A Money Coach in Canada

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1. It was a really bad day for our investments.
Well you probably don’t need ME to tell you this, but today was a really, really, really, really lousy day for your investments. And mine. Worst day since December 2008, in fact. And GUESS WHOSE FUNDS ARE TIED UP RIGHT NOW so she can’t buy? Although as one guy commiserated, “don’t worry. We haven’t hit bottom yet”. Steve Jobs and I are hurting together: our Apple stock dropped from $391 on Tuesday to $377 today.

2. GM’s profits increased by — are you sitting down?? — a freakishly incredible 89% last quarter compared to the same time last year. Did I mention MY FUNDS ARE TIED UP RIGHT NOW?

3. The Japanese Yen, like our Cdn. Dollar, has been increasing in value compared to the US Dollar (as it weakens) so today they deliberately intervened to weaken it (basically by flooding the market with yen). They did this because they want other countries to keep buying Japanese goods, without it becoming cost prohibitive – the tsunami wasn’t that long ago (seems like it though, eh?) and they need to keep getting their economy back on track.

4. And -quick! – take a look at your diamond. Was it extracted fairly? Or, god forbid, a blood diamond? I just heard about this company which uses only fair trade gems. That’s of particular interest to me as a northerner. Diamonds are mined up here and if you can get one of ours, you can be assured of the conditions under which it was extracted from the earth. I hope the business owner sources from the NWT!

Post #1 in August’s Work and Your Wallet series. While this post is Canada-specific, the same demographics are at play in the USA.
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The bottom line is that if Canada’s GDP per capita (in plain English:  how much per person we produce – economically, I mean, not having progeny!) doesn’t grow each year (last year we produced 10 cars and 50 shipfulls of wheat and 10 truckloads of lumber;   this year we produced 11 cars and 52 shipfulls of wheat and 12 truckloads of lumber) then we suffer.  You and I suffer.

Bah.  Not suffer, not in relative-to-Guatemala terms.  But we have we don’t have as many cars to trade for bright shiny objects like iPads so we make do with fewer iPads.  Or fewer outfits.  Or fewer loaves of bread.

And how do we make sure we keep producing as much as or more than the prior year?   Making those cars and growing the wheat and cutting the lumber requires people.  In HR lingo, labour force.  Or for the high-falutin’ car-engineer types, talent pools.

If there’s one thing I picked up loud and clear in my 2 years of HR work, and attending a Cdn. Minister’s Conference (long story) on the topic, it’s that the issue is no longer theoretical.  It is upon us.  Our labour pool is just beginning to start its Big Shrink. It scared the crap outta me, truth be told.

**Let me guess.  At this point you are:  <  rolls eyes >    #I’vebeenhearingaboutthisforever. Right? **

Well so have I, and consider this.  The fact that you haven’t yet experienced it, haven’t felt it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.  For one thing, it’s only just starting.  The first baby boomer cohort has just left the workforce.  No problem for year one.   But next year, it’s going to happen again.   And the next year, it’s going to happen again.   We’ll start to feel it then.   And in 2015 it will happen again.   My prediction is that 2015 is The Year when all doubt will be removed from our minds about the impact of the Boomer’s leaving.

And as there are fewer people making the cars, growing the grain and sawing the lumber, our GDP per capita shrinks.

And when we’re at that point, what’s the impact on your wallet?

  1. If you are not a baby-boomer, you will not lack for jobs in Canada and you should be able to negotiate the best salaries of your life.   For the first time in living memory, job-seekers will hold the bargaining power, structurally.
  2. You will pay the most taxes of your life to support the retired and the elderly who will continue to have high expectations, especially healthcare.  At the same time, services you use from the government will be reduced.  Put crassly:  it will pretty much suck.  The retirees will still hold the votes and have the time to be activists. Expect their wants to win, and yours to take a back seat.
  3. It will cost an arm and a leg, even more than currently, for skilled labour.  My advice?  Learn to fix your own stuff!

Take a look at the graphs below.   See the big clump that starts red|yellow|green|blue ? Take a look at how it’s slowly been moving towards the older age and retirement.  Slowly, but surely.

I took the following graphics from NationMaster, which I gather is a sort of Wikipedia.

Canada Population Pyramid for 2000

Age and sex distribution for the year 2000:

Canada Population Pyramid for 2003

Age and sex distribution for the year 2003:

Canada Population Pyramid for 2005

Age and sex distribution for the year 2005:

Canada Population Pyramid for 2010

Age and sex distribution for the year 2010:

Canada Population Pyramid for 2020

Predicted age and sex distribution for the year 2020:

Photo Credit:  Trevor Blake 

Love your job?  Hate your job?

Obsessed with your work?

Counting the days til retirement?  (you know who you are!)

Irregardless, the fact is our work is the vast majority of our income for most of us and is a biiiiig factor in our financial lives.

So this month, Wednesday and Weekend blog posts will be about our work life.

Topics lined up include:

  • How to Recession-Proof your job (guest post by Career Coach)
  • Where the Smart Jobs are
  • 3 ways the coming labour shortage will affect your wallet
  • Bullying on the workplace
  • How to rock your Benefits
  • How to handle your money if you’re out of work
  • Making peace with retirement (not everyone finds it easy, you know)

So come by on Wednesdays and Weekends for Work and Your Wallet posts, and on day in between for slightly lighter fare regarding your money.

Photo Credit: Red Cyan

I’m ashamed to admit it, but this money coach has been known to purchase mint water. Profligate.  A silly way to spend money.  And contravenes my commitment to a bottled-water-free life.

I’ve mended my ways!

When I saw a baby mint plant at the local nursery (yes, we have one in Yellowknife) I knew I should probably buy it to regain my  self respect.

The northern light has nurtured it over the months.  Isn’t it gorgeous?

And does this not look refreshing?   Score one for the money coach; begone expensive bottled water!  And if anyone else has ideas or recipes (beyond Mojitos) for mint, I think I have more mint than I can handle if I use it for water alone).


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.