Pattie Lovett-Reid: Tips from experts to take control of your finances
HUNTSVILLE, ONT. -- The wage gap in Canada continues to grow and the job trends between low-wage earners and the highest earners in Canada has never been wider.
All of the job losses have come from the low-income sectors and while there is hope the economy will open up once a vaccine takes hold, the reality is the financial well being for those who have lost jobs has been disrupted, compromised and turned upside down with the only real financial lifeline for now government aid.
However, the government aid will come to an end; so where do we go from here?
The focus has to be about taking control and to help answer the question of what your next step should be, I reached out to leading personal finance experts in Canada for their best pieces of advice.
Melissa Leong, author of the finance guide, 'Happy Go Money'
When money is stretched thin, it can feel like a constant struggle to survive for individuals and families. The stress of never having enough takes a toll on your emotional health and your self-esteem. If you're looking to make a change, I'd start with being kind to yourself and looking for support. Lean on your network: find supportive friends and mentors. Visit your bank to speak to a representative about your situation. Seek help from a reputable credit counsellor. Put it out there that you're looking for new opportunities. Reach out to past work colleagues or contacts for guidance.
If you are hoping to get off of government assistance, you might start by taking stock of your current situation. Look at the outflow of your money. What are your expenses? How much do you need to cover your existing bills, debt repayment, etc.? Are there any changes that you can make that might alleviate the pressure such as finding more affordable housing?
Kelley Keehn, best-selling author, 'Talk Money to Me'
There are really only two ways to increase your wealth; examining your income and expenses.
If you’ve been solely relying on government benefits, comb through your expenses. Figure out what you’re spending each month and where you can trim the fat (subscriptions, booze, weed, gambling).
Canadians are spending on average $5,000 a year on these things during the pandemic. If you can cut them by half, that could put nearly $2,500 in your savings or to pay down debt.
If you carry a balance on your credit card, call up your bank and see if you can get into a lower rate card and one with zero annual fees.
And lastly, where else can you bring in more income? Get creative with your family – writing articles for hire, putting on a virtual course, dog walking or bringing in a roommate? It doesn’t have to be your forever job, but it could bring in some much needed extra dollars until you’re back on your feet.
Robyn K. Thompson, certified financial planner at Castlemark Wealth Management
The first step to get back on track is to assess your financial priorities. Write them down. Lay out your income and spending, warts and all. Start with debt, total how much you owe. This would include, first and foremost, credit cards, which carry the highest interest rate. Don’t forget consumer loans, such as car loans, and lines of credit.
Then look at your spending, where is your money going? It is imperative to track your income and outflow scrupulously.
Then get to work on areas that need immediate attention. For example, renegotiate higher interest rate debt to lower interest rate debt. Or look to consolidate debts into one manageable payment.
Look for places to cut back, economize, or re-set spending, so that you can start to feel a bit less stressed. For example, reduce or eliminate take-out dining and the attendant hugely expensive delivery services. These are true cash vampires. Restrict the online shopping impulse. It’s easy to fill up that online cart. It’s not so easy to pay off that credit card debt.
After you’ve got your spending on a even keel, maybe even start saving a bit. A little saving can grow into a lot over time.
Shannon Lee Simmons, founder of The New School of Finance
Try to break even or go into as little debt as you possibly can. I know it may be hard, but it will make getting back on track much easier on the other side of this. The less debt you take on, the less financial hangover.
If you can save anything, even $10 a month, rebuild emergency savings! Don’t worry about long-term retirement right now. Emergency savings and financial vision are top priority.
Ensure you do your 2020 taxes as early as you can so that you give yourself the most amount of time to repay anything you may owe.
Barry Choi, personal finance and travel expert
Although trying to find stable, full-time employment is likely your ultimate goal while on government benefits, picking up a side hustle is a good way to earn some additional income while you try to figure things out.
If you own a vehicle, doing food delivery via Uber Eats, DoorDash, or Skip the Dishes is relatively easy. Alternatively, if you have any hard skills, you might be able to market them on Upwork or TaskRabbit. Teaching English online has also become incredibly popular with sites such as VIP KID.
Lesley-Anne Scorgie, founder of MeVest
Coming off of government benefits will be an adjustment, but with some pre-planning, it can be more of a smooth process.
1) Know the specific date when your benefits run out. Knowledge is power and the more clear you can get about the last direct deposit you’ll receive - how much and the date of the deposit - the more accurate your planning will be. Don’t be caught off guard!
2) Create a budget that summarizes essential expenses. Nice-to-have costs should really be left out for now. Your goal is to identify exactly what you MUST keep paying for, in the event you have to dip into some savings until you have a new source of income.
3) Get your game plan together for work. Replacing the government income with employment income will be essential, and fast. Start the job hunt process as early as possible. Right now it’s taking a bit longer to find work, but opportunities do exist.
Now is the time to remain hopeful: better economic times are ahead, so cut yourself some slack and take charge now.