We hold office hours once a month. People sign up for free and we talk about money.
We wanted to start highlighting a few of the many great questions people ask so that we can all learn from them and weigh in as a community.
The questions have been changed slightly and generalized to make sure to protect the privacy of these sessions.
Question #1: How do you help a partner or family member who isn’t as engaged in their finances as you’d like?
This is such a tough one and every situation is very different but I feel like the thing that spans every case is more communication … which is way easier to say than to do.
You’ve got to figure out ways to bring money into the conversation. Until that happens things are never going to get better.
BUT… let me be clear. Talking about money doesn’t mean that you jump right into the most stressful issues or tell them all about the things they really ‘should be doing’. Creating a foundation of communication is way harder than that. It will take time. It will take patience (on both sides).
I recommend to start with some fun topics. What do you wish there was more money for? What would you do with all the money in the world? What do you love spending money on (only a good question if it can be asked with judgement)?
And when the other person opens up… listen. Don’t try to fix things right away. Don’t leap into action unless they actually ask you to. Just listen. Just be there for them.
Most people avoid money because of the intense feelings of shame and inadequacy is brings up. Remember that and be as gentle as possible.
AND… if starting these conversations is simply impossible. Start having them on your own. Work in your own money fears and work into the conversation whether they respond or not. One day they might join the conversation.
Question #2: I’m doing okay and have a bit of extra money every month but I’m not sure what I should be doing with it… RRSP? TFSA? Mortgage? General savings?
First of all, it’s difficult for me to give any specific advice about what are the most efficient options without really diving into your numbers and projections, so here are some general thoughts.
What I would encourage you to do is to really think about what your overall goals are. Is this money for 30 years from now? Do you have upcoming things that need funding? Which out of these goals are the most important to you right now.
Getting really specific about which goals get fed first is going to help you allocate funds when they’re available. This is especially important for self-employed folks with variable income. We don’t know exactly how much we’re going to have available for these goals. But we can have a list of how we want to attack them when money is available.
Once you’ve got the list you can get a little more specific about action (this is not a recommendation, but just a hypothetical).
- Pay off credit card – I’ve automated payments so this is done by November. Where did this debt come from? Am I making sure I’m protecting myself against building more debt?
- Pay down mortgage in 5 years – How much does it take to do this? What’s your pre-payment amount every year?
- Contribute to TFSA – how much do you want to aim for? What is this money for? Retirement?
- Build an emergency fund – what would this fund help you do? How much would you like to have in it?
- Contribute to RRSPs – how much contribution room do I have?
By looking at your numbers I can come up with the ‘most efficient’ choice, but that’s only one factor. When it comes to which tools are right for you make sure you’re always fixing yourself to a goal and then applying the tool … not the other way around.
Question #3: How to I wrap my mind around the costs of living in another country?
This is such a stressful thing. Moving is hard enough, but moving to a country adds so many unknowns to the equation.
I think the most helpful thing for me would be to start getting organized. When I’m packing for a longer trip I have two piles: things I’m taking with me, and things I’m leaving behind. You can do the same thing for your expenses.
Make a big list of what you spend on right now. What are your fixed costs, your other monthly spending and the annual stuff that happens every year.
Now… make a second list for your new country of residence. What are the expenses that you’re taking with you? Which expenses will probably be different and what expenses are going to get added to the mix?
That list is the collection zone for all your stress and you can use it to slowly start researching and putting together an answer to the question of ‘how much are we going to need when we move’.
Spend the next few weeks and months chipping away at this list one item at a time: what will we have to pay for housing? Are there any curve balls in renting that are different than here (in some countries you need to bring your own kitchen appliances or provide your own floor)? What might food cost?
Use google or ask people who have lived in these places what good thoughtful numbers might be.
If you’re not sure or can’t find good resources for where you’re moving make sure to budget for ‘a period of adjustment’. It always takes time in a new place to get set up and find the less expensive stores. There are also extra costs for setting up a new place.
The most important part of this exercise is to actually write it all down. Getting these thoughts and numbers out of your head is going to make it way easier to start wrapping your mind around the move.
Want to start getting control of your money? How can I help?
Financial Planner/Opera Singer
Money never came naturally to me. In fact... I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be 'financially out of control'.
And honestly, I still get stressed about money... that doesn't stop... the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.
And those tools are what's made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.