Spending and finance: When you go from being really poor to middle class

Two degrees, four internships, four years of work experience and one postgraduate later, I finally signed my name on a job offer letter for a full-time permanent job with benefits at a global advertising firm. With a salary of $65,000 plus prescriptions, dental, pension matching and paid vacation, I was able to open a RRSP, buy a new wardrobe and pay some of my debt. I’m finally middle-class after I chewed through the door because kicking it open didn’t work.

Now that I have some money, I realize my upbringing came with negative thinking patterns, behaviours and habits around all things money.

Whether you grow up rich or poor, you develop a relationship with money. Chances are, unless you beat poverty by investing/building businesses like a baby Mark Cuban, you’ve carried over a less than ideal financial relationship. It was expensive (I messed up a lot) but I’ve learned how to improve my relationship with finance to save, invest, spend and do all things money better.

Write off everything!

If you can write stuff off, do it. You’re going to be sitting on huge student loans and then paying for the health care of Baby Boomers who retire at 65 and live until they’re like 90. If it helped you make money, chances are you can find a way to charge a portion of it to the government. Our tax system was built for that.

Pick a big ole’ drawer and through all your receipts in there. Make a receipts folder in your email. Download apps, whatever helps you create the habit.

Take advantage of tax breaks and work benefits

Did you know if you make $65,000 in Toronto and put $5,000 into an RRSP, you’re only taxed on $60,000? This year, you can put like 18k away.

Our people do not typically have work benefits. Take advantage. My mother has never been to the dentist. Get those covered massages (deep issue, the relaxing ones are a joke. Check out Groupon, go to the really nice spas that will feed you and give you a plush robe and shit. Have no shame. Get those RMT receipts and cover the cost.

Hire help when you need it

Poor girls are ashamed to hire help…because we normally are the help. If you can afford it and you need it to better perform as an employee, mentor, friend, roommate, whatever, then you should get it.

Someone is paying you a lot of money for your time and energy. If you make $35 an hour but can pay a dog walker or cleaning lady $18 or $20, the choice is pretty clear where your labour resources should be spent.

Enjoy it…but don’t spent stupidly

I get so annoyed when I see girls spending like $6 on a Nitro Brew Coffee at Starbucks every day. That’s such a waste. You can make that at home or at your desk. Get it at a meeting when you can expense it.

Rent, take out coffee, all that stuff. There’s no value to it. You don’t have fun, it’s not an investment. Throwing $1,300 away to rent a room in a cute condo is just taking away from what you could be saving for a condo of your own. At least avoid overpaying for rent for two years after you can afford to move. Live with roommates, stay in your student apartment. Put that money towards homeownership.

Save

Many people in my family will never be able to retire. It’s the start of a second life and it’s a fucking privilege.

On my first day I was going through benefits with our HR Director and told me she struggles to get people to participate in the company’s pension plan matching. That’s basically leaving $2,600 on the table plus the government benefits that come with retirement savings. Work for a company for 40 years at 65k? That’s $104,000 or a beach house in Costa Rica. You know those cottages and big suburb houses that your friends go home to on holidays? Those will be theirs someday via inheritance. If you’re still reading, you probably won’t be getting a cottage from mommy and daddy.

Stay on course

Don’t lose the creativity, work-ethic and personality that got you here.

We worked way harder than most people ever will to get where we are. Keep everything about you that got you here. Stay hungry. Don’t get comfortable. Take educated risks. Negotiate raises. Ask to be put on projects you deserve to be on.

Dealing with being the family bank

The fam is going to ask for money and you’re going to give it because you know they actually need it.

Ask for it back even when you don’t need it. If they don’t give it back, it will prevent them from continuing to ask and not pay you back.

There are ways to avoid being asked. The big one is don’t talk about your middle class problems. Don’t share problems related to issues with leisure travel or even talk about promotions or bonuses.

It’s really important to “stay real.” It’s tempting to give advice to friends and relatives such as changes in career paths or seeking medical help to deal with issues. Humans are super adaptable and we easily forget how real the struggle is. It’s definitely not the answer to tell friends from home to just “move to the city where there’s more opportunity.”

The rule of thumb is that nobody not doing well financially needs to hear how well you’re doing financially.

Watch deals, memberships & subscriptions

Apple Music, Amazon Prime, Netflix, yoga studio memberships, SoulCycle, anything that comes off your credit card automatically can really burn you. That stuff can easily add up to a few hundred a month without you even noticing or using the services. They get you because they make their subscriptions fucking difficult to cancel (if you even remember to before being charged) after they let you sign up for free.

 

 

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