Ever wonder how the people who dish out personal finance advice manage their own money? We put some probing questions to a few pecuniary pros, starting with “What’s in your wallet?” Some of their answers may surprise you.
Jackie Porter, financial planner (askjackie.ca)
What’s in your wallet? Porter is still pumped about paying just $ 55 (U.S.) for her $ 150 Kate Spade wallet five years ago. The “super-cute” red leather accessory contains three bank cards, two credit cards, a Shoppers points card, five-year-old Ikea gift card with a $ 20 balance and a $ 20 bill for dog treats while she was pet-sitting.
Budget: Frugality came early to Porter, who had to fend for herself from age 16 when her mother died. Now 50 and financially secure with a diverse investment portfolio, real estate properties, a TFSA and RSP, Porter still adds up all her receipts and tracks her spending weekly.
Indulge yourself? “Absolutely,” says Porter, who ponied up $ 10,000 for travel last year. This year’s budget was rerouted to her backyard to create a “nice little retreat” and outdoor home office. It’s also a place to spend time safely with friends and family: her new priority, says Porter, who owns a midtown triplex where she shares the ground-floor apartment with her life partner.
Dumb money move: As a teenager, Porter blew “a few hundred bucks” on a fast-fashion wardrobe that barely survived its first wear-and-wash cycle. Lesson learned: “Quantity and quality are two different things,” says the smarter consumer, who now invests in a few good pieces and thrift store finds.
Rainy days: Porter’s source of emergency funds is a low-interest line of credit and equity in real estate, which also provides an extra income stream.
Bruce Sellery, personal finance columnist (moolala.ca)
What’s in your wallet? Sellery’s slim black leather wallet contains a driver’s licence, health cards, Presto card for pre-pandemic subway use, an organ donor card, rewards card, debit card and three credit cards. “I have not a single penny in cash.”
Sellery gives his 10-year-old daughter allowance money for the “visceral experience,” but personal, family and corporate expenditures go on separate credit cards. He’s never had any credit card debt, “ever.”
A very lumpy bed: Sellery’s emergency fund is “$ 30 million under the mattress.” Kidding! While he keeps a “cash reserve” in his business, he says everyone’s needs to protect their family from risks are different.
A budget non-believer: “I don’t want to give every dollar a job,” says Sellery, who prefers to practise “sustainable spending.” That means knowing where the money goes and how much you need for expenses and future goals. His travel-loving family’s priorities include seeing the world; they’ve already covered parts of Asia, Europe and North America.
“We’re pretty clear on the life we want,” he says of his husband and daughter. “We don’t have to boil our shoes to make dinner.”
It helps that he has “a black belt in grocery shopping” with an eye for sale items, says Sellery, who used to be mocked for driving an old Toyota Tercel.
Melissa Leong, personal finance writer and speaker (melissaleong.com)
What’s in your wallet? Leong bought her soft black leather, $ 99 Dolce & Gabbana billfold at Winners a decade ago: “It looked like my dad’s that was held together with an elastic band.”
Hers holds two $ 20 bills, an unused movie voucher, gift cards, and a total of five debit and credit cards for business and personal use.
Leong, who dislikes even touching money because of COVID, does keep a few small bills in the car so her five-year-old son can pay for things. But she prefers credit cards, which are better to track spending.
Money talks: “My love language is gifts,” says the author of the award-winning finance guide “Happy Go Money.”
“I’ll see via social media that my friend is admiring sparkly purple luggage … (and) I’ll immediately hunt it down online and, a month later, wheel it into a restaurant at her birthday dinner.”
Calculations in crayon: Leong and her husband periodically sit down “with junk food” to review the family of four’s finances. If they’re going astray, Leong, who eschews apps for tracking expenditures, does a written post-mortem — recently “on a sheet of yellow construction paper with my son’s markers.”
Children? Priceless: The mom of two “infinitely loved” offspring didn’t expect they’d be her biggest expense, ranging from child-care costs to RESP contributions. But “their happiness has no price tag,” she insists.
“And I don’t know if my head and my heart will ever agree on how much I should spend on them,” says Leong, who credits her own parents for much of her financial literacy.
Hadriana Leo, personal finance coach (hadrianleo.com)
What’s in your wallet? Leo’s burgundy leather, multi-pocketed wallet is the size of half a keyboard and holds her phone, two business credit cards, a personal debit and credit card, and $ 15 left over from the $ 100 she took to the farmers market.
“A big reward”: Leo cheerfully admits she’s “a little hedonist” with a love of cars in particular. In 2017 she treated herself to her first new vehicle, a Lexus RX 350 luxury SUV.
Ghosts of purchases past: The “recovering Cheetos addict” confesses to a “horrible use of my money” on junk food. She also has a “gadget cemetery in the basement.”
Instant gratification just leads to dissatisfaction, Leo learned from her not-so-smart purchases. Better to “wait for my true desire,” says the Pickering entrepreneur, noting she’s not prone to overspending.
Wake-up call: When Leo’s husband couldn’t work for eight months after an arm injury, she realized the need to “stow away as much as you possibly can.” Now she has an emergency fund and goal-oriented savings for big-ticket items like vacations. Five years ago, Leo, who has two children in private school, parlayed her former “money mess” into a business helping others avert financial crises.
Prudent consumption: Apart from groceries, everything else is bought online by her returns-savvy family of “big Amazon shoppers.” The pandemic has turned her into a more efficient spender, says Leo, who used to waste food bought in bulk at Costco. Her advice to other wallet-watchers: “Be hyperaware of every penny that comes into your hands and goes out of your hands.”
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