Millennial Money is a weekly series, based on submissions, that provides financial advice. Read the full series here.
For 29-year-old Anna, moving out of her family’s home in Mississauga, and into a space she can call her own, is a priority.
A programs administrator and a team leader in her company, Anna brings home $55,000 a year. She has been saving diligently in the hope she can pull together the money she needs for a down payment on a condo.
“I’m paying off OSAP and saving enough money to buy my own place,” Anna told the Star. Apart from owing $7,500 on OSAP, she is free of debt.
She’s not sure where life will take her, and she’s trying to get ready: Anna is saving to buy a house with a partner “or a condo, if I am doing it solo.”
During the work week, she usually makes her own meals: “I typically make breakfast, lunch and dinner.” This changes if she has plans to go out to eat, “which is not often on a weekday.”
On the weekend, Anna usually meets up with friends to go out for dinner or see a movie.
Anna wants to know if she can hit her goal for OSAP repayment and savings and move out on her own.
We asked her to share a week of spending to get an idea of her finances.
The expert: Jason Heath, managing director at Objective Financial Partners Inc.
“Anna has set some simple goals to pay off her student debt and to move out of her parents’ home and buy a condo. I think the debt repayment goal is a good one, especially while her costs are low, and she can pay it off quickly. Not to mention rising interest rates. I think she should reframe the other goal to be broader: to move out and to start to build wealth. Home ownership does not necessarily guarantee wealth and there is nothing wrong with renting as a first step for a young person.
“Her budget suggests she has about $2,000 of extra cash-flow each month. There are probably some gaps in that budget and tracking your spending and figuring out what goes out every month is a good first step before moving out on your own. Then you can make reasonable assumptions about rent and utilities and food and whatever other costs you may not be paying now. If the total expenses exceed your after-tax income, something has got to give. It may mean you need a roommate or to wait longer to move out. But it also helps you set a budget about what you can afford to spend every month on all of your other expenses.
“Before moving out, it can be a good idea to notionally ‘pay rent’ and other costs into a savings account. If you cannot do that, you are going to have a hard time moving out. You risk falling behind, racking up credit-card debt, or worse than that, ending up back with your parents.
“I think it is great that Anna’s tracking of her expenses led her to think twice about her daily purchase of tea. But, at the same time, two dollars a day is not going to make or break her. Even if she forgoes five teas bought at a store each week, that might only be $500 per year. If she makes the teas at home, there is still a cost. Frankly, I would be more focused on the after-tax income that passes through her bank account each year that she cannot identify. There needs to be room in your budget for some indulgences.”
Results: She spent more. Spending in week one: $142.11. Spending in week two: $541.95
How she thinks she did: Anna didn’t meet her usual goals, but unexpected costs can come up sometimes, she says.
“I think, due to having a number of events and a pet emergency, I did not save as much as I wanted to,” Anna says. “It made me realize, every week, there is going to be something different, or unexpected. I am happy that I have the finances to afford these scenarios.”
Anna thinks she has been hoarding some of her money in order to hit her home-ownership goals. “Rent might be a great alternative,” she said. “I always felt like I did not want to spend the money I saved to rent.”
And, she says, as interest rates are rising, she wants to work harder towards paying her debt faster. “I actually decided to send $500 to National Student Loans and honestly I feel like I can pay off the school debt really soon,” Anna adds.
Take-aways: Anna likes our expert Jason Heath’s idea of “notionally paying rent.” As she’s never paid rent, she isn’t quite sure what expenses she would have living on her own.
“I am a good saver, but I never thought about the costs of utilities, rent, parking or maintenance,” Anna says. She sometimes feels guilty, if she overspends, even on small indulgences.
“I worry that, if I spend too much, I will not have enough money for my future, which is why I save everything,” Anna says.
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