We started Btchcoin two years ago because we wanted Canadian women to up close and personal with their money situation.
A few weeks ago, we asked you to submit money questions for Roma Luciw, the personal finance editor at The Globe and Mail. With years of experience covering the personal finance beat, we were thrilled when Roma agreed to share her knowledge with our readers. Roma has made the Globe a go-to destination for young people looking for financial advice. In addition to her newspaper and digital contributions, she also co-hosts Stress Test, a new Globe podcast packed with insight specific to those of us just starting out.
In that spirit, here are your money questions, answered:
How should I start investing or prepare to start investing if I make less than $5000 a month? – Sukhmeet, 25
The good news is that you can invest even small amounts of money, regardless of your income. Starting in your 20s is smart, because it means your investments will have many years to grow. I wish I had started younger. Before you start, pay off your debts, especially any high-interest debt, and set aside money in an emergency fund. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that everyone needs that peace of mind.
Once you have done that, automate the amount you set aside each month for investing purposes. I have a part of each paycheque electronically diverted into my “to invest” account. It accumulates there without any effort on my part, until I am ready to invest it.
Given that they are often starting with a small amount of money, beginner investors should consider a robo-adviser. The fees are low and after you answer a bunch of questions about how comfortable you are with risk and how long you want to invest your money, a robo can help you build and manage a diversified investment portfolio of mostly exchange-traded funds. It sounds scary, but it’s not. The Globe’s 2020-21 guide to robo-advisers by Globe columnist Rob Carrick provides a comprehensive rundown of your options.
What are the pros and cons to purchasing a home vs renting in today’s real estate market? – Sydney, 30
When deciding whether to rent or buy, avoid pressure from parents, friends, social media, and ads that tell you everyone should aspire to home ownership, regardless of the cost. You are not a financial loser if you keep renting: in many countries around the world, smart financially savvy people choose to rent for life. They are mobile, they don’t pay for major home repairs and their money is not tied up in real estate.
Once you buy, you will be responsible for decades of mortgage payments, property taxes, repairs and reno costs. To pay for that you will need to forgo travel and shopping, or skip restaurant meals and nights out. That will be worth it, if you love your home. But many people who develop financial problems do so because their home is too expensive. If you do buy, make sure you can afford the home you want and the lifestyle you expect to have. Here’s a simple Globe calculator that can help with that math.
More recently, the pandemic has influenced the rent versus buy situation in a few specific ways. Condo prices have fallen in big expensive cities like Toronto. If you are looking to buy a downtown condo, now is a good time to shop around. Prices in outlying suburban areas where homes have more room and bigger yards have kept climbing during the pandemic, so don’t expect to find deals there.
COVID19 has likewise provided an opportunity for some renters. In cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, falling demand has led to lower rents. If you are a renter, try to find something cheaper or bigger. In my West Toronto neighbourhood, this year is an anomaly in that there are plenty of vacant apartments. If you like your current place, try negotiating a lower rent. If your ultimate goal is to buy, redirect the money you are saving from lower rent towards saving for a down payment.
In your experience covering personal finance, what differences or challenges do you most often see with how women handle money? – Sara, 27
When it comes to financial literacy, women have come a far way. Today’s young women are informed, empowered and hungry to learn things like about banking, investing, housing and debt management. Newsletters like @btchcoinnews are a testament to that.
But there are specific challenges for women when it comes to money. They tend to live longer than men, which means they need to save more. They are also more likely to take time off work to have kids and or look after older parents.
The biggest issue, in my mind, is that women are still earning less than men. Although the gender pay disparity has narrowed, it’s still hanging around and it’s a big problem. Why? Well, when women earn less than their male counterparts, they have less money to spend, less money to save, and less money to invest. Over the course of a lifetime, their pay increases start from a lower base – and that makes a huge difference to their long-term financial health.
The best advice I can give young women is to educate and advocate for yourself. If you are confident in your experience and skills, don’t be afraid to ask questions and negotiate a fair salary in line with what your male counterparts are receiving. Here are some excellent tips on that front from my Globe colleague Rita Trichur.
What are the most misguided crazes in personal finance you have seen over the years? – Claire, 27
That’s a tough one. No crazes jump to mind but one thing I dislike about the personal finance space is how secretive Canadians are about money. Many young people are overextending themselves buying homes or getting help with rent, bills and other financial obligations from parents. You don’t get that sense from looking at social media. Before COVID, the Instagram lifestyle was all about amazing dinners out, cool holidays, great outings – that’s what we see in pictures.
When you are young, a lot of personal finance is about avoiding mistakes. Treat credit cards with care, automate your banking, avoid unnecessary fees, start investing as early as you can. Simple basic rules: Don’t spend more than you earn. Get in the habit of saving. Be mindful with your money. These messages get lost in the social media hype and sparkle.
On top of that, people can get judgy or shame others about their money issues. We need more empathy and support in the personal finance space. COVID has wiped out jobs and livelihoods across the country in 2020, and although government supports have helped cushion the pain, more financial hardship is coming.
I’d like to end by shamelessly encouraging everyone to listen to Stress Test, a Globe and Mail podcast I’m co-hosting with columnist Rob Carrick. Stress Test is an attempt to speak with young Canadians about financial issues that are specific to them. Yes, some personal finance rules are specific to younger generations. And yes, the rules of personal finance are shifting in the pandemic. We are recording and releasing the second season of Stress Test right now. If you are curious about money, you can listen here. Subscribe, leave us a review, or send me your ideas for future episodes.