I skipped my 7 questions exercise last week, so now I’m catching up. I’m also going to change the approach a bit — six Qs that I answer “short and sweet” and one that I elaborate more on as it intrigues me.
029. What is one big thing you could do this month to expand your comfort zone?
I’ve been working on my HR Guide, and I didn’t want to commit to sharing new drafts until I finished the full update. There are segments that I am going to have trouble sequencing, areas where I touch on it Chapter 2 but would be more relevant in Chapter 4, yet if I don’t explain in Chapter 2, I’m going to struggle in Chapter 2, 3, 4 to build off the content. Anyway, my thought was to wait until the full update is done before I start sharing. Instead, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and published the first chapter this week.
030. Write down one or two experiences from the past that had a life-changing influence on how you see yourself?
Those are easy, because I feel it is always about relationships, seeing yourself through someone else’s eyes. So any number of romantic relationships amongst the
literally thousands (hah!) handful that I have been part of over the years. On top of that, getting married, having a kid, and losing parents all changed my “status” as an individual (to husband, father, “orphan”).
031. If you could share one message in a TV broadcast for one billion people, what would it be and why?
Simple, given the times. Pull your head out of your ass and get vaccinated.
032. What is your mind’s favorite way to stop, belittle or diminish your enthusiasm?
Pessimism that my “best” won’t be good enough to get me the outcome I want. That I’ll have to “settle” for less than I want, or than I want for Jacob or Andrea, because I’m not good enough at something. I’d love to build an observatory in the backyard, exactly to my specifications, and to make it look like something that Andrea won’t see as ugly. But I can’t build it myself, I don’t have the skills. I tried ordering one, and that got me nowhere. In the end? I can’t keep beating my head against that wall. If it isn’t going to happen, I do not have the mental ability to shake it off. If it is someone else’s “fault”, no big deal. I can roll with that. When it is because *I* couldn’t get it done? My mental health takes a beating.
033. What does wealth mean to you?
034. When it comes to money, what beliefs you hold would you like to let go off?
035. Make a chronological list with the moments that made who you are today when it comes to money.
This is utterly fascinating to think back on how certain events affected me.
1968-1980…I had a small allowance, and most of the time we would use it to go get snacks and stuff at the convenience store. Occasionally a toy. But we also used to go out for dinner — that was a “treat” that cost real money. But we rarely spent much money on clothes. Cheapest place we could get stuff. I wasn’t a saver.
1980-1987…I had varying paper routes of different size and remuneration and I stopped asking my parents for money. If I wanted something, I paid for it myself most of the time. Clothes were still parental-purchased, mostly, in the beginning, but later more me. Not that it was a grand change, I didn’t have much cash. Again, not a saver, most of my outlays were for regular expenses. I remember using my own money to buy presents at Christmas, and that was a big thing for me. That I could use my money to express my love for others.
1987-1991…I chose to go to Trent University because I didn’t have much money. I got a job at the university library just before starting school, and I kept it for four years. But I didn’t go elsewhere as I didn’t think I could afford it. I didn’t really know much about other universities, costs of living on my own, how to manage for myself if I did, and I knew there was no tuition help coming from my parents. That was on me, as perhaps it should have been. Not that I didn’t see other families ponying up money that had been set aside over the years and feeling a bit slighted. I don’t regret Trent, it was the right decision for me in a lot of ways, I wish somewhat that I didn’t feel like I had a choice. However, I lived at home rent-free during that time, which was nothing to sneeze at, let me tell you, I was quite grateful. I could also drive the car most nights, just had to put gas in. I did get some grant money and student loans and a small scholarship for first year. But I still tended to spend what I had.
1991-1993…I was at the University of Victoria, and I was making a go of it. Between working part-time in the school year, co-ops, etc., I could cover my expenses including enough to live on my own. I was stressed about tuition costs, like everyone else, but I could manage. My needs weren’t high.
1993-1997…I lived in Ottawa, worked for DFAIT, and struggled with bills. I was making okay money, but it was hard to juggle costs with student loans, living on my own, etc. I had a curve-ball thrown at me in 1995, and I had to make a choice on short notice about my financial situation. Under the rules, I actually qualified for bankruptcy on paper, but I had been doing okay. My situation was slowly improving until the curve-ball, but I didn’t know how to handle it. I didn’t have any reserves, they were gone, I was paying my student loans, and I had what looked like a really good option coming up. If I got the job, I would be fine for money; if I didn’t, I’d be in trouble. But the rules were about to change on student loans too — if I declared bankruptcy before the change, I could include my loans; if I waited another three months, I couldn’t. I felt like a complete failure but, well, it was the right “financial decision”. Still sucked. I was still in the bankruptcy period when my father died, he never saw me get out, he never saw me get my permanent job, he never saw me “whole” again.
1997-2004…I’d love to say that I became a saver, but I didn’t. I bought RRSPs, I didn’t go into debt, I owed nothing to the credit cards ever. I’ve been solvent ever since, but not a giant investor or saver. I kind of lost interest in money in many ways. I had a permanent job, I had a roof over my head, my personal needs were met, I didn’t care much about my future. I remember having one moment in there where I actually thought, “What if?” and that was about a cottage property near Cantley that was relatively cheap. But to me, the idea that I would ever be able to own something, buy a new car, plan, invest? Those were out of my ken.
I started dating Andrea in 2002, and we were pretty good at sharing expenses. I tend to like to pay for dinners when I go out with someone, it’s a way of expressing my affection to buy something, to treat someone, but we managed more equitably. As we neared 2004, we decided to take a trip, and while I had taken trips before, they were always tied to other arrangements. I had gone to the Bahamas in 1995, but we stayed in my sister’s timeshare; we went to Florida one year, but it was a girlfriend’s motorhome; I’d been to Vancouver and Vancouver Island, but it was on the margins of work trips; I’d lived in New York for 3 months, been to Barbados. Jamaica, St. Lucia, Guyana, Rome, Paris — all through work. The trip with Andrea to the Bahamas was more intriguing — it was a luxury that I didn’t have to save for, didn’t have to plan for, I had the money to go, so we went.
2005-2008…Andrea and I lived together, even bought a house together, and we were very fastidious with our expenses. We had a complicated spreadsheet that listed all the various expenses, who paid, and based on our relative salaries, and that I made more than her, we worked out a share of expenses that matched it. It wasn’t huge, something like 57%/43% split at one point, I think, but it was a pain in the ass. I hated it. We hadn’t decided to merge our finances yet, but I was desperately looking for ANY way NOT to have to keep track of those breakdowns. We kept track of separate expenses even after we had been living together for a number of years AND bought a house together. How stupid was that?
2008-2017…We merged our finances finally, and everything just comes out of the joint account. We try to max our contributions for various things, but I’m still not a saver, not really. We have extra money / improved lifestyle for the simple reason that our income has gone up without a corresponding increase in ancillary expenses. We have conservative savings, a safety bump that is more relevant to my insecurities than hers, money set aside for Jacob, etc. We did a plan in there with a financial planner, and well, I won’t say it changed our life. It more reassured us that we were comfortable. We see friends paying off mortgages, taking more trips, doing more things with their money than we do with ours, but it hasn’t motivated us much to drastically alter our ways. We eat out more than we should, and that’s almost always on me. I don’t scrimp on groceries, I don’t optimize purchases like a friend does, I don’t clip coupons. Generally speaking, I do nothing with our money, all the bills are generally paid by Andrea. Except for a credit card or two that I keep for online purchases or gifts for her. She could have a gambling addiction and have drained all our accounts, I’d never know.
It’s odd…I saw how my mother was when my father died. She had managed many of the bills over the years for the house, but dealing with a bunch of stuff, she had been out of the loop. I never wanted Andrea to be in that situation, that she didn’t know where the finances were at, I thought it was a horrible remnant of toxic masculinity. Now, I think I’m just lazy. She does the taxes, pays most of the bills, moves money around. I do little to help with that, part laziness and partly because I feel like I’d do it badly. If I fucked up my own life, that was one thing. Screwing up someone else’s finances? That can never happen. I know how that works, not an option.
2017-2020…I’m not 100% sure I have the right date in there (2017) but we did the retirement course together and well, I realized that our investment strategy over the past 10-15 years has been relatively crap. The stuff we were advised by banks and planners never took into account our true pension situation for Andrea and I. We have, as they say, a gold-plated pension based on good jobs and good income. I have made more money per year than my father ever did, and that started about my fourth-year of full employment. Even allowing for inflation, I’ve vastly outstripped him. I don’t know why that is relevant, but it is. He worked way harder, but as I look forward to retirement now, I know I don’t have the same financial limitations he did. We are in our “forever” house, most likely, and I doubt I’ll live past 80 years, so Andrea and Jacob will have decent finances up to and after I’m gone. We could have had far more aggressive private savings risk levels than I did. I felt like I understood the basics of the risk profiles we did, it always made sense, until we did the retirement course and got a reality check from someone who knows our pensions inside and out. Doh!
2020-2022…I feel guilty saying this but, well, we’re accumulating extra cash. We go nowhere, we do nothing. So we’re saving money like bloodsuckers. Not because we’re actively trying to, we just ARE. We have some home renovations planned, and normally we would do a simple budgeting shuffle, maybe tap a low-interest home equity loan if need be, some sort of line of credit to avoid having to shift investments, but right now? We could likely do it for cash. Not all of it, but a dang good portion of it. Alternatively, we could potentially wait and add it to our mortgage if we decided to move out of Centerpointe (we’d need to ADD money as where we would end up afterwards would be equally if not more expensive). But I’m spending a lot of time thinking about retirement in 4-5 years.
Yet to go back to #33, what does “wealth” mean to me? It would mean owning something more than we have now, like a cottage or a cabin somewhere. Or having a pool and an observatory. None of those are likely to happen, not without radical altering our savings and financial picture somehow. When my mother died, I inherited $25K. I spent some on a telescope, some on our RRSPs, partly for travel, and the rest into our normal bank account. It gave us some nice cushion, but it didn’t change our lives. I know others who have inherited houses, large sums of money, etc., and so the “wealth” came from others, often parents. But often it also comes with their own sense of good money management, which I don’t have.
I often feel like the same kid doing his paper route and having some cash in his pocket…that’s what I have to spend. When it’s gone, it’s gone. But I’ll earn more. I have food, I have shelter, I have transport. I buy entertainment toys, but we don’t have other expensive vices. My lifestyle comes from having a second earner who has a good salary, someone without extravagant tastes anymore than I do, and that our incomes have gone up over time. Not because I’m good with money in any way, shape or form. Heck, we’ve been planning a new financial plan meeting for going on close to five years and we still haven’t got around to doing it, partly as we know there are lots of questions they’re going to ask about our future that we can’t answer because of health and other issues. Hard to plan without knowing what you think the future could, would, or should look like. Instead, we muddle through, albeit with good jobs and good salaries. I don’t feel “wealthy”, but we have a lot more resources and options than most.