax on the whole amount you withdraw including the minimum amount, according to the Bank of Montreal as of April 4 2022.

There are a lot of different scenarios regarding the withdrawals and research is necessary to determine what is the best scenario for you.

Example

Let’s say your minimum amount you can withdraw is $10,000 and you want to withdraw an additional $30,000. I call the bank a week before the minimum withdrawal, they tell me how much my minimum withdrawal is, I tell them what mutual fund I want to transfer to my RRSP, and they execute the transfer. Then I tell them how much more I want to transfer above the $10,000. They tell me how much withholding tax there will be which would be approximately $9,000 (30% of $ 30,000). I cash in some mutual funds to fund the tax withholding. Then I call the bank back to execute the transfer of the mutual funds to my RRSP. Then I am done for the year.

Transfer of LIRA to LIF

The LIRA is different from the RRSP/RIF in that the funds are locked in. The transfer process is similar to an RRSP to a RIF. There is a similar complex application process as discussed above. However, the withdrawal rules are different. There is a min/max annual withdrawal only, unless you have extreme hardship or shortened life expectancy. The bank is required to give you a statement in writing of the amount that is to be paid out each year. This appears on the statement I receive from the bank at the end of the year. One can start withdrawals after age 55 and it would be wise to do this.

https://www.bmoinvestorline.com/selfDirected/pdfs/BritishColumbia_LIRA.pdf

https://www.bmoinvestorline.com/selfDirected/pdfs/BritishColumbia_LIF.pdf

The withdrawal min and max are calculated on the website below. The calculations for a 72-year-old person in 2022 were 5.4 % min and 8.71% Maximum.

https://lifeannuities.com/articles/2021/2021-lif-withdrawal-rates.html

When the balance is less than 40% of the YMPC (64,900 x 40%=25,960) you can withdraw the balance.

if you will earn less than $43,267 before taxes in the next 12 months, you are eligible to make small additional withdrawals. https://www.bcfsa.ca/media/1637/download

Other online resources about LIRAs/LIFS

https://www.bcfsa.ca/public-resources/pensions/liras-and-lifs

https://mpp.pensionsbc.ca/what-is-the-years-maximum-pensionable-earnings

There is a free booklet that has been posted by an investment company with more details about LIFs.

https://lifeannuities.com/2022-LIF-Withdrawal-Rules-Tables.pdf

Old age security claw back

Be careful about withdrawals because they are treated as income and can result in your income exceeding $75,000 at which point the OAS is clawed back at an increasing percent as your total income increases.

Lessons from my experiences.

  1. Do your research before you start the process
  2. Give yourself several months to sort this out.
  3. Call your bank to walk you through the process.
  4. Ensure you understand the process.
  5. Ask a lot of questions if you don’t understand anything
  6. Take notes on what you do.
  7. The online websites are not very clear
  8. Try to transfer assets without cashing them out.
  9. Do your income tax for the next year using tax software using different amounts of withdrawals.
  10. Consider using a financial planner because there are a lot of details that I haven’t included here.

The Biggest Psychological Experiment in History Is Running Now – Scientific American

Wondering what’s going on with you? With your friends? These researchers found older adults are reporting the highest levels of positive experiences in their daily lives, often through providing support to others.
— Read on www.scientificamerican.com/interactive/the-biggest-psychological-experiment-in-history-is-running-now/

The 33 Best Retirement Blogs On The Planet – 4Retirees

Whatever you’re interested in reading, we curated the best retirement blogs for you that’s created and run by retirees, for retirees.
— Read on 4retirees.com/the-33-best-retirement-blogs-on-the-planet/

Social exclusion of older persons: a scoping review and conceptual framework | SpringerLink

As a concept, social exclusion has considerable potential to explain and respond to disadvantage in later life. However, in the context of ageing populatio
— Read on link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10433-016-0398-8