As I interview more and more individuals about their financial journeys, I realize each individual has unique strengths. When you look back at their journey you can see just how their strengths have enabled them to succeed.
Married family man with three kids in his mid 40s
Arrived in Canada two years ago with $10,000 US
Financial planning associate earning $60,000
Monthly rent of $950
Monthly expenses of $2,800
Monthly savings of $100
Isaac is a disciplined planner! Not just a thinker or list maker, a full out planner who has the discipline to invest significant time and effort thinking about the future and making it easier for himself. I believe this long term thinking has been a core enabler of his success.
Isaac was born in Nigeria to an upper middle class family. He went to university, studied microbiology first and then went back, pursued his MBA and worked in banking for 16 years.
At the age of 40 with three kids aged 9, 8 and 5, Isaac and his wife started to seriously think about emigrating. They wanted a better life for their kids and so despite being a well-paid middle manager in a bank and owning some small pieces of land, Isaac and his family decided to uproot their lives and move go Canada.
From the beginning, Isaac found out as much about the immigration process as he could. He researched not for profit organizations who might provide support, the cost of living, as well as any and all available support services…. During this time he had heard about Windmill Microlending,which provides low-interest microloans to help skilled immigrants and refugees invest in securing the Canadian credentials they need to continue their careers in Canada. He parked the concept into the back of his mind. Isaac sought out and took advantage of everything that could help him.
From a financial perspective, he worked as hard as he could in the 2-year application process, researching all the options, learning from previous immigrants and working to pay for the exams, documents, tickets and all other expenses as they came. In 2017, after having sold everything, Isaac, his wife Jol, and three children immigrated to Saskatchewan with $10,000 US.
What is important to note is that when they got off the plane, the family already had a place to live. Isaac’s preparation had enabled him to get in touch with members of the Nigerian community in Saskatchewan and a community member had already organized an apartment for them to rent. The rent was $975 a month so basically the family had a maximum of 9 months of rent before they ran out of money.
Isaac focused on getting a job. Despite their education and previous careers, they knew they needed money now and so Isaac and Jol both took jobs in retail stores earning minimum wage and were working within a month.
Recognizing that it was going to be hard to get a job in his field, Isaac secured support from résumé writing services and started sending out as many resumes as possible. He knew he did not want to work retail and so continued planning for and working on his future.
Within 6 weeks he received a job offer from a bank for a position as a financial services representative in a rural northern town of 2,500 people, 4 hours from his home. His pay would be $38,000 a year and he would need to live there and commute home on weekends. Although difficult for the family, Isaac’s plan was to work in his field of experience and he knew that this opportunity provided him with some Canadian experience so he took it. His plan and long-term vision encouraged him to say yes. Without that he may have passed up the role and been stuck in retail for a longer period.
While working, he continued to aggressively send out resumes and apply for other jobs. Within 10 months he was able to transfer within the same bank to a similar role in another town that was only 1.5 hours away. This was great - he was able to move back in with his family!
Despite this big step forward, Isaac still needed to commute 3 hours a day to his job. He was also interested in something at a higher level within the bank. He realized that Canadian education in his field would help and so Isaac wanted to start the Canadian Securities Course.
Unfortunately the course and associated exams were out of his budget but he remembered Windmill Microlending from his earlier research. He thought they may be able to help him get Canadian education which would help him advance his career goals. He applied for a loan with Windmill, was accepted and began the Canadian Securities Course as a way towards becoming a certified financial planner (CFP). At the same time, he continued to dedicate time and energy to researching and applying for jobs.
He saw a posting for a role at another bank in wealth management and given he had completed his CSC course, had Canadian experience as well as international experience and education, he was able to secure an interview and was offered the role. He feels that “without those funds, he would not have been able to do the CSC course, he would have struggled more and had more difficulty transferring into his new, higher skill and higher pay role.
Isaac is now a Financial Planning Associate making $60,000 annually after being in Canada 2 years. He has also paid back his microloan in full. In the first year he is required to pay interest only but he wanted to ensure that he paid it back quickly in order to have his finances in order and to minimize his interest.
Isaac’s disciplined planning skills can also be seen in his daily money management and budgeting. Isaac lists his priorities: rent first, bills, food and necessities. He recently started an excel sheet for a budget that is very helpful for him. They make their decisions based on their goals. Currently Isaac and his family are saving for a down payment on a home.
With this goal in mind, Isaac and Jol are both mindful and frugal. They actively manage their money, discussing what they have and what needs to be bought at least every other day. They regularly shop second hand using facebook marketplace, Value Village, and Kijiji. They cook 95% of their meals. Isaac has lunch out maybe once a week and they buy pizza for the kids as a treat once a month. They have cut out credit cards and use cash or debit so they have a more up to date picture of their money and so they do not spend money they do not have. They selectively choose where they spend. They would have loved to have signed their kids up for more summer programs, but they were expensive and so they invested in a couple of key ones.
Thinking about his journey, Isaac says he is in a good place now. He is feeling stable with secure employment in his field, has a good handle on all his money and a new goal of buying a house.
When asked what advice he would give to others, he says:
1. Be prepared. It makes no sense to come blind. You could be just wasting the opportunity
2. Save up, come with as much money as possible and be money mindful. Isaac says that you will get to a point where you can afford to buy what you need and what you want. Be patient, it will happen. If you try to buy everything you want when you start earning money, you can increase your risk and it may limit your progress towards your goals.
3. Take advantage of the all the supporting organizations and resources that exist. Help and support can make your journey easier and faster. Take the time to understand what support would help you, research what exists, and ask for help.