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A float plane crosses over the skyline of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories in this file photo. (JEFF MCINTOSH/Canadian Press)
A float plane crosses over the skyline of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories in this file photo. (JEFF MCINTOSH/Canadian Press)

Paycheque project

Millennial makes six figures in NWT diamond mine, vacations in Thailand Add to ...

Name: Stephen Soock

Age: 26

Annual income: over $110,000, including bonuses

Savings: $55,000 in TFSAs (stock and savings); $50,000 in RRSPs

Debt: $0

What he does: underground design planner at diamond mine

Where he lives: Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

Stephen Soock is a long way from home. Based in Yellowknife, the 26-year-old Oakville, Ont., native always knew he would have to travel far to get work – he wanted to fulfill his goal of becoming a mining engineer. “There aren’t too many mines outside the GTA.”

Mr. Soock chose mining after a stint in the bush doing mining exploration work as a 17-year-old. “I decided I really liked it,” he says. “Plus, both of my parents were geologists – and my mom is now in the mining field.”

A graduate of Queen’s mining engineering program in 2012, Soock’s career has led to jobs in Regina, Thompson, Manitoba and most recently, Yellowknife, where he has worked at a diamond mine for the past year and a half. “I fly into camp Monday, fly out Thursday,” says Mr. Soock of the mine, which is 300 kilometres from Yellowknife. “You get used to it. You learn how to sleep on a plane.”

“I do a lot of 3-D drafting work and maintain an underground model of the mine,” says Soock, who uses daily feedback from surveyors to maintain his computerized designs. “I get to see the big picture.”

When he is back in Yellowknife, Soock spends his time in the mobile home he shares with his three roommates, two dogs and a cat, snowmobiling with friends on weekends or heading out to a local brew pub for dinner with his girlfriend.

Mr. Soock’s $110,000 salary, aggressive saving, and careful spending allow him a comfortable lifestyle. “The industry pays pretty well,” he says. He is able to afford skiing trips in Banff once a year, and recently visited Thailand for a diving vacation. He also wants to buy an income property in the next few years to capitalize on Toronto’s overheated housing market. He’s also working toward a goal of becoming a research analyst for a bank, with a goal to pass his CFA level 2 exam this coming June.

“Ideally I’d like to move into capital markets, with a mining twist,” says Mr. Soock. “Most mines have an end. I don’t know whether I’ll last to the end or not.”

Top financial concern: “I’m considering buying a rental property, possibly in the GTA or Kitchener/ Waterloo/Cambridge area. It’s a long-term goal. Most mines have an end – that is quite well known. It’s not a forever job.”

His typical monthly expenses:

$500 on rent, utilities, TV and Internet. “I live in a trailer with three roommates, two dogs and a cat. It’s very expensive to build here. It’s a mobile home, three bedrooms, open concept. It’s a little cozy when we’re all here.”

$200 on groceries. “When I’m at camp, the food is provided. At home, my roommates hunt so there’s usually game meat in the freezer: moose, birds like ptarmigan, grouse. I buy tuna, pasta sauce, Triscuits. I usually have meat [for dinner] – a roast or sausage – some rice and some stir-fried veggies. Groceries are 30 per cent more here than in Edmonton.”

$120 on eating out. “I eat out twice a month. Yellowknife has a surprisingly good food selection. There are two sushi places, Ethiopian, brew pubs.”

$88 on alcohol. “I buy a bottle of wine almost every week, and a case of beer every three weeks. It’s $58 for 24 cans of Canadian – beer is expensive up here. Everything has to be trucked 16 hours up from Edmonton.”

$47 for a cellphone plan. “It’s Virgin – it’s a very basic cell package. Half the time I don’t have cell coverage. There’s Skype at the mine.”

$58 on auto/snowmobile insurance and car registration. “I drive a 2008 Mazda Tribute. I own it – paid it off a couple of years ago. I plan to drive it into the ground. I also have an Arctic Cat snowmobile – I bought it off a person in town. It burns $90 in gas a month in winter. I also bought a boat – it’s my summer toy. It costs $60 a month in gas in the summer.”

$17 on clothing. “I spend $200 a year. I don’t like clothes shopping. The company provides me with boots, and coveralls, safety gear. I have a few pairs of jeans, a couple of shirts, snow pants. And a Canada Goose parka. You pretty much have to up here.”

$0 on gym membership. “There’s a gym at camp – I use that pretty much every day. I also have a membership to a gym in Yellowknife. The company covers it.”

$60 on gas. “I fly into camp Monday, fly out Thursday.

$4,800 on vacations per year. “I downhill ski in Banff. I get the flight on points. It’s $1,300 for a 10-day trip – lift ticket, food, pitching in for gas. I just got back from two weeks in Thailand on a diving vacation – I ate my weight in Thai food. I stayed in hostels and cheaper accommodations.”

$480 on his pet:. “I have a black lab named Laika. I pay for doggie daycare every two weeks, at $200 per week. Her food is $80 a month. She is almost five.”

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