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.