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paycheque project

Noah and his girlfriend are moving into a Toronto rental, but living expenses have him worried, as does the prospect of two months without work

Photo illustration by The Globe and Mail/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

Name, age: Noah, 32

Annual income: $50,000, plus or minus

Debt: $0

Savings and investments: $21,372 in savings account; $42,600 in TFSAs; $8,000 in RRSPs; $200 in crypto

What he does: Actor and adventure-trip leader

Where he lives: Toronto

Top financial concern: “Actors are used to feast or famine – I try never to feast financially because I don’t want to have famine.”

Paycheque Project is a non-judgmental look at how young adults in Canada are spending their money.

Noah’s life seems glamorous. The 32-year-old actor travels the world, working for an adventure company that has sent him to Provence in Southern France, the jungles of Costa Rica and Spain’s Catalonia region this past year.

Noah, who earns $16.50 an hour, made $6,096 in September by putting in 70-plus-hour workweeks. But as a contract worker, his income fluctuates wildly. That’s because he never knows how many tours will be booked in the 10 months of the year that he works for the adventure company.

Despite the income uncertainty, he’s made progress in growing his wealth recently. “I’ve managed to increase my net worth significantly by simply earning a lot more than I spend,” says Noah. “I had $30,000 in net worth on my 30th birthday, and doubled that by my 32nd birthday in July.”

Noah has $42,600 invested in TFSAs and $8,000 in a number of RRSPs, including $4,000 in an equity portfolio, $1,000 with Wealthsimple, and $1,500 in his actor’s union RRSP. He uses a robo-adviser for his Wealthsimple investments but also has a financial adviser through Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. He’s concerned about his investments, which have fallen in value by $2,500 during the current market downturn.

“I worry that if I invest most of my money I won’t have it available if I ever want to buy a property one day in the near future,“ he says. Noah says his adventure co-workers are thinking about buying places in affordable locations like Spain, while his dream of owning a home in Toronto seems unattainable. Despite this, he remains hopeful and has earmarked the $21,000 sitting in his savings account for the tax-free First Home Savings Account, to be rolled out next year.

For now, he and his girlfriend are moving into a Toronto rental. But living expenses have him worried, as does the prospect of two months without work, given his job as a trip leader just ended. “The cost of living is so much higher when I’m in Toronto, since my company pays for my housing, cellphone costs, food and internet while I’m travelling.”

He’d also like to ramp up his acting career, despite the slow restart of the industry as pandemic restrictions eased. “Actors are used to feast or famine. I try never to feast financially because I don’t want to have famine,” he says.

In the meantime, Noah will continue to save for a home.

“Sometimes I’m tempted to just cut all ties with Toronto and buy a small cottage in Quebec close to a ski hill or on a lake, and have a little place to rest my head when I’m not travelling the world,” he says. “That, or find a place outside of Canada entirely.”

His typical monthly expenses:

Investment and savings: $615

$615 to TFSA. “One year I’ll put $8,000 in a TFSA, another year, $800. I generally feel like TFSAs make sense especially if you’re making less than $50,000 a year.”

Household and transportation: $1,260

$0 to car. “I have never owned a vehicle. I had a bike that was stolen.”

$1,100 (budgeted) for rent. “My girlfriend and I are moving in together ... we have not found an apartment yet that is in our budget.”

$25 on storage locker.

$85 on cellphone. “That’s a two-year contract with Rogers and includes my iPhone as a monthly fee.”

$50 on Internet.

Food and drink: $650

$300 on groceries. “I usually treat myself with Loblaws but usually go to No Frills. I definitely want to cook more. I collect PC points.”

$300 on eating out. “The idea of spending money to go to a nice restaurant does not appeal to me. There’s such great food in Toronto: I’ll get a pretty good bowl of Ramen noodles, Thai or Indian or go to the Dumpling House on Spadina.”

$50 on alcohol. “I like going to craft breweries.”

Miscellaneous: $477

$10 to Netflix.

$250 on clothing.

$25 on sports. “I play in the odd pickup hockey game and need skate sharpening. Occasionally I play tennis on public courts. And I love hiking and road biking.”

$12.50 on dental.

$34.90 on apps. “I have Spotify and a subscription to The New York Times. And I also have a casting workbook – an acting-related app that tracks jobs and helps actors work with agents.”

$19.60 on his own website.

$125 on vacations ($1,500 a year). “This month, I’m going to Lisbon. I’m flying in my girlfriend and my flight is $150. We’ll stay at a hostel, eat out, take the train and get tickets to FC Barcelona.”

TOTAL: $ 3,002

Some details may be changed to protect the privacy of the person profiled. We want to thank him for sharing his story. Are you a millennial or Gen Z who would like to participate in a Paycheque Project? Send us an e-mail.

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