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Name: Nikki Dykema

Age: 38

Annual income: $60,000

Savings: $1,500 in TFSA, $600 in savings account; $25,000 in defined benefit pension plan

Debt: $10,000 in credit card debt

What she does: Communications role in public sector

Where she lives: Victoria, B.C.

Nikki Dykema is a worrier, which isn’t surprising given she didn’t land a job in her field until the year of the big financial crash. She’s keenly aware that her unionized job in the public sector, which comes with a good salary and defined benefit pension plan, is a rarity and she wants to hold onto it at all costs. “I am lucky,” she says. “My whole financial plan is built around staying in this job.”

She’s also seen what happens to acquaintances and friends who have lost their jobs – or who live barely above the poverty line. “They go paycheque to paycheque,” says Ms. Dykema. “They’re just covering their expenses. Where are they going to be in 20 years?”

Ms. Dykema paid off her student loans in seven years and has been free of that debt since December, 2014. “My national student loan was $48,000 and my B.C. student loan was $10,000,” she says. “I’ve got my debt under control.”

She is now busily paying off $10,000 in credit card debt to the tune of $500 a month.

She lives frugally, choosing to rent an apartment rather than buying into Victoria’s hot housing market. “I have no plans for buying a condo,” says Ms. Dykema. “I could either save for retirement or I could save for a home. I have no house, no kid. And I’m good.”

Ms. Dykema is also a big proponent of protecting against illness, and spends $58 a month on critical illness insurance. She wants to ensure she can pay the bills even if she gets sick. Her brother recently had a serious car accident that has left him unable to work. With her mother on the cusp of retirement, Ms. Dykema is hyper-aware she’ll be the one her family will turn to for help. And it concerns her.

“Mom is thinking about retiring. What happens if she has a major illness and she lives with a major illness for a long time? As time goes on, I will be responsible for her.”

With her student debt behind her and her savings growing, Ms. Dykema is somewhat reassured she’ll be financially stable. Having retirement savings makes her feel safer, so she put $5,000 into her pension last year and, on the advice of her BMO financial adviser, funnels $200 a month into a TFSA. “My TFSA is geared toward building up my retirement,” she says. “I don’t want to be a cat food senior.”

Top financial concern: “Cradle-to-grave jobs are disappearing. My number one fear is losing this particular job.”

Her typical monthly expenses:

$850 on rent. “This apartment is forever. Victoria right now has a vacancy rate of zero per cent.”

$30-35 on tenant insurance.

$58 on critical illness insurance.

$227 for utilities (includes Internet, cable, landline)

$500 on groceries and personal items. “My girlfriend and I split a Costco membership. I’m really cutting back on meat and my slow cooker gets a lot of use.”

$80 on eating out. “I eat out once a week – often I get a coffee and a cookie. There’s also a ramen place [in downtown Victoria] where it’s $13 for a giant bowl of food.”

$150 on courses per year. “It’s an anthropology course at UVIC (the University of Victoria) that’s six weeks long. It’s something I’ve always wanted to try. I love shows like Bones and CSI.”

$12 on coffee. “I buy instant coffee – I am not that much of a snob. I love Americanos and sometimes if I’m in a bad mood I’ll go get one.”

$100 on cell phone bills.

$10-15 for bus tickets.

$0 on a gym membership. “Going for a walk in Beacon Hill Park – you can’t really beat that.”

$40 on alcohol. “I’m definitely trying to cut that down. I bought a SodaStream so you can make your own drinks at home.”

$50-70 on gas. “I drive a beater. I bought a 2002 PT Cruiser off a tow truck driver last year for $2,500. I drive 60 km north a couple of times a month. I can walk to Victoria (downtown).”

$80 for parking.

$95 a month on car insurance.

$50 on medical bills. “[My benefits plan] is not 100 per cent coverage.”

$100 on clothing, accessories. “I buy off season. I do a big shop twice a year that totals $1,200 a year. I have to have blazers and slacks for work. You can only go so far in a women’s consignment store.”

$0 on holidays/trips. “My last vacation was in Mexico in 2011. I went to South Africa six years ago – I saved and I saved. I would love to go back but have no idea when it will ever happen again. I just can’t justify it.”

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