A Money Coach in Canada

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Todays’ guest post is by Kathryn Anderson, a former client who is well on her way to achieving a key goal in her life – escaping Canadian winters by becoming a snowbird.

And if you want to do the same, it starts by taking control of your money and making it happen.  I can help!

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Ever dreamed of becoming a snowbird?  (No, not one those exceptional pilots who fly for the Canadian Forces demonstration team!)  I’m talking about those who flee cold and snowy Canada and head for a warm and sunny destination for winter, the minute there’s the faintest whiff of snow in the air!   If you want summer in winter – without going into debt – you’ll need a plan.

Since leaving central Canada for the West Coast in search of less – shall we say – offensive winters, I’ve been continuously finding a way to survive winter more easily.  Raised in climate that saw a lot of sun but also -20C to -40C for a good part of the winter, I grew very tired of 14 layers of fleece, mitts, hats, scarves, slushy/sandy roads, sidewalks, hallways, and salt-stained…everything!  Now instead, I get to wear 14 layers of goretex, rubber boots, umbrellas, and forget that such a thing as blue sky even exists from November to May (or July this year)!  No Canadian winter is ever “perfect” for me.  Are you starting to get the picture?

At times it has felt like my sanity was hanging on by a thread in the winter, no matter which province I lived in.  So, over the last four years I’ve begun taking steps to realizing my dream of becoming a snowbird. Slowly but surely, my plan has begun to take shape.

I knew that if I wanted to live abroad for my winters, I would need to start travelling for short trips south (one to four weeks), to do two things: (i) to do research in the actual country where I might spend 6 months; (ii) to get a taste for a regular winter holiday, to entice me to keep my vision alive.  By visiting the actual countries where I’m considering living for the winter, I get an understanding of what the local economy is like, how difficult/easy it might be for me as a foreigner to get work, what are the second language requirements, what about Visas, what is the standard of living compared to Canada, how much further do my earnings go there versus here in Canada, what about health care, my personal safety, local customs I need to be aware of?   There are a lot of factors to be considered to make an informed decision.

I started first by creating a small vision board collage. I was taking Nancy’s Smart with Money program, and identified that travel to warm climates in winter was a much desired goal of having more money and having a healthier relationship with my money.  So just by using some photos cut out of travel brochures and magazines, I put together a collage that included some places I’d like to visit:  Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica.  I mounted that collage on my fridge so I’d see it daily.  Even though I’d sometimes just be looking wistfully at the pictures, it inspired me to want to feel that sunny warmth on my skin.  And just when I might be closing my fridge after deciding to skip packing my lunch for work the next day…thinking “ugh. I’m too tired, I’ll just buy lunch tomorrow”, I’d see the collage beckoning me.  Inviting me to come lay on the deliciously unspoiled beaches of Cuba or the Dominican.   I’d realize that if I diverted that $6 to $10  towards my travel account, instead of buying lunch, I’d be one step closer to that trip.

I also bank with ING and set up multiple accounts to remind me what I’m saving for.  You can have an account just called Travel, or name it something fun and creative like HotSunnyBeaches to be very specific.

I was also fortunate that I was able to work with my employer to start shaping my work life towards a snowbird existence. When I got a promotion, I had some latitude to make some changes to the structure of my job.  I asked if it would be possible to work 4 days a week instead of 5.  Because I was being promoted, my salary was being increased. By working only 4 days a week, ultimately I kept making the same money but worked one day less a week for it.  It gave me time to devote to going to school, which helped me increase my earning power, and then I could work on that 5th day, self-employed or for another employer, if I chose to.  More money to put towards my vacations!  After two years in my new role, I also slowly began to approach the topic of work-sharing at my performance review, just to see how my employer felt about it.  They didn’t have any immediate answers for *how* we could do it, but they were open to the possibility.  I suggested we consider asking one member of staff who was staying home to raise children and would want her summers off.  We discussed the possibility of her doing my job while I was away for the winter, and me being there for the summers while her kids were off school and she wanted to have family time.  A workable set of factors.

I took some other very simple & quick actions:

  • I posted a picture of me on the beach in the Dominican as the wallpaper on my computer, and as my profile picture on FaceBook to remind me where I want to be every single time I’m at the computer.
  • In my “About Me” section on FaceBook I wrote that “I’m actively seeking a way to earn $$ while living the beach life….do you know someone who spends winters in a warm sunny climate then comes back to Canada?  Introduce me please!”  (and indeed, I’ve made connections this way.)
  • I bought a beautiful (and very economical!) beach photo on canvas from Ikea and hung it in my office.  It not only inspires me, but also my clients.
  • I bought a Tropical Beaches calendar for my kitchen where I stand and do dishes so I look at it every day, reinforcing my goal.
  • I got a very inexpensive Page A Day Gallery calendar from Workman Publishing (picked mine up at Costco) and put it on my desk at work: 365 days worth of beaches to inspire me, especially at work!
  • When I went to Mexico in December 2010, I had a set of business cards printed up for under $10 through Vistaprint.ca so that if I met people who had valuable information about how I could become a snowbird, or with whom I might later do business, I could stay connected to them.
  • I met people in Mexico who had information and connections for rental properties, who were ex-pat Canadians who are successfully living abroad and/or are snowbirds already.  I asked them about how they did it, what I need to know, what lessons they learned, what they might recommend I do differently than they did, where their situation and mine differ to understand how possible this might be for me.  I’ve added many of these connections to my FaceBook so that I am actively building relationships with these people.  When my accommodations for a trip coming up this December went by the wayside, I was able to put the word out in my network and find replacement arrangements inside of 24 hours, very reasonably.

I do these things because I am aligning my ACTIONS with my INTENTIONS. Every single day.

Now you might think, “But I can’t do all that!”.   I assure you, I had no clue what I was doing when I began.  I just knew that an intention is only that, if I don’t pair it with action.  So I figured out what small things I could do, and just started doing them.

When I first began saving a few years ago, it was a VERY small amount of money ($10 per pay, twice per month) just to get me started.  It just helped to know I was building something, even if the goal felt very far off.  As soon as I got a larger than expected tax return, I added it to my travel account and suddenly my few dollars a month was rolling my savings from 3 digits to 4.  So I wanted to keep building that money and in no time I found myself figuring out how to live with a little less here and there (i.e. – if I’m heading to a meeting or event, I almost always pack a travel mug of my own French Press coffee now, superior quality and just 4 coffees a week puts $10 in the Travel account, $40 a month, more if you’re a heavy coffee drinker) so that money could grow even more! I continued to save, even when I incurred some unexpected debt last year.  By devoting money to my travel account, it helped keep my mind focused on building savings, instead of just on “the need to pay down my debt”.

So now a wrench in the plan:  my beloved job of 8 years has disappeared due to corporate restructuring.  It means I’m re-working my plan.  I was still in the information gathering phase in any event: about what work I can do while living abroad, what country will have the most accessibility in terms of working/visas/learning a second language, whether I just want to work really hard for six months and bank all my savings to just live off of them while away (without needing to work), about whether I can do my coaching work via the internet – and even if I can, do I want to?, what to do with my apartment (I rent), whether to pack up everything & put it in storage, is a home exchange possible (i.e. they come to Vancouver and use my place while they ski for the winter, I take their place to lay on the beach?).

All good questions for which I am still finding answers.

What I know for sure, is that owing to a variety of factors, every cell in my body sings with joyful abandon when I am immersed in warmth and sunshine.  I function so well and feel so fully alive. Therefore I am committed to finding my way to a snowbird life, ideally within the next five years.

Remember that collage on my fridge?  Well, without even realizing it – it felt like no specific conscious intention at the time of booking – I have travelled to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico (for a second time!), all on savings, no debt incurred.  That happened since I took my Smart with Money with Nancy in 2005, along with becoming debt-free.  Which, regardless of the brief departure to debt-load last year, has once again become my reality – despite the loss of my job.

Nancy’s education informed me how to re-think my relationship with money, how to live well (even with less, like in my current “lost my job” circumstances), and to keep my eye on the prize.

What’s your prize…and what’s one step you can take today, that will lead you closer to it?

Photo Credit: [email protected]

Kathryn Anderson is a former client of Your Money by Design. Since taking YMbD’s Smart with Money program in 2005/6, she overhauled her relationship with money, proudly attaining debt-free status in 2008.   Now instead of working for her money, her money works for her!  Kathryn is a Facilitator, Educator and Motivator specializing in the creation and enjoyment of purpose-based lives and careers.  She lives and works in Vancouver, BC.

You don’t know Saltspring Island til you’ve hauled your you-know-what and your tent and your sleeping bag and your cooking utensils up the hills to Ruckles park.  I think that’s what it was called.  I was too done-in to commit it to memory.  But after recovering from the work-out trauma the weekend was sure fun — tooling around everywhere.

It must have been fun because a few years later I did it again.   I joined my uber-fit and athletic (my antithesis) roommate and her uber-fit and athletic friends for a cycling weekend on the Kettle Valley Railway tour.  Over abandoned train trestles over rushing rivers and right.along.cliffs we went, and up and down the mountains.  And up and down mountains.  And …. anyway, it was spectacular, and I didn’t slow down the pack to the extent that we had to cut it short or anything.  If anyone has done it recently: Is that kinda crazy cowboy still living on the trail?  Who lives in as rustic and cowboy-ish a cabin as can be imagined?

I can’t imagine I’ll be doing those kinds of grinds anytime soon, unlike my pal Doug who, for his retirement, decided to pretty much cycle around the world.   <  beats me  >  .

But these?  These I’d consider.  And what’s not to love – budget friendly, eco-friendly, and you get way more in touch with the area than zipping by in the car, non?

Cycle around London via Barclay’s Bikes I saw a bunch of those bikes when I was there and the looked in great condition.

6-day tour of Green Gables land (PEI).  Someone who did it said the food is incredible as well.

Touring the backroads of Ireland looks lovely, and I think the hills aren’t toooo steep, are they?

Anyone out there done a bit of tourism via a bicycle?  Where?  Worth it?

Photo Credit:  sludgeulper

1. Ford is investing $1B in a car-factory in India.

I find that interesting in two ways:  Ford’s brand has been sooooo “Made in the USA”.  I wonder how this will affect that?   and secondly, the fact that India’s market for cars has grown by 30% is an on-the-street (ha ha) indictor of how quickly their economy is growing.

2. Music Industry game-changer (again?  yes, again) Spotify has come to the USA. One more example of the colossal paradigm shift of pretty much the entire world (ie. we’re moving to the cloud, folks).

3. Canada received a top, top credit rating partly attributable to the Conservative Gov’ts stimulus package.   What does that mean to you?   It means two important things based on this:   Canada can borrow money cheaply because it’s such a safe risk.

a. Less of our taxes go to paying interest on the debt and more of our taxes are thus left over to pay for programs such as health care

b. Banks can borrow money more cheaply which means they, in turn, lend it more cheaply to us (with the outrageous exception of credit cards).  Lines of Credit, Mortgage rates = less expensive.   Don’t own a home?  Well, as a landlord, since my mortgage payments stay low, I pass on those savings to my tenants (if I don’t, my neighbour would, so I do.)

4.  Even The Economist is sounding fed-up over the USA’s dilly-dallying about the debt-ceiling.

(short story – it’s like the USA is living off its Line of Credit, and has hit its limit.  The limit can only be raised if Congress gives the OK, which has been done in the past many, many times, albeit not when things were so dire.  If they don’t, then on Tuesday, the gov’t can’t pay its own bills – think, public service payroll?  old age security?  medicare?  paying back other countries who lent them the money?  Democrats want to cut programs and raise taxes.   Republicans say flat-out No, or are concocting last-minute schemes of all kinds)

Hello my name is Taylor Moore and I am a filmmaker, photographer and game developer.
I am a Digital Nomad.
When I turned 50, I wanted everything to be different. I wanted to radically simplify my life, and get rid of all of the crap that I was dragging around. I wanted to travel, and pursue work that was global and to live the life of a lifestyle entrepreneur.

In the Beginning
So to start things off, I got my personal belongings down to 50 things(excluding my professional gear). It actually was much easier than I thought it would be. Doing this purge has been one of the most liberating things I have ever done. It is comforting to know where everything is, and not to worry about “stuff” anymore. It has made me very conscious of what I will bring into my life next. I don’t know if I will always conform to this lifestyle but it has been a great personal experiment and experience.

Office Away
The next thing was to be anywhere but in an office. In the last year I have worked out of coffee shops, book stores, libraries and beaches. This has been a tremendous boon to my creativity and approach to work and projects.

Bye Bye TV
One of the greatest events has been getting rid of the TV. Now I only watch what I really want, when I want. So many people live there augmented life through TV. With the relatively short time we have here, to spend it being spoon fed information is not my idea of living life.

Regrets, I have some

  • This is not an easy path at times, and I depend on Skype and email to retain my close friendships.
  • Having a romantic relationship in this type of lifestyle is very hard, but the new friendships forged makes it all worthwhile.
  • Loneliness is not something that visits me very often, but it can be lonely. Getting out and exploring my surrounding breaks it.

What can I not live without

  • Digital Camera with which I shoot stills, HD video and time lapse
  • Macbook Pro with which I edit my stills and video with.
  • iphone Keeps me connected to friends, family and twitter.
  • 2 TB backup Drive (Shit happen’s be ready for it)
  • Swimming trunks…ya never know when you will find a good place to swim!

Benefits

  • Having the freedom to pursue projects I believe in – such as being asked to film a Strawbale House-Raising for a family in Tennessee who lost everything in a Tornado.
  • Learning and speaking another language, which makes me think differently and grow.
  • Helping build a school in Mexico and what that does for the children, community and my karma.
  • Realizing that no matter where we are people want to help. And that gives me hope and faith in humanity.

Money tips I’ve learned

  • Always travel with two bank cards
  • Find out which local bank is closest to you (some places are pretty remote.  I once had to travel 20 miles to the nearest bank!)
  • Find out which day is payday for the local folks because the line-ups can be around the block on those days
  • Get used to military men with machine guns standing in front of the banks
  • Withdrawing cash internationally has fees attached.  Use a bank ATM though;  white-label machines have even higher fees
  • Paypal is your friend.  I typically get paid in the local currency via paypal which then converts to Canadian and is deposited in my Canadian bank account.

Taylor Moore is a filmmaker, photographer and game developer. In 2011 he has lived in Chacala Mexico, Guanajuato Mexico, Summerland BC, Tonasket, WA and Yellowknife, NWT. He can be reached at www.pixelbuz.com or on twitter @pixeltrek

Mentors:

Everett Bogue
The guy who made me look at all of the things I don’t need.
Ashley Ambirge
One of the greatest new writers, and my secret agent muse.
Seth Godin
One of the greatest marketing writers ever. Linchpin has been a personal best read for me.
Tim Ferris
Four Hour Work Week Author and Fitness Guru.
Karol Gajda
He’s the guy who got me started on this path…damn you Karol. Walks the talk.
Tyler Tervooren
He is the master of Riskology. No messing with his success.

Art of Contentment posts are about appreciating what is, and experiencing life as richly as possible, as a small act of freedom from the relentless pull to buy more.

Summer’s here way up here in Yellowknife – boy is it ever – and I am determined to take in every summery experience possible.

So I hitched a lift with a friend and visited the local swimming hole of choice for locals. I haven’t been since I was a teenager in my pre-Vancouver life. It’s something alright. Unless you’re one of my BC readers (and even then, I’d only begrudgingly cede) , I bet you ain’t never swum at a place like this before. Keep scrolling below the fold, btw.

THE SAFE(ISH) SWIMMING AREA. COOL AND CLEAN AND CLEAR WATERS.

I DIDN’T HAVE THE NERVE. WOULD YOU?

SAFE ISH BECAUSE JUST AROUND THE BEND, SUPER-CLOSE, IS THIS

OH. YOU WANTED A CLOSER LOOK? YOU GOT IT!

AND, SOMEONE TELL ME —–> OFF ONE OF THE TRIBUTARIES — IS THIS WHAT I THINK IT IS???

AND AFTER THE DRAMA, THIS VISTA:

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