Current Affairs

Consumer: Dental bills and family jewels

Know your options when it comes to sky-high dental bills and protecting family heirlooms.

By Kevin Milne
Photo: Paul Suesse / bauersyndication.com.au
I remember you once said that if you can’t afford the dentist, get the work done and negotiate a payment you can afford later. Do you still stick by that? I’m currently in the position where I badly need work done on my teeth. It could cost up to $10,000. I simply can’t afford it.
I never recommended such an approach. In fact, I recommended against it. But the newspaper headlines misrepresented my position.
I simply listed that approach as one of the options open to anyone in your situation – but not a wise option. So let me be clear. If you can’t afford the dental bill, do not get the work done and try to negotiate later.
As I advised last time, it could well land you in court or at least the Disputes Tribunal.
I suggest you are upfront with your dentist about your financial situation. Tell them you can’t get the work done without their financial co-operation and see what they come up with. They may be able to spread your payment over a long period or provide a generous reduction given your circumstances. Maybe they can do just the absolutely critical work.
If you are lucky enough to live near Christchurch, you might be able to get the work done free at the Canterbury Charity Hospital. But you will need to prove the work is essential and that you have no other way of paying for it.
I keep some of my family jewellery, as well as other precious items, at home. I am concerned about burglary. While I think I have hidden these items well, I wish there was somewhere more secure to keep them. I asked my local bank if they offered safe deposit boxes and they said they don’t, which surprised me. What should I do?
Trading banks always used to offer safe deposit boxes to their customers but now most seem to have discontinued the service. But there are still some banks offering them – I notice Westpac is one – so it would be worth you contacting banks other than your own.
If you don’t live in a major city, you may have trouble finding a local bank that offers the service. Unfortunately, some banks that do offer to look after your valuables hold the boxes in just one city, such as Auckland. This may not suit you if you live outside of Auckland and want to get the jewellery out occasionally to wear.
I see the annual cost of a small safe deposit box is around $180 a year. There are also some one-off key charges that bump the cost up a bit.
Banks aren’t the only places that contract to look after your valuables. There are several established private firms that also offer the service, such as Vault. You would want to be very clear about what happens should your valuables go missing or the company itself closes down or goes into receivership.

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