The Dream Or The Nightmare

In my current job I deal with a lot of complaints every single day. Angry or annoyed people are forwarded to me one after the other. Why are they angry? Their cable, internet, home phone or wireless pricing has gone up due to promotions falling off of their profile or they have been billed overages that they were not expecting or are disputing, or our customer service was unsatisfactory during a recent interaction or one of our technicians did a bad job and so on.

As a telecommunications account manager once the issue comes to me the issues are a rinse, wash, repeat scenario with a few odd ones here or there. If people escalate enough to get to me then depending on what the issues are I have additional options to provide a fair resolution depending on the situation. The biggest overall reason for calls to get escalated up to me is from long tenured customers upset that their bills have gone up. And its not because the company I work for raises the cost of services every month (if there’s a price increase for a service its once annually). The pricing has increased because they were getting a discount on their services which had since expired. Now, as the company is in business to make money, any discounts are not made or meant to be given for life. In fact any promo you see from any telco company will go for a 3, 6 or 12 month period depending on the competition at the time and many other factors. Sometimes you’ll get a 24 or even 36 month option here or there but these are few and far in between. But at no point are there discounts or promotions that last for life.

And so when all options through all of our different customer service teams have not provided a solution (normally they do for the most part) they escalate up to me. The biggest line(s) I hear from some of our longer tenured customers is:

I’m a senior. I’m on a pension. I’m on a fixed income. My pension isn’t going up but your pricing keeps going up and I can’t afford your service.

For many baby boomers and seniors, this is a legitimate concern. Depending on their occupation, the company they worked for and what kind of pension plan they had, each person’s pension wages are different – but at the end of the day they’re 100% right. Their pensions will not go up. Its clear as day that the cost of living has significantly gone up and isn’t slowing. Whether a discount falls off of their TV service or gas prices continue to go up or the cost of food keeps slowly increasing….things are going up. What are they going to do? As far as I’m aware defined benefit pension plans are not made to go up as the rate of inflation goes up. And these apparently were the “good” pension plans. Anyone my age who can actually get access to a plan probably has access to defined contributional pensions where the company will match whatever we put in. Most companies can’t afford to offer defined benefit plans anymore. (Though CEO pensions and retirement payouts are in the millions…..but that’s a whole other topic….)

So that brings me to my topic. What a nightmare. Facing that in my “golden years”. Being held hostage; hoping my cable or internet provider will renew my discount for another year because I can’t afford the regular price on my fixed income. Having to consider switching companies to get the promotion de jour every 3 – 6 months. That’s horrible! It breaks my heart when I talk with these seniors who supposedly did everything right and at the end of it all they earned that golden ticket – the pension. And they’re barely getting by.

That scares the hell out of me. That’s my nightmare. Dean talks about it all the time – “You’re either motivated by your dreams or your nightmares.” So when people ask me why I’m doing this “thing” – I share my nightmare. I’m 31 now – the average college grad makes about 2 million in their working years / lifetime. Yet with the way cost of living is going up along with inflation – there’s no way that will be enough. If these seniors who got a defined benefit pension aren’t getting by and I don’t even have that – how in the blue heck will I ever be able to afford a comfortable “retirement” on a defined contributional!?

Well – I could get a higher paying job to start. However, when 60% or more of college grads aren’t getting jobs in their field of study – I don’t like my chances. I’d have to head back to school myself. So add on student loan debt to be paid off before I can start really putting in extra stuff away towards retirement. Oh there’s RRSP’s and TFSA and compounding interest and so on. But hold up….these seniors had access to these as well (minus TFSA) and they’re still having issues!

Since I was a kid I was told to get the good job. Why? So I can get paid well and get a good pension. That’s what my grandparents and my mom knew. So that’s what was taught to me. But when I look at all of these people having a hard time – that’s scary. Now obviously there are many seniors who are doing just fine. But during my conversations with them while working and with many that I meet on a day to day basis – there’s more having a tough time than not. And I’m walking on that path right now. You can tell the future. I bet you didn’t know that did you? Look at people who are in your field or have retired from your occupation and that my friend will be you plus or minus a bit depending on personal choices in life. You will be in a similar situation. And if you think that looks pretty sweet depending on what that is – really look into that success if that is what you see. Success isn’t just money. Anyone can make a good wage. But how is the marriage? How is the time to work ratio? Is there any family time? Are both spouses working all of the time? Do the babysitters and daycare workers see the kids more than the parents?

It all comes down to the question – what motivates you? Are you motivated by a goal or dream you’re working towards? Do you have a goal or dream or a vision for your life? Or are you running from your nightmare situation? Are you motivated into action to avoid a negative experience or outcome that you see yourself potentially having to live through?
If you don’t have a dream to work towards or a nightmare to work away from – it might be a good investment of your time to figure that out. Because a failure to plan is a plan to fail. You better be doing something to get to your dream or to avoid that nightmare. It doesn’t have to be the Amway business. But it needs to be something. It just so happens that I’ve seen a lot of great experiences that this business has provided to others.

Last Friday there was another retirement party in Calgary. A young man who worked as an occupational therapist walked free one day before his son’s first birthday. What a present to give – a full time father. Now there’s a dream to work towards.

~ C