How I… Sorted my finances
November 2021   BODY & MIND

How I… Sorted my finances

A Canadian company director changes his ways after many years of neglecting his finances, spurred on by his new-born son.
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Company director, homeowner and father, Montreal-based Jean-Phillippe Saucier, 33, didn’t always have a handle on his finances. Here’s why it took becoming a parent to change his money mindset

I didn’t have any respect for or understanding of money. My first job was packing groceries at the IGA [supermarket]. Each month I would spend every single dime. I was young and I didn’t really value what I was earning – I certainly didn’t understand the notion of saving at all. Even when I moved out of my parents’ house and started renting, most months I’d end up with zero in my account because I had no clue what I was doing. I just about made the rent. My mindset was, ‘well, people live like this until they’re 65, so it’s no problem’.

What’s ironic is that I trained to be an accountant. I was really good and thorough at managing a company’s finances whereas mine were all over the place. To me, working out ratios and calculating profits is really interesting when it’s in an official capacity and it’s not your money, but there was still an element of wanting to rebel against it in my personal life. My own attitude to money and saving remained the same as it was when I was 16.

Even working in a bank didn’t change my mindset. After University, I got a full-time job working in a bank. I had access to lower rates on credit cards and bigger credit margins, so in theory I was able to spend less, but I was still juggling several cards and accounts. I might have had $0 in my bank, but I could still access $10,000. It was so easy to max it out, and I did.

I wasn’t living within my means, but I didn’t care. My friends and I would go out to expensive restaurants and bars a few times a week and buy bottles of expensive vodka and Champagne and put them all on credit cards. I was totally out of control. This went on until I was about 25. I had a few friends who were saving and planning for the future, but I just didn’t see the point.

Saving money

My Grandma passed away and my behaviour started to shift. I inherited some money when my Grandma died and I bought some apartments with a couple of friends who I trusted. My family are all really smart with money and I knew that it would have been totally frowned upon if I just spent the inheritance on a car or holidays, so I decided to invest it. It was the first sensible financial decision I ever made, and it changed my attitude towards money, which I think was important. It meant that I was finally starting to think long-term about my finances. That said, I was still quite happy spending my income quite frivolously.

It took becoming a father for me to prioritise my income. In 2017 my girlfriend Laura and I had a baby. It went from just being about us to planning for Jack’s future. I remembered what it was like for me to have inheritance from my Grandma, and I wanted Jack to have that stability – something I never really thought about before becoming a parent. We’ve opened up a savings account for him and we put $100 in each month, it’s not much but it means that over time he’ll have his own pot of money. I want to teach him to value money and to live within his means, something I wish I had done at a younger age.

It’s all about budgeting and facing reality. I think I have a tendency to ignore money problems and behaviours, but it’s better to face them. I’ve consolidated all my credit cards, which has really helped me to see in black and white where I am with my finances. I set a strict budget just before Jack was born - budgeting has been vital for me. There are lots of online tools you can use that make it easy to set up, but you must stick to it. I use one that my bank has set up automatically with my account, so I know what I have left each month and when I need to hold back. If you don’t budget or plan, you never really know what’s going on – I regret not setting it up earlier.

Your house is probably your biggest investment in life. We bought a duplex in 2017 and have someone renting upstairs, which is quite normal for Quebec. The dream is to eventually get to the point where someone is paying me to live where I live! So, if you make your property not only an investment but something that will earn you money, then I think that’s a smart move. I’ve also opened an investment account where I can invest as little or as much as I want, so I might just invest $50 now and then. There’s lots of information out there and, for me, keeping it simple is the key.

I feel less stressed knowing that I have control over my money. Looking back, I was frivolous and in denial about my outgoings and the way I was spending. It wasn’t a sustainable way to live. Having a plan and putting money aside has given me peace of mind. It’s reassuring to know that when I’m 65 – or maybe even younger – things are going to be alright and that we have carefully planned for Jack’s future, too.

 

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