A Money Coach in Canada

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One of my clients gave permission to seek opinions on her debt options. She is up to her eyeballs, and, 3 big cheers to her, is taking charge of the situation. She has a solid income and has a lot of equity in her home. She doesn’t want to go the bankruptcy route – in fact, was told she couldn’t – so is considering using a debt consolidation firm. It would result in an R7 on her credit report.

Her mortgage is up for renewal in a year.

I’m a money coach – helping on the day-to-day money stuff like controlling spending, setting savings objectives, learning how to interpret your mutual fund statements etc – and this particular question is slightly out of my domain and expertise.

Any informed opinions out there?

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cdn-penny.jpgWith our dollar at par, many Canadians can’t help but notice how much less expensive it would be to purchase a car in the US these days. And with NAFTA an all that, this would be an option of us, you’ think. Here’s Judy’s experience:

So you’re a Canadian and want to buy a Toyota? Excellent choice. Great car.

But oops! The price. About $10K more than the identical vehicle in the United States

Well, how ’bout buying one in the US and having a bit of a vacation during the three days it takes to get a US export permit?

Canada Customs is very helpful, providing a pamphlet called, “How to import a car from the U.S.” And all they will ding you for is the gst. No duty.

Then comes the brick wall. Whammo! That friendly American salesperson you were negotiating with sadly informs you that he is not allowed to sell to you.

“What? Who, me? Am I such a pariah?” Yes, you are. Because you’re Canadian, that’s why.

Canadian Toyotas are still priced as though the Canadian dollar were still around 63¢ US. That accounts for the 30% difference. Somebody in Toyota must be getting very rich selling in Canada.

An irritation, though, is that stream of Canadians going to buy Toyotas in the US – what a hew and cry from Canadian dealers! The remedy? Forbid US Toyota dealers to sell to us Canucks. Disregard the discrimination. Disregard the Canada – US Free Trade Agreement. Protect the obscene profits made by Toyota in Canada.

Editors note to Judy: you’re not alone in your disgust! CBC did 2 features – one on the general question: when will consumer goods start being evenly priced in Canada? And another specifically on the car issue – apparently a class action lawsuit alleging conspiracy is being taken against four car companies and the canadian auto association.

Readers: what are you thoughts on this? Are the higher prices in Canada justified, or is it a complete rip-off?

This week was different.  Typically as a money coach, I work with middle-income Canadians.

This week, I met with a group of people in recovery.  I counted it a privilege.

I was there to talk about putting a financial life back together.   Many in the room had once had a sound financial life, but the addiction had trashed everything.  Everything.

We started talking about savings. And then they told me something that left me silenced.  To a person, they now deliberately spent money as fast as it came, because they so desperately did not want the temptation there to return to their addiction.

The full scope of what they’ve got to deal with began to sink in. I had a few suggestions.. but if you had been in my place, what would you have offered?

Photo Credit: kphotographerrrr

She was young and gorgeous, earns crazy-crazy money and has nothing to show for it. She knows there are definitely ‘issues’ about money. She approached me in my role as money coach, and asked the searching question, “I’ve tried a lot of things, to gain control. What if, after my time with you, nothing really changes?”

What a penetrating question. And I could offer no real guarantees, because although as a coach I lead people through a distinct process – some of it dealing with technical issues (eg. creating a sane strategy to handle debt), some of it dealing with the softer side of emotions and money – the fact is, I simply offer the tools and resources. I cannot promise that the combination of my offerings, and the person’s desire and ability to change, will necessarily ‘take’. It usually does, and I have oodles of testimonials to that effect. But not always.

It’s hard, as a money coach, when you feel you’ve put your best out there, but the client for whatever reason isn’t able to move forward.

My question is: what do you think has been the key to real changes you’ve personally experienced in your habits/way of handling a particular issue?

and coaches/counsellors: how do you measure your effectiveness, and gauge when you need to sharpen your skills versus leaving responsibility for change with the client?

ps: if you need textbooks, here’s my favourite online, used bookstore. Great quality, easy on the bank balance. Nothin’ wrong with that!
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She was in her early 50s, and her whole life had managed to attain large chunks of money every couple years or so.  Starting a business then selling it.  Buying real estate and flipping it.  But she had nothing to show for it.  Deeply compassionate towards her family, friends, and people she’d met in volunteer work in developing countries, her money flowed out to others in need as swiftly as she could bring it in.   One time her mom became close to death from an illness – the client’s money bought her the best care possible (and yes, the mother lived).  Another time a dear friend was left stranded, with kids, by her partner – the client helped her get on her feet.  You get the idea.

Treasure ChestThe client has left a beautiful legacy of people who’s lives stood a fighting chance thanks to her generosity.

But her bank account is nearly empty, she rents a small apartment in Burnaby, and she has no RRSPs to speak of.

How would you suggest she balance her care for others, with her own financial safety net?

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