My interest in money and debt control began at a very early age. Growing up in Dominica my parents were very industrious and placed very high values on money management and debt control. I remember my parents were caring for an elderly woman and one day my mom said to me, “Tessa-Marie there is nothing worse in this world than being old and poor.” That statement made a huge impact on my life. I have never forgotten those words. Because of my mother’s comment, I have always taken control of my finances and managed my money effectively.
There was a time when my family was going through some financial hardships. My husband’s company downsized in the 80’s and during that time I had to pull out all the stops to make ends meet. But, a key decision I made was to control our debt load and managing our money effectively, no matter what. It took some innovative ways and very hard choices in what we did for vacations, children’s entertainment, grocery shopping. In those days I would shop at a discount grocer to get our groceries at a really great price. For vacations we would pile the children into the car and visit my husband’s family in Montreal or go across the boarder to Buffalo.
During that time I knew exactly what was in the cupboard, fridge and freezer. We never duplicated anything. We made a grocery list based on what we would prepare for the week or weeks taking into consideration what we already had. I made low-cost wraps for lunches filled them with tuna or eggs and because it was not the regular, higher priced bread. The children loved the cheaper wraps and so did their friends. During these hard times we ate well but always looked for ways to save.
Through all this we were still able to maintain a very small savings plan. I remember our first Retirement Savings plan contribution was $5.00 weekly into a Daily Interest savings account. The same was done for our vacation, Christmas, and emergency accounts. It was not much but we kept going. As our circumstances changed for the better we also changed our plans and increased all of our saving and we still have them to this day. So, no matter where you are at the moment, financially you can always look at what you are doing and make some adjustments. Even a small amount will make a difference. Our $5.00 weekly contribution to our Christmas account ended up being $260.00 to spend for Christmas that was better than $0. This also meant we did not have to use a credit card during Christmas.
I began my formal financial planning career in 1989 when I joined the TD Bank. During my twenty years with TD Bank I held various positions. When I became a Financial Advisor at the bank I began noticing the lack of money management and debt control of regular customers and friends. I started to educate and encourage everyone I met to manage their money more effectively. Eventually, this increased my client flow from one client telling friends and relatives to the point that one of my colleagues made a remark that I only had five clients and I kept recycling them. What they failed to realize was that these five family members, through referrals, represented an additional fifty to sixty people. This was done through word-of-mouth recommendations by siblings, aunts, uncles and other relative family members. I started helping them prepare for retirement savings, education savings, planning for weddings and first homes.
I made the decision to write controlling the Debt Monster with the idea that I could help more people manage their money more effectively. In my future blogs I’ll share some stories about the people I’ve helped and the financial planning skills I’ve taught them.
Tessa- Marie Shillingford is the author of Controlling the Debt Monster. She is Personal Financial Planner, with a designation from the Institute of Canadian Bankers, and a Financial Counselor certified by the institute of Canadian Banker. Tessa- Marie was employed by TD Canada Trust for twenty years in the retail section of the bank. During her tenure at TD Canada Trust she held various positions interacting with customers of the bank. As a Financial Advisor and Manager of Financial Services she led a group of Financial Advisors in helping customers of TD Canada Trust successfully manage their finances. Details of her book… Controlling the Debt Monster, can be found at http://www.controldebtmonster.com/