Advice for New Grads?

I got called by Insight Magazine to give some advice to new grads on what they should be doing about their finances, many years ago. It was so long ago, the magazine no longer exists. I gave some answers to the interviewer, but as usual, I was not sure I was very clear or eloquent, so now I will attempt to be more clear to those that might have read the article.

Get The Heck Out of Debt

You have just graduated from University, and you might be carrying upwards of $70K in debt (hopefully in student loans only). You most likely won’t be paying that debt off in your first year of working (should you find a job right away). If you can pay it off, good for you! However, you should put together a plan on how you are going to pay off that debt and WHEN it will be retired.

Carrying debt is a drag on your finances, and the sooner the debt is retired, the easier your financial life will be. You should not aspire to “get used to living in debt”, this is the one thing my generation does NOT want to hand down to you.

Don’t Fall In Love With Having Money

Just because you have graduated from University and you no longer have to eat Kraft Dinner with Hot Dogs for dinner, does not mean you must go out every night to eat. You have lived a frugal lifestyle as a student (I am assuming), but if you continued that frugal lifestyle for a while longer, you may be able to pay down your debt faster and then be on a much stronger footing financially.

Yes, you deserve to enjoy life, but it is very easy to get used to the “Let’s go out to dinner tonight we deserve it” lifestyle, and once you are in that lifestyle the habit is very hard to break (speaking as a 49 year old, I can attest to that issue).

You cannot live your parents’ lifestyle (yet) so don’t try. It took them 30 years to get where they are, don’t rush your spending habits to mimic their spending habits.

If your parents paid for you to have a Samsung or an iPhone or paid for your Cell phone bill, maybe it’s time to get rid of this expensive toy? You don’t need $120 a month cell phone bills. Discretionary spending (i.e. money haemorrhage) is a bad thing which you must watch diligently. Middle age mens’ wastes spread, but their spending spreads like that as well, don’t let it happen to you.

Have a Savings Plan

The sooner you start saving, the better it will be for you when you reach my age, however, saving while still carrying discretionary debt (i.e. non-mortgage debt) is paying Peter to feed Paul. Lowering your debt is first and foremost, if you have left over moneys from your year, yes, starting an RRSP early is a good thing to do, but pay your debts first.

Savings is good, getting out of debt is better.

Get the Heck out of Debt

Did I mention this yet?

Banks Can be Negotiated With

As I have pointed out before Free Banking is possible, but it is more likely for old farts like me, who have a good track record with the bank already.  Paying $12-$25 a month in bank service charges you should try to avoid, since you most likely don’t use enough services with the bank to justify this charge. Go with as cheap banking as you can.

The Three Worst Ideas After Graduation

  1. I deserve a new car! -or- I deserve a vacation in Las Vegas!
  2. I’m a little short until my next pay cheque, I’ll get a pay day loan
  3. I am only carrying a few hundred dollars on my credit card balance this month

Keep this in mind, did I mention Get the Heck Out of Debt?

Last Pieces of Advice for New Grads

Originally published in 2010

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Not Asking is Rejection by Default

I have written many times about if you don’t ask the answer is always no, but the title of this post is also a good turn of phrase. Too many times folks feel they have no one to ask for help, so they just give up. Most of the time that is exactly what service companies want you to do.

Many times return procedures are convoluted, complex or just downright silly, but it is to stop you from returning things. If you keep it, but don’t want it, they have won.

A good example is, if you want to use TD E-series mutual funds, inside your TD Mutual Fund account, it is not an easy procedure. You must apply via a written form, and wait for the “OK” from them to be able to buy them. Once you are granted permission, you then must figure out which funds are the E-series funds. If you wish to cash the E-series Funds out of the account, you must first go on-line, transfer them to a Money Market account, and then go into a TD Branch, to do the cash out?

The best way to deal with this, is simply don’t use the TD Mutual Fund vehicle. Other reasons to be wary, will be the Risk Profile trade cancellation issues.

This example shows that the system seems to be set up to discourage you from doing what you want. Worse, to do nothing, when you should be rebalancing or other important investment tasks.

Why Not Ask?

This is the question. If you do not ask for what you want, you will rarely get what you want. You may sound like a pest, you may upset whoever you are dealing with, so be polite, but ask for what you want. The worst they can say is, No.

Not Asking is Rejection by Default

Unknown, but words to live by

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Doomsday Finances

I found this one in my archives, and I started writing it two years ago, having no idea what 2020 was going to bring. Read it with that in mind, it is about Personal Financial Doomsday.

One of my favourite Star Trek episodes is The Doomsday Machine , where a robot is let loose to destroy both sides in a long past war. There was much overacting and emoting by both William Shatner and William Windom but I liked it.

We are not in a Doomsday scenario right now (COVID19 Pandemic), but we might be in a big mess in the financial world (on the Macro Economic side of things).

I think 2008 showed that things can go off the rails badly, but now we live in completely uncharted waters. I worry, this is going to be a very long mess, so we shall see.

I think the financial apocalypse I was thinking of is was at a personal level. As we have learned from a few financial books, personal finance apocalypse can happen much more easily than we think.

  • Your health failing suddenly is more likely than you hope, as I learned in my Movember story. There are other more catastrophic health issues that can arise, and that can easily trigger a personal finance failure.
  • Simply losing control of your debt load, or maybe a sudden increase in interest rates, is the most likely financial doomsday. The interest rate sudden jump is not out of the question, but I suspect governments are fighting against this, knowing the impact it might cause, financially.
  • The ultimate doomsday of course is our own demise, but then again, your financial concerns are over then as well.
  • Losing your job can be another financial apocalypse, that many folks have a hard time recovering from.

The best way to avoid a Financial Doomsday, is be ready with a financial plan that takes into consideration the Risks possible. Is there a financial apocalypse likely globally? We shall see is all I can say.

I do know that a personal financial doomsday is more likely than most of us wish to admit.

The Big Financial Snit ?

“… and I thought YOU, wanted to play, SCRABBLE!”

One of my favorite apocalyptic shorts from the NFB, the Big Snit.

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Bad Financial Planners Can Help

I am a mediocre planner (I view my Father as the greatest planner), however, knowing that I am not that good at planning gives me a peculiar talent, in that, I can spot (easily) flaws in other folks plans. I think of myself as a “risk editor” for plans.

Financial Planning

Plan and Then Revise

Let me explain, if a good planner looks at your plan, they will overlay their own fastidiousness onto your plan, and will assume you have “dotted all the I’s and crossed all the T’s”, which is a dangerous assumption for many plans. Most plans I have seen do not get down to most of the gritty details needed to make it an actual plan (e.g. Dates on which you will make deposits, pay bills, what you will do with found money), and that is where most of them fail.

For someone like me, who has failed at planning so many things in my life (not just financial things), I easily see these flaws in other folks’ plans, because I overlay my own shortcomings and just start asking questions about things (in a financial context):

  • Did you think about what would happen if you lost your job?
  • What if you or your wife had a catastrophic illness¬†next week? How would your plan work?
  • Paying off your credit cards is here, but are you going to keep using those credit cards? You don’t seem to mention that in your plan.
  • What if interest rates suddenly jumped to 6% in 6 months? Can your plan withstand that kind of stress?
  • Are you being overly optimistic with your plans? Few of us plan realizing our own shortcomings.

Most folks really hate when I do this, because they answer me the same way my daughters did when I asked questions like, “Did you pack your runners?”, when going to an out-of-town basketball tourney. The answer is “YES, I DID!” (Read that with a snarky sarcastic tone), and then we get to the tourney, and the shoes (in fact) are still at home.

What Are You Saying?

I am not telling you to find a bad financial planner and use their plan, what I am saying is create a financial plan, and then have someone you trust (or a real financial planner) review it to see if there are risks or details that you have overlooked. Different sets of eyes sometimes can see new things.

Once you have a plan, treat it as a living document, review, revise, and update

Image courtesy of Goldy at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Financial Rules of 3 For This Year

The BCM LifeLong Financial Rules of 3

Three is a good number to think about, as it is the first odd prime (let’s not argue about whether 2 is prime or not).

  • Rule 3-1: Only carry 3 debit/credit cards with you at one time. The ultimate version of this rule would be to only have 3 debit/credit cards total, in your life.
  • Rule 3-2:¬†Ensure you have all 3 savings vehicles set up: a TFSA, an RRSP and a Savings/Trading account. These 3 are the cornerstone for setting up a successful savings plan.
  • Rule 3-3: For the first 3 months of this year, pay for day-to-day spending with cash only. Take out a set amount on your pay-day, and use that for discretionary spending only. Can you live on cash alone for 3 months? Yes, it is easy to cheat on this one, but, you are only cheating yourself.


Some simple other rules of 3 you can follow in life

  • If you go to a conference, or workshop find 3 things that you thought were good, and try to do it. Even if all you do is find 3 good points, you have succeeded.
  • Plan your financial year in 3 month stints, and see what you did right and wrong at the end of each.
  • At the end of the day before you go to sleep, think of 3 things you did that day that you are proud of, that way you go to sleep on an “up”. I have practiced the opposite of this rule, and let me tell you it really screws up my sleep thinking of 3 things I screwed up during the day.

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