Pattie Lovett-Reid: Misguided uses of CERB payments

By | June 19, 2020

TORONTO — It is hard to really know what goes on in a household, financially speaking. Debt levels are high and many have been going broke trying to keep up with the Joneses, who by the way in many cases are also broke.

People have grown accustomed to spending lavishly. All appears to be fine and they are often the envy of many given what is projected to the outside world. That is, until they lose their job and that lifestyle grinds to a halt. The lifestyle norm they have come to love can quickly spiral out of control.

A lifestyle change can be very hard to come to terms with especially for some who may be trying to hang on the past in the hopes of a return to what they once thought was normal.

Given this sort of scenario, it is reasonable to assume someone who is currently collecting a CERB is ineligible because they live a in tony neighbourhood, drive fancy cars and frequent local restaurants. Sadly that isn’t always the case.

What is a fair assessment is how some may have decided to spend their government aid. These are some of the misguided uses of the CERB I’ve witnessed:

  • Investing in the market — there are no guarantees a financial windfall will happen. In fact, it is unlikely in the short term. Online trading activity has surged in the first quarter as many first-time investors fill their time trying to time the market
  • Purchasing lottery tickets in the hope of a big win
  • Eating out at restaurants or enjoying takeout as opposed to home-cooked meals
  • Weekend getaways
  • Treating yourself to the spa as facilities open up in parts of the country
  • Shopping online for things you want rather than the things you need

It is easy to judge the behaviour of others and if I’m honest I may be a little guilty of that as well. However, regardless of how you think people should be spending their CERB payment I’m 100% certain all of the above wouldn’t be on the government’s list of reasons for supporting Canadians through this crisis.

Let’s not forget government aid was made available due to an unprecedented pandemic with many facing financial challenges as a result of losing their job, taking unpaid time off work to care for families, or self-isolating.

The money was never intended to support unsustainable lifestyle choices. Sadly those who choose to spend their financial aid recklessly will have no one to blame but themselves as they continue to struggle to make ends meet.

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