Yes. I come from a long line of teachers, so education has always been prioritized. There was no question that my siblings and I would obtain bachelor’s degrees. My parents began contributing to an RESP (Registered Education Savings Plan) when I was a child, so I had about $20,000 set aside for school. Along with scholarships and bursaries, that money covered my tuition for the first two years of my undergraduate degree, including living on campus. My grandmother also helped by covering a portion of my rent for three years, and I relied on loans and full-time summer jobs to cover the rest.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
As a kid and teenager, I was more privy to arguments about money than I was to constructive conversations. My mother grew up fairly wealthy, whereas my father grew up incredibly poor, and they didn’t navigate that dynamic as well as they could have in the early years of their marriage. My parents were stretched quite thin financially while I was growing up, so saving was always emphasized, and I got my own bank account to do so when I was 14. I was mainly left to my own devices when it came to my money, but I saved as much as I could and educated myself on financial independence as I got older.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was working in a bakery at age 15 because my parents were adamant that I keep myself occupied over the summer. Once that job ended, I was wary about no longer having an income so I got a part-time job at a chain retail company and worked there throughout high school and some of university.
Did you worry about money growing up?
As a kid, I assumed we were financially well off because we had a nice house, played lots of sports, and always had food on the table. However, I was always confused as to why we never took big vacations and were deterred from buying brand-name clothing. I felt that I had a lot less than my friends’ families. Now, I’m able to recognize that my family relied on a single income for most of my childhood. My mother became a stay-at-home parent once my sister was diagnosed with diabetes, and the residual effects of that decision led to some financial strain. While I wasn’t worried about it as a kid, I started to feel the pinch during high school and university when my parents couldn’t help me out as much as they would have liked to.
Do you worry about money now?
Very much so. I’m empathetic to my parents’ situation, but their money arguments led to the internalization of some pretty severe financial anxiety that I continue to work through in therapy. I try to remain realistic about my goals and save as much as I can while still enjoying my current life stage, but I check my bank account religiously, track my spending down to the very last cent, and am always thinking of ways I can increase my income. I know I’m doing well for my age, especially for being only a few months out of school, but there is always the lingering sense that I could be doing better.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
Becoming financially independent happened gradually. When I moved out for university at 17, I became responsible for my day-to-day expenses but still benefited from the RESP my parents had set up for me. Once that ran out, I became responsible for my tuition and living expenses, but with some help from relatives. I’d say I became largely financially independent at 19 when I paid for everything myself, but I did still benefit from my parents’ health coverage until recently. Now, at 23, I’m on my own, except for my father paying for my cell phone bill. If needed, my parents would be able to help me out, and I could likely ask my grandmother for help, too, but that would be an absolute last resort.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes. The previously mentioned RESP set up by my parents. And, in addition to helping with rent, my grandmother gave me $1,000 when I finished my master’s degree as a graduation gift. Now that my parents have less financial strain, they slip me money for groceries or trips here and there, and my siblings and I will eventually inherit the family farm.