Family Finances, Financial Security Cornerstones, Living Benefits

Know a grad from one of these programmes?

When you’re finishing school there can be a lot of uncertainty. A lot of debt too.  Figuring out how you’re going to manage your money can seem overwhelming.

The day after I finished my grad school, I went and applied for disability insurance, critical illness insurance, and life insurance. I also set up an RRSP (TFSAs didn’t exist yet). I did so because I recognized that there would be a good chance I would be self-employed one day and I would want this coverage at premium rates from when I was young! Ten years later, I am very glad I have those programmes, and very happy I managed to convince my husband too, even against his objections, because I know that if he were disabled I would need the coverage to help manage our bills, but also allow me to focus on him since I’m self-employed too! One in four people will be disabled for 90 days or longer at least once before the age of 65. So what protection will you put in place?

Are you, or someone you know, graduating from one of these programmes at a Canadian post-secondary institution?

DI programmes

If so, we should talk about whether your programme and graduation timing qualifies for a disability insurance plan at a significant savings, only available to recent graduates. For most programmes, you need to apply in your last year of study, or within one year of graduation so it’s important we look at how we can take advantage of the discount offer to start you on a plan that will have a life-long discount.

If you have debt, or feel you are young and healthy, you may wonder why you should get this kind of insurance now.  So here are a couple of things to think about:

  • At the start of your career your human capital is really high. That means your earning potential is high and the cost of NOT earning money for an extended period can be devastating.
    • Consider this chart that shows your future earnings based on current income for the rest of your working life. DI earnings
    • Are you willing to risk your future earnings and savings? Make sure you protect yourself from an interruption in earnings due to illness or disability.
  • Chances are you will not always have benefits, and/or will find yourself self-employed. If that is the case and you suffered a serious injury or illness, how would you make ends meet?
    • Disability insurance can helps you to keep up with bills and expenses so that you can focus on getting better again.
  • If you have debt, your creditors expect to get paid regardless.
    • Whether it’s school debt, a line of credit, money owed to parents/grandparents, they still expect payments to be made if you are sick or injured so making sure you can meet your obligations.
  • Being young and healthy is the best time to get insurance.
    • Your premiums will be more affordable while you are young and before you have major health issues so getting insurance while you are still insurable will mean that you have this taken care of before it’s too late.
  • The grad programme is only available for a limited time but the discounts are for life so you can design an affordable programme.
    • You must qualify based on your graduation date for the discount so while you may not yet be making the money you hope to, we can design a policy that will help you take advantage of the discount today and into the future, while remaining more affordable today.

If you know someone graduating from these programmes and think it is worth considering? Get in touch so we can talk about it and see if it’s right for them.

Margaret

p.s. Here is a first-hand account from someone who needed disability insurance.

DI facts

 

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Life Insurance

The last time we spoke

Recently, a friend of my parents’ died suddenly. He had been ill but his death was not anticipated when it happened. I’d known this person my whole life and had most recently seen him and his wife six months ago. He was happy and we had a great conversation. When my mum called to tell me he’d died I was remembering the conversation and what we’d talked about with regards to life, work, love and influence.

There are a few people that I remember our final conversation before they died. In some cases, if the final conversation was in hospital or when they were very ill, such as the case with one of my grandfathers, I’ll reflect on the last time we spent together before that final illness. In my grandfather’s case it was watching the opening ceremonies for the Vancouver Olympics in February before he died in April. My husband and I had gone to Ottawa to visit them and see a concert over the Family Day weekend. It’s funny how I can remember where we were sitting and some of the things that were said, and if I really thought about it I could probably even tell you what I was wearing (I have an eerily good memory). At the time I didn’t know that it would be the last visit with him but I can now remember a lot of what we talked about and what we did that weekend. It’s a great memory, made more special now that he’s gone. Other than my grandfather there are a few people that I can clearly remember the last time we spoke and those memories bring a smile to my face.

Love letter

Someone once told me that life insurance is the greatest love letter you can leave to your family. In the time of grief, they won’t have to worry about final expenses, how they will pay bills, how to maintain normalcy for the surviving spouse/children/parents/other dependents. It allows time for the family to do what they need to do to deal with the loss, whether it’s a family trip, extended time off work, counseling, hiring another caregiver to help, etc. It lets the survivors know that you were thinking of how to make life without you as easy as possible financially.

I’m a huge fan of podcasts and one of the podcasts I listen to has a life insurance sponsor. They talk about the impact of the loss of the primary wage earner in the script that they read about life insurance. While that’s true, I have to fast-forward through those ads because it bugs me. It bugs me because it leaves out the need to insure both spouses. If the primary wage earner dies, there is a significant impact to family finances, without a doubt. But when the secondary wage earner (even a stay-at-home parent) dies, there can be significant cost as well. Here are some of the ways the finances could be impacted: You may need to hire a nanny or daycare; the primary wage earner may need to cut back on hours or change jobs without the other parent there to care for them meaning reduced income for the family; you may have to put dependent parents into long-term care; you may need to pay for a relative to accompany you on family vacations, etc. There is a lot that goes into a needs analysis when we think about the insurance each person needs. At the end of the day, we want the family and survivors to be minimally impacted financially by the death so insurance is not just for the primary wage earner. A thorough needs analysis will consider your family’s needs in the worst-case scenario and make sure that we calculate the insurance required on everyone in the family. It’s a difficult thing to think about and plan for, but we have to make the time for the people we care about. The podcast ad feels like they leave that planning for the family out of the messaging and that’s short-sighted.

If anyone depends on us for care or contributions, we need to plan for life insurance coverage. If we have properly planned – regardless of our age – to get the insurance coverage our survivors will need, we will show our family and loved ones that we cared about them and we loved them enough to make sure they were provided for. We can even plan for charitable contributions to organizations we care about through leaving a life insurance legacy.  The life insurance legacy that we leave is the last time we spoke. Let’s make it memorable.

The adjustment, Women and money

Are you a professional lifeguard?

Disclaimer: This post is not about financial matters when it comes down to it but hope you read anyway!

I was a lifeguard and swimming instructor for a number of years through high school and university. There was a “ladder approach” that we taught to make sure that the rescuer stayed safe throughout the rescue so rescues were to be attempted using the least dangerous method possible, and moving on to more dangerous options if necessary. The order was “Talk, throw, reach, wade, row, swim, tow, carry.” We were also taught that people who are drowning aren’t always “obvious.” We have the image of drowning people flailing but sometimes they are quietly sinking underwater so as a lifeguard you constantly had to be scanning for people who might be struggling, talking with the people in your guard zone, and being alert. This, of course, was all contrary to what we all learned watching “Baywatch.” People aren’t always obviously drowning, and you can rescue someone simply by talking to them and not running dramatically into a big wave to pull them ashore!

Since moving from the deck to a desk, there are times professionally that I know I have not been the best lifeguard. I wasn’t scanning, I was looking only in one spot, or sometimes only at my own feet, standing on the deck. And there have been times where I’ve been the one drowning; sometimes flailing, sometimes slipping quietly below the water. I am profoundly grateful for the lifeguards who rescued me in those times.

Most of the time these rescues have followed the ladder approach: A compliment given from a client or a colleague (talk); an opportunity given to me (throw); an invitation to coffee or brainstorming in a smaller group (reach); a chance to be challenged with a mentor (wade). Those small gestures helped me to make my way above the water and back to safety. And then there are times that people had to row, or swim, and once even carry me. In times when I was struggling my rescuers have been colleagues, clients, suppliers, friends, family, bosses/owners, complete strangers, and professionals. I would bet that most of the time they had no idea they were rescuing me.

A few lifeguards came to my rescue last week. At the beginning of the week I was talking to my director about how I was feeling like I had taken steps back. I was struggling to make connections, feeling that my attempts to reach out to prospects were being rebuffed, turned down after many hours had already been invested in a prospect, afraid to ask for people to introduce me to others, and generally discouraged. I was working late nights and feeling that it wasn’t “paying off”. I was flailing around.

And then through the week I had people from unexpected sources come to my rescue. A friend asked for help as she enters the next phase of her professional life and I introduced her to a connection I thought could help. I was happy to do it and in fact love it when people ask me for introductions (even though I am scared to ask others from introductions!). My friend wrote back “I am always in awe of your ability to connect with so many places in such a short amount of time.” It was one line and yet it meant so much to me. It reminded me that every day I am out meeting people in the community I am making a difference to the world and creating opportunities for more than just myself. I was encouraged to continue networking because I do believe that our interconnections help us all eventually. Then later that week, I got a card from a mentor in my old job, wishing me a good year and encouraging me to “keep blogging and being out there.” I had felt writers block lately, wondering who reads my blogs and whether it’s worth it. That card reminded me that people are paying attention, even if I don’t know it, and it has the potential for me to find a new client or establish my credibility and I need to keep at it. I was motivated to write a blog post (hi!), and create a new content calendar for my social media. Finally, at the end of the week I was talking to someone that I had been helping. They are considering another option for a particular service, and he was honest about it, but he said that regardless of what happens with that service, his wife would remain my client in other areas, and he would probably come over as well (he’s not currently a client) because they valued my personal approach and honesty. He was so sincere in his gratitude for my work and patience, and I was glad that we were on the phone because I found myself choked up. It was an unexpected compliment and reminded me why it’s worth my time to offer a personalized approach. I was able to tackle some things I was setting aside thanks to the renewed energy from this comment.

All of these “rescues” this week were at the beginning of the ladder approach, safest for the rescuers; the talk or throw stage. And I am so glad that they reached me so that I could focus on making my way to “safety” or get my head above water. They all came when I needed them. I don’t know if any of these people knew that I was feeling I was starting to slip under water or flail, but they were scanning what was around them and acknowledging that I am in their “zone.”

Thank you to the many lifeguards who may or may not know what they have done. I needed rescuing and now I am reminded that I too need to be a lifeguard for those around me: scanning my surroundings, offering an encouraging word or a helping hand. I need to make sure I’m engaging people in my “zone” and may not know when I can be a lifeguard to them as they feel they are drowning professionally.

You don’t need to carry people to safety, you can be a hero by simply offering an encouraging word to someone you may not even know is struggling. Not everyone who’s drowning is flailing, so be alert to those in your zone and you too can be a lifeguard.

Money Saving Ideas

The Economics of Shopping local

I LOVE shopping local. I feel very passionate about it because the economics of it are so profound in my experience. I find people are often surprised when I tell them this because we associate “deals” with the big box stores. So leading up to Christmas I thought I’d share a bit about how I shop local and why I feel it’s financially worth it.

  • Farmer’s markets. I regularly visit the farmer’s market on Saturday morning. The Hamilton Farmer’s Market is indoors year-round, so I have that ability and it’s something I look forward to. There are a few places that sell fish, a few that have cheese, a bunch with vegetables and so on. Over time I’ve learned which stalls have the best “deals” for us. For example: my husband likes sandwiches for work and I usually get him sliced cheese and two kinds of sliced meat, one a less expensive cut (like ham), and one a more expensive cut (like turkey or cured meats). Some weeks I will get his cheese at one stall and his sliced meat at another stall so that I can get the best price and quality. Because I’m in the same physical building it’s not like I’m going out of the way to find the best price on every item on my list, I’m simply going to another vendor. I also buy my fruits/vegetables in season at the market.  Again, I look for vendors that have the best price and quality for the meals I’m making that week.  Because it’s usually local, and usually packed on-site, I am able to buy fresh and just the amount I need so that less food is going to waste. It may be a “good deal” at the super market on a per lb/kg basis, but if half of it is going to be thrown out before we can finish it, is it really a good deal? I find our food costs and our food waste has gone way down by shopping at the market. And our garbage has decreased too. I use reusable bags for shopping and by buying at the farmer’s market I am buying less packaging. As a result, some weeks we don’t even have a shopping bag’s worth of garbage to put out because we have more green and recyclables and have used more of the food we’ve bought. When there is a really good deal on something like fruits or meats, I buy it and package it at home in reusable containers to go in the freezer and use later on. I figure we’ve cut down on our bills by shopping smarter at the market. It then means that I just get canned goods at the grocery store where there are often good sales or flyer apps I can use to get the best price. At the end of the day I feel better knowing where my food comes from and that I am helping others make a living in the agricultural business.
  • Local Garden Centre. My husband owns a landscaping company, his sister owns a flower shop and for 87 years four generations of his family owned and operated a garden centre, so I know there is quite a difference in expertise. Because of this, I know that by shopping where they have experts in the products, we get a better recommendation of the plants that will be right for our space, soil, light and other growing conditions. My husband hates watching those deck reno shows and seeing plants that he knows are going to die in one season because they are sun plants in shade, or vice-versa. Usually your deck guy isn’t an expert in plants, just like my husband, who is an expert in plants, wouldn’t build you a deck; he would call in someone who has that appropriate expertise. Same at the garden centre – you want the person to know what plants are going to work and not a guy who also sells lumber because you’ll end up replacing the plants when they don’t grow in your space. Which brings me to another point, which is that often plants from an independent garden centre have a warranty. Not every place that sells plants offer a warranty and, again, if you get the wrong advice for your conditions, you’re stuck buying the plant (or another one that will work better) again the next year.
  • Local vendors. Local vendors is where I probably get the most objection as the money saving isn’t necessarily as good. For Christmas I have bought something that I know I could have gotten cheaper on-line; however, I also know that the economics are bigger than me. By intentionally shopping local, I’m keeping places in business that are providing jobs and contributing to the local economy in my area. I’m helping that hard working business owner send their kid to school, volunteer in the community, buy their own products and more. I’m also selfishly keeping businesses in stores and reducing the storefront vacancy rate, which in turn keeps my property value up, keeps crime down (because people are shopping in the area and there are security cameras and increased traffic in the area), and provides jobs for local people as well. It means transit improves and other infrastructure initiatives follow because the area supports it and businesses are providing important services and revenues back to our community. It’s an important cycle that is often undervalued. At the end of the day, I’m a small business owner and I know the time, care and commitment I give to providing the best possible experience and product, and I think that I offer tremendous value over someone who may be less invested because they are salaried and can find another job next week if they had to. I rely on providing a good service to get recommendations that grow my business. My husband is the same way, his sister is the same, and five out of six of our parents (my husband’s parents are divorced) own their own businesses and also need to make sure you have a good experience with us to feel you got value and to recommend us onto others. I know we all give back to our industries and neighbourhoods through volunteering, donations, mentoring and other ways. A chain service typically doesn’t have that same commitment to your experience and your neighbourhood and there is tremendous value in that so I choose to shop local because I know that my local shop owner has a lot riding on being part of the community and offering a good product.

Whenever possible and practical I choose to shop local. I encourage you to do the same and see how you contribute to the local economy while also saving money in the long run! Over Christmas, consider shopping local to find meaningful gifts for the people in your life.

~Margaret

p.s. I have a new website that is up and running. I am working on transfering over my blog content to the site and once I do, I will try and publish more there.  Check it out at www.margaretbennett.ca

Family Finances, Financial Planning, Women and money

Women, Money, and Power

I’ve had a hard time accepting that the most qualified candidate in decades did not win the US Presidential Election this week.  The person had experience, showed a history of listening and inclusion of different voices, was competent, was calm. And the person was a woman. Hillary Clinton was not shy about her desire to be President, but many people were uncomfortable with that and despite her qualifications, she did not get the promotion she was after.  There is so much I can say, but I don’t want this to be about politics.  I want this to be about women and I want this to be about women gaining power through financial control. Research shows that women’s tendencies make them good investors so let’s seize this time to be confident, competent, and financially empowered.

As I’ve said time and again, regardless of your relationship or employment status, women need to take a seat at the financial planning table.  The reality is that most women will need to manage their own finances at some point in their life.  Women in our society increasingly have more control of wealth, and will inherit even more in the coming years as the wealth transfer takes place. We know that when women make money they lift their families out of poverty and better their communities. All the more reason to educate ourselves when it comes to personal and professional finances.

I love working with all my clients, but I take particular pride in working with women to reach their goals in life, work, business, and finances.  I have had some warming “success” stories this year that reinforced why I do what I do to help women take financial control. I’m so proud of these women and today I wanted to share some resources to help women to take financial control of their life, business, and finances (in addition to the ones I just linked to in this paragraph):

Having financial confidence and control is a very important thing for us all to have.  It helps traditionally marginalized people to increase their social and economic power and thereby create more diverse, inclusive societies.  Women have traditionally earned less than men and been in a more financially vulnerable position, so let’s change that.  Let’s advocate for our earning potential, let’s save and invest proudly, and let’s educate ourselves to increase our social and economic power through greater financial autonomy and control.

We all have a role to play when it comes to money, business, and personal finance.  Let’s take it on.

Proudly,
Margaret

Biography, Family Finances

First Seven Jobs

The last week or so there’s been a meme going around about your first seven jobs; you simply list off the first seven jobs you had and it shows that our success is built upon those jobs.

Here are my first seven jobs:

First Seven Jobs

I had all those jobs by second-year university and in listing them I realized they taught me a lot about many things; including money. Here are some of the highlights of what I learned:

Babysitter: how to determine what you’re “worth”

To be honest, I’m still struggling with this. I started out babysitting for friends and neighbours and they always wanted to know what my “rate” was. This made me so uncomfortable. Part of me would have done it volunteer (which I did one summer when I was 11 so that I would have experience when I was old enough to be alone with the kids). I was conscious even then that what parents had to pay me was adding to the cost of their night out and it was hard not to give it away for free. I talked it over with my dad and came up with a rate ($4/HR) but felt so awkward telling people that. Then when I raised my rates as I got older, I would have the conversation with my clients again and always found it challenging. I sometimes asked for more during exams since it was crunch time for me. I can’t say I mastered the skill but having to consider what my time and skill was worth and asking to be paid accordingly was a concept and a skill that helped me when I was negotiating my first full time jobs – although I never mastered the art of asking for a raise…

Lifeguard: how to tell when an employer is bad news 

My first job as a lifeguard was for a condo in the High Park neighbourhood. We weren’t supposed to let non-residents in. A local politician and his family used to come to the pool regularly even though they didn’t live in the building. They had a key to the pool so another resident must have given it to them and so I couldn’t “prove” they didn’t live in the building (other than I used to see them coming down the street to get to the building). Other residents complained about this to me and asked me to kick him out. I wasn’t comfortable with that, being 17 years old at the time, and asked my boss to come down one Saturday or Sunday to help me. He couldn’t make the time for it but told me to follow the rules and ask the man to leave. I never did. I figured if it was a big deal he or the condo boss would do it themselves and not put me in that situation. My boss was also frequently late paying me and asked to meet me somewhere I wasn’t comfortable with to get my late pay cheque. I realized he didn’t have my back and constantly reminding him to pay me, making me feel uncomfortable, and generally giving me a bad feeling wasn’t good and so I told him when and how he was to pay me or I would quit. It worked and then I didn’t have anything more to do with him after the summer was over.

Swimming instructor: more challenge means more pay and the value of benefits

I got a job teaching swimming part time in high school. The job paid much more on an hourly basis compared with other places because it was an integrative aquatics programme. In your class there was almost always someone with a disability and so you had to adapt your teaching and evaluation accordingly. Lesson planning took much longer (and you had to have them approved before class) and I had to really adapt some of the activities. My friends were jealous of how much more I was paid “for the same job” they were doing at the rec centre but once I explained the lesson planning and modifications I had to do, they realized it took more time away from class and so I was being paid for that in my higher hourly wage.

The job also had benefits and a pension plan you could opt into. I didn’t work enough hours for the benefits, but I did for the pension. As an 18 year old I wanted all the money I could get so immediately dismissed the idea of additional deductions aside from tax. BUT my dad being a financial advisor, told me it was one of the best pension plans in the province and explained how it could benefit me if I were to keep working there through the rest of high school and university. He was pretty compelling with how much that relatively small deduction would benefit me later on. I decided not to opt in until I’d been there longer and it turns out it was the only job that ever offered me a pension or savings programme and I would LOVE to have had some matching programme in all my other jobs. If your employer offers to give you a match on RRSP contributions take it!!!

Tour guide: the value of loyalty 

Before becoming a financial security advisor I worked in advertising. In agencies the joke is often you have to jump companies to get a raise and a promotion. I certainly struggled with that in my first few years, but eventually loyalty paid off. Maybe slower than I would have liked, but still I stuck around and got raises and promotions eventually. I would argue that by staying I was given way more opportunities than if I’d moved around a bunch. I first learned that though as a tour guide. Everyone got paid the same and you got paid by the day. Each year you got a $10/day raise. As a university student this was interesting because I could fairly accurately figure out what I would earn each spring and also feel appreciated that I was returning year after year. They also gave me opportunities through the school year to take out trips when my schedule allowed, or do parent presentations. Each summer they gave me more opportunities and more pay. By the end of 5 summers I walked into a full time job in the office with them, straight out of my masters. That loyalty paid off financially and professionally as I was doing a job I loved (still probably up there as my favourite ever!) and was the envy of many of my peers for having a full time job waiting for me at graduation. And in a field where I could actually use my degrees! I showed them loyalty and they gave it back to me in return and I am so grateful for those springs I spent guiding. They gave me some of my best friends, gave me appreciation for my country, and gave me wonderful opportunities in many areas of my life.

As you reflect back on your #FirstSevenJobs, I hope you can reflect back on the lessons you learned that benefit you now.

Uncategorized

Crowd funding is not insurance

I have mixed feelings about crowd-funding.  On the one hand I think it’s awesome that you can galvanize support from across a wide range of people.  It means small donations “go far” and you can get support from a community of people, sometimes around the world, who want to build you up. It makes you realize how global our day-to-day has become and how people want to invest in friends/family.  On the other hand, I am heartbroken when I see crowd funding campaigns to help people who wouldn’t be in the situation if they had insurance.  I realize these crowd-funding campaigns come from a good place of wanting to help and are often organized by family and friends as a way of doing something.

Recently I saw a crowd funding campaign come across my facebook feed for a car for a woman who lost her husband and had kids that she needed to get places.  It was awful because the dad was so young and there was clearly so much love in that family and they now found themselves in financial difficulty in the midst of an already tragic situation.  One million dollars of term-10 (covers you for 10 years) life insurance on a 35-year-old non-smoking male would have been ~$45.00/month.  The family would have been able to put money aside for the kids’ school, buy a car, pay off debt, and replace that income for awhile.

Another crowd funding campaign shared on facebook was for a self-employed man who was diagnosed with cancer and whose wife doesn’t work out of the house. They were raising money for medical bills and living costs while he undergoes treatment.  Again, my heart broke for the situation this family now finds themselves in; I don’t wish illness on anyone. If you are self-employed it’s critical that you have some living benefits and savings to allow your income to continue. I understand that self-employment is a necessity for many, but protect yourself.  With the changing economy leading to more contract and self-employment, set-up basic insurance and savings from a young age when you are insurable and it’s more affordable.  There are ways to build the plan as your income and job security increase, but having the framework in place is key.

One of my fears with crowdfunding is that it will lead to donor fatigue.  I’ve had people tell me that they don’t need life/living benefits insurance because they can crowdfund if needed.  But can you?  Do you know that your network is big enough that it will go viral to support you for what is needed in that time?  What if four people in your network get sick at the same time; can people keep giving? It doesn’t come with a charitable receipt in most cases so what happens when people can’t given anymore either from apathy or lack of funds? I don’t want you in that situation, ever!

I love when entrepreneurs turn to crowd funding to boost their business.  It makes us feel a part of that business and that ingenuity.  That’s what crowdfunding should be used for.  Crowd-funding is not insurance.  Look at your budget and talk to an advisor about ways to make sure you’re insured so that when the unexpected happens, you know with certainty that you are covered. Crowd-fund your business, or community initiatives, but please don’t use it as insurance.

Financial Planning, Market cycles, RRSPs, TFSAs

Why investing is like my commute

A few weeks ago I was at a wealth advisors’ training session.  One of the speakers related an analogy about how retirement savings is like a cross-country car trip; you’ll get there eventually, maybe faster than other cars, maybe slower, but as long as you’re always moving towards that goal, you’ll get there eventually.

I quite liked that analogy.  Then one day while I was driving to work it really connected for me.  I have a decently long commute when I drive (which I try to avoid doing).  I give myself about 2 hours to get into work.  On that day, I mapped out the best route based on the traffic before I left and I decided what route I was going to take and declared that I was going to stick with it, no matter what.  I had a plan and it would get me there.  Normally I would try and take a short-cut here and there, but I made my decision based on the information I had available at the time.

I set off on my drive, good old “Metro Morning” on the radio to keep me company.  I decided that not only was I going to stick to my route, I would pick a lane and stick with it.  At one point, a truck cut in front of me.  It had some lumber sticking out of the back with a red flag on it so it was pretty distinctive.  Instead of getting annoyed, I decided to use that truck as my yard stick.  Along the way the truck mostly stayed in the lane next to me.  At times it pulled quite far ahead, but I usually caught up.  At one point though it was so far ahead I figured I’d lost it (or it had exited), but sure enough the red flag came into view in a couple of minutes.

There’s a point on my trip where I often exit onto a side route that runs parallel to the main highway.  It’s maximum 60 km/hr, but I know it moves along so I usually take it.  Often time I look over and see that the traffic clears up over that time and the cars are whipping by on the highway, but I don’t mind.  I avoid the part where the traffic is usually stopped and I’m headed in my direction and moving at least.  On that particular day, I took that option even though the highway was moving fairly well because it was part of that original route I’d mapped.  I stuck with my plan and got off.  The truck was well ahead of me.  Sure enough at one point I looked over to see the highway was moving.  I kept going along my route which eventually merges with the main highway again.  When I got back on the main highway I had actually caught up to that truck!  I stayed in my route and got to the point where we split ahead of it!

So although some lanes moved faster than me at various points, and though I voluntarily took a more “conservative” route at one point, both of us ended up in Toronto at relatively the same time (I was the tiniest bit ahead) and we arrived safely.  Weaving in and out of traffic or worrying about what the truck was going and using it to “guide” me didn’t sway me from my planned route. I know the traffic hot spots and I had planned a route I was comfortable with.

That’s how my commute is like investing.  Worry about the end destination; map out a route based on the information at hand; don’t try and keep pace with the other cars because you don’t know what they know or what they are doing, you just know what you know and what you’re comfortable with; eventually with your eyes on the road, you’ll end up at the same place in one piece; there may be slow-downs along the way, but the traffic picks up and you’ll get there.

Happy trucking!
Margaret

Biography, Money Saving Ideas

Congrats on graduating university… Now what?

If you (or someone you know) just graduated university or college, congratulations! That’s a lot of hard work you put in and I hope you’re proud of yourself!

I’ve been asked in the past to go back to my undergraduate university and share what advice I have for putting that arts degree to work (yep, I have an undergrad in history and French and a masters in history!). More recently I’ve been chatting with new grads about getting their finances in order. So on the 10th anniversary of graduating with my BA (which I can hardly believe), here’s some unsolicited advice from a history major, turned advertising account manager, turned financial security advisor, about what comes next:

  • Write down everything you did in university and loved. From papers you wrote, to teams you played on, to extra-curricular activities you were involved in, to trips you took. Figure out why you loved them and how you benefited or what you learned. Within a couple of years of finishing no one cares what university you went to or what you took (sorry!), but what you did, in addition to note taking in class, and what you learned and how you can apply it and make connections are the real values you got. When Lincoln Alexander “hooded” me at my BA grad they listed off the final standing I had, the awards I was nominated for or won, and he said “but did you have fun? Because none of that matters if you didn’t.” He was so right!  I used to interview
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    Lincoln Alexander at my graduation from University of Guelph, June 2006.  He asked me if I’d had fun!

    a lot of new grads and when I did I didn’t care about their GPA, I cared about how they gave back to their school/community, how they could apply what they had learned in their life, what interested them most about a class, etc. I cared that they were engaged in the world around them and that’s what came through. Be proud of the last few years of your life and share the value in interviews. You can apply for jobs that may not list your exact degree if you can highlight how your part time/volunteer/summer jobs fit or the extra curricular activities gave you valuable experience. Own  what your entire university experience gave you and that enthusiasm will come through!

  • Start wrapping your head around money. If you have debts, make a list of how much, what the interest rate is, when you have to start making payments, what the minimum payment is going to be, and start making a plan to pay down those debts. Figuring out what payments you’re going to have to make will help you figure out what else you can afford and help you make decisions about where to live and other lifestyle elements you can have. You may have to make sacrifices while you get that debt paid down in the first few years. Even if you have a steady job, you’ll be surprised how quickly that runs down once you have taxes, debt payments, rent, etc. If you don’t have debt, start saving and planning so that it’s not as hard to do later!
  • Keep a budget. Linked to the point above, but when you first graduate you feel so rich but then you don’t know where the money went at the end of the month. Budgeting and becoming aware of where you spent your money is invaluable for helping you meet your 5-10 year goals for savings, more school, traveling, etc. I have a handy tool for budgeting in an old post here.
  • Be gracious to your fellow grads who may be in a different position. If you don’t have debt, first thank your parents/ boss/ grandparents/yourself for helping to put you in that fortunate position. Then remember not everyone is as lucky and they may feel a lot of pressure to keep up. I wrote some money saving tips in an old post here that can help you have fun on a budget without making the other person feel badly about their situation.
  • Make new friends. After university making new friends seems much harder. Unfortunately, over the next 10 years, despite our interconnected lives on social media, you’ll fall out of touch with some of those high school and university friends. Work can offer great friendships but people leave jobs and sometimes you don’t want to talk about work out of work. So join new groups on Meet-Up, at the library, or other places in your community. I go to weekly Meet-Up running and yoga groups, a French book club at the library, and my local community association meetings, but I’d also love to play in a softball league or a frisbee league (if I had time). My job requires a lot of evening meetings so I’m pretty tapped out as it is but these are all great places to meet people. This is also networking and will also help you find jobs/prospective clients in future so there are lots of benefits!
  • Volunteer. To graduate high school you had to do a piddly 40 hours over 4 years but now that you’re grown up make it a habit. It opens your eyes, reminds you to be grateful and gracious, contributes to society, and you will feel better for doing it. Not to mention employers love it, you get to meet more people, gain more experience and pretty much helps you with a lot of my earlier points. You can volunteer doing things you love. I’ve coached baseball, campaigned in an election, served on committees and all of those things I’ve enjoyed. It gave me an outlet outside of work and I think I got back more than I gave.
  • Be prepared to start at the bottom.  Like the Drake lyrics, you start at the bottom but that can take you far.  I was always surprised when I interviewed new grads who felt that their degree entitled them to a starting salary above mine and that they weren’t prepared to accept less.  Your job may require you to do a stint cleaning the office kitchen, working in the warehouse, working the weekend shifts, or a myriad of other “inconveniences” but how you show up to do your job, to learn, to take on the challenges is going to help you to grow.  When I started in advertising I booked everyone’s travel, I stocked the kitchen, did some of our back-end IT work, and dealt with the phone lines.  I didn’t like doing it but those were part of my job and I did them and I over time I didn’t have to do them but because I had done them I worked my way up and figured out a lot of the people and systems that helped us. My familiarity with our intranet system, as a result of some of the “grunt work” I did in early days, allowed me to take on exciting projects as I progressed.  My friend works in the factory of his dad’s company.  He doesn’t take that for granted; he works hard, he is on the undesirable night-shift because he knows he’s at the bottom of the totem-pole, and because he has seen the day-to-day process on the factory floor it led him to make suggestions to improve the company’s systems. He’s done that because of his observations, not the fact that he’s the son of the owner.  Your degree or connection doesn’t entitle you to a role or a salary, your attitude means much more to getting both of those things.

So that’s it for my words of wisdom right now.  If you’re a recent grad I hope you will take them to heart.  I know it’s a tough job market out there.  Own the entire post-secondary experience you had and promote it, even if that means taking on a role that’s not your ideal in status or pay. Having a life out of work, contributing to your community, and looking towards your future will make you a well-rounded person that employers will (eventually) seek out. And please, please, get the money thing figured out sooner rather than later 🙂

Peace,

Margaret

Family Finances, Financial Planning, I can help, Living Benefits, Money Saving Ideas

What’s your financial focus goal?

I recently completed a five-week programme called your POWER TOOLKIT with Victoria Turner.  Each week we filled out a worksheet with our two focus goals for the next twelve months, our bold action for the week, our weekly priorities that would help us achieve those goals, and how the tools that we’d learned in the programme would help us meet them.  If you are a recent grad, she’s offering this programme again starting on May 24 and I highly recommend you enroll.

This week I received FANTASTIC NEWS from three of my clients.  One of them gave her notice and is going to be joining an independent law firm after taking six weeks rest over the summer. It comes with a salary cut (that’s not insignificant) and some added risks and costs, but she’s so happy about it.  Another client is moving up her timeline to purchase her first condo after seeing how much her savings had grown in the last year.  A third has been offered a full-time role with benefits and would like to increase her kids’ savings and buy a new house next year; this after she left her husband and an unfulfilling work situation a couple of years ago.  I am so incredibly happy for all of them. I didn’t realize it until I did the POWER Toolkit programme that they are where they are because they had a focus goal!

The first one paid off her student debt, started an aggressive savings plan, and purchased disability insurance so that she could have the freedom to make the best career choice based on her life, not her financial need.  Since we started working together she has paid off the rest of her law school debt, has made great progress for her savings and is now pursuing the next opportunity in her life knowing that she’s protected from both a savings and insurance perspective.  It meant more trips on her bike, a few less dinners out, brown-bagging her lunch, but it was her goal and now she’s achieved it!  Having been in her situation a few years ago, I know the reward and relief she’s feeling and I’m so incredibly happy to have been part of it!

The second one increased her savings and kept to a budget.  Her focus goal was having a dishwasher, and every few months with that goal in mind, she increased her savings, or made lump-sum deposits knowing that the sacrifices were helping her to get her dishwasher.  When we would meet that dishwasher was what we’d talk about and how to get it for her.  The dishwasher represented more than the simple appliance, but it was an image that she could focus on to help her stay disciplined to the plan we put in place. I can’t wait to see her dishwasher in her new condo!

The third one set up her kids’ education plans, her own savings plans, and her own health and dental insurance after finding herself in two situations she needed to leave.  She had a goal to start her own travel business, which had to be set aside when her ex-husband wasn’t paying his support at the end of last year.  With two children, including one with a disability, their future and stability was her focus goal.  Despite the costs for the programmes her one child needs, she managed to make it through when the support stopped by taking on a contract role, and personal discipline.  She kept contributing to the children’s savings plan, and providing them with the stability they needed.  We talked about her risk tolerance and savings throughout.  It turned out she loved the company she got the contract with and has now been offered a fulltime role with them with benefits. Her ex-husband paid back some of the support, and she’s focused on increasing her kids’ savings and her own savings.  Her kids and her future were her focus goals and I’m so happy to see her on her feet with many amazing things coming to her!

Having a focus goal helps us stay committed to our plans; including our financial plans.  Whether it’s our family’s security, investing in ourselves, a major purchase, or work/life flexibility, setting up a financial plan helps you to focus on the goal and provides the discipline of savings, insurance, and investing, to help you meet it.  Consistent and early savings plays more of a role in long-term financial security than the individual investments that you choose. Purchasing insurance early gives you better rates for life and the security of knowing you can protect yourself and your family to help you meet your goals.  I am genuinely and completely happy for these three clients for meeting their focus goals!  Keep your eye on the prize and you’ll be rewarded!

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