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paycheque project

Ainsley is happy with her life, but a recent diagnosis in her family has taught her that ‘nothing is ever guaranteed’

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Name, age: Ainsley, 37

Annual income: $105,000

Debt: $8,700 in student loans; $2,000 credit card debt

Savings: $1,000 in savings account; $2,000 in TFSA; $15,000 in RRSP

What she does: civil servant

Where she lives: Toronto

Top financial concern: “I will have my student debt paid off this year. I like to travel. I’m lucky that I have a pension.”

Ainsley, a civil servant, was in no rush to repay the student loans she accrued while studying at the University of Toronto. “I like to live my life...” she says. “Paying off my debt was not on my radar.”

Then COVID-19 reset her live-in-the-moment thinking. “It was the pandemic that altered my mindset,” she said of the $36,000 Ontario Student Assistant Program loan, which had been hanging over her head for 12 years as she made minimum payments. “I said to myself: ‘I can’t travel so I might as well as pay off my debt.’” She’s now putting $1,000 a month towards that goal and aims to have the final $8,700 paid off by Dec. 31st.

Ainsley also took on a side hustle during the pandemic, accelerating her debt repayment plan by walking dogs in her Toronto neighbourhood. She now starts her day at 6 a.m., walking dogs before her government job begins. She also cat sits some weekends.

It’s grown to be a small business that brings in $10,000 a year. “I like the flexibility and the spontaneity,” she says of the business, adding that once her student loan is paid off, she will divert her dog-walking income to her travel budget. She plans to visit Turkey, Jordan and Egypt with friends this year, staying at hostels to keep the costs low. She estimates the trip will set her back $6,500. “I like to travel three to four times a year and I have been to 25 countries,” she says.

As a government worker, Ainsley is fortunate to have an increasingly rare defined benefit pension plan, one that will fund the bulk of her retirement. With the help of a financial advisor, she has also saved $15,000 in an RRSP which is invested in a medium-risk portfolio largely consisting of Canadian dividend funds.

She’d also like to buy a condo in Toronto’s east side, although she recognizes that could take years given her lack of savings. Currently she lives alone, paying $1,925 a month for a one-bedroom apartment and den in East Toronto.

All in all, Ainsley is happy with her life, whether that means grabbing a Starbucks flat white, going out with friends for dinner, getting a manicure or heading out to a night at the theatre. A recent diagnosis in her family has taught her that “nothing is ever guaranteed.”

“While I’m young I’d like to make sure that I live my life,” she says.

Her typical monthly expenses:

Investment and savings: $1,450

$1,000 to OSAP loan.

$250 to savings.

$0 to TFSA. “It’s in a global income and growth fund. It’s on pause as I decided to pay off my OSAP.”

$200 to RRSP. “It’s sitting at $15,000. I’m lucky that I have a pension.”

Household and transportation: $2,235

$1,925 to rent. “It’s a one-bedroom plus den.”

$40 to renters’ insurance.

$55 to hydro.

$0 to car. “I don’t own a car.”

$55 on Internet.

$15 on apps. “I used the Cricut Joy app to make homemade greeting cards.”

$20 on transit. “I walk and cycle everywhere and rarely take the TTC.”

$125 on yearly bike tune-up.

Food and drink: $760

$350 on groceries. “I go to No Frills or Loblaws. I make smoothies and a lot of vegetable dishes, lots of pasta and rice, curries.”

$100 on eating out. “I eat out four times a month. I like Asian food.”

$60 on Uber Eats.

$250 on coffee. “I indulge in a daily flat white. I can’t cut out my coffees.”

Miscellaneous: $1,340

$90 on cell phone.

$50 on stickers. “I love stationery.”

$58 on clothing. “I don’t shop that much. I recently shopped at Mango. I have a fairly big wardrobe from before the pandemic. I buy running shoes two times a year.”

$75 on haircuts and cosmetic procedures. “I get a manicure every couple of months and do my hair every six to eight weeks.”

$0 to books. “I read three books a week – I like thrillers. I go to the library.”

$200 on sports. “I’m a runner. I bought summer running clothes and a bathing suit to swim laps.”

$150 on hobbies. “This includes theatre subscriptions.”

$25 on writing course.

$150 to therapy.

$6,500 per year to vacations.

Some details may be changed to protect the privacy of the person profiled. We want to thank them for sharing their 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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