Spotlight: Cassondra Kyra from The Working Millennial

With the information from our Financial Fitness Bootcamp still buzzing in my head, I was in the process of looking for resources to further help me on my journey to financial freedom. As fate would have it, one of my friends introduced me to The Working Millennial, a site focused on helping millennials navigate through the current economy. 

“Millennials are different from the previous generations and the economy is extremely different from their time as well. With precarious work, high tuition costs, increasing debts, living costs and competition in the market, it's easy to feel lost and alone. The mission of The Working Millennial is to collect and provide information and resources to help guide and empower millennials to be the influential, innovative go-getters that we're born to be."

After looking at the website, I was interested in learning how the website's Financial Literacy Coach, Cass, became so interested in finances at such a young age. As someone who does not work in the financial industry, and who is essentially self-taught, I thought she would be a great resource for those of us on our own journey to financial literacy. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with her to discuss her financial journey.

When and how did you start your financial literacy journey, and was there something in particular that sparked your interest?

I started 2-3 years ago. What sparked my interests was when I received my annual statement from my workplace pension plan and, while I was investing, I didn’t really understand anything about it. I had always relied on my grandma who was very financially literate, but at the time she had some health concerns that left her unable to help me.  After a quick pity party, I decided I needed to jump right in and learn as much as I could, having the opportunity to practice both with my own and my now fiance’s finances. From there what started as an obligation quickly developed into a passion.

What kind of resources did you use when learning about finances?

I used quite a few resources such as books, YouTube, and blogs. A major resource for me was Dave Ramsey. Dave is millionaire who lost most of his wealth young and had to build it all back. That story really resonated with me. He created the “baby steps” and he has this “debt snowball” technique where you pay off debts smallest to largest; that has proven to be really effective. The most useful thing I've learned though is that you need to have a zero dollar budget, which means it is important that every dollar has a home or responsibility. It is also really important to give yourself some spending money. There are many budgeting tools that can assist you with this like apps, excel sheets, Pinterest etc. Personally I’ve found that I’m very much a pen-to-paper kind of person; for me it's more focused which helps me process the information.

What kind of tips or tricks would you suggest to others when it comes to sticking to a budget?

I think tricks are silly when it comes to money - you either focus and do it or you fail at it (which is fine if you’re fine with it). For instance I could tell you “Leave your debit or credit card at home and only use cash” and, yeah, that could help you not spend money; but that's not discipline and  won't sustain itself in the long run. It tricks you into thinking you’re focused as opposed to actually being focused. Now for tips, it has to be creating a budget and sticking to it. Sticking to the budget helps take the pressure off.  There’s a feeling of accomplishment you get when you are able to survive to your next pay within your budget, but if you do mess up don’t be afraid to double back and readjust. You’re going to make mistakes, it's part of the process.

One of the biggest themes in our Financial Fitness Bootcamp was addressing how your relationship with money was influenced by your childhood. How would you say your upbringing affected your relationship with money?

Growing up I lived with both my mother and grandmother, who had vastly different attitudes towards money. While my grandmother was very rigid in her financial planning/well being my mother was not, she had this go-with-the-flow attitude and it seemed to work out for her. I truly believe at different times in my life I've had both of those attitudes towards money. What I realize now is the value of money to you as an individual will change over time. My relationship with finances as changed significantly as I've gotten older and had to take on more responsibility. When I was younger I was more “free-spirited” when it came to money but now as an adult I look at my grandmother who at one time supported three households financially and I’m in awe. She’s retired now and still makes more than me, #goals. She definitely shaped how I look at money and finances now.

What is one major mistake you see young people making with their finances now?

This idea of ignorance is bliss, not looking at your credit card statements, not opening up that banking app. Not knowing where to place your money, not investing money or pension planning. I have a pension plan that is matched by work, and I’ve made a point of maxing out those contributions. I also think people need to spend more time researching and maxing out their Tax Free Savings Accounts or Registered Retirement Saving Plans. I see a lot of people my age holding their money in chequing accounts, meanwhile they could be making a lot more by investing it or at minimum throwing the money into a high interest savings account.

What would you say is your biggest takeaway?

You need to budget. That needs to be done, whether it’s once or twice a month, so that you know where your money goes. Even if you make a mistake and are scared to go back and look at it, it is time to "adult".  

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

While I love finances, I don’t typically think about my life financially. I’m more focused on goals in life (money just helps us get there sometimes). In 10 years I will hopefully have a family with some kids and be passing on some good money management habits to them. I would also like to use this financial knowledge to help people in some way whether it's through workshops or consulting. I’m really open to the possibilities.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

A lot of people feel like investing is hard and have someone at the bank manage it for them. Most people don’t need someone to manage their money, with the tools available to us today like Wealthsimple or Questtrade you can just lock in your investments, check on it yearly and readjust when necessary. The Wealthy Barber (by: David Chilton) and Millionaire Teacher (by: Andrew Hallam) taught me about my personal investments and switching up my pension; these resources can help you learn how to make your money make you money.

Something I did notice in my research is that I did not come across many, if any, women of colour talking about finances, that had larger followings. Now while that could be me not digging deep enough, it was part of the reason I stepped out and joined The Working Millennial. My hope is that someone can one day see me and can relate. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to publish a book geared towards young people and children of colour.


In her early 20’s, Cass came to an understanding that she knew too little about her own financial wellbeing. What started as curiosity, quickly became active interest in her pension plan. Over the years, this interest developed into a pursuit of strong financial literacy for both her and her loved ones. As a Child & Youth Worker, Cass realized this was a way to give back to her community both professionally & personally. Her hope is that young people will not have to arrive at their mid-twenties without practical knowledge surrounding their finances.


Written by: Ashleigh H.

Financial Fitness Bootcamp: Event Recap

As a young woman starting out on my journey to adulthood, I’ve slowly come to the realization that it is a lot harder than anyone ever told me. Case in point: my finances. Growing up we are hardly taught in school how to be financially responsible, so unless you are lucky enough to have parents that would discuss finances, most of us are left to figure it out on our own. This is especially hard for women as the traditional role in the household has not been one responsible for financial decisions.

This past weekend, with the help of Darlene Patgunarajah, Melanie Laing, and Emilia Romano, YWiB Toronto held its Financial Fitness Bootcamp to help introduce key concepts and important information to a group of women (and men) interested in taking control of their finances. Some of the takeaways from the workshop include:

Pay yourself first

Savings and investments are an important part of building a financial safeguard. Having a mix of savings (RSPs, TFSA, long-term, short-term and emergency funds) and investments (mutual funds, GICs, stocks, etc.), are key to becoming financially secure, but having all these accounts can leave you feeling overwhelmed and intimidated. To combat this, our financial advisors suggest setting up automatic transfers to your savings and investment accounts. At first it might seem scary having money automatically come out of your account, but after a while you adjust and learn to live within what’s left. Remember it’s not about how much you make, but how much you spend.

Get a Financial Planner that suits you

For many of us, finances is a stressful topic, especially when we deal with it on our own. Luckily, there are people out there to support you. Financial Planners/Advisors are a great resource for helping you derive a plan for your future by looking at the big picture. The key is finding one that reflects your comfort level. If you are a conservative investor, a Financial Planner that is more aggressive isn’t for you, and vise-versa. Money and finances are already anxiety-provoking topics so finding someone that you are comfortable with is key to creating a financial plan suited for you and your needs. When looking for a Financial Planner, don’t be afraid to shop around and even interview them, they are there to provide a service that you are paying for, so don’t settle for the first one you meet.

Get insured

Like many others my age, I didn’t really think I needed insurance because I don’t have any dependents or assets that may be at risk if something were to happen to me. But the truth is you do, and it’s actually better to get it at a younger age. Not only are you more likely to pay lower premiums (because you are young and healthy), but it also helps when you are ready to buy a house and it will help your family with any remaining costs/debts (i.e. funeral costs, remaining student debt, co-signers on your mortgage, etc.).

Re-evaluate your Mindset

As one of our facilitators Darlene put it “the biggest detractor to success in financial health is mindset”. With that said, it’s important that as young women we take the time to think about our relationship with money and address our unhealthy habits/attitudes. Whether you grew up with parents who were tight with their money, or ones that bought any and everything, we all hold certain ideologies towards our finances. Deciphering those attitudes is as much a part of financial planning as budgeting and saving; no matter how good your financial plan is, it is useless if we can’t follow through with it. Do you really need that new pair of shoes? Can you wait a couple more months for that vacation? Changing your relationship with money changes your priorities.

Leaving the workshop, I felt empowered and excited about conquering my financials. For me, the biggest take away from the workshop was realizing that it’s okay to not know everything, because there are people out there to help. There is an abundance of information available to you - all you must do is ask. Taking on the challenge that is financial planning becomes a lot easier when you start asking questions because once you start you’ll never stop.  


Other Resources:

The Wealthy Barber & The Wealthy Barber Returns - David Chilton

The Debt Escape Plan - Beverly Harzog

It's Your Money: Becoming a Woman of Independent Means - Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Nudge - Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein

The Art of Money - by Bari Tessler


Written by: Ashleigh H.

Financial Fitness Bootcamp: Darlene Patgunarajah

Ready to get your finances in order? Join our Financial Fitness Bootcamp on January 27th to tackle those holiday bills and start your year right. Get your ticket now.

Darlene Patgunarajah.jpg

It’s 2018 which means it’s time to set some goals! Whether you are looking to pay off that school loan or open your own business, getting your finances in order is a pivotal part of your success in the new year. That’s why YWiB Toronto has teamed up with Darlene Patgunarajah  to talk about the importance of financial literacy and the misconceptions young people have about their finances.

How and why did you get involved in financial literacy?

Education has always been a common thread throughout my career.  In healthcare, teaching is an important part of the health professional’s relationship with their patients.  As a financial advisor, education is also a significant part of the client-advisor relationship.  Without knowledge and some basic literacy - whether in relation to your health or your finances - you can’t make informed and educated decisions about either.

Do you think most young people today have a grasp on their finances?

My short answer is “No”, but it depends on the person. With young people there are a lot of misconceptions around finances tied in with the need for immediate gratification. People are looking for a quick buck, and not at the long-term planning it usually takes.  We were never taught about finances at any point during our school years, so there is very poor financial literacy going into adulthood. People are learning through observing what their friends and family are doing, or hearing through media the hottest stock picks while at the same time becoming disillusioned by insane house prices. Learning it as you face the realities of being an adult isn’t the best way to go about it.

What do you think is the biggest misconception young people have when it comes to finances?

There’s this consumer mentality that everyone needs to have the latest tech, trendiest clothes or most epic experience.  With the blow up of social media it takes “keeping up with the Joneses’” to a whole new level. It screws up their perception of reality and they’re not being smart about their choices and priorities. They’re afraid to say no to the bachelorette party in Miami and there’s a pressure there.  It’s that whole YOLO or FOMO culture. That, combined with money having been so cheap to borrow, snowballs into a huge problem with debt and financial stability.

Why do you think financial literacy is particularly important for women?

Women are now equal in terms of their economic power.  We (women) are making the money and the decisions around it.  There is no longer a dependency on a partner for our financial stability.   Combined with the fact that women are also becoming more entrepreneurial, its even more important now that we have a solid understanding of how money works.

What is a personal lesson you learned about financials, saving or investing that you want to pass to our audience?

The biggest detractor to success in financial health is mindset.  As children we’ve internalized the relationship our parents had with money, their beliefs and values, which then informs our own relationship with money. In many cases, our handling of money is a reflection of our own self-worth and beliefs about ourselves. Unless part of your financial coaching or planning addresses the emotions around money, you won’t have the discipline or the emotional capacity to follow it. It’s not just about getting a plan in place or saving money, its about figuring out what are your deep-down money scripts and dialogues are making conscious efforts to reprogram it.

Darlene's professional experience is rooted in healthcare and teaching - which has given her a unique perspective and passionate approach to financial health and financial literacy.  She believes that at the heart of the financial advising profession is education, collaboration, and relationship building.  She is enthusiastic about integrating technology not only into her practice for efficient administration but also for enabling better client engagement.   She serves clients all over the GTA, developing a niche in the small business owner community.  She lives with her husband and her two young and very energetic sons in Vaughan.


Written by: Ashleigh H.


Financial Fitness Bootcamp: Melanie Laing

Ready to get your finances in order? Join our Financial Fitness Bootcamp on January 27th to tackle those holiday bills and start your year right. Get your ticket now.


It’s officially 2018! 'Tis the season of New Year resolutions and goal setting. In 2018, the ladies of YWiB Toronto want you to be able to take control of your financials. Finance isn’t always a trendy topic, but it’s an important one for us to understand so that we’re able to achieve whatever we want in our lives.

While we understand the importance of financial literacy, we can’t pretend that it is something we’re extremely knowledgeable on. That’s why we sat down with Melanie Laing, Financial Security Advisor at Freedom 55 Financial, so we can get fresh with financials. Here’s what Melanie had to say:

1. To begin, how and why did you get involved in financial literacy?

I’ve always been driven to put myself in the best financial position possible, but despite wanting to do that, I felt totally ill equipped to handle the situation on my own after graduating university and looking to buy my first home. This is a feeling I know a lot of young people have upon leaving school. During this time, I was also planning on moving to Toronto, but the timing needed to be right and I needed to figure out what I wanted to do once getting here. I started doing my research and talking to friends and family in the financial services industry in order to understand how I can help people in my role. I guess the ‘how’ of why I got involved in financial literacy is through months of deliberation and conversations with my spouse, but the ‘why’ is driven by wanting to be a part of something that not only helps people, but equips them with the tools to make informed financial decisions in today’s economy and environment.

As young people, recent graduates, entrepreneurs, etc. we cannot rely on ‘flying by the seat of our pants’ if we want to get ahead professionally or financially, so if I can help people with their goals by explaining basic financial principles to them, that is a win for me!

2. Do you think most young people today understand financial literacy? Why do you think it’s important for young people to take this seriously?

Unfortunately, I don’t think most young people today have a good understanding of financial literacy, which, to be honest, is of no fault of their own. Apart from the way in which you ‘grew’ up with money, and how conversations were handled in your household as a kid, we are left to our own devices in trying to navigate the world of personal finance. I don’t think we can stress the importance of financial literacy enough and I hope that some of the changes made to curriculums across the country will improve the attention and knowledge of young Canadians for years to come.

That being said, for those of us who were not taught the basic principles or processes required for one to take care of their personal finances, we need to take it seriously and invest the time to learn. Young people today have to take their situation and finances seriously in order to ensure they can live the life they want to live now and in the future. An environment where the majority of people’s retirements are funded by company pensions does not exist anymore, so we need to be cognizant from a young age about what steps are going to help us.

3. What is the greatest challenge your clients (and young people in general) tend to face when it comes their finances?

I think for young people in general, the greatest challenge is the fact that change is inevitable so it’s hard to know what to do when your life is changing so rapidly and big life events are occurring (think: marriage, buying a home, starting a family, growing your career). That combined with the fact that many young people are focused on eliminating student debt and getting their careers started, it can be a challenge to consider all the other aspects of your financial plan.

4. Finally, What advice would you give to young professionals in Toronto who want to live a comfortable life that allows them to have a house, car, go on vacation, etc.?

I’d have to say two things. First, it’s okay to say ‘no.’ I think young people have a tendency to do things they don’t really want to do and spend money they shouldn’t in order to keep up with their peer group or appearances, which puts them in a stressful financial position and can compromise their ability to reach more ambitious goals. Be confident in your decisions and your plan to get there.

Second, and a common saying among the financial services industry, ‘pay yourself first.’ What I mean by this is set up a savings plan where contributions are taken from your account automatically each week, month, etc. We have an amazing ability to live off the money we ‘don’t’ have, so start thinking of your savings as an financial obligation and you will be able to accomplish some of those personal finance goals like owning a home and travelling.

If you’re looking to get your finances in order this year so you can achieve your dreams, then this workshop is for you! See you on January 27th!

Written by: Kate Taylor

Financial Fitness Bootcamp: Emilia Romano

Financial Fitness Bootcamp: Emilia Romano

Meet Emilia, one of our workshop hosts!

Emilia is the Director of Marketing at Imperial Lifestyle Management. Her passion is everything marketing! With an extensive background in marketing, brand awareness, business development and graphic design along with a proven ability to coordinate the planning, development and execution of strategic marketing initiatives to drive desired results. Emilia’s greatest strengths are her creativity, drive and leadership. She thrives on challenges, particularly those that expand the company’s reach.

YWiB Toronto sat down with Emilia to learn more about how she got her start in the financial field, and what she thinks young women today most need to know.

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