5 questions for…Bruce Sellery

By David FieldingIllustration of Bruce Sellery

Remember your first real paycheque? What did you do with it?

I bought my older brother’s property maintenance business from him when I was 13 years old. The price was steep: Book value on all the commercial equipment plus 50% of year one revenue. So it was a while before I actually received my first paycheque. When I finally started turning a profit, I did what a lot of entrepreneurs do: I put the money back into the business. I know that makes me sound like the most boring teenager in the world, but soon after I was able to buy a second snowblower, doubling my winter revenue. Now I look back at my younger self with a mixture of awe and annoyance. Yes, I developed a killer work ethic and graduated from university debt-free. But if my older self could go back in time and have a chat with that kid, I would tell him to lighten the f — k up.

Can you tell us about a time you set a financial goal and achieved it?

I saved like a madman and jammed my last year of high school into one semester so I could spend six months backpacking around Europe. “Fun Bruce” blasted onto the scene with a Eurail Pass and a copy of the Let’s Go travel guide. I had been working for years, but this travel adventure was definitely my most ambitious financial goal. I took off in March and by August had covered almost every country in Western Europe. I returned to Canada with just enough money left to pay for the keg parties I attended during Frosh Week.

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Who’s your money mentor? What advice did they give you?

My dad is my money mentor. His best advice wasn’t so much verbalized, but it was modelled consistently: Work hard, and then be intentional about what you spend your money on. I am grateful for the habits he fostered and try to do the same with my daughter.

Best investment to date? Serious/joke answers only please.

Our cottage. My now-husband and I bought it 17 years ago after we’d been dating for just 6 months. Like most real estate investments in Canada over that time period, it has gone way, way up in value. And because we have rented it out since the very beginning, the mortgage, property taxes and upgrades were all paid for by others. While it has been a financial home run for us, the real reason I would call it our “best investment” is—hold the eye roll, please—the intangible benefit of having a place to go every summer that we absolutely love.

What would you do if $1,000 appeared in your wallet right now? And what if it was $100,000?

Where did this mysterious $1,000 come from? And does it come to me legally? If it just fell from the sky, and was not the proceeds of organized crime, I would first set aside the income tax on it, and then I would put the rest to good use by donating it to one of my favourite charities: Adoption Options. Partly because I really believe in the magic of adoption, and partly because I think if you contribute part of any windfall to social good, you’re going to get an even bigger windfall next time. Such as, say, $100,000. Is that an option? Could I sign up for the $100,000 option? Please and thanks.

Bruce Sellery is a personal finance expert and author of the Globe and Mail bestseller Moolala: Why Smart People Do Dumb Things With Their Money. He is the host of the weekly Moolala radio show and podcast on Sirius XM.

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