A Money Coach in Canada

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This one’s for you, Telly 😉

stock-market-bull.jpgSo, a lot of the time when I’m a guest speaker and tell my story about my own foibles with money, what I HOPE people will grab onto are the little habits and changes-of-thinking that got me turned around. What most people DO seem to get all excited about is that I learned how to do my own investing via a group of about 12 women who taught ourselves how to invest. (we called ourselves Twanda, for anyone who’s seen ‘fried green tomatoes’).

The world of investing seems to be an area of confusion, intimidation, and yes, boredom for most of us. We know it’s important, but our eyes glaze over, and the thought of reading financial pages is right up there with listening to MPs in parliament. bored

Here is an Extremely Brief explanation of how we did it.

1. There were about 12 of us, who committed to stick together for 5 years. This long Is NEEDED, trust me on this, to make it worth it. None of us had any financial background at all. No financial planners. No book-keepers. No econ majors in the group (we were a lot of film types and health care, and educators).

2. We formed a limited partnership and got set up with a bank account at our local credit union, with the Chair and Treasurer as signing officers. We got a self-serve brokerage account too.

3. We each paid $30 per month into the kitty. Every 6 months or so, we had $1500 (about the minimum you’d want to aim for) with which to invest.

4. How did we choose what to invest in?

a. We read the Beardstown ladies, and read a lot of The Fool. We also checked out ChicksLayingNestEggs.

Note: These days, these are all still good starting resources, but there is a rich mine of DoItYourself information available from your fellow Canadians who blog about their personal investing. It takes a while to develop the vocabulary and get the significance of their posts, but over time, it will become easier. Money Relations is a great place to start – my favourite, and uses layperson’s language. More technical/advanced blogs include CanadianCapitalist , FinancialJungle and GuerillaInvestor (very manly, that one!). There are lots out there – poke around.

Anyway, we taught ourselves some of the basics: how to evaluate a company. Key ratios like P/E, Margins etc. It sounds complicated, but honest, once you get it, it’s sooooo easy. Kinda like learning to ride a bike.bike

b. We kept our eyes open for companies we used in our regular lives, that we liked, and believed had a future.

SunRype made us a ton of money. Rona did even better. Avon would have done well, but the currency fluctuation held us back (oops! hadn’t thought of that. Live and learn!). Le Chateau also did us very proud. Each person would take a turn presenting a company including the financials.

c. Every 6 months we’d review the companies presented and debate which one to buy this time ’round. These debates got intense! I wanted starbucks, but other people didn’t like their ethics. Another member wanted Weightwatchers, but we only liked companies that had been public at least 5 years. As it turned out, we could have made a chunk of change, and the member didn’t let us forget it!

Mostly, we used a lot of common sense. Has the company been around a while? Is it a fad, or here for the long term? Do they have a good enough cash flow to keep going for the forseeable future? Do we like the people managing it? All of this took research of course, but isn’t too much different than simply checking into an individual’s personal finances – do they overspend? Do they have savings? Do they have debt? Is their networth growing or diminishing – are they making something of themselves? And are they good citizens?

5. If I recall correctly (I think I do) we never made less than 18% in any given year. This included the 2000 disaster. But more importantly than the money, we each developed a sense of competence and enthusiasm for investing.

Please, oh please – none of the companies above are my recommendations (we bought – and sold – them years ag0) and none of the above should be in any way construed as advice. I’m a money coach, not an investment advisor. It’s simply the experience I had that taught me how to make my own investing choice.


Most of my money coaching work is with middle/upper-middle income earning canadians. Lawyers. Tech industry. Teachers. You get the idea.

I got a contract though, paid for by VanCity and operated by Family Services of Greater Vancouver, to facilitate some basic money skills seminars to populations outside of my norm:

Recent immigrant women (one of whom co-signed for a loan against the family home, which her husband promptly used to buy another house in his name only. hmmm. She was there to learn the basics about money, because she obviously sees the writing on the wall).

People on disability due to mental health issues – one of whom had been a $200K/annual salary, and in his mid 50s, bi-polar struck. Lost the home. Lost the family. Lost all his money. Now, he’s figuring out how to make it for the rest of his life on $1500 month.

And people in recovery. Each group moved me in its own way, but something about this last group took my breath away. I live on the edge of Vancouver’s downtown eastside, Canada’s poorest postal code (thanks for caring, City Council. Not. May your tombstones read: cared passionately about the 2010 olympic games bauble. Didn’t do one serious thing to provide housing for the mentally ill and addicted on the street down the road. Yes, I’m disgusted.) Anyways:

I walk past scrawny, unattractive drug dealers on too-small-stolen-bikes every day, peddling their pathetic wares to equally scrawny, unattractive brain-wasted humans on the street every single day. It’s easy to assume that’s the end of their stories. Not always.

Fifteen men, some of whom had been on the street selling drugs just a couple months ago, others who had middle-class jobs and lifestyles and lost it all at the feet of their addictions, all of them congregated in my little money skills workshop as part of their just-completed-rehab recovery. They were so open about the horror of the addiction, and the damage it had caused them. Some of them were even able to go to the next step and acknowledge the damage their addiction had caused others (can you imagine the pain of that — acknowledging that your addiction caused the woman you married her life savings, as well as your own? –acknowledging that you actively contributed to others becoming addicted? –acknowledging that your own family will never help you out financially again, because they’re so fed up with you?)

255723_6162.jpgAnd there they were, having completed tougher work than pretty much any CEO in Canada – the grit to live through withdrawal, followed by the start of the process of staring down whatever demons drove them to addiction in the first place, and facing the fact that they don’t have a lot to work with: no money. no prospects of immediate employment (would you hire someone with a year or more gap in their resume?) . and knowing they many people will treat them as the outcasts. And still, they are courageously giving it their best shot.

So we talked about very primal, real stuff:

how to get the cheapest cigarettes (don’t be judgmental. They’ve just dealt with something much worse; the smokes will get dealt with in its own time.)

how to pay rent and buy a safeway card or army&navy card whenever money comes, right away, to ensure the basic life needs are met before the money disappears on stuff (the difference between low income and the rest of us is that we don’t end up being kicked out of our homes when we are impulsive or unwise with our money).

how to rebuild credit (one guy was blown away when he realized he had a fresh start, since he’d never had credit in his life). (a couple of them, it wasn’t the legal creditors who they were nervous about!).

how to be discreet about money so every one of their buddies didn’t come with their hands out.

and believe it or not, their greatest interest was the legit investment world. One guy, in the fourth session, came to me with a realistic plan for putting away $50/month into a high interest savings, and within 18 months buying his first stock. For him, it was absolutely revolutionary – an alternative way, a hopeful way, of getting ahead legitimately. (note: the investment part is not a formal part of the program. The conversation just went there and I simply described what has worked for me).

I am privileged – and feel it – to work with any person about their money.

But I want to give a particular tip of the hat to this latter group: you are some of the gutsiest people I’ve met in my life. If you got through the addiction and came out the other side, you can do freakin’ anything you set your mind to. I salute you.

ymbd.gifWhat would happen if you spent time over 6 months getting ALL OVER your personal finances?

Smart with Money is YMbD’s signature series and a new group starts Oct. 25th.

6 sessions over 6 months plus 2 individual coaching sessions

1. Shifting Gears and Taking Charge

find out the ‘need to knows’ to make strategic changes.

Where is your money going, right now?
What is your credit rating?
What is your net worth?
What changes can you make to create a monthly cash flow that aligns with your values and goals?

2. Debt: Kick it for good.

Debt is an element of most Canadians’ finances. It shouldn’t define our financial life. What triggers the use of credit in your life? Develop some counter-strategies. Create a sustainable plan to kick the debt habit.

3. Your Brain.Your Guts.Your Money.

What did you grow up learning about money?
What do you believe now about money?
What is influencing your relationship to money?

Create a strong set of powerful beliefs, designed to empower your mind and increase the likelihood of positive experiences with money – including attaining your goals.

4. Goals, Dreams and your Real World.

By this point, you will have a clear idea of your current financial situation. You will have developed a mindset conducive to moving forward. This session is clarifying your goals and setting things in motion with a realistic, attainable action plan.

5. Making Money Work… while you play golf. or volunteer. or whatever.

Ever left your financial planner’s office still puzzled about what’s going on with your RRSPs?
Ever read a statement and been completely confused?

This is a rockin’ session that will leave you jazzed, pumped, and confident that you get the need-to-knows of putting your money to work for you. No financial products sold, just solid intel!
6. Lasting Change.

By this point, participants have experienced significant and exciting change. This session prepares you to keep on the right path for the long haul. YMbD wants you to keep moving forward financially for the rest of your life!

I’ve got 6 seats left. This program has changed many financial lives … it could change yours.

Check it out!

Shameless self-promotion: my business, Your Money by Design, is starting its seminar series about taking charge of money and getting ahead – and this particular series is especially for single parents in greater vancouver. The faciliator is a dynamo, a single mom of 2, who went from, well, very little, to getting on super solid ground. Visit Your Money by Design for the full details.