The Cost of Figuring It Out on Your Own

Diane Cartwright – Account Coordinator at Stnce – talks about family and financial planning.

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’ve been with my partner for 12 years, and there’s never been a moment where we’ve felt we should make any particular financial decision. It was always, let’s do something because we’re in a good position to do so and because we’re committed to each other. About four years ago, we decided to buy a house.

 … if we were to plan a wedding, we wouldn’t spend over $25,000 because that could be a new roof.

Neither of us wanted to get married and we liked the idea of investing in something tangible – something that would give us equity. Looking back, it was a pretty big decision for a young couple but we had the help of the first-time homebuyer’s program and company benefits. Since then, any funds that come in go to making the house more livable, sustainable, and longer lasting. It seems like a big expense each month but we haven’t sacrificed travel or lifestyle. We’ve just redefined how we want to do things. For example, if we were to plan a wedding, we wouldn’t spend over $25,000 because that could be a new roof. As homeowners, we’ve learned to budget and manage our income with the things we want.

I think it’s important to be on the same page as your partner. Working toward the same goals in life makes it easier to be with someone. If you’re constantly at each other’s throats over finances, inevitably, it becomes part of the reason why you’d split up. It’s probably what happened with my parents. They separated when I was 12 and divorced when I was 18. Since my father was the sole contributor, my mother had to become financially independent very late in life with very little knowledge. She had to find a job, manage her own funds, learn how to invest, and live on her own. When the market crashed in 2008, she lost everything. She’s been struggling ever since. I don’t know where she got her financial advice from and I don’t know what she hoped to achieve with her investment; I just know that she didn’t fully understand that there was no guarantee. If I knew back then what I know now, I would have advised her to do something more profitable with her half of the money – now that I’m thinking about it, maybe she could have renovated and rented out the basement for a source of income.

I’ve been working since I was 13. I’ve babysat, I’ve lifeguarded, I’ve been a camp counselor; I’ve understood the value of money and the benefits of saving it from a young age. I was proud of the things I could get myself which were never the best of the best, but they were mine. I would work extra to participate in activities that were considered normal. While my friends were hanging out at night, I’d take on a shift and know that it was worth it because of what I would be able to get in the end.

  You’ve got to invest or take part in programs that will generate benefits for you in the long term. You’ve got to think ahead and have a safety net or a nest egg for emergency situations.

My high school experience never suffered because I wasn’t as privileged, financially. In those four years, I recorded with the school band in Montreal, visited New Jersey and New York, walked on Beale Street, and went to Graceland. And while that’s all great, I’ve also learned, since then, that getting a job and receiving monetary payment in return isn’t enough. You’ve got to invest or take part in programs that will generate benefits for you in the long term. You’ve got to think ahead and have a safety net or a nest egg for emergency situations. I think my mother assumed that if she had a job and a paycheque coming in, she could support her lifestyle, put a roof over her head, and not have to worry. She wasn’t prepared to be in this situation. She didn’t plan for the what-ifs, like losing the first job she found and facing increasing rental costs. I don’t know if she thought it was going to get as bad as it’s gotten but certainly, if she had had a conversation with an expert, it would have gone a long way. Right now, she’s at a crossroads because she’ll be 65 next year. Career or retirement, neither is the answer. Even with the income she’s making now, it’s not consistent enough to pay the rent, stock the fridge and keep up with daily living.

This past year has really been an eye opener for me. I’ve realized that helping my mother financially is an added expense that takes away from what my partner and I want out of life. And if I were to miss a bill because of it, it could affect our relationship. I’ve also had to have conversations about my own financial security because my leftover bucket doesn’t go to my savings anymore. It goes to assistance. We still travel, pay all our debt on time, and have our mortgage payment taken care of, but I worry about the long term. I worry about not being able to save as much. And I also worry about my mother not making rent. On top of all that, my partner was recently let go. It was one of those moments you think will happen to everyone else but yourself. Until he finds a new job, we’re doing as much as we can to find out what we could be doing better, what we could be saving more of or where we could make cuts – things like that.

I think, in general, people would benefit from knowing what I knew when I was 13 – understanding the value of money and preparing for the future. I’ve always been comfortable with talking about my finances and asking what others are doing. I feel that that kind of dialogue clarifies the options and makes it easier to understand what’s right for me. Of course, it’s easier to ask questions now than it was for my mother 30-something years ago, especially right after going through something so traumatic. But had she not defined financial independence as something she had to achieve on her own, without help, advice, or conversation, she might be in a more comfortable position now.

We make taking financial ownership approachable and relatable. As requested, name has been changed.