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A 21 year old's journey to financial independence: Member Money Matters

October 16, 2020

Money Sense


Member Money Matters

Welcome to Member Money Matters - where we talk money with our community, our Members, and advisors. Conversations like these are essential to learning about your financial wellness, prioritizing your goals, and planning for the future.

Meridian Member: A 21-year-old student in Ancaster, ON who’s looking to build a strong foundation for financial independence.

Advisor: Derick Symonds, Financial Services Advisor


Life story and goals

Age: 21
Occupation: Third Year University Student
Location: Ancaster, Ontario
Dependents: None
Financial goals: Become financially independent within the next few years, Buy my first car, Buy my first house, Invest in real estate


Monthly after tax income: $0
Net worth: Around $16,500
Housing expenses: $0 - I’m living with my parents right now
Utilities: $0
Transportation: $0
Staying connected (phone, internet, etc.): $0
Memberships and subscriptions: $0
Total savings and investments: Around $16,500, no investments
Life Insurance: $0
Debt payments: $0
Other: I don’t have any living expenses right now - no income either. Occasionally I eat out or shop a little, but definitely not much right now.


Let’s talk money

What are your financial goals right now?

My main goal is to be financially stable and financially independent. I also want to buy my first car after graduation in 2022, and buy a home in the next 5 years. Plus, I’d like to have enough money to do some travelling - at some point.

What’s your plan for meeting your goals?

To save a significant portion of my part-time job pay cheques. Plus, advice from Meridian!

When did you first start learning about money management?

Mostly from my parents and summer jobs. I worked at a retirement home throughout high school. That’s when I started saving 80% of my pay cheques. I kept that up during my summer jobs, too - working at a food truck and also at IKEA.

When did you start making a financial plan for the future?

My parents opened a savings account for me when I was younger and I have been using that ever since. They’re the ones who encouraged me to save a significant portion of my pay cheques. They also gave me ideas about what to use my savings for (a car, down payment for a house etc.) and helped me create a separate savings account for each goal.

What’s your best saving strategy?

Saving 80% of my paycheque.

Do you have a bad spending habit?

Nope. I like to shop, but only when I have the money to spare. And I make sure my shopping destinations match the amount I’ve set aside for spending.

What was your latest splurge?

I bought an expensive dress at Ted Baker. Plus, I went on a few fancy dinner dates to Spencer’s on the Waterfront in Burlington and The Olive Board in Ancaster.

What are your biggest financial questions right now?

Am I on track to achieve my goals? Like buying a car, saving for a down payment, maybe going to grad school?
What should I be doing to make the most of my money?
Are there investment opportunities I should look into?
How much do I need to save before I'm ready to be financially independent?


Advice from an expert

Derick Symonds, Financial Services Advisor, offers advice.

Let’s talk about financial independence

When it comes to establishing financial independence, your initial savings are a great start! I recommend using some of that right off the bat to start up an emergency fund - available as cash in a high interest savings account.

I typically advise people to approach an emergency fund in one of two ways: based on 3 to 6 months’ worth of your income, or 3 to 6 months of your potential expenses. Since your income and expenses are low we have to estimate that a bit, but I would say: look at the average starting salary you expect to make. If we’re looking at expenses, it would depend on whether you want to rent prior to buying a house. Overall though, it’s always better to have more than you need in your emergency fund, rather than not enough.

Let’s talk about savings habits

You’re already on the right track by saving a set percentage of your income. Building savings isn’t about speed, it’s about consistency - like establishing a set percentage of your income you can afford to set aside each pay day. This percentage may change over time as expenses increase, so it's important to have a bit of a budget worked out so you know how much you can afford to set aside.

Let’s talk about savings goals

Great job working out some savings goals and timelines! I suggest splitting your savings into a different account for each goal, instead of pooling it all together. Splitting up your savings also means dividing up your contribution from each pay cheque.

The other thing to remember about savings goals, is that some of them have longer timelines. Take your goal of saving up for a house - that’s got a longer timeline than buying a car, so it makes sense to look at some long-term savings options. Consider opening a TFSA (Tax-Free Savings Account) for your house savings. It’s easy to personalize a TFSA to your own priorities and preferences because you can hold lots of different options within the account - high interest savings, GICs, mutual funds, and more. Plus, all interest and returns are tax-free, leaving more money available for your down payment.

When it comes to saving up for a car, I have a few really simple suggestions:

  • First, try to set a price point so you know exactly how much you need.

  • Consider buying used instead of new.

  • Try to pay cash - if you have car payments when you start looking for a house, it’ll have an impact on the kind of mortgage you can get.

  • Stick with short-term options, like a high interest savings account or GIC.


I hope that helps! At Meridian, we’re always happy to dive into more conversations and options to make sure our Members get what they want.


All about Derick Symonds

Derick is a Financial Services Advisor in Niagara. He’s transparent and straightforward in his approach to financial advice, and passionate about helping people achieve their goals with confidence. He believes in getting to know people to really understand their goals and motivations before helping them make serious decisions. Outside of work, you’ll find him trying new local dines, working on his golf game, or attending charitable events with Meridian.

Phone Number: (905) 468-3438 Ext. 8505


The advice expressed in the article is for general informational purposes only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or on any specific product. It is only intended to provide education about finances. The views reflected in the article are subject to change at any time without notice. Nothing in the article constitutes professional and/or financial advice, nor does any information in the article constitute a comprehensive or complete statement of the matters discussed thereto. We recommend that you always consult with an advisor before making any decisions related to information on this website.


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