A Money Coach in Canada

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Mike Todd is a friend of mine, and like me shares a deep interest in money, and how money can change the world, and like me he shares a strong connection to Vancouver’s DTES (my other home). I asked him to guest post about his journey from investment advisor to coming alongside some of my sisters in my old ‘hood.

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What a Long, Strange Trip it’s Been

I’ve spent just about my entire adult life thinking about money, in one way or another. And along the way that thinking has changed dramatically.

This relationship with money started with my first full time job as a customer service representative with Templeton Management, the company started by the late great investor John Templeton. (Somewhere around here I have a photo of a younger version of me standing next to a smiling Sir John.) Twelve years later I walked down Toronto’s Bay Street for the last time when I left my position as Vice President – Alliance Distribution with Fidelity Investments. (Come to think of it, the photo of Peter Lynch and me is probably in the same box as the one with Sir John.)

From there I went to World Vision Canada to start their Corporate Development work. After a year there, my wife and I moved out to Vancouver to help a friend get Linwood House Ministries up and running. Among my responsibilities as Director of Engagement at Linwood is fundraising… a term I really don’t care for at all.

From start to finish my resume screams, “Money!” I’ve gone from helping people with their money (and helping their advisors make money) to raising money for a large global relief and development agency, to helping a small relational group of folks interact with some of the wonderful people who call Canada’s poorest postal code home.

Personally my relationship with money has followed the same apparent trajectory as my career. I’ve gone from making lots, to making some, to making little. At the same time, we went from the big house, to the smaller house, to the small condo, to the basement suite. I don’t tell you this to boast; I want you to see how little and how much money means to me. Personally, I don’t care about it. But as a tool to help us change ourselves and change the world? It’s critical.

I said above that I don’t really like the term “fundraising”. I’ve joked with friends that I’d like to be successful raising funds for Linwood by breaking every fundraising rule in the book. I’m not interested in separating you from your cash. I’m interested in changing the way you think about money. And I’m interested in changing the lives of all of us, from wealthy West Vancouver, to the notorious Downtown Eastside, and all points in between.

It seems the more we have, the more we need. The more we get, the less happy we are. The more we pursue, the less fulfilled we are. And while we cling tighter to what we have, more and more of our neighbours have less and less. That’s a bad combination. My own spirituality is responsible for many of the choices I’ve made on this journey, but I have friends who would claim to be atheists who are feeling the same way. So, this isn’t about religion, if that’s worrying you. Corporate greed is running rampant, and keeping up with the Joneses is driving many of us into the kinds of debt that could sink us.

Something has to give. We need to try something new.

I invite you to think about your money in a different way. Call it postmodern philanthropy if you like. Take a look around. If you live in Vancouver, spend some time standing at the corner of Hastings & Main. (And if that idea terrifies you, drop me a line and I’ll meet you down there and we can stand together.)

Don’t give up on your money, but instead look at it as a catalyst for change. I started out on this journey rather naively thinking that I was here to change the world. Instead, I’ve come to the realization that what needs to change is me. I can’t change the world. There are too many problems, and I’ll simply get frustrated and quit. Here’s the irony though: If I start thinking of others instead of myself, if you do the same, and then if we both encourage others to try and look at the world like that, in other words if we change, then the world will change too.

Recently I had this conversation with an acquaintance. He responded angrily by asking, “Am I my brother’s keeper?!” I pointed out that the answer to that question is supposed to be, “Yes.”

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Mike Todd lives in Vancouver BC, and would love to interact with you on this issue, or anything else you want to talk about. He blogs at Waving or Drowning? and tweets at @miketodd07. If you would like to learn more about Linwood, check out the blog. They’re on Twitter and Facebook too.

I did it! I bought nothing today!

There was a teensy bit of cheating: I had pre-booked (long before I remembered what today was, honest) a coffee date and the other person bought my latte. Also, my cleaning person was scheduled today anyways. But I didn’t swipe my card through any machines today, nor did I fork over any cash. My wallet stayed tucked away all day long.
Readers: have you ever gone a day, deliberately, without spending money? Krystal, I know you have. And Esme, I think you do quite regularly right? Big Cajun Man, ever tried?

I don’t want to be all melodramatic and OMG, but living in Yellowknife does have its unique moments.

On Sunday I popped by Yellowknife’s largest grocery store, to discover this:

and this:

Organic skim milk? I couldn’t get *any* milk!

And gas? This, via twitter:
LizHargreaves @tundrabunny just spreading Facebook gossip! @ekda1961 just posted that 1 station still has gas

Here’s what’s going on. There’s one road in and out of Yellowknife and that involves a ferry trip at about 3 hours outside of Yellowknife over an arm of the Great Slave Lake. Usually timing the phase between when it’s too icy to truck stuff over the ferry and when trucks can drive over the iceroad (yes, really) is down to a science. Stores and gas pumps stock up, and some food is chartered in. Usually within a short time, we’re all back on track. This year, mother nature caught us off guard. And we’re kinda stranded for a bit.

Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. But please. Send food.

ps: and of course (!) (of course!) I am in no way comparing this little quirk to places and people who truly have no food, either in an ongoing way or because of an emergency. In fact, why not pop by your local food bank to help folks for whom finding food is a true hardship.

IMG_8600 Virginia Slims ad: We've come a long way, baby

I love Madmen. But man, do I hope those days are gone for good: the women-doing-the-typing thing, the drinking, the smoking and yes, that kinda marketing. The marketing whose goal first and foremost (and often, only) is to increase sales even if those sales are killing people (directly or indirectly).

I hear there was a mild brouhaha at this years Barcamp in Vancouver. I can imagine it, a bit — I still remember when twitter went mainstream and the sense of despair that this space for open, real conversation between people with a point of view but without something to sell, was now going to turn into one more friggin’ “channel”. Some people can get pretty twitchy about these things (and sometimes, I can too).

Don’t get me wrong – I just paid for a whole bunch of radio advertising, so I don’t have a hate-on for marketing per se. But I hope it transforms from the inside out.

I hope marketing transforms into a place where marketing is about listening, I mean really, listening, as much as telling. I hope it turns into a way of taking values of us ordinary joes and adapting business accordingly so that we can feel good about the companies we buy from (think: organic, free-range, non-toxic, free trade, women-friendly).

As the prescient ClueTrain Manifesto put it (excerpt only):

  • Companies can now communicate with their markets directly. If they blow it, it could be their last chance.
  • Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them.
  • Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor.
  • Getting a sense of humor does not mean putting some jokes on the corporate web site. Rather, it requires big values, a little humility, straight talk, and a genuine point of view.
  • Companies attempting to “position” themselves need to take a position. Optimally, it should relate to something their market actually cares about
  • .

Here’s hoping!

ps: for a kick-ass example of great marketing, including use of social media, just get yourself entangled with ING. They are Rocking this space is an authentic, transparent way… and helping us all become savers to boot.

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