Coffee heat rising

Dental Insurance in Retirement…or No?

Since retiring from my job at Arizona State University, I’ve gone bare when it comes to dental insurance. It’s a risk, obviously: betting on the “not come” rather than the “come.” My teeth have always been excellent. My mother died in her 60s; her mother died in her 40s, and her grandmother also died fairly young: hence, one could lay a bet that I will outlive my teeth.

I retired at about the same time a dear friend did. She and her husband chose not to enroll in the state’s plan for dental insurance. Why? Well….

The Arizona state dental plan doesn’t cover everything. For $8.52 a month, Cigna tells you you’re insured but actually covers very little; at $35 a month, the “premium” plan it actually covers things. Their fee schedule is so complicated that She Who Is Not an Accountant can’t even begin to figure it out, but it would appear the coverage doesn’t apply to everything. But following my friends’ logic, I chose not to sign up for Arizona’s retiree dental plan because my friends — one of whom was the head of the Arizona Department of Gaming, fairly large in the Bigwig Club — calculated that over a predictable lifetime, most of us would end up paying the same or more in insurance premiums than we would pay out of pocket for typical old-folks’ dental and orthodontic care (including extractions and all the other fun and games that come with decreptitude).

I’ve been retired since December 2009. So let’s start at January 2010… This is August 2022: about 12.6  years, hm?

At $8.52 a month, one year on Cigna’s low-rent plan would cost you $102.24. By now, I would have paid out around $1,288 for retiree dental insurance, on the cheap. But of course, you KNOW that if you really need dental insurance, that amount of coverage will be a drop in the bucket; so if you’re gonna buy the coverage, you’d better buy the top of the line. And that, by now, would have cost me $5,292.

AND not all dentists will accept the state’s insurance plan. Nor do those figures take into account services that would not be covered under the state’s plans. Also it’s worth noting that some of the stuff I’ve needed has been covered, to a degree, by Medicare and Medigap.

At this point, I’ve probably spent somewhere around a thousand bucks on the Adventures in Dental Science. So compared to the price of retiree insurance, probably the cost is six of one, half-a-dozen of the other. But I haven’t had to bicker with any providers. AND…it must be remembered that many providers will not accept the low-rent coverage one gets from the State of Arizona. So for the amount I’ve paid, I’ve retained my choice of providers. And that, it develops, is big.

Very big.

Also very big is the fact that not everything appears to be covered on the State’s plan, meaning that a fair amount of one’s Adventures in Dental Science are likely to be paid for out of pocket. How much might that be? Difficult to calculate. But even a small figure would cut in to the value of the premium-supported insurance scheme.

***

By now, I’d guess that over the past couple of years I’ve spent about the same as or a little more than I would have shelled out to Cigna for dental, what with the present Adventures in Medical Science. However, that may change as things get worse.

Or as they get better…

Our extended amalgamated family’s beloved dentist, Dr. D. was forced to retire for medical reasons. He sold his practice to a guy who moved here from Baltimore.

This fella has taken over and, as of course he should, is now doing things his way. Not Dr. D’s way. He’s canned all of Dr. D’s excellent dental assistants and office staff (or maybe they all fled?). And I see he’s building an empire of low-rent offices over on the West Side: exploiting the impoverished set.

I’ve now seen the guy several times. And truth to tell, I don’t like him. Nor do I trust him.

Evidently for good reason, come to find out.

He told me the stake another practitioner — an orthodontist specializing in rather eccentric restorative work — had installed in my upper jaw was infected. He would like to take that thing out and…what? Rebuild it? Put in a fake tooth? A bridge?? Argha!

Not to say…innaresting.

So…couple weeks ago I got a referral from another medical doctor to an orthodontist, who herself specializes in these sorts of shenanigans. Today, I finally got in to see her — coincidentally, on the first day the damn tooth hasn’t either hurt like hell or ached vaguely.

She shot a set of X-rays. Inspected them. Let her assistant inspect them, apparently by way of pedagogy but in fact putting another set of eyes on the scene.

Then she showed the X-rays to me and said, “Look. There’s no infection around this thing at all.”

“Why,” quoth I, “does it hurt?”

“Because,” quoth she, “the implant is too long. It’s grinding against your lower teeth. Especially when (as indeed is my habit) you clench your teeth.”

She picks up a handy-dandy little whizzer and, zzziiip! Drills off the upper surface of the crown.

And…

By damn! Now my jaws fit together straight! The teeth do not whack each other when I close my mouth. And the implant does NOT hurt.

So…uhm…howcum the Philadelphia Wonder didn’t notice that?

***

She fixed the damn thing in under ten minutes! Probably under five, actually: all she had to do was polish the excess porcelain off so that the fake tooth FIT, same as all all the other teeth in that part of the upper jaw.

The bill was a couple hundred bucks. A far cry from what I would have spent on Cigna’s dental insurance over the past twelve and a half years.

Unfortunately, she’s a specialist and so doesn’t do routine dental maintenance. But she gave me the name of a colleague, whom I intend to track down next week.

 

 

 

PayPal: It Never Goes Away

Trying to send a complaint to the FTC. Their website form apparently “sees” some character in this disquisition as a disallowed weird character, even though nothing out of the ordinary appears in it. So…Here’s an effort to get it to them by posting it here and asking them to come over and take a look at it. Wish me luck, folks!

§

Some time ago, my business partner and I closed the PayPal account for our business, The Copyeditor’s Desk, Inc., since she was beginning a new career and I had decided to get out of the technical editing trade. Recently, I have been getting statements from PayPal to the effect that hundreds of dollars in billing have been racked up on the supposedly defunct PayPal account, for the purchase of furniture from some outfit I’ve never heard of. I have tried twice, using addresses from PayPal’s website, to straighten this out, but it’s impossible to reach a human being at PayPal. Now today in comes another demand for payment of something in excess of $800 for a purchase neither of us ever heard of. Below is a copy of the email I just sent to PayPal, presumably into the ether.

“Into the ether” indeed: when you send an email to the contact address given at PayPal’s website, it bounces right back with an “invalid address” message. Please investigate. And if you would, please, inform these crooks that they’re not getting any money out of me.

Below: message sent to PayPal email address (billing378579@gmail.com) requesting cancellation of fraudulent charges on closed account:

***

billing378578@gmail.com

Okay, see the BS below? This is a fraudulent charge to a PayPal account that SHOULD be defunct and that we have tried to close, apparently without luck. We closed our business, The Copyeditor’s Desk, Inc., some time ago and are no longer doing business through PayPal.

Apparently some swindler has charged up hundreds of dollars worth of furniture on that account. I attempted to contact your people and clue them that no such charges were made by us, and that the account should be closed. Apparently you either have no people or none of your people care whether your customers are scammed.

I am forwarding this email (plus my requests to you to shut down that account and negate this fraudulent charge) to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Trade Commission.

Once again: CLOSE THE ACCOUNT for The Copyeditor’s Desk Inc., Millicent V. Hay, Victoria Hay, or Vicky Hay. DO NOT HARASS ME FURTHER WITH FRAUDULENT CHARGES.

Sincerely,

Victoria Hay, Ph.D.
Former director, The Copyeditor’s Desk, Inc.

I would appreciate some help from someone who is in a position to bring a stop to this fraud. Thanks for your attention.

Victoria Hay
vickyhay@mac.com

***

There seems to be no way to reach a human being at PayPal. However, their business is essentially a form of banking and so should be regulated by U.S. authorities. How does one go about submitting a complaint to the relevant regulatory agency? And what IS the relevant U.S. regulatory agency?

§

I don’t expect to get far with this call for help to the banking regulators, even though PayPal is regarded as a type of banking operation and even though they have offices on US soil.

Don’t do business through PayPal, folks! They are totally, bullet-proofedly untouchable. You can’t reach a human for love nor money. But meanwhile they’re wrecking your credit by letting crooks rack up false charges on an account they refuse to close.

Drop a Tranquilizer before Visiting a Gas Station…

{gasp!} {hyperventilate!!!!}

Just back from a junket to Costco…and waypoints. Belief HAS officially been defied now….

The plan was to traipse up to Costco in search of the usual bargain on gasoline. CC routinely underprices every gas retailer within several miles of a given store, right? While there, buy a few not-urgently-needed but nice-to-have grocery & household items, and also renew this year’s membership, which I’m told is officially running out.

Thank gawd they sell wine… That’s all i can say….. 8-o

Drive and drive and drive and drive and…every road in the goddamn city is under construction. Wherever you’re goin’ you really CAN’T get there from here. Arrive at the store north of the Great Desert University (WAY north…), which is about the same distance from here as the store in Paradise Valley but which, because of the relative penury of the surrounding populace (middle-middle class, not upper-middle-class and Richerati) will likely have a lower price on gas.

My membership is running out. Ask the lady at the entrance where to get it renewed; she says the easiest way is just to pay at checkout.

Ramble around the store ogling all the amazing eye-popping goods. Toss a bunch of stuff I don’t need into the cart. Make my way through the checkout line. Offer to pay for the membership renewal. She says I don’t have to do that now.

Yeah? Well…then why are they telling me to do that now? I figure she just doesn’t want to be bothered. Okkkayyyy….

Retrieve the Dog Chariot. Head for the gas pumps.

They’re mobbed.

But, being the canny type, I manage to slither into a line that has only three or four vehicles ahead of me.

Wait and wait and wait and wait, then wait and wait and wait and wait, and then wait some more.

FINALLY pull up to a gas pump.

Stick my Costco card in. Clickety hummedy click. Then stick my debit card in (Costco doesn’t accept AMEX credit cards)…and….

PLONK! Am told my cards are no good.

Annoyed, I stalk across the lot and retrieve the attendant.

No problemo! saith he.

He sticks my Costco card in. Clickety hummedy click. Then sticks my debit card in. And PLONK! We’re both told to take a flyer at the moon.

He proposes to hold up the ever-longer line with some sort of hoop jumps. I say f’geddaboutit! Because I happen to know the QT in Sunnyslop is charging the same rate Costco is.

Drive and drive and drive and drive and drive and dodge construction zones and drive and slip through a short-cut i know and drive and drive and finally arrive at the QT.

Whip up to an unoccupied(!!!!!) pump and…and…lo and sumbiche! Find the price is a bargain $5.21 a gallon — yea, verily:  the same bargain price that Costco was charging!

Five. Dollars. And. Twenty-One. Cents. A. Gallon!!!!!!!!!!!

It cost THIRTY DOLLARS to refill that quarter of a tank.

CAN….YOU…IMAGINE?

Well, thought I crabbily.There go any ideas about a weekend in Prescott. Or maybe in Yarnell. Or, oh Helle’s belles, even in freakin’ Sun City!

Hmmmm…

Okay, so between you’n’me and the lamp-post, that is the LAST time I visit a Costco to buy (or attempt to buy) gasoline. We have not one but two QT’s practically within walking distance of the ’Hood. And since about half the time (or more), the main reason I go to a Costco is not to shop in the CC but to buy gasoline, that is gonna mean a WHOLE lot less of the Funny Farm’s budget will be spent at Costco stores. I may not even bother to renew my membership. Enough being enough, after all.

One is left wondering what this state of annoying affairs foreshadows for supplies of day-to-day cost-of-living goods: food, diapers, soda pop, motor oil, coffee, tea, toothpaste, shampoo, hot dogs, steak, broccoli…. If the cost of fuel has gone up THAT much across the board, then suppliers and marketers will have to raise their prices accordingly.

This probably is a good time to stock up on things like paper goods (a far better time than we saw in the last Great Paper Panic). And on nonperishable foods. And canned goods. And stuff that can be stored in a freezer.

Because…clearly grocery prices are headed for the stratosphere.

And if you garden? Well then, garden like crazy, my friend! I’m thinking I may build a raised garden in the backyard right now. A bunch of things — summer squash and peppers and tomatoes and if you have any skill even things like corn will grow now. Then, in Arizona an amazing variety of veggies and fruits grow in the fall and winter.

It’s never too late to learn the fine art of canning….

What’s a Dollar Worth, Anyhow?

The other day I was reminiscing about my father and his times.

Born in 1909 in Fort Worth, Texas, he was a change-of-life baby. His mother apparently was in her late 40s, and, having raised two sons to adulthood, his father decidedly did not want to bring up another child. He walked out, ran off to the Chisolm Trail and waypoints. After some time (how much time, I do not know), he was found by the side of a road, a bullet in his head and a pistol in his hand: presumed suicide.

The mother, however, prevailed. She had inherited what was then a handsome fortune from her father, who’d struck it rich freighting buffalo hides out of Oklahoma into Texas, there to be shipped to the East Coast. By the time her husband ran off, she not only had that substantial chunk of dough, she owned a gas station (in 1909 that must have been a novelty!) and a large home. Fort Worth was a wide spot in the road, where the family presumably enjoyed a very comfortable lifestyle.

My father’s two brothers were adults by the time he came along. One was a cowboy who eventually became a ranch manager, and one went to work for Metzger’s Dairy, where over time he became a mid-level manager or executive.

In her husband’s absence, the mother fell prey to any number of opportunists and con artists. She got into spiritualism, which was quite the rage in the early 20th century. Adherents to this nouveau-religion believe the soul persists after death, and that it is therefore possible to communicate with your deceased loved ones. This activity drew the woman right in: my father described séances conducted by supposed mediums…who really acted not as a medium to chat with the dead but to funnel the credulous client’s money into their own bank accounts.

Then she got taken in by some building contractors, whom she had hired to make a few improvements on the family manse. Next thing anyone knew, she was paying them to construct grand additions to the house.

By the time the absent father was found, kaput, she had diddled away all of the money she had inherited from her father, including the gas station (which she sold to help fund her spiritual advisors and her construction crews). My father was still a teenager, but his two older brothers fell to blaming each other for not keeping an eye on her. This led to a permanent alienation between the two men. At 16, my father dropped out of high school, lied about his age, and joined the Navy.

Naval service started him on a decently-paying career in the Merchant Marine. By then he had formed a lifelong ambition: to earn back the entire amount his mother had squandered, and, once he reached that goal, to retire and live the life of Riley for as long as he had left to inhabit this earth.

That amount was $100,000, and that was his target. He worked, he scrimped, he saved, and he invested every spare penny.

By 1962, he had stashed away that amount: the cache he figured he could retire on.

So the other day I was contemplating the absurd rise in housing prices that has taken place recently — a house just down the street from my first house here in the ‘Hood, for which I paid $100,000, is on the market for $640,000. Same model as mine, a block closer to Conduit of Blight and its crazy-making noise. For a middle-class tract house, apparently it was underpriced: it sold in a few days. Six and a half times what it was worth when I moved into the neighborhood!!!

This led me to wonder how much that $100,000 of his would be worth today.

To live in the style to which that amount would have supported my father — just about in my present rather modest middle-class style — you would need $923,185.43…almost a million dollars!

And how much would he have needed to replace the buying power of his mother’s hundred grand in the year he retired, 1962? $173,563.22 when he bought their little house in Sun City.

He wasn’t so far off: only $23,563 short.

What it means is that in the time since he retired — 60 years — inflation has vastly devalued the dollar’s buying power — much more so than during the time he worked: 37 years.

So what does it mean to us, here in the first third of the 21st Century?

My guess is that if you’re a young adult today, you would need to calculate how much you need to earn now and how much you need to save to retire comfortably in middle- to old age, and then multiply that figure by a factor of two to ten. Depending on the style to which you hope to remain accustomed…

You can’t rely on today’s dollar to support you tomorrow.

How Much Is That…Thingie…in the Window?

Cover of the first issue, with the figure of dandy Eustace Tilley, created by Rea Irvin. Source: Wikipedia.

I like to work The New Yorker’s online jigsaw puzzles, which derived from the magazine’s covers dating back to the 1920s. Over the months of time wastery, I’ve kind of marveled at the differences in the cover prices on this magazine. DXH and I used to subscribe to it, throughout the time we were married — along with a bunch of other middle- to high-brow periodicals. Contemplating the completed jigsaw covers, it struck me that the price of the thing has gone up an enormous amount over the years, presumably because of inflation — so much so that today I wouldn’t even think of subscribing. But, wonder I, is that correct? Or am I imagining some sort of Inflationary Chimera? Welp…check this out:Can we track the progress of these price increases?

To look at it another way, today the magazine costs SIX TIMES as much as it cost in 1925.

Is it six times better? Personally, I kinda doubt it. When was the last time you saw a John McPhee article in that rag? Or anything on a par with McPhee’s work? Today when you open it, what you find is something more like a standard city magazine than a middle-brow boulevardier’s journal. It starts out with restaurant reviews and then tells you all about the local entertainment. But reportage raised to the level of art? Not so much.

At nine bucks an issue, I just couldn’t afford the thing. It would be SO much cheaper to drive over to the library once a month and read the latest copies—or to subscribe to the library’s online magazine service—that it would be absurd to pay for it, even if I could afford it.

By way of comparison, in 1921, the cost of a sirloin strip steak was 21 cents a pound. Today the price is $12.99 to $14.99.

Hmmm: $12.99/$.21 = 61.86. Am I right in thinking that means a piece of steak costs almost 62 times as much today as it did in 19 and aught 21?

That would make the magazine a bargain. Still can’t afford it, though.

If You Were Your Kid…

If you were your kid and you were an American, come of age in a time when America the Great was rapidly turning into a Third-World Country, what would you do differently from what your parents did? From what your kid him- or herself is doing right now?

Do strange little thoughts like that ever cross your mind? They sure as Hell cross mine.

My father planned carefully for his retirement and his old age. Thanks to his planning — and to his lifetime of amazingly hard work —  I haven’t had to put in that much single-minded effort: he left me enough to live on comfortably through my dotage. But that’s not so true of my son.

Although my son’s dad is affluent, like me he also no doubt will live (expensively) into advanced old age. My son’s grandmother just died at the age of 106 (no, that is not a typo), having spent the past 20 years wasting away ruinously in a nursing home. The new wife is a good 20 years younger than me, and though she has a highly competent son, she also has a feckless, dependent daughter who never will be able to care for herself and her offspring. Thus most of whatever my son’s father has now will be dedicated to supporting the less gifted occupants of that side of the family.

My son, the recipient of a spectacularly expensive private education, has a decent job but not one that will make him rich. It can, however, allow him to work remotely from just about anyplace that he chooses.

My mother smoked herself into the grave in late middle age. We have no clue how long she might have lived had she never picked up a cigarette. Her father died of Hodgkin’s disease, an acquired cancer not uncommon in his part of the country: we have no idea how long he might have lived had he dwelt someplace else, never smoked, and never drank. Her mother chippied herself into the grave: we have no idea how long she might have lived had she never been exposed to the kinds of reproductive viruses one acquires during a wildly misspent youth. But the other women on her mother’s side of the family were Christian Scientists who lived into advanced old age: we do know that in the absence of alcohol and tobacco, they lived into their mid-90s even without ever going anywhere near a medical doctor or a patent medicine.

So what we have here, in the planning department, are two people — me and my son — each of whom have a shot at living into advanced old age. Or not.

What can be done for my son — by me or by him — to ensure that he will be financially secure into his dotage?

We know that I absolutely positively do NOT want to spend my last years in a “life-care community,” a rabbit warren in which to lock up old folks. My father consigned himself to one of those places after my mother died, and I have several friends who are now living (expensively) in similar prisons. I will take a swan-dive off the North Rim of the Grand Canyon before I allow that to happen to me…and that also is neither a joke nor a typo. My house is paid for: if I die tomorrow my son will inherit a piece of property worth about $400,000, free & clear. My son’s house will be paid for in another 10 or 15 years; it will be worth around $325,000 to $350,000, if all things remain equal. He lives frugally and invests in IRAs, and so he presumably will have some retirement savings in hand, if he lives into his dotage.

BUT…

The Covid-19 fiasco has shown his employer, clear as handsomely chlorinated swimming pool water, that there is no reason to maintain expensive office space to support a profitable insurance business. He believes the company will never re-open its pricey new digs in Tempe, a dreary suburb of Phoenix. Shortly before the Covid fiasco began, he was promoted to a managerial position. He remains a manager: remotely.

What this means is that there’s really no reason for him to continue living in a dump like Phoenix, a vast, ugly, crass bedroom tract that we might kindly call L.A. East. If the company settles permanently into a mode in which most or all of its mid-level employees can work online, he could in theory live anyplace he pleases.

And there are many, many better places to live.

In Arizona alone, for example, towns such as Prescott, Bisbee, Patagonia, the outskirts of Tucson, and even Payson have far more temperate climates and are nowhere near as grubby and  crime-ridden as Phoenix. Nor is there any reason to stay in a culturally backward hole like Arizona. If you want to live in the Southwest, there are many better places to live in Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and parts of New Mexico. If you don’t mind jumping on a plane to visit your employer for monthly staff meetings, Oregon, Washington State, parts of Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, and waypoints are highly desirable venues. With a fistful of cash from the sale of two houses, you could easily install yourself in the Low Countries, Ireland, the south of France, Italy, Scandinavia, Switzerland, Canada, New Zealand, or parts of Australia.

Why stay in a declining economy with a corrupt leadership and a moribund health-care system?

Why not use the capacity of electronic telecommuting to ensconce yourself — now, while you still have some years to enjoy life — in a better place?

If I were my son, I would be so gone. Right now: I wouldn’t wait for retirement, certainly not given the wacksh!t direction into which our country’s politics have dragged us. I probably would leave the US, given half a chance to pull it off. But even if I chose to stay in the this country, you can be sure it wouldn’t be in Phoenix.

Speaking of the which: as we scribble a cop helicopter is buzzing its way toward us, the dog has flown into a batsh!t frenzy, and I suppose I’m going to have to get up, dig out a pistol, and lock the security doors. So much for the scheme of taking a moonlight dip in the pool.

Where would you want your kids to spend the best years of their life?