For many young people, financial planning is something that only people with a lot of money need to do.
That’s what I used to think too. I’m a recent university and college graduate, but it was a summer spent working construction, and more recently, some proofreading and editing for my mentor, Betty-Anne Howard, that made me realize that financial planning can help anyone – even an impoverished new grad like me!
Two years ago, I took a job as a construction labourer on a 10-storey apartment going up in Ottawa’s Sandy Hill neighborhood. Over the five months I was there, I got to see first-hand how these huge, complex projects are actually built.
The site and an adjacent apartment
I did things like sweep up debris, direct traffic, install waterproofing membrane, and break up excess concrete. Pretty insignificant, eh? I thought so too.
Then this past summer, Betty-Anne, who is a certified financial planner, and a High Impact Speaker, asked me to review a fun (yes, fun!) on-line financial literacy course that she is developing.
I really liked the way her course demystified financial planning. It used simple, clear language instead of jargon, and broke down information into bite-sized pieces and grouped it in easy to understand sections.
It also framed financial concepts using helpful, concrete examples that are easily transferable to real life. One of my favourite sections of the course is entitled “Low Hanging Fruit”; it is a list of all the things you can do right now to improve your financial scenario.
For myself, just dealing with this low hanging fruit has helped me eliminate some debt, save more, and quite simply given me more freedom to pursue the things I’m passionate about.
Here’s a few of the things I’ve put into practice as a result of going through this course:
Making a budget: This might seem like a chore meant to restrict you, but it’s actually liberating, and even fun, to take an honest look at where your money goes on a monthly, or even weekly basis. By examining your spending habits you will often discover money you forgot you had.
Paying yourself first: This goes along with budgeting, and simply involves putting aside the money you need to cover your expenses and bills as soon as you get paid. Doing this will not only give you peace of mind, it will help you keep money in your pocket instead of paying extra for things like overdue bills or credit card interest.
Small sacrifices: Paying attention to the little, seemingly insignificant purchases goes a long way. Something as simple as bringing your own coffee and lunches to work instead of buying them every day will save you an enormous amount of money. Even if you were only spending five dollars per day on coffee and a snack in the morning, doing that five days a week adds up to $100 per month, or $1200 per year! Asking yourself what’s really important to you will help you make these decisions, by contrasting the small, insignificant purchases against the larger goals and dreams you have for your life. Forgoing that six dollar latte is a lot more tolerable when you can think about the awesome resort you’re travelling to in a few months with the money you’ve been saving.
Reading this course helped me to understand that by doing some really small, simple things, I could make a tangible difference to my financial circumstances. I realized that it’s not that much different from what I was doing in my construction job. Picking up a bunch of construction debris and wheeling it off the site doesn’t seem like much, but it was one tiny step that cleared the way so the builders could get on with what they needed to do. And guess what? Today, that raw construction site is a fully completed 10-storey building.
Improving your relationship with money, and creating a financial plan isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight. But there is one trick that’s going to make your financial journey easier, and ultimately more successful: Knowing there is no trick.
Your path to financial success and making your dreams a reality is an ongoing process you work a little at every day. By starting out with your own low hanging fruit, and taking those first steps, you will immediately begin to see a difference in your finances. But more importantly, you’ve begun laying the foundation for a positive, mutually beneficial relationship with your money. Your dreams won’t come true out of nowhere, but you can build something incredible if you concentrate on the process and take it one piece at a time.
Jack Seymour BA (Hons) Dip. Public Relations, is a communications and public relations consultant, who lives and works in Kingston, Ontario. He enjoys snowboarding, golf, hockey, weight training, and writing.