A Money Coach in Canada

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65221081_4212cf145d.jpgDavid Drucker, fellow vancouver blogger, had quite a startle the other week: his jeweller of many years is on the lam! Here’s his story:

When I proposed to Pam, I had already gotten a ring at Alpha Omega Jewelers in Cambridge. It was a small shop in Harvard Square, family run, with not spectacularly high or low prices. In the years since then, we used them for not only our wedding rings, but other bits of jewelry.

So, I was not without a fair amount of shock when I read this headline on the web site boston.com:
Alpha Omega liquidation sale set to start tomorrow

What was even more shocking was why they were liquidating our old family jeweler:

The investment consortium that bought the assets of Alpha Omega Jewelers in a bankruptcy court-approved sale said that the liquidation sale of the chain’s inventory will begin at its four stores tomorrow.

Everything must be sold before Ross-Simons, a Rhode Island-based chain, assumes the leases of Alpha Omega stores at Natick Collection and the Prudential Center in Boston, and items will be discounted to ensure fast sales, the consortium said.

The chain’s other two stores are located in Harvard Square and at the Burlington Mall.

According to stories in the Globe data base, Alpha Omega Jewelers filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code last month. The filing came after owner Raman Handa unexpectedly left the country with his wife, son, and daughter, prompting the company’s bank to seize Alpha Omega assets and temporarily close its stores just before Christmas.

That’s right, they were going bankrupt because the owner fled the country with his family. Suddenly my mind filled with all the plots of Jewel heists, with the thieves heading for Mexico, having deposited some of their misbegotten wealth in a Swiss Bank Account…

And to think I was served by Mr. or Mrs. Handa (I never learned their names, nor do I remember them particularly well), who might have been planning their disappearances for years!

Or perhaps it was something less glamorous and far more depressing, like mounting debts and “a threat to himself or a member of his family”.

Readers:  do you have any Theft stories?  I caught a thief once, in gastown (not an addict).  Called the police who caught him in the alley.   And of course there’s the legendary story of the guy who stole the computer from Workspace (where I rent office space) and uploaded a photo of himself onto flickr.

In my early adulthood, my dad pointed out that in addition to love, marriage is also about becoming an economic unit. Having spoken to numerous couples about their finances, I have to agree. I asked my friends over at DivineMatchmaking about their experience setting couples up –where did the financial aspects come into play? Check out their response, and if you have had experience either starting a relationship (like Krystal) or well into the relationship and sifting through how to work cooperatively on finances, I’d love to hear, so leave a comment below.

492860503_8302fe054f_m.jpgEveryone knows that money can be a deal breaker. Most relationships end in divorce due to money matters or infidelity, and it is because of this that couples need to be aware of and focused on their financial situations before taking it to the next level; and they must also know how to manage the green situation once they’re in.

Here are a few basic tips for sorting out the small stuff, before it becomes big:

1. Openly discuss your finances with your partner, and develop a plan. Do you want joint bank accounts or separate? One car or two, etc.

2. Understand each other’s credit history so it’s no surprise when you go to buy that house together.

3. Give yourselves time to save up to buy that new house

4. Get debt under control before making the plunge.

5. And most importantly, stay focused- don’t let money problems get in the way of your love for one another. Life is too short.

Money is one of the last things you want to talk about when you’re falling in love, but the first thing you should talk about when things get serious. No longer do we live in a society where the husband is the sole breadwinner and the woman is the homemaker. Today more than ever, people entering into relationships share equal weight of financial responsibility, and most likely bring something to the relationship whether it is a little security or a lot of debt.

Especially in today’s economic and cultural situation (i.e. the bigger the better), it is important if not essential to know how, when, and to what extent you and your partner have to manage your money. Money matters have become both a blessing and burden; couples are more likely to discuss their sex lives than the state of their bank account.

Bottom line: money does matter; managing money in an economical, functional, and appropriate way can make or break a relationship.

Divine Intervention. Matchmaking of the Highest Order.

Readers – what do you think?  Are relationships as much about being an economic unit as love? 

This week’s guest post is by a fellow british columbian, WestCoastWoolies, who agreed to tell her inspiring story about their journey out of debt.

debtsucksshirt2.jpgA year ago my husband and I were facing a few financial challenges. He had been unemployed as a union welder for almost 3 months, and my new business, although keeping me busy, wasn’t bringing in the cash flow fast enough. We couldn’t keep up with the bills, and our credit cards were both maxed.

Our $96,000 in debt seemed insurmountable and we fought about money regularly. Really, we were not prepared to live without a steady income (though I think we thought we were), and the situation we were in had not improved significantly over the previous year.
There is no formula to how we started to turn things around, in some ways we had luck on our side, because within a few months my husband did have full time employment and money from my contract eventually started to trickle in. I think what has really helped us though are a few simple steps, which we had to learn when faced with our financial challenges:

1. Because we do have variable income, we had to create a budget which we could live with, in the lean times. When income is lower than usual we still need to be able to pay bills, debts, and eat. We still need to put some extra money each month towards one debt (a snowball debt) and be able to save. We created this budget back in March 2007, and it has varied little since. The key components are: to cover all fixed expenses, including debts and the mortgage, to plan sufficiently for variable expenses such as groceries, and, most importantly to my husband, have an allowance for each of us so we can play a little each month. This last one, I tell you, has almost completely stopped any arguments about money between myself and my husband (who likes to spend a little). It gives us each financial freedom and responsibility at the same time, while not allowing us to go overboard.

2. When our income is higher than usual, any extra cash goes directly to debt. This concept has meant we have made big strides in our debt repayment at times, while at others the debt appears to change very little because we only have $500 a month in our budget to apply as a debt snowball amount.

3. We also made sure we started planning for our future for the first time. We had some small RRSP contributions, and my husband has a pension through his union, but we went to a financial advisor for the first time and began financial planning in earnest. It was an interesting exercise to work with an advisor to see where could go once our debts paid off. It actually gave me hope that we can be successful and retire (I was worried I might be working forever) and that alone gives me energy to keep paying off debt.

With our regular monthly debt repayments combined with lump sum payments when we could afford them, we have reduced our debt by $14,993 in 10 months. It took us awhile to find a system which worked with our variable income, allowing us to get by in times of lower income, and take advantage of the times when our income is higher (rather than just spending all that extra money on ‘stuff’).

Our credit rating has improved dramatically in this time period because we are no longer at the limits of our credit. And the most exciting part of becoming financially on track for us is that we were able to start a family. I am 20 weeks pregnant, our little boy is due in June, and we have a financial plan in place which will further reduce our debt by about $10,000 and enable us to live off of one salary plus our savings (and still pay off our debts!).

Money coaching is a nascent field, and we’re all kinda pioneering and figuring “it” out as we go along, but the money coaches I’ve met – Sheila, MillionDollarWomen to which a former mentor of mine, LA, belongs, and Steve share one thing, that’s for sure: we want to see people handle their money effectively in a way that leaves clients empowered and confident.

imgp4182.jpgAnd now I’ve met another! Her name is Michelle, and she practices out of NorthVancouver. She, like me, has a frugal streak (but don’t worry! I don’t think everyone has to frugal – and I’m sure not frugal when it comes to my daschunds), all to achieve the greater good, financially. Here’s a little introduction to her:

I was out for a run this gorgeous morning and was thinking about what, if anything, to write for this blog (having never written on one) and my mind quickly wandered off, as it does when I am running, to a whole stream of thoughts and much of them were to do with money.

I was thinking about book club last night and discussing Eat, Pray, Love and then moved on to an upcoming trip and then my mind meandered over to our trip two Junes ago to Italy. For some reason, instead of remembering the great times we had with friends eating and drinking and taking in all the sights, I was thinking about one of our friends on this trip who peppered me with comments throughout the two weeks about how “frugal” I was. He’d say things like, ” how many times are we going to see you in that shirt this trip?” or, with much sarcasm, “hey Michelle are you going to take that roll home with you and make a sandwich out of it for lunch?” It was all in good fun and didn’t bother me a bit (although it irked my husband after about the tenth jab).

Anyway, then I started thinking about yesterday morning, it was cold, and I was really feeling like a steaming cup of coffee at the coffee shop but I thought, no, I can go home and make myself one just the way I like it and drink it by the warm sunny window…ahh, heaven.

Then my mind went to Sunday night and I was meeting my business partner at a local coffee shop and I ordered a decaf coffee misto. As I sat at the table waiting for it, I heard two of the employees talking about how I had ordered a “poor man’s latte”. I laughed to myself.

What do all these thoughts mean? Well, I was really aware of how much “mental accounting” I do on an ongoing daily basis. And why I do it. That is the key question. For myself, travelling is of huge importance to me. It gives me great joy, satisfies my need for adventure, my curiousity about how others live, and adds spice to my life. It is a Big Goal that I am committed to making happen every two years.

imgp4201.jpgAnd how do I make that happen? By constantly doing mental accounting. I use my goal as the gauge and all my spending gets scrutinized in light of that goal. If I buy that “thing” then X dollars is now out of my + side and over into my – side. Is it worth it? Will it help me to get closer to what I really want? It is something I do almost unconsciously, like tying your shoes. It has become a habit and it seems to really work for me. I will be in France in June for two weeks taking in the sites and food and people.

Au revoir and thanks for reading my first blogging attempt!!

Welcome to the blogosphere, Michelle!

Michelle can be reached at 604-985-9391.

Check out her gorgeous website too!

Over to you, readers: Do you have any methods that help you reach your goals involving money?  We’d love to hear! 

No, the diva did not personally deign to post on my blog (give me another year, and I’ll see what I can do) but she wrote a beautiful post on her own blog, saying the following about money in her life:

Annie Lennox

A somewhat strident message about why I [Annie Lennox] write…

If you think that money will protect you from potential pain and suffering…you are misguided. Money will certainly oil the wheels, and give you a more comfortable ride…but when it comes to loss…pain and suffering…when that hits…money will not get you out of it.

Beauty….fades

youth…grows older

things…change

success…is relative

love? Do you really know what that is? Have you gone beyond your own ego to find out? And then…and then… Do you know how many old people are fading away in geriatric homes, institutions, or stuck in some isolated little apartment somewhere? In this society they are marginalised. They are out…finished. They are you/ me / us some time down the line. If you are poor…who will value you? In this society you count for almost nothing. If you are sick, or weak, or disabled in some way.. Will you be treated with respect, empathy or dignity? And the religious institutions, the governments, the power brokers, the corporations.. The media…do they care? Are they compassionate? Are they humane…decent? We have our heads in the sand.

I write to communicate what I truly feel. The outrage, the disappointment, the frustration, the sadness, the confusion. And I wonder…am I the only one who feels this way? Apparently not.

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