Some Milestones Aren’t Tangible

Kim Kukulowicz – Founder of Stnce – talks about how easy it is to underestimate the importance of knowing where your money’s invested.

Stnce is a platform that believes confidence is the key to taking financial ownership. This is part of a new series we call, “Not at the Table!” where we ask people to address the elephant in the room – the taboos of personal finance.

I moved out when I was 18 years old. I’m not sure what it was, but I needed to be independent. There was just something in me that wanted to prove I can make it on my own. My father was a cab driver and worked very hard to provide for us. So, how I was brought up was very different from my daughter. I remember wanting a pair Roadrunner jeans; everyone had them. I remember begging for them for Christmas. But my mother was a big believer in the idea that if you wanted something, you should pay for it yourself, so I never got them in the end. There were times when I needed to borrow a dollar or two, and she would keep a note on the fridge door until I paid her back.

When I bought my first car, a white Volkswagen Golf, I felt so proud. I loved it. There’s something about saving up a lot of money, going to the dealership, and driving it off the lot that stays with you. When it came time to trade it in, that’s when it got interesting. 

My mom helped me find my second car, a Honda Prelude, in the paper at a Mount Pleasant and Eglington car dealership (which I don’t think is there anymore). My family lived in Scarborough at the time so, we had to drive over to get it, and when we got there, my dad said to me, “How are you going to buy this car? It’s a standard.” To which I replied, “Well, I’ve tried a couple of times before.” And he went, “Yes, but not successfully.” So, I said, “I guess we’re going to figure it out then.” Of course, that first ride home was extremely eventful, and I stalled it more times than I can recall, but I got it back. And within a week’s time, I knew how to drive it. I became an expert. 

I’ve approached a lot of things in the same way I did with that car. If I didn’t know how it worked, I’d figure it out through asking for advice or doing the research.

That was 26 years ago. Since then, I’ve become an expert at many things. Whether it’s paying off debt, owning real estate, saving for the future, or understanding how to plan for retirement, I’ve approached a lot of things in the same way I did with that car. If I didn’t know how it worked, I’d figure it out through asking for advice or doing the research. I can confidently say that I’m financially savvy now.

But a couple of months back, my husband asked me if I had any questions about my investments, and I replied very quickly that I didn’t – that I completely trusted him. It was a moment where we both realized I had overlooked a whole area of my personal finances. Essentially, I had been asking my husband to invest on my behalf without truly understanding where my money was going. When we sat down to talk about it, my first question was, “So, how does it work?” It was that level of deference. Up until then, I had a routine of opening my statement, looking at it, feeling good if the return was positive, and putting it away without thinking twice about why the numbers were the way they were. Sometimes I would wonder how I made so much money, but I didn’t care to ask questions, I was just happy with what I saw. If you can’t see, feel, or smell something, you’re more likely to be okay with not understanding it – it’s out of sight, out of mind. We justify spending money on stuff because it looks beautiful or it’s nice and soft, or it’s versatile, or it reminds us of when we were kids. It’s easier to relate to an object we can hold or a moment we can experience. So, when it comes to investing, we feel like pressing the snooze button. But it’s the most significant piece in our lives. It really is. You want to have confidence in deciding where you put your money. 

Going forward, I want to know that every investment I’ve invested in is something I want to buy into. I still have questions that I want to ask. Because when some of my investments mature, I want to be able to assess what I should do with them and have a discussion with my husband where my voice counts for more than a nod in agreement. I want to get to a point where I know what they’re all about and make decisions with him, rather than being interested but still not know enough to contribute an opinion. I’ve found that taking more initiative makes me feel more in control and even more confident than before. Just like driving that Golf off the lot, I know it’s going to feel so much more rewarding when I receive a positive return on my own.