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She always knew her salary wouldn’t be high but didn’t aspire to be rich. What she didn’t realize was that she would struggle to afford basic things like shelter and food

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Name, age: Caitlyn, 33

Annual income: $35,000, plus $4,200 from extra shifts and $10,800 in rental income

Debt: $9,000 on a line of credit, around $200,000 to her parents

Savings: $0

What she does: Veterinary technician

Where she lives: In a small Ontario city

Top financial concern: Feeling “like I’m going to have to work until I’m 99 years old…there’s no contingency plan.”

Caitlyn thought things would be different by now. She’s 33 with more than 15 years of work experience, but she’s dependent on financial help from her parents.

“It feels like I’ve been working harder and harder and sliding backwards down the scale,” she says.

She earns a $35,000 salary as a registered veterinary technician, which works out to about $2,500 a month after taxes. She tops up her income with an average of $350 a month from extra shifts at another clinic. She has no savings, no investments and does not go on holidays. She relies on a personal line of credit for unexpected expenses, whether it’s a broken appliance, car repairs or veterinary care for her cats. Sometimes she uses it for regular purchases too, when her bank account is running low.

In 2013, her parents bought her a 1,200-square-foot semi-detached two-bedroom house in a small Ontario city, a university town. They paid $230,000 for it - in cash. They gifted her the majority of the $20,000 down payment although Caitlyn contributed $3,000.

She pays them back for the outstanding $210,000 through monthly mortgage payment of $1,162.70 – at an interest rate of 3 per cent. Internet, hydro and utilities amount to roughly $533 per month and for the last three years, she has collected $900 a month from her roommate.

Caitlyn admits she’s missed some payments over the years, like when she took six months off work because of a health issue. Her parents covered her housing expenses during that period, as well as travel and accommodations for out-of-town appointments.

They have also previously paid off her credit card debt, bought her a used Honda CRV, covered a kitchen renovation and helped with other expenses. They added each of these debts onto her mortgage. As a result, Caitlyn still owes them around $200,000, despite having made almost $37,000 in mortgage payments over the last 10 years.

There is a less tangible cost to her parents’ help. “It’s a lot of guilt. That’s the over-arching feeling. Obviously appreciation too, but those two things kind of tie in together.”

At her job, Caitlyn handles everything from drawing blood, performing X-rays and giving injections to answering phones, doing paperwork and cleaning the office space. She always knew her salary wouldn’t be high but didn’t aspire to be rich. What she didn’t realize was that she would struggle to afford basic things like shelter and food.

“I think the old-school principle is if you go to school and you get good grades and then you go to post-secondary education … the thought process was then you live comfortably,” she said.

Instead, she’s been readjusting her lifestyle to keep up with the climbing cost of living. She rarely eats out, makes her coffee at home and has cut back on ordering in and drinking alcohol.

Even still, she finds herself questioning whether she can see her boyfriend, who lives an hour away, based on whether she can pay for gas. She can no longer afford her cats comfortably either.

When she was broke in her early 20s, it felt like regular student life. When she was struggling right after graduating, it still felt normal – growing pains that come with just getting started.

Now, she says, depending this much on her parents feels scary.

“I used to make this joke that if it weren’t for them I would live in a cardboard box, but it’s not funny any more.”

Her typical monthly expenses:

Investments: $0

Savings: $0

Pensions: $0

Taxes: $415 in monthly tax deductions

Household: $2,175

Mortgage: $1,162.70

Utilities: $233

Hydro: $165

Internet: $135

Property tax: $216

Property insurance: $184

Phone bill: $80

Transportation: $384

Car repairs: $50

Car insurance: $184

Gas: $150

Food and drink (total): $520

Groceries: $400

Eating out: $60

Coffee/tea: $20

Alcohol: $40

Miscellaneous (dental, clothing, other shopping, nails, hair, spa etc) - $680

Her cats: $350 (food, meds and litter)

Haircuts/cosmetics: $150

Prescriptions: $100

Dental: $0 this year

Clothing: $50

Apps: $30

Vacations: $0

Hobbies/recreation: $0

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