Happy New Year!

I obviously had a moment of de-cluttering breakdown with my last post “Learn to Love Clutter”.   It’s not a strategy that will ever work for me.

Seems  like almost a year has gone by since my heroic efforts at de-cluttering fizzled out.   I ran out of steam, but sadly I didn’t run out of clutter.   (See all my earlier efforts by clicking on “Clutter” in the Tag Cloud).

Now that the days have already closed in, I need a new project for the indoor winter months.    I won’t let this clutter mound beat me and I have yet another idea of how I might get on top of it.

How do you eat an elephant ?      Answer…….. One bite at a time !

So my project for 2019 is to De-Clutter one thing a day every day for a year.    Three hundred and sixty-five things less should make a hole in the clutter and one thing at a time shouldn’t be too difficult.

There again what do you do when you have close to 365 socks with no feet to walk in ….and 365 shirts hanging lifelessly on a wardrobe rail unworn for another year ……and 365 bits of important papers piling up in the office waiting to be filed …….and 365 ties untied, longing for a meeting or a day out ……and 365 plantless pots in the garden sheds ……  and 365 books read and unread  ……….and 365 photographs waiting for an album ……and 365 of so much more unused, days-over, dust gathering, nobody loves me former treasures?

I will write a progress blog report every week using my new Clutter Elephant logo.   That should keep me under pressure to continue de-cluttering.

Posted in SMILES | Tagged | 4 Comments

Learn to Love Clutter ?

Maybe there is an alternative to continuously unsuccessfully de-cluttering.    Perhaps I should become a hoarder and completely reverse my thinking about clutter ?

Become a collector of EVERYTHING 😀😀😀😀😀🤡

Starting with SOCKS.   Why not, it is as good a place to begin as any other and I have a drawer full already to get me started.

Then I could move on to CUSHIONS,  you can never have too many cushions !    Scatter cushions everywhere and you can be reassured that when you keep tripping over them you will have a soft landing.   More cushions for everyone could save the NHS millions !   They should be on everyone’s next prescription.

PAPER.   Now there’s a thing to easily collect.   It comes through the letter box every day.  No longer think of it as junk mail, just something to add to your collection.    One day it may become valuable and think of all the post people you are keeping in work.   Forget about the trees in the Amazon rain forest.

BOOKS are another overwhelming thing.   Once you have read them you are unlikely to read them again, but why throw them away.   Stack them on shelves so they can gather dust.    Or use a few of them to level up uneven table legs.    They will also help to insulate you outside walls which should save on your heating bills.

In just a few decades your house could become a museum and you could charge people to come and view your junk 😀    Or you could apply for planning permission for your house to become an antique shop.

Posted in SMILES | Tagged | 1 Comment

Special Delivery !

It was a special day today for someone in the Graham household.   Lots of cards through the letterbox and flowers delivered to the door, all for Mo’s birthday.    But, there was one important one missing.   The day before, the postie had dropped a note on the front door mat to say that there was a special delivery which he or she had not been able to deliver because there was no-one in to sign for it.  Evidently Number One son had wanted to be sure his card would not be late so he paid extra for ‘garenteed delivery’.   Sadly he didn’t figure that both parents might be out and about when the letter arrived.

Now you have to know that in Kilsby when a letter can’t be delivered it is taken back to the sorting office in Rugby.  Five miles away.   So on the appointed day Dad has to set off early to retrieve the ‘gaurenteed delivery’ letter.

Carefully negotiating the 24 speed humps outside the local secondary school and being well aware of the six speed cameras waiting to trap any fast moves, Dad edges toward his goal — the sorting office.     But first there is the bus in front, stopping at every stop along the route, picking up and putting down armies of school children.   Only then do we approach the railway station.    Nine o’clock is a busy time with all the commuters trying to park their car and cross the road to catch their train.  They are not at all concerned about my urgent errand.

The final hurdle is the one way traffic-controlled tunnel under the railway,  specially designed to bring to a standstill rushing motorists.  A mere half an hour later and I am through the tunnel and at the gates of the very small car park at the sorting office.      The very small car park has twenty spaces for very small cars.    The sorting office evidently has eighteen staff  who come to work by car and take up eighteen spaces.    This leaves just two spaces for customers at the far end of the car park.    The dead-end !   Still I manage to get the last space and luckily I am able to climb out though the sun roof.

At last I am in the sorting office to reclaim my undelivered, guaranteed ‘special delivery’ letter.   Now all I have to do is prove who I am with two forms of I D and explain why I wasn’t in yesterday when they tried to deliver the letter.   “Didn’t you know it was special delivery ?”   I would have thought they would give it to me just for coming all this way and for managing to park in the car park.

At last letter in hand I return to the car park, climb back though my sun roof and am set to go.    Unfortunately I only learned how to do a three-point turn when I passed my driving test fifty years ago.   They didn’t prepare you for sorting office car parks.   Fifteen points and constant bleeper warnings later I extract my car from the car park. Now all I have to do is  go back through the tunnel passed the bus stops and over the speed bumps before the children come out of school.

Finally I return home with a guaranteed ‘special delivery’ birthday card from Number One  Son.

And one happy Mum.  🙂

Posted in SMILES | Tagged | 3 Comments

Equity Release Puzzle

This is another follow-up to my post “Equity Release Revisited” which prompted me to look into the subject again and start a new series of blogs on the subject.  I first wrote about this in 2012 and then again in 2015.  (You can find my earlier posts by clicking on Equity Release in the TAG CLOUD).

After hours of research on the internet, over a period of several weeks, I am still not much further on in trying to get some basic facts and figures about the cost of Equity Release.   I’ve ended up with a lot more questions than answers so I’ve got to keep digging.  

  • What are the interest rates that are charged and how do they vary with age and health?
  • How far can you use the loan on luxuries before the taxman determines that they will be considered “wilful disposal of their income”?
  • Do the local agents get any fee if you decide not to proceed?
  • What’s the average loan that people take out and at what interest rate?
  • If the average interest rate is 6%, surely that means that more people taking out Equity Release are the younger elderly?  Therefore the biggest risk to the loan provider.  Leading to a higher level of “compounded” interest.
  • Just how exactly is your property sold if you move into care, or die?  Surely the Equity Release company will want to control this.  If the loan plus interest exceeds the value of your home, they will want to get the highest sale price possible.   But, if their loan plus interest is lower than the value of your home, they will want a speedy sale and therefore may not seek the highest value to the detriment of the legacy you might leave.

The fact that Equity Release loan companies are so reluctant to be transparent about these critical questions, doesn’t lead you to believe that their products are good value.  It’s also a concern that to get any further information you have to share a lot of personal financial and health information with a “Financial Advisor” who you have never met before.  This is a crass way of doing business with older people!

I’ve no doubt I’ll be writing about this subject again in the years ahead.  Hopefully not after yet another crisis has emerged about Equity Release.

Posted in ELDERLY MARKET, Grey Products | Tagged | 2 Comments

Aviva Equity Release

This is another follow-up to my post “Equity Release Revisited” which prompted me to look into the subject again and start a new series of blogs on the subject.  I first wrote about this in 2012 and then again in 2015.  (You can find my earlier posts by clicking on Equity Release in the TAG CLOUD).

As part of my research, I found a full page advert from Aviva about Equity Release.  It offered to send a FREE EQUITY RELEASE GUIDE and I decided to follow it up.  The only problem was they didn’t include an email address, you had to call an 0800 number which I didn’t want to do.  I looked exhaustively on the Aviva website and couldn’t find an email address anywhere.  Which is astounding in this day and age!  However, I did find something called a “chatbot” which allows you to get into a live conversation with them.  Although you’re not really talking to a person at all.  This is Artificial Intelligence and all you’re able to do is type messages to a robot and get instant robotic messages back.    Here is how the “conversation” went :-

Aviva Chatbot “Conversation”

Me.                             I would like a hard copy of your Equity Release guide?

Aviva Chatbot.    To discuss or request a copy of your Equity Release documents, please call our customer support team on 0800 158 4177.

Aviva Chatbot.    I am here if you have any more questions.

Me.                            I don’t wish to discuss over the phone

Aviva Chatbox.    Sorry, I didn’t understand. Can you repeat your question in a different way?

Me.                           I am hard of hearing and I do not wish to use the telephone to discuss Equity Release

Aviva Chatbot.   Sorry, I still don’t understand. As I have not been able to help you, please click here to find out how to contact us.

Aviva Chatbot.   We aren’t always able to provide an email address or fax number, however we have the below alternative contact options.

Aviva Chatbot.    Please select how you would like to contact Aviva:

Me.                           Do you think this is a customer friendly response?

Aviva Chatbot.   Sorry, I didn’t understand. Can you repeat your question in a different way?

Me.                           Do you only have one answer to each question, I only want a brochure?

Aviva Chatbot.   Sorry, I still don’t understand. As I have not been able to help you, please click here to find out how to contact us.

So after all this, I’m none the wiser and I still don’t have a brochure from Aviva.  I wonder how much business they lose by making it difficult to communicate in the manner you wish?

Posted in ELDERLY MARKET | Tagged | 2 Comments

Equity Release – Pot of Gold?

This is a follow-up to my post “Equity Release Revisited” which prompted me to look into the subject again and start a new series of blogs on the subject.  I first wrote about this in 2012 and then again in 2015.  (You can find my earlier posts by clicking on Equity Release in the TAG CLOUD).

The latest reports in the press about the joys of  Equity Release suggest that pensioners are drawing down £11 Million a day, against their housing asset.    That’s a staggering £4 billion a year !!!!!!!

That’s a lot of Lamborghini’s.    George Osbourne’s one time idea of what old people could spend their pension funds on.  🙂

In fact it would only buy about 13,000 Lamborghini’s, so a lot of pensioners would miss out unless they had a luxury car-sharing scheme.   Still, it would be very interesting to see what 13,000 pensioners racing about in Lamborghini’s would look like.  I expect it would raise a few eyebrows and attract more than a few speeding fines 🙂

Now coming back to Equity Release, the typical loan to value ratio of Equity Release is 30%.  So these new petrol heads have effectively handed control of £12 billion of their wealth to a pack of avaricious insurance companies.  I wonder if they’ll regret that decision if they subsequently require care and find that the loan companies won’t lend them any more money.

No doubt they will also offer to insure the Lamborghini’s too.  Although I am certain that won’t be cheap either, they will probably want half of your newly acquired loan.

Posted in ELDERLY MARKET | Tagged | 3 Comments

High Price of Dignity

Following on from my last weeks post about the under funding of Residential Care comes a contrasting viewpoint.    A headline in The Guardian —— “Scandal Of UK’s worst Care Homes Revealed”.

The article reports on an investigation carried out by the paper into the finances of the companies that run the 220 Care Homes rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission.     Far from being impoverished,by being unable to charge higher fees,  just three small companies were making £113 million pre-tax profits !

There is nothing new in these headlines, they could have been written about any number of Residential Care companies anytime in the last twenty years.

There is no question that many homes are struggling financially because Social Services fees have been held down for so long.  But, not every home is in that situation.   Homes making vast profits have no excuse for delivering poor quality care, nor having low staffing levels, nor paying minimum wages.

The Care Quality Commission have a  duty to understand a Care Homes financial viability and should tackle head on any home delivering inadequate care while at the same time making huge profits.

Posted in Residential Care | Tagged | 2 Comments