1. Remember your first real paycheque? What did you do with it?
I’m not sure how to define “real.” My first job was at Dairy Queen when I was 14 years old, but it was really about spending not saving. I’d say my first “real” paycheque came post-university, and it was an experience right out of an episode of Friends. Remember when Rachel said, “Who’s FICA and why is he getting all my money?” What I remember is how small my paycheque was. It went toward rent and living expenses. But because I also had a roommate at the time, I also used some of those first paycheques to start an RRSP.
2. What’s something cool that you set a financial goal for and achieved?
I’m not sure how cool this is, but I amassed an impressive amount of credit card debt in my 20s. I was living in New York on a print reporter’s salary, so you can see the built-in justification there. I made it my goal to pay off my debt as quickly as possible before I moved home, and then with real intensity once I was back in Toronto.
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3. Who’s your money mentor? What was their best piece of advice?
She never talked about money, but my grandmother was a great guide about how to live happily within your means. Later I would meet a whole bunch of experts in my job as a journalist, and the one who made the most lasting impression — with wisdom I try to pass on — was Gail Vaz Oxlade. She had a simple reminder that your future non-working self needs to share in your current working self’s income. Saving isn’t cheating yourself, it’s sharing with yourself. I think we tend to forget that of the 85 to 90 years we may be alive, we really only have about 20 years of peak earnings. That’s a sobering but empowering thought.
4. Best investment to date? Serious/joke answers only please.
OK, this is unorthodox. But remember that credit card debt I racked up in New York? That was my best investment. I was travelling and meeting people, and buying clothes to wear on television that were nicer than I could afford. This may not be the advice I would give my kid, but even as I was doing it I had an assumption that it would pay off one day in a higher-paying job that would allow me to settle the debt. Which is exactly what happened. It’s not exactly like going into debt to get a PhD, but it was definitely an investment in myself and my future.
5. Last question: What would you do if $1,000 appeared in your wallet right now? What if it was $100,000?
If $1,000 appeared out of nowhere, I think I would use it frivolously—maybe a big party for friends. Same goes for $100,000. I’d spend $1,000 of it on a party for friends and invest the rest. After tax, of course.
Amanda Lang’s latest book, The Beauty of Discomfort: How What We Avoid Is What We Need, is in stores now.
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