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The Information Bank

for seniors from Option consommateurs

It's full of relevant information and resources on a host of topics that affect you:

Credit and overindebtedness

Bank charges

Reward points

Fraud

Information line for seniors

Are you 55 or over and have a legal or budgetary question? Contact our lawyers via the dedicated seniors' line:

514 598-0620, ext. 4338

Virtual Lunch Conferences

To stay well-informed and protect yourself, don't miss the six lunchtime conferences offered by an expert from Option consommateurs. Each lunchtime conference lasts about an hour and deals with a different theme from September 2022 to February 2023. What's more, they're completely FREE:

See the calendar and themes

Budget

In Quebec, the number of people aged 55 and over facing financial difficulties has risen steadily over the past five years. Many of them are already heavily in debt before they retire. Declining incomes exacerbate their financial problems. For others, retirement is synonymous with debt. Declining incomes and rising living costs push them into debt.

ATTENTION. You remain responsible for repaying your debts, regardless of your financial situation, level of autonomy or housing situation.

Feel like you're drowning in debt? The following questions will help you diagnose the state of your personal finances.

  • Are you having trouble paying your bills on time?
  • Do you use credit to meet your basic needs (food, medicine, etc.)?
  • Do you pay only the minimum amount on your credit cards?
  • Do you use several credit cards at the same time?
  • Are you behind with your rent or mortgage payments?
  • Have you received an interruption notice or are you experiencing an interruption of utilities such as electricity or telephone?
  • Are you receiving calls from your creditors or a collection agency?

If you answered "yes" to one or more of these questions, you are probably over-indebted. Don't hesitate to contact your local Association coopérative d'économie familiale. They can offer you a budget consultation.

If you live in the Option consommateurs area, please contact us now.

Are there ways to avoid overindebtedness? Of course there are! You'll need to draw up a new budget, if you haven't already done so. This will need to take into account your income, which may be lower in retirement, the expenses that will increase (in leisure activities, in particular) and those that may decrease (work-related transport, for example). You'll need to adopt a lifestyle to suit your new situation. Barring exceptional circumstances, you should be able to enjoy a healthy financial life.

This budgeting grid can help you get a clear picture of your income and expenses.

As such, credit is neither good nor bad. However, if you can't pay off your credit card balance, or can't always make the monthly payments on your personal loan, credit may seem threatening. Here are a few tips to help you avoid overindebtedness:

  • Before you apply for a loan, prepare a budget to determine your real repayment capacity. Don't rely solely on the lending institution's assessment. They may offer you more than you need.
  • When you take out a new loan, read the contract carefully before signing and make sure you understand everything.
  • Don't forget to gather all the relevant information: the interest rate on the loan, the number of instalments to be made before the debt is paid off, as well as the frequency of these payments and non-interest charges (such as currency changes). Above all, be aware of the consequences of missing one or more payments. In some cases, non-payment may oblige you to pay off the entire loan immediately.
  • If you don't understand all the terms of the loan, ask us to explain them to you. That's your right.
  • Try as much as possible to pay off your credit cards every month.
  • Avoid making only the minimum payment.
  • If you always carry a balance on your credit card, opt for a low-rate card. With an annual payment for the service, you're likely to save on interest charges.
  • The faster you repay, the more you save in interest. With the exception of mortgages, you can usually pay off a loan faster than planned without penalty.

Some credit cards or store cards allow you to accumulate reward points such as airline miles. They can save you money on the purchase of certain goods, but only if you use them! Few consumers actually redeem their reward points for goods or travel discounts. What's more, this method carries the risk that, in order to accumulate points, you'll make impulse purchases that you wouldn't normally make.

The saying "nothing is free" is also true here. In reality, the gifts and discounts offered by points programs are paid for in personal information. In fact, even though the data collected is not linked to your personal details, your purchasing behaviour with your points card can be recorded and sold to marketing firms for use in market analysis...

Heating alone accounts for 50% of a household's energy consumption. Every time you turn down the thermostat by one degree, you save 2% on your energy bill. The recommended temperature is 21°C during the day and 18°C at night. In cold weather, consider putting on a sweater instead of turning up the thermostat.

To maintain a constant temperature and save money, you can replace your old thermostats with electronic ones. On its website, Hydro-Québec offers several tools to help you improve the energy efficiency of your home.

Is your fridge over 10 years old and in need of replacement? You can call on the Frigo Responsable program.

Telecommunications (telephone, Internet, cable TV, etc.) can cost you a lot of money every month. If you've been with the same service provider for a long time, you may want to check out what the competition has to offer. Your telecommunications package could be greatly reduced.

If you have voice mail, consider buying an answering machine. You could save a hundred dollars a year. Of course, you'll have to pay for the machine, but since it will last for several years, the expense will pay for itself.

At Bell and Videotron, people aged 65 and over can use directory assistance (411) free of charge. Bell and Videotron offer this discount for residential and cellular phones. To sign up for this service, call Bell Canada at 1-866-301-1942 or Videotron at 1-888-433-6876.

At age 65, you are automatically enrolled in the Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec's public drug insurance plan. So you don't need to register. If, on the other hand, you continue to be eligible for a private insurance plan, you can choose between the following options:

  • be covered solely by the public plan;
  • be covered by both the public plan and a private plan offering supplementary coverage;
  • be covered solely by a private plan.

If you are enrolled in the public plan, you will have to pay a premium. The premium is collected each year by Revenu Québec when you file your income tax return. Each month, when you make your first drug purchase, you'll also have to pay the monthly deductible of $16.25 and 32% of the cost of the prescription minus the deductible (2012 data).

There is a maximum monthly and annual contribution. This limit varies according to your situation. If you receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), you may benefit from certain exemptions. To check your eligibility or obtain more information, contact the Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec at 1 800 561-9749.

When you file your annual income tax return, you may also be required to pay a health contribution. This contribution (not to be confused with the annual prescription drug insurance premium) is intended to finance the public health care system. It depends on your income. Some people (those whose income was less than $18,000 for the 2013 tax year) are exempt from paying this contribution. For more information, visit the Revenu Québec website or call 1 800 267-6299.

If you're having trouble paying for your prescription drugs, Sun Youth may be able to help, following an assessment of your financial situation. This service is intended for low-income individuals covered by the public drug insurance plan. This assistance is offered once a year. To check your eligibility and apply for assistance, call 514 842-6822.

You can also save money by asking your pharmacist to replace your current medication with a generic, if possible. Generic drugs are just as effective as brand-name medications, but their price is much lower.

Need to buy acetaminophen? Compare the prices of different brands and formats. House brands are often more affordable than the most popular brands.

Some pharmacies, such as Familiprix, Brunet and Jean Coutu, offer seniors privilege cards that give them 10% off their purchases. There are exceptions. Ask your pharmacist if you qualify.

If you're 65 or over, you're entitled to a free comprehensive eye examination every year. Simply present your health insurance card to your optometrist.

You can also visit the University Vision Clinic at the Université de Montréal. In addition to offering personalized optometry services, it sometimes sells glasses and contact lenses at below-market prices. For more information, or to book an appointment, call 514 343-6082. That said, don't forget to ask for an estimate and compare offers from several retailers.

Réseau FADOQ and its partner Greiche & Scaff could help you save money on your prescription glasses. For more information, contact Réseau FADOQ at 1 800 828-3344.

Dental care is often expensive. It's important to get informed and compare the prices charged by different dental clinics. You could save a lot of money. If you prefer, you can hire students. Faculties of dentistry, including that of the Université de Montréal, offer low-cost treatments to the general public. To make an appointment at the Clinique dentaire de l'Université de Montréal, call 514 343-6750, and have your health insurance number ready.

Dental technician students also offer low-cost dental hygiene services. CEGEPs that offer this training, such as Collège de Maisonneuve in Montreal, and Collège Édouard-Montpetit in Longueuil, offer the following services: examination with X-rays, scaling and polishing, fluoride application, etc. You can reach Collège de Maisonneuve at 514 254-7131 and Collège Édouard-Montpetit at 450 679-2631, ext. 2523.

Do you think food is becoming more and more expensive? It's true! Over the last ten years, the cost of the grocery basket has risen by 30%.

Before you go shopping, plan your menu for the week using the discounts offered in the advertising booklets. Then take the time to compare prices at different supermarkets. In-store, compare the prices of different formats and brands. It may be more advantageous to buy private labels; they often come from the manufacturers of major brands and are less expensive than the latter.

On certain days of the week, many supermarkets offer free delivery to seniors. Find out more!

What's more, from Monday to Wednesday, people aged 60 and over get 10% off at Tau natural food markets.

Community organizations in your neighbourhood may also offer Meals-on-Wheels services. For more information, or to find out about the organizations in question, contact the Ligne Référence-Aînés at 514 527-0007. This is an information line on services available to Montreal seniors, set up by the Table de concertation des aînés de l'île de Montréal.

Worried about gas prices? The following tips from CAA-Quebec can help you limit your gas consumption:
- keep your vehicle in good condition;
- maintain tire pressure at the level recommended by your vehicle manufacturer;
- fit your vehicle with a block heater;
- use air conditioning only when necessary;
- drive at 100 km/h on freeways.
Public transportation
The Société de transport de Montréal offers a discount for people aged 65 and over. You could save up to 50% on your transit fare. For more information, call the Société de transport de Montréal at 514 786-4636. Discounts are available for riders aged 65 and over on many other public transit systems in Quebec, including Longueuil, Laval, Quebec City and Sherbrooke.

In some neighborhoods, a shuttle service serves retirement homes. Sometimes, volunteers take seniors to the hospital, the grocery store, etc. For more information, or to find out which organizations offer this service in your area, contact the Ligne Référence-Aînés 514 527-0007.

You can claim the cost of certain public transit fares in Canada. Remember to keep your receipts and claim the tax credit when you file your federal income tax return.

At cinemas and museums, special rates are often offered to seniors. To take advantage of the discounts, you must carry an ID card showing your age.

For $30 for one year or $50 for two years, you can become a member of Réseau FADOQ. Membership entitles you to various leisure discounts. Contact Réseau FADOQ at 1 800 828-3344 or www.fadoq.ca to sign up.

Do you love music and reading? Some retailers offer discounts for seniors. On Mondays, Archambault record store offers a 10% discount to those aged 60 and over. On Wednesdays, the Renaud-Bray bookstore offers a 10% discount to those aged 65 and over.

If you're over 60, the YMCA offers you a discount of around 15% when you subscribe to their sports center for one year. For more information, call 514 849-5331.

Financial Services

Are you one of those people who remain loyal to their broker or insurer for years, believing that their loyalty will be rewarded? Think again! To get the best home and auto insurance policy at the best price, you have to store around every year. The insurance market is highly competitive. For the same auto or home insurance policy, the cost can vary by as much as three times. To save money, you could also combine your home and auto insurance, or install an alarm system in your home and car.

Réseau FADOQ (formerly Fédération de l'âge d'or du Québec), with its partner Intact, offers certain discounts to its members. The Association québécoise des droits des personnes retraitées et préretraitées, with La Capitale, offers a similar service. For more information, contact Réseau FADOQ at 1 800 828-3344 or AQDR at 514-935-1551.

If you have any questions about your insurance contract, you can either ask your insurer for advice, or consult this website.

Are you paying for assistance services? People aged 70 and over who live at home are entitled to a tax credit for the services they receive at home. Apply to Revenu Québec when you file your annual tax return. You will then receive a refund for eligible expenses incurred during the previous year.

You may even be eligible if you live in a serviced cohousing community or a private residence. When you sign a lease in a private residence, a schedule is filled out to this effect. You may receive this refund annually with your income tax return, or in monthly instalments.

To find out more about tax credits, contact Revenu Québec at 1 800 267-6299.

Many financial institutions offer low-cost or even no-fee accounts for people aged 59 and over. So why not take advantage? To find out more, contact your financial institution. You can also contact the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada: 1 866 461-2232 or visit their website. Depending on your profile, you'll find a tool to help you choose a banking package.

ATTENTION: A no-fee account will not save you the amount requested when you use another financial institution's ATM.

Fraud and abuse

Financial exploitation is the illegal or unauthorized use of another person's financial resources or property.

Example: if someone cashes your pension cheque and keeps all or part of the money without your authorization, or misuses a power of attorney to withdraw money from your bank account, this not only constitutes financial exploitation, but also theft.

It can be difficult to detect. It often involves small actions repeated over long periods rather than a single event. People who are alone or in poor health are usually the most vulnerable.

How to protect yourself ?

  • Keep your financial and personal information safe.
  • Never give out your bank or credit card PIN number.
  • Reduce withdrawal limits on your bank accounts.
  • Keep track of the amount of money you give or lend.
  • If you're lending a large amount of money, draw up an IOU before a witness.
  • For important decisions concerning your home or other assets, contact a legal advisor yourself so that you are better informed before signing any documents.
  • Designate, through a mandate in case of incapacity, a reliable person to make decisions on your behalf should you become incapable of managing your affairs.
  • Above all, be on your guard if someone close to you asks you for money or offers to manage all your finances for your benefit.

The Elder Abuse Helpline is a listening, support and information service designed to break the silence of elder abuse. You can call every day of the week between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. at 1 888 489-2287.

The Centre d'aide aux victimes d'actes criminels (CAVAC) is a service for victims of physical violence, threats, fraud, theft or any other type of crime.

Credit card fraud can also occur when you make purchases over the Internet.

To better protect yourself against this phenomenon, you could take a course on computer security. Find out more at your local library or community center.

You should also be aware of joint credit applications. For example, if you agree to have a credit card with someone else, you'll be responsible for all spending on that account and the related monthly payments. So, if the person you share the credit card with doesn't make the monthly payments, you'll be responsible for the charges. Change your mind about a joint credit card? You must notify your co-borrower in writing, as well as your credit card issuer.

A financial advisor offering to invest your savings in a financial product that will earn you a lot of money quickly? Beware!

In particular, financial fraudsters use a technique known as Ponzi schemes, which involve taking money from one investor to pay false returns to others.

When they run out of investors to bring in new capital, the deception is exposed. The investors realize that the fund is empty.

How can I protect myself?
Here are a few tips to help you avoid these deceptions:

  • Make sure that the person offering you the investment is registered with the Autorité des marchés financiers. Consult their online register.
  • Ask questions about the financial product and seek advice from another professional.
  • Never give cash or a cheque made out to the person offering the investment.
  • Be extra careful if you're asked to keep an investment secret.
  • Never buy under pressure.

If you believe you have been the victim of fraud by a financial advisor, or if you have any questions about financial products, contact the Autorité des marchés financiers at 1 877 525-0337.

So called by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, this scheme has a heavy toll on the elderly.

A grandparent receives a call from a scammer claiming to be one of his grandchildren. The grandchild says he needs money immediately because he's in trouble (car accident, imprisonment, hospitalization, etc.). The victim doesn't check whether the scammer's statements are true before sending the money, as the scammer takes great care to ask the victim not to discuss the matter with other family members.

How can I protect myself?
Given that this type of fraud is widespread, and that crooks have no shortage of imagination when it comes to bribing you, always make sure you know the identity of the person calling you to ask for money.

If you fall victim to this type of scam, call the police. Then report the fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.