Welcome to the first ‘My Financial Mindset’ MFM article, where we collect different perspectives on personal finance from bloggers around the world. In this series we will have a diverse group of people answer the same set of questions. We will find out about where they’re from, where they’re heading and how they view money.
This time, to set the scene for our future guests, I will be telling you the story of BearMoney Blog, our past, present, and future.
Want to let us know about your financial mindset? Drop it in the comments or email us at [email protected] and we might feature your article in a later roundup.
Who Are You?
We are BearMoney Blog, a finance blog that focuses on achieving balance in an unbalanced economy. We focus on engaging with wealth building without ‘drinking the cool aide’ of the general market mindset.
Primarily a one person operation, we also have occasional posts and assistance from some of our friends that want a creative outlet.
The main author (me) lives in Western Canada, not too far from the City of Edmonton, Alberta. I am 30 years old and work in IT. Originally from the Republic of Ireland I became a permanent resident of Canada in 2019.
I currently live with my partner and our dog. Generally we try to avail of all the outdoor activities that Canada has to offer, but since March 2020, we’ve been in a weird Covid holding pattern like most people.
My hobbies include hiking, football, history, finance, and entrepreneurship.
What Started Your Finance Journey?
5 years ago is was at a dead end. I was working a cushy government job (think 5 weeks paid vacation a year) and stuck in a toxic relationship. While I earned a not insignificant amount of money I was living in a High Cost of Living (HCOL) area.
What this meant for me was that of my ~$85,000 salary, I was paying approximately 51% of my net income each month just on rent and utilities. The fact that my partner at the time was willfully financially illiterate compounded these matters greatly.
While I was paying into a pension, I did not have a lot of other saving space in my budget. At most, on a frugal month, I could save approximately $400-500. So I had no control over my investments, I had to trust the Government. Gross.
These three factors all combined to leave in a place of poor mental, physical, and financial health.
-The secure job became stifling and mind-numbing. I wasn’t being challenged or keeping my brain active. I knew another 20 years of this would kill me.
-The toxic relationship was a constant source of anxiety. My physical and mental health deteriorated significantly. The atmosphere made personal growth and risk taking impossible. I wasn’t being allowed to compensate for the negatives of my job elsewhere. I knew another 2 years of this would kill me.
-The HCOL situation that I found myself in made the two other factors worse. I was effectively losing all of the money that I earned paying basic bills and frivolous relationship spending.
Then, within a period of just 6 months, I managed to break out of all three cycles of failure. Firstly, I ended that relationship and immediately felt ten times happier than before. This lead to drastic increases in my health and wellbeing. Second, I managed to fix a rudimentary budget toward one goal, travel.
The third change was completely unexpected. When planning my travel I had three options:
- Travel to Costa Rica
2. Travel around Europe doing 1-2 days in about 10 countries
3. Visit my cousin in Western Canada
I don’t know why, but I chose option 3 and my life changed forever.
Where Are You Now?
Right now I am living in the province of Alberta, a short drive from the capital Edmonton. Alberta is a gigantic province (roughly the size of Texas) with a tiny population (4.3 Million). Long dependent on the now struggling oil industry it has a relatively low cost of living but maintains a large number of social services. It has two ‘million plus’ cities for urban living, and thousands of smaller rural areas for the Grizzly Adams types.
The job market in Alberta is very rough, with double-digit unemployment but it has taken the brunt of Covid-19 quite well (can’t recession if you’re already in a recession, big brain moves). The general economic fortunes of the province are looking up. Unfortunately, the provincial government is run by ‘trickle down’ type conservatives so our public services are at risk. They even wanted to open pit mine the Rocky Mountains, oh well.
Currently, I work in IT and despite taking a pay cut of 20% from my previous role in the Republic of Ireland, my financials have improved significantly. My net annual ‘saving space’ is roughly $15,000 which after emergency funds are built up gives me a cool $1,250 for investment. This is approximately $750 more per month that in my previous position.
I don’t need to tell you what that will compound to over a 10 year period!
Okay, it’s an extra $100,000 at least just from choosing a LCOL city.
I also have a great home and a great partner which doesn’t hurt! I am on the doorstep of the Rockies and can do any outdoor activity you can think of from skiing to rock climbing. So Ironically, I cut my living expenses almost in half and drastically improved my quality of life.
I feel like I invested in a 10 bagger first day on the stock market.
My finance plan is based on balanced long term growth. I plan to invest as much as possible while maintaining a healthy financial mindset. The core strategy is as follows:
Saving Goal – Save an average $1,250 per month ($2,000 household)
Growth Goal – Grow household income by 25% by 2023
Asset Goal – Family Home and no further big assets
At this point I operate two side businesses, BearMoney Blog and an Etsy Store call Mindful Market Canada. I also dabble in affiliate marketing via social media channels. All three are still in their infancy and are planned to reach profit goals by Q3 2021.
How Did You Get There?
That is one hell of a long story. Without going into too many details, the process of transitioning from European urban living to life on the Canadian Prairies took approximately 18 months.
When I got back to my HCOL apartment I spent about 3 months trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I knew I wasn’t happy in my current situation but I wasn’t sure what action I should take. The way I saw it, I had three options, change roles to gain fulfillment, get promoted to ease financial pressure, or say screw it, flip the entire table, and leave the country.
The last option seemed very drastic to me until I found the Canadian Government’s ‘Federally Skilled Worker’ program. This effectively give you long term residency rights in Canada if you have a needed skill. I did, thankfully, possess one of those skills. Even still, it was going to take up at least $20,000 of money I didn’t have…yet.
In one of those rare alignments of fate , the first two options were taken from me. Changing role was axed due to a delay by my employer in implementing a transfer system (promised live in 2017, went live in 2021!). In addition, I failed by promotion efforts by a 2% score, ouch.
That left one singular option: Canada.
So I set off to get that visa and fly off to a new life in the Rocky Mountains. First, I had to save $13,000 as well as the cost of flights/medicals/visas. This meant I needed to get together about $20,000 before I could move.
That whole process took 18 months from decision to taking off in the plane. Before I left I set up meetings with my personal network and also reached out to the Irish diaspora to help me. While I landed in an Alberta Winter (-19c or -2.2f) and jobs prospects weren’t great, I just wanted to be on my way.
I was told that finding a job takes about 3 months in Alberta. This was a long period of exhaustive job and apartment searching. Ironically enough, almost 3 months to the day exactly after starting, I landed 3 jobs offers in quick succession. Of course it took having to accept the ‘immigrant experience’ rule that means foreign experience counts at best half. I considered this a step back to take three steps forward later.
I was offered a big corporate job, a high-powered agency job, and a stable but smaller government job. While there were positives and negatives to each role, I actually chose the first one to reach out that met my minimum needs, the government job. This turned out to be a good decision because immediately after joining all employees got an extra 5 days paid leave.
To me that leave was worth a couple of thousand dollars a year for sure. This meant on balance it was the best offer. Ironically enough, I turned down a job at the company my partner works at now, forestalling our meeting by about a year.
Flash forward to today and I have a much better life. I am healthier, wealthier, and happier than ever before. It was totally the right call.
2021 seems like a year of both consolidation and new efforts. For the most part I want to consolidate my alternative income streams to achieve the ‘utilities’ level of side hustle. This means that I want to create enough extra income to pay for my cable, internet, cell bill etc every month.
For this year I have identified to following three income streams to focus on:
-Blog Monetization – goal $300 per month
-Twitter Affiliate Marketing – goal $100 per month
-Digital Products – goal $150 per month
In addition, I am also exploring the idea of creating a small business flipping products on eBay for approximately $500 per month.
The overall success point of all of these combined is ~$600 per month. That means if I do all 4, they reach profit goals at about 60% fulfilment.
If I can reach those goals I will be happy to maintain or slightly scale up/down depending on what is going on in my daily life. At the very least I’m going to give each one a full chance in 2021.
This also gives me back the money I took in pay cuts since moving to Canada. Pride plays a small role in goal setting I suppose.
Your Top 3 Pieces of Money Advice
- Buy Store Brand – Most of the time it comes from the same factory and is the same quality.
- Invest Consistently – Investing should be your 3rd expense after housing and food.
- Budget Simply – Track your spending in broad categories and find a time efficient method.
One Thing The Personal Finance Community Needs to Start
For me, it’s got to be the economic future. The current paradigm of ‘invest $500 for 40 years and live off 4% returns’ is unlikely to last to the end of this century. Things are going to need to change and the financially minded in our communities need to share and create ideas for the ‘new financial living’.
One Thing The Personal Finance Community Needs to Stop
For me, it has to be the mixing of toxic ideas of the health/wealth/mindset communities. Whether it’s promoting ‘grind 24/7’ or demonizing poorer people, the nonsense needs to stop. There are multiple paths to success.