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23-year-old Waterloo woman earning $85,000 hopes to have enough money to buy a home in the next five years

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

Name, age: Emma, 23

Annual income: $85,000

Debt: $0

Savings: $15,000 in savings; $19,550 in TFSA

What she does: Software developer

Where she lives: Waterloo, Ont.

Top financial concern: “I’m trying to live greener. I want my investments to reflect my eco-friendly approach.”


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

Emma landed her dream job as an Android developer straight out of university. With a starting salary of $85,000, the 23-year-old feels like she should start “adulting.”

Instead, she’s spent the six months since her graduation living much as she did during her undergrad, with a focus on saving money. She recently moved from Guelph, Ont. to Waterloo, Ont. to live with her boyfriend, gave up her gym membership and the couple got rid of a second car.

“I’m still trying to shift out of student mode,” she says.

The daughter of an accountant, Emma learned the importance of savings at an early age. At 8, she had a bank account and at age 15 was given access to a credit card. Her father emphasized how important it was to pay what she owed on time, in order to build and maintain a good credit score.

Emma lived at home while she attended university and managed to save the money she earned as a co-op student in the school’s software engineering program.

In 2018, she won a coding competition and was awarded $2,500. Her dad said she should invest it but frowned on her plan to buy “weed stocks.” She ended up investing the money in bank shares instead.

In the next five years, she hopes to have enough money to buy a home. “I’m interested in the Tax-Free First Home Savings Account that’s out in 2023,” she says.

In the meantime, she will continue investing in her tax-free savings account using her online brokerage account, something she did during the COVID lockdown years. “I invested a lot in dividend-paying stocks during the pandemic,” she says.

She plans on contributing to her employer’s group registered retirement savings plan as soon as her employer, a startup, begins matching contributions.

Her next investment foray will likely be in socially responsible investing. That’s because Emma and her boyfriend are trying to live a greener lifestyle. They drive a 2003 Toyota Corolla with the hopes of eventually replacing it with a hybrid. They couple shop locally, supplement their groceries with produce from a farm and have curbed their takeout habit. As for clothing, Emma shops at thrift stores.

“I’m trying to live greener,” she says. “I want my investments to reflect my eco-friendly approach.”


Her typical monthly expenses:

Investment and savings: $366

$200 to savings account.

$0 to RRSP. “My current job hasn’t started matching. I will start contributing when they do.”

$166 to TFSA. “I’m focused on maxing out my TFSA.”

Household and transportation: $1,404

$980 on rent. “It’s $1,960 a month split evenly between my boyfriend and I. It’s a three-bedroom with an office, along with free parking.”

$31 on renter’s insurance.

$46 on internet.

$149 on car insurance. “It’s a beater, a 2003 Toyota Corolla. My boyfriend got it for $1,000.”

$150 on gas. “With both of us working from home we don’t drive all that much.”

$13 on cellphone. “My work pays for a $50 a month cellphone allowance.”

$35 on transit pass. “I only work in the office two times a week.”

Food and drink: $600

$250 on groceries. “We go grocery shopping at Costco or St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market. We have a shared PC Money account and we’re able to reduce our grocery costs by cashing in those points. We’ll make a big veggie pot pie and eat it for a week.”

$150 on eating out. “We go out once a week. A few months ago, we would eat out the whole weekend.”

$150 on alcohol. “We really like beer, gin and tonic, rye and ginger.”

$50 on coffee/tea. “Starbucks is my addiction. I’m trying to minimize that. We just got a French press.”

Miscellaneous: $506

$30 to sports. “I like to be active. I play fall soccer, winter volleyball and spring/summer beach volleyball.”

$33 on hobbies. “I sew. I built my own computer so I can play a bunch of videogames. Lego is another hobby.”

$50 on clothing. “I try to thrift. I use the online store Shein, and for my new work wardrobe I went to Dynamite.”

$0 on gym. “I cancelled my membership as my boyfriend has an insane gym set up.”

$38 on apps. “I have Luminary, Disney+, Spotify, and StackTV.”

$30 on cannabis. “That’s for gummies, pretty much.”

$165 on vacations. “We went to Vancouver recently.”

$30 on books. “I am an avid reader but I also use the library a lot.”

$130 on monthly therapy appointments.

Monthly total: $2,876

Some details may be changed to protect the privacy of the person profiled. We want to thank her 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.