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A young woman starts her career as a graphic designer in Toronto with a daily commute from Cambridge, Ont., that lasts as long as 2.5 hours a day, one way. So she decides to enter hell.

Sorry, I mean the Toronto rental market. It’s home to what could be the most unsolvable problem in personal finance today for millennials: how do you find an affordable place to rent while you get started in the working world and build your career?

The young woman told her story in Toronto Life magazine and it’s a must read for millennials who live in cities with expensive real estate and their parents. She ended up finding a one-bedroom apartment for $1,340, which wasn’t actually affordable because of her student loan payments and starting salary. She ended up taking on a roommate for an apartment where “the only way in was up a steep, makeshift staircase made of wood planks and chain-link fencing.”

She sleeps on an air mattress, takes on responsibility for various repairs and gives up on anything approaching privacy. Then, she and her roommate are asked to move by their landlord so a family member could move in. The story ends somewhat happily – she and her roommate find a new place in a condo tower.

I’m starting to hear parents of young millennials in Toronto wonder how their kids will ever afford to move out. The options are limited – pay high rent that doesn’t leave much room for saving, or live like a student and take on roommates. I’d like to hear from millennials in Toronto, Vancouver and other expensive place to live. How are you getting by as a renter? Talk to me at

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Rob’s personal finance reading list…

The four pillars of a happy retirement

A retirement expert talks about a diversified “life portfolio” for retirees based on health, people, pursuits and places.

Tough talk on daycare costs

A smoking hot defence of government-subsidized daycare by blogger Bridget Casey on Twitter. I wonder if young adults would be better served by low-cost daycare instead of measures to make home buying more affordable.

This is why you should invest in international stocks

Returns over the past 30 years suggest you can do fine with just Canadian and U.S. stocks. Why add international exposure? A portfolio manager explains the reasons.

Cheapest kitchen reno ever

Here are eight suggestions for clearing the clutter from your kitchen counters so you have more space to work.

Today’s financial tool

Working on your tax return for 2018? is a great reference on all tax-related matters.

Ask Rob

Q: Is it time to dump rate reset preferred shares? I paid $25 per share as a new issue and they are now around $15 per share.

A: Rate reset preferred shares adjust their dividend higher or lower every five years to stay in sync with interest rate trends. A year ago, everyone thought interest rates were going up and rate resets did well. The prevailing view in March 2019 is that rates will be stable or possibly they might fall, which is a tough environment for rate resets. If you bought these shares for dividend income, then there’s a case to be made for hanging on. The declines in share price in the past year have nothing to do with the flow of dividends. When the outlook for the economy improves again, rate resets should head higher.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.

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