Though he’s a 28-year-old engineer, Zebulon Phillips has the financial acumen of a finance grad. With a stable job and more money saved up than most GenXers, he’s decidedly a millennial poster child.
An Edmonton-raised kid who didn’t come from an affluent family – “we were the mac ‘n’ cheese family” – he graduated from the University of Alberta with $41,000 in student loans. “The government rescinded $12,000 from that and I paid it off within a year and a half,” says Mr. Phillips. “Every spare penny went straight to my student loan. Plus, I managed to max out my RRSP as well.”
Mr. Phillips’ success might stem from his military-style approach to finances, which, unsurprisingly, he learned in the military. “I left home at 17 to go to university but I joined the reserves at 16. The military teaches a lot of life skills. They teach you how to do your taxes.”
It helped that he landed a job in his field eight months after graduation and took a position many graduates in his field simply won’t consider. “I work in a heavy industry plant. I’m out in the field all day. A lot of people don’t like that work – they don’t like to do the dirty work – they want to be in the Torontos, the Calgarys, the Vancouvers,” says Mr. Phillips.
Living in Medicine Hat, where the cost of living is considerably lower than in bigger cities, helps save money. Plus, Mr. Phillips says the usual social traps – such as drinking and partying – don’t really exist in his town. “A lot of my friends have families. I can’t call them and go out for a burger.”
In his free time, Mr. Phillips monitors his investments, which are aggressively invested in stocks. “I had a mutual fund but I thought I could do better because the market is in recovery mode. I threw it all into midstream oil and gas – they’re all Alberta companies. I’ve made 20 per cent so far this year.”
However, his RRSP has him a bit worried: “My RRSP plummeted to $40,000 in September. It has started to slowly creep back.”
Mr. Phillips credits his quest for knowledge with getting him to where he is now. “I’ve always been able to work with numbers. I calculate my net worth each month. You have to teach yourself this stuff.”
His typical monthly expenses:
$780 on rent (includes utilities). “I have a 700-square-foot condo with a patio. I don’t think the market here is good right now to buy a home.”
$20 on renter’s insurance.
$850 on groceries. “I eat more than a normal amount of groceries because I go to the gym a lot. I eat salmon and steak rather than mac ‘n’ cheese; baked tuna, lots of eggs.”
$4 on tea. “I get my Tetley.”
$110 for Internet and cable.
$9.50 for Netflix.
$100 on workout gear. “I like having nice workout clothes and shoes.”
$42 on courses. “I take courses at the college when I have time.”
$83 on textbooks. “I like technical literature.”
$21 on a gym membership. “We have a corporate deal through GoodLife. My main thing is weightlifting.”
$40 on alcohol. “I’ll go the bar once every two to three months. There might be a bull-riding competition in town. Square dancing is really big here.”
$100 on gas. “I fill up twice a month. I have a five-minute commute to work. I can see my plant from where I live.”
$80 a month on car insurance. “I own a 2008 City Jetta. It cost $16,000. I paid off the car loan last December.”
$300 on clothing. “I like jeans and a polo shirt – casual attire.”
$208 on holidays/trips. “I spend $2,500 a year on trips. I’m lucky because work sends me on business trips – and I usually extend that by a week. I’ve been to Europe twice in the last six months. Last year I went to Houston four times, once to Tulsa. You only have to pay for the hotel for a week.”
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