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Name, age: Ashley, 29

Annual income: $80,000 from main job, $20,000 from side gig

Debt: $1,500 on credit card

Savings: $2,100 in savings account, $53,259 in tax-free savings account (TFSA), $16,900 in registered retirement savings plan (RRSP)

What she does: human resources adviser at a university, bartender at a nightclub

Where she lives: Toronto

Top financial concern: Being able to buy a home if she remains single. “I wouldn’t have to work part-time bartending if I was in a relationship.”

Ashley, 29, lives on her own in downtown Toronto, in a 550-square-foot condo in a building with a concierge and a gym. Two of her friends took turns living in the unit before she moved in, and while the rent was raised with each of them, it’s still comparatively low for the area at $1,750 a month.

“I do wish my unit was bigger,” Ashley said, but noted that it’s a welcome change from her last place – in Burlington with her mom. She moved to Toronto two years ago, after living at home for her undergraduate degree, a graduate program in HR and the first couple of years of her career.

She credits the financial benefit of avoiding rent for so long for her relatively privileged financial position today. She has no student debt and was able to spend time learning about personal finance after she had an income but before she was out on her own.

“I belong to a Reddit group called Personal Finance Canada. People in there give good advice,” she said, noting that she also learned a lot from her mom. She made a plan to start saving and now has more than $50,000 in her TFSA, mostly in index funds. “I am still learning, but it feels like it is a never-ending world of learning.”

She also has $16,900 in an RRSP, invested in a one-year guaranteed investment certificate. She has no long-term debt – just whatever she spends each month on her credit card before paying it off in full.

Paycheque Project

One of Ashley’s first jobs, in the early days of the pandemic, was in a health care setting with a lot of turnover, so she was able to move quickly from an entry-level position to a mid-level one. Now she makes $80,000 as an HR adviser at a university and brings home an additional $20,000 from bartending one or two evenings a week, a job she’s done since university and hasn’t been able to walk away from yet.

“It’s 80 per cent because of the money, 20 per cent because I do enjoy it,” she said. “It is fun and doesn’t feel like work, and it eases the pain of paying all these bills in downtown Toronto.”

She says her next challenge will be figuring out how to afford a home of her own, something that seems harder as a single person.

“I didn’t think I’d be making $100,000 with two jobs and feeling stretched,” she said, noting she could always cut back on vacations or get rid of her car if she really had to. “I can’t work as a bartender and a full-time HR adviser forever, especially if I want to advance in my career.”

Her typical monthly expenses

Investment and savings: $700

$200 to savings account. “For random emergency expenses that might come up.”

$500 to TFSA.

Household and transportation: $2,712

$1,750 for rent. “It’s called a bachelor suite. It’s not a full one-bedroom.”

$25 for renter’s insurance.

$45 for utilities.

$200 for parking space.

$80 on gas. “Leaving the city on weekends.”

$130 on car insurance.

$275 car payment. “The car will be paid off in 16 months.”

$42 for car maintenance. “It’s in really good shape.”

$60 on transit.

$55 on cellphone.

$50 on internet.

Food and drink: $870

$450 on groceries.

$20 at coffee shops.

$350 on restaurants. “Going out for dinner and drinks and brunch. That’s how my friends get together.”

$50 on alcohol.

Miscellaneous: $864

$100 on going out. “I work a lot of Friday and Saturday nights.”

$28 on streaming services. “Netflix and Disney+.”

$20 on app subscriptions. “I have an Oura Ring, which is sort of like a Fitbit. I also have a meditation app.”

$75 on clothes.

$50 on yoga and pilates. “One or two classes a month.”

$125 on skiing. “Equipment and lift tickets.

$58 on hair stylist. “I highlight my hair twice a year. Each time it’s $300.”

$25 on cosmetics.

$50 on eyebrow threading. “When I lived at home, I was religious about getting my nails done, but don’t really do that any more.”

$333 on vacations. “I have a hard time saying no if a friend says, ‘I am going here for a weekend.’ I get FOMO.”

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