A Money Coach in Canada

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Courtesy of Oprah, you, dear readers, can download Suze Orman’s book Women & Money for free, til 7pm central time tomorrow (Valentine’s day) evening. Spread the word!

coinstack.jpgI’m pinching these factoids directly off Canadian Capitalist who always has good things to say about money stuff – as varied as a discussion on QuickTax software to how the currency fluctuations hit or support our investment portfolio.

Here’s his quick-and-dirty factoid sheet about us Canadians and how we do (0r don’t, most of us) contribute to our RRSPs.

  1. Deadline for a contribution for the 2007 year: February 29, 2008
  2. Maximum contribution amount for 2007: $19,000
  3. Percentage of tax filers eligible to contribute to a RRSP*: 88%
  4. Percentage of eligible tax payers making a contribution*: 31%
  5. Percentage of contribution room used up*: 7%
  6. Median National contribution*: $2,730
  7. Average National contribution*: $5,221

In short, the vast majority of us don’t contribute at all; and of those who do, the vast majority don’t max out.

Why do you think that is?

And who do you think ARE maxing out – the really well off, or the middle-class frugal (ie manage to save $19K year)?

(for the record, this money coach has never managed to max out.   It’s a goal, though, within the next 3 yrs)

Responding to WestCoast Woolie’s challenge to Personal Finance bloggers to donate this month, I decided to carry change for once (I’m usually cashless and use my debit cards) and give away a loonie each day to a panhandler. I was going to attempt to ‘connect’ briefly with the person rather than simply drop the change and walk on.

How’s the first week been? Well, not so much!

I don’t know where they’ve all gone, but panhandlers were in scare supply this week. Does anyone know when welfare wednesday is? Or is it possible that I have perceived way more ‘beggars’ in my neighbourhood than in fact exist? I’m sure I’ve come home irritated (and chiding myself about feeling that way) by multiple requests in the 3 blocks between the skytrain and my home.

homeless1.jpgI gave change only 3 times in the past week. The first guy was sitting with his dog outside CitizensBank, and I didn’t have time to give more than my money.  So no connection.  Another day I resorted to contributing to someone busking – he was appreciative but not who I was looking for.

Yesterday I had my most ‘template’ experience – a woman asking for money outside Waterfront Station, and it did reveal a little of myself: I have not seen her before, and she looked healthy. I gave her my change. I felt too awkward to engage any more deeply than responding “you’re welcome” briefly when she smiled and thanked me.  And then sure enough my cynical side raised plenty of judgmental questions: is she a scam artist? is she one of those stories where she goes home to a place as nice as mine, courtesy of us suckers who forked over their cash? did she migrate from the u.s. because she heard canadians are a softer touch? I concluded that worst case scenario, I would prefer to be the scammed than the scammer. Not a very gracious conclusion, but the best I could do.

And speaking of the best I could do, yesterday I joined in the ‘lie in’ by the End Homelessness Clock in front of the Vancouver Art gallery.

Last week I received the following e-mail. Boy, it brought back memories.

the screHello Nancy, I know you are not a shrink but I’m wondering if you can make any recommendations for times…like I am currently having…when I’m losing control of my emotions over the financial situation. What do you recommend?

My response: Dear ___________,

your note -esp the frank ‘help’ in the subject line – reminded me of what I used to go through about 15 years ago.

I used to call them “demon nights” or “night terrors”. The anxiety ran so deep I could not think clearly and I was panic-filled with dark thoughts about everything regarding my finances.

I don’t know if you’re in that dark of a space, but I can say this: on a personal note, I absolutely unequivocably do not experience that horror show anymore. At all. Full stop.

Neither will you, with time, as you take action to really take hold of your finances.

I’m not sure what thoughts are going through you, but I can almost guarantee that they are not coming from a grounded, thoughtful perception of reality, but rather, like in former times for me, from some other place. This is not to trivialize some of what you’re up against – there is definitely work to be done – but you are Not (!) up against anything that is insurmountable. You WILL be ok. You Will find your way through to a time when things feel consistently more calm.

So, take some deep, slow breaths. Give yourself permission to believe what may currently appear unbelievable: that you will emerge to another, stronger, powerful place in your relationship with money.

Give yourself permission to believe your current thoughts are not reflective of reality (*please* don’t take offence at that – I’m speaking out of my own experience) and that in fact things are brighter than they currently seem.

Write out a list for yourself of things you can do to help you feel better (meditate? exercise? meet with a friend? reading?)

Hope this helps take the edge off,


Any readers out there who can relate? How did you handle your anxiety? Do you still experience a lot of anxiety?Any tips for bringing some calm into the situation?

My buddy Mark goes out for beer with some buddies each Friday and between them they figured out this:

If you had purchased $1000.00 of Nortel stock one year ago, it would now be worth $49.00.

With Enron, you would have had $16.50 left of the original $1000.00.

With WorldCom, you would have had less than $5.00 left.

If you had purchased $1000 of Delta Air Lines stock you would have $49.00 left.

However, if you had purchased $1,000.00 worth of beer/wine one year ago, drank all the beer/wine, then turned in the cans/bottles for the aluminum recycling REFUND, you would have had $214.00.

Based on the above, the best current investment advice is to drink heavily and recycle.

Now “You Decide” rightly scratched his head and took out a calculator when he read this. I’m not saying Mark’s buddies got their beer-blurred math right. I’m just saying…. well, I’m just just sayin’ sometimes it’s about the beer and the buddies, not the bucks. (ok, that was lame. I’m quitting this post and going back to my day job)