Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Why and How of a Lowest Decile Household

Daphne and I have mentioned that each of our households is in the lowest decile of income categories. That's half again Statistics Canada's low-income cut offs (LICOs), which are measured at the lowest quintile of household incomes.

Here are the LICOs for 2008 for family sizes of one to four persons:

LOWEST QUINTILE (one-fifth):

Community Size
Under 30K30K-100K100K-500KOver 500K
Family sizeAnnual household income
1 person12,01913,75415,34415,53818,373
2 persons14,62816,74118,67618,91122,361
3 persons18,21520,84523,25523,54827,844
4 persons22,72426,00729,01329,37834,738

The list continues for families of 5, 6, and 7 or more persons.

Daphne and I each live in the Cowichan Valley, which has numerous smallish communities. At last census, the Valley's total population was 79,000. It has seen a big box boom in recent years, so we're likely closer to 100,000 now.

For the table below, I've divided the LICOs into two, to show what the lowest decile of income looks like:

LOWEST DECILE (one-tenth):

Community Size
Under 30K30K-100K100K-500KOver 500K
Family sizeAnnual household income
1 person6,0106,8777,6727,7699,187
2 persons7,3148,3729,3389,45611,181
3 persons9,10810,42311,62811,77413,922
4 persons11,36213,00414,50714,68917,369

This is the level at which Daphne and I subsist.


My income is so low because I can't do the work that is available in this community. Few jobs are anything but retail. That requires standing for long hours, reaching, twisting, bending. I've a bad hip from an old injury sustained in childhood. The wear and tear on the hip, and the associated scoliosis and arthritis that developed cause considerable pain. I can't do retail. And probably shouldn't, likely being an Aspie as well; however, I'd like to have given it a go.

I saved while still able to work because I knew it would get to this point. On a salary of only $12,500 per year, for the last four years ending December 2006, I saved $5,000 each year. That is, I saved $20,000... which makes my head explode when I read about people far more affluent who bury their heads in the sand.

During the 1990s, starting at the age of 41, I'd been a full-time student, so at the end of 2000, I also had $4,000 left from a doctoral fellowship.

That's what I've been living on ever since, that $24,000 plus interest, together with sales tax rebates and the very rare web design, research or writing contract. Of course, three years later, it's not $24,000 anymore.

People may wonder (I have at times) why I don't - or didn't - just spend my money, live relatively high on the hog for a year and then apply for 'financial assistance', i.e., welfare or disability benefits.

Well here's the thing: I have no dependent children, am fiercely independent, can't ask for help, have a hard time accepting gifts for the same reason, and loathe people trying to interfere with or control my life, also for the same reason. No way will I subject myself to this province's punitive welfare system, not with a childhood history of longterm abuse.

As for disability benefits, you must, in addition to everything else related to the degrading, demoralizing, dehumanizing application process - in BC you must apply for welfare before you can apply for disability benefits -, subject yourself to doctors who don't know you from Adam and resent the time they must spend filling out 30-page forms.

All of which explains why I've tried to live on no more than $8,500 annually for the last nine years (actually, $8,500 from 2001 to 2007 and $7,500 since 2008). Unfortunately, the interest on my shrinking balance hasn't kept up with the rising costs of shelter and food. Ergo, I've been falling behind each of those years.

Consider rent, now $486 per month. In 2003, it was $400 per month.

Hydro has stayed just about the same, at $12 per month. Barebones shelter, then, is $5,976 annually. That's almost 80 percent of my annual household income.

I've no phone. Instead I maintain a high-speed internet connection for reasons I've stated previously. The cost for that is $49.23 per month or $590.76 per year. I wish Canada had a policy that promoted internet access for all, since staying connected is essential for participation in a modern society.

Add up my costs so far - rent $5,976, hydro $144, internet $596.76 - and the annual total is $6.716.76. That leaves $783.24 for everything else.

So there you go, one budgetary tale of life in the poverty well ... to be continued.

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