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paycheque project

Name: Fazeel and Priya

Age: 34 and 32

Combined annual income: $64,800

Debt: $0

Savings: $40,000 in savings account; $15,000 in TFSA

What they do: retail store manager, accountant

Where they live: Scarborough, Ont.

Top financial concern: “We are trying to climb up the ladder. But do you want to pay your mortgage or live your life? Our savings are focused on travelling.”

Many Canadians would love to move to Fiji. But for Fazeel and Priya, who had lived in Fiji all of their lives, Canada was an adventure – and a gateway to travel in North America and Europe. They moved from the archipelago to Toronto in March, 2019.

“We had always travelled in the South Pacific – to Australia and New Zealand,” says Fazeel. “We wanted to try something new and experience life here. Fiji is a vacation-type place. I like a cold climate.”

Upon arrival, the couple shelled out hundreds on winter clothes – a novelty, coming from Fiji. They then began an aggressive job hunt. Fazeel, who holds a certificate in electronics from Fiji’s National University, quickly found work as a retail manager. Priya, an accounting graduate from Australia’s University of Queensland, was hired in an accounting role at a manufacturing firm. Together they earn $5,400 a month.

That money will largely be used to fund future trips. “Our savings are focused on travelling,” says Fazeel. Denmark, Dubai and Fiji are on their travel list. For now, he and Priya have discovered a passion for skiing at Ontario’s Blue Mountain, and take trips to Niagara Falls – when COVID-19 pandemic restrictions allow it.

The couple are also focused on investing- they are with Wealthsimple. They arrived with $35,000 and have managed to grow that sum to $55,000 – with $15,000 in a TFSA and the rest in savings. Their strategy? Buying growth and dividend stocks when the pandemic first hit Canada hard in March, 2020.

“It was luck that we got into the market when COVID hit,” says Fazeel who invested in sectors that include oil, entertainment, cruise lines and REITs. “It was a huge opportunity for us.”

The couple was fortunate to find a two-bedroom condo for rent in Scarborough for $1,850 a month. They bought a 2013 used SUV for under $15,000 a few months after they arrived in Canada.

While their lifestyle is spartan – the couple has purchased little furniture and few clothes – they spend close to $500 a month on takeout food. To get a taste of home, Fazeel says they often search for places that sell Fiji-like burgers with tropical fruit, pizza or Indian food.

The couple realizes that buying a home could be a long time coming, given Toronto’s overheated housing market. “We’ll see – hopefully things will cool off so we can get into the market,” says Fazeel. For now, he’s putting money away in a savings account and the TFSA.

“We are trying to climb up the ladder,” says Fazeel. “But do you want to pay your mortgage or do you want to live your life?”

Their typical monthly expenses:

$1,850 on rent. “We were renting a basement flat before I found a condo. It’s a two-bedroom and everything is included except hydro.”

$40 on hydro.

$25 on renter’s insurance.

$760 to TFSA.

$400 to savings account.

$400 to car repair fund.

$500 on groceries. “I miss the food from Fiji. I’m trying to recreate the food here. We use a lot of coconut milk, cassava, taro and yams. Most of our food has onion garlic and chilis. We go to Walmart or Metro and we have Food Basics right next to our home.”

$0 on wine or beer. “We don’t drink.”

$173 on car payment. “I drive a 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe. We bought it used three months after we arrived for $13,900. I talked to RBC and they gave me five years at 4 per cent. RBC was most favourable to newcomers.”

$120 on gas. “My wife works in Mississauga, 30 kilometres away.”

$284 on car insurance. “We’re with The Co-operators. I checked out five companies and this was below average.”

$60 on transit pass. “My work is on the Danforth. On the days my wife takes the car to work, I take the TTC.”

$20 on sports. “We have a membership with Fit4Less. But now we go for walks and follow YouTube fitness videos. We’ve also discovered the condo stairs – it’s the best cardio you could ever have. Sometimes in the summer we play a little bit of rugby with friends.”

$480 on eating out. “We go out a lot. Most of the time it involves pizza and burgers. We look for burgers similar to those in Fiji – with tropical fruit. Occasionally we have some Caribbean or Indian food.”

$80 on coffee or tea. “We drink a lot of coffee. Tim Hortons is our go-to. But we also have a premium place.”

$40 on haircuts. “This is for my wife. Although I don’t think she’ll be going to the salon any time soon.”

$130 on cellphones. “My cellphone is with Koodo; my wife is with Telus.”

$56.50 on internet.

$9.95 on Netflix.

$40 on clothing. “We hardly go for clothes shopping. We only wear plain and simple clothing. The majority of our expenses have been on winter coats and shoes – that was a major investment.”

$125 on vacations. “Our savings are really focused on travelling. From [Canada] it is easier to travel to North America and Europe. We want to go to Dubai and Denmark next. For now, we are discovering Ontario. Last year we went skiing at Blue Mountain. We would also like to make a trip to Fiji in the next few years.”

$150 on courses. “My wife is taking CPA courses. She does two to three a year. The CPA designation will elevate her degree.”

$37.50 on donations. “We donate 2.5 per cent of the income we get within a year. It goes to a website called the Islamic Relief of Canada. It goes to needy people.”

The name and some details may have been changed to protect the privacy of the persons profiled. We want to thank this couple for sharing their story.

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