Firming Up Your Financial Future — A Financial Literacy Month Wrap-Up by Casey Palmer and Scotiabank!

We need to evolve our money mindset.

November’s Financial Literacy Month, and it gives us a real opportunity to take a look at our books and what we’re trying to do with our resources at hand. School. Kids. A new home or retirement—goals quickly become pipe dreams if we don’t know how to plan for our success.

Take a moment and ask yourself just how much you know about your finances. Are you choosing the right investments?  Making the right moves today for a better tomorrow? The sad truth is far too few Canadians are well-versed in financial matters, and in an age where Canadians are continuously borrowing significantly more than they’re earning, that makes for one huge problem!

The Scintilla Project Day Three — Silence Says EVERYTHING

1. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. Write about a time you taught someone a lesson you didn’t want to teach.

2. Talk about a time when you were driving and you sang in the car, all alone. Why do you remember this song and that stretch of road?

— The Scintilla Project Day 3 prompt

One thing you get to know about me pretty quickly is that it takes a lot to bring out my bad side. I have a ton of patience and let a lot of things slide off my back that’d probably drive other people insane.

But even though it’s rare — even though I can count the times I’ve yelled at someone outside of my immediate family on one hand — once you do bring my anger out, there’s one thing and only one that you should do:

LOOK OUT.

You came asking’, I got to bankin’!!!

After my restaurant days, unlikely circumstances led to a job in banking where I’d spend 6 years climbing ladders (or more accurately, being hoisted up them) and helping our clientele. I was one of the best we had at what we did, and prided myself in giving the best customer service possible, every. Single. Time.

Which is why I was livid when I got accused for making a mistake that I know I didn’t make.

Banker Blues

You don’t mess… with the best.

As a sales rep, it was my job to keep a portfolio of clients and make sure that their financial interests were looked after. It involved many long hours of paperwork, follow-up calls and lending an ear to the things going on in their lives, but it was all worth it to make sure that they were all getting where they wanted to.

No sales rep can do their job alone, though — on top of the relationship you build and business you drum up yourself, you rely on the bank tellers to refer new clients to you. You’re not licensed to sell mortgages or trade stocks, so you refer business up to the financial advisors when the opportunity comes along.

But nobody’s perfect. No one.

Your Number’s Up

Pride can get in the way of honesty all too often.

One night, a customer cane in with a complex set of transactions, and I was one of the few reps my bosses would trust to do it. After at least 45 minutes of opening account, writing mortgage transfer papers and preparing some investments, I knew that I’d done one of my best jobs ever. The customer was happy, my bosses were happy and it was completely clean. I called it a great night!

Too bad I couldn’t say the same about the next morning.

Seems that someone had made a huge mistake in processing the customer’s mortgage transfer the night before, and they were out to lose tens of thousands of dollars if it wasn’t fixed — and everyone swore that I did it.

I’m confident in my skills. I know what I can do and what my potential is. But I’m not cocky — if I make a mistake, I’ll be the first to admit it and try to get it fixed.

And this wasn’t my mistake.

In the End, it All Adds Up

That’s RIGHT!!!

After getting chewed out and lectured by management, they decided that my punishment was to get on the phone with the mortgage centre, other banks and whoever it took to fix the problem, and to do it for as long as I had to.

Hours later, it was done and so was I. I flat-out refused to work until they got their heads out of their asses and got the real story. I went up to the lunch room and sat.

No one had ever seen me that silent before, and they were worried.

After they got an investigation done on the transactions, it turned out that the financial advisor who I’d referred my customer to had made the mistake, pulled the seniority card and tried to pin the blame on me.

How d’you like them apples???

In the end, they did apologize and they learned that I wasn’t a force to be reckoned with, but I didn’t end up working there much longer as a different career path would soon open up with new experiences, new opportunities and far better pay.

But that’s another story for another day.

–case p.

Day 1: Admitting that there’s a problem.

Good evening, one and all – my name is Casey Palmer, and I have debt.

Granted, it could be a lot worse – as I used to work for a bank, I’ve seen tons of people who’re way in over their heads when it comes to the credit beast, but it should’ve never come to this.

I suppose you could say that I grew up as a very naïve young man.

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I was given my first credit card at the age of 18, when I was still finishing my last year of high school. What it meant to me then was that I had a no-strings attached method of being able to buy all the food, clothes, video games and such that I wanted. I was having a great time as I went on trips to other provinces and out with friends after school. I had no problem paying off more than the minimum payments and generally staying out of financial woe.

But then university came about and changed things up.

Having spent so much time in high school focusing on everything but school work, I got accepted to York University with no offer of a scholarship, something I could have likely attained if I’d just focused. So here I was with my dismal savings habits and tuition to pay for the next whoever knew how long.

So in came limit increases, overdraft protection on my chequing account and the introduction to the magic of the student line of credit. Really, this would all have been fine…

…if I’d been more conscientious of my spending habits.

If I remember correctly, I bought my laptop on a Future Shop card.

I know I had a Best Buy card.

There was a Sears card somewhere in the mix.

I have a Macy’s card and I barely ever go over the border into the United States.

And so on and so forth…

The years of school would progress, and though I would always be in the midst of a good job – nay, a BANK job which gave me access to low interest rates, for some reason, I always believed myself invincible and never having to worry about tomorrow. The next bill. Or anything that was coming.

Upon recently graduating, I was left with:

  • A student loan, locked because I was no longer a full-time student (and hadn’t been for some time – I was taking part-time courses)
  • A TD Gold Select Visa with a very shameful amount racked up on it for no decent reason
  • Overdraft on my chequing account
  • A Henry’s card for several pieces of camera equipment I’d bought over time

A month or so after this, I sat down and really started to look at my finances. With the job I had at the time as an intern for the Government of Ontario, the monthly minimum payment for the Visa ALONE was eating up somewhere around 15-20% of my take-home pay per month! And even my monthly expenses were getting ridiculous:

  • $100 for a monthly pass for the subway
  • $90 for passes for the train in from the suburbs
  • $220 to my parents for “rent” (one should note I’m rarely at home)
  • $270 tithe to my church (though I only started in November)

Plus food and entertainment.

Something had to give and give QUICK.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was the fact that I’d reconsidered a trip to Africa in 2009 due to the fact that I had all of this debt and it seriously needed paying off. After severely disappointing my girlfriend with this news, I decided that serious action needed to happen. I’d been working on a new plan for about a month before said discussion, but now it was time to commit to an approach to get rid of this issue. The three things I’ve committed to doing are as follows:

  • Taking a more aggressive stance to monthly payments – I plan to use a larger percentage of my pay cheque to pay down my debt — especially the Visa, so that there’s less interest to set me back
  • Thinking up new ways to generate secondary income to go towards paying off the debts – whether I have to sell my stuff on eBay, draw commissions like a fiend or find another avenue
  • Change my spending habits so that there’s less to worry about at month end when the charges come and it’s time to pay the piper

I hope you choose to follow my journey and I also hope that I present you all with a better situation as time passes.

Thanks, y’all.

–case p.