The Story of Kathleen and Sean

Have you ever had a time when you had to assist someone to get on the right track and found it to be an effortless thing to do? The story of Kathleen and Sean is really one of those times.

This is a financial journey that was well planned and executed to the highest level. It is a story that will make you understand the importance of knowing what you want, when you want it, and how to plan to attain your financial goals. Kathleen and Sean did have one bump on their journey but because they had a road map of where they wanted to end up, they did take a detour but quickly got back on track. It is my pleasure to tell you about Kathleen and Sean.

I started the financial journey with Kathleen and Sean in the late summer of 2007.  Kathleen called and asked me whether I would be free to work with herself and her finance Sean on setting up some financial goals – some of which would be life changing.

On the very first meeting I asked Kathleen and Sean to tell me what they were looking for on this part of their journey and how they thought I could help them. Before the sentence was out of my mouth Kathleen took over and told me exactly what they wanted and when they wanted to accomplish these goals.  I actually had to slow her down in order to write it all out. Now, here was a young woman and young man who were clearly ready and had made some plans.

From the way they both spoke I realized that they had given this quite a bit of thought and were ready to embark on their financial journey with both their heads in the same place. That type of preparation makes the job of a Financial Advisor very easy.

Their financial goals were SMART:

Specific………. They wanted to get married and own their own home.

Measurable….They had specific milestones to achieve along the way.

Attainable……They knew at this time of their life they were attainable


Realistic……. They were real and practical goals.

Timely……….Both goals had to be accomplished in 2010.

With such clear directions I found it very easy to set the plan in action.

Kathleen and Sean had a small amount of debt, about $3,000, between them. We looked at their incomes and their expenses which included things that were very common to a young couple both living with their parents.

They both had cell phones, eating out, spending whenever necessary for their WANTS, so we needed to work on the very concrete NEEDS that they had in mind, which was buying their own home and paying for their wedding in cash which would make them debt free.

We set up some very specific saving accounts like an RRSP, a House saving account, a Wedding account and a Vacation account.  The deposits into these accounts were made automatically from their chequing accounts. They kept their credit cards but they had to pay off in full what ever they charged each month.

There were a couple of occasions when the discussions became very heated such as when Sean thought it would be a great idea to get a flat screen TV.  With my help, we were able to convince him it was not in the immediate plan but if he could come up with extra overtime and reallocate some of his entertainment money, he was free to do as he pleased.

Then we had the bra incident, Sean brought up at one of our meetings that Kathleen spent $26.00 on a bra but he could not get his TV. Again we had to show him that there were a few more “0”s in the price of a TV, than the price of the bra. These small discussions took place a few times but it never distracted them from attaining their financial goals.

There was one incident when the Debt Monster sent in his brother, Spend Monster, for a visit with Kathleen and Sean, but they soon realized that is was a family member of the Debt Monster who came in to open the door for him to let him walk in again.  That was nipped in the bud and the sister, Regret Monster, dropped in to push them just a bit off their financial plan. But, because they had such solid goals, they were able to kick all the members of the Debt Monster family off the track and Kathleen and Sean carried on their journey.

Financial planning has really paid off for Kathleen and Sean. They took possession of their new house on March 31, 2010 and even their wedding in the fall is all paid for.

The story of Kathleen and Sean is a great study in making sure you know what you want and when you want it. Far too often I meet with people who spend the first hour telling me what they don’t want. My job is to help you get what you want so when meeting with me you must be prepared by knowing what you want to achieve.

Study the definitions of SMART goals again and use it in setting your own financial goals. Make this yor first step in preparing your own financial journey.

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

16 thoughts on “The Story of Kathleen and Sean

  1. Hi Tessa- Marie

    Why don’t we plan our finances like we plan a vacation? I just think about being happy and having a good job to support my family. I don’t think about were the money is going to come from, because I have a job to pay for everything. I think once money is flowing, life is excellent Right?

    1. Hi Sandy
      Amazing questions. Your answer to why we don’t take the same care and dedication to planning our finances as we use to plan a vacation, is because financial planning is never discussed by the media, family, friends or peers unless there is a criss. We are bombarded with every kind of information about vacations, where to go how cheap it is and then the Government will keep us informed or WHERE NOT TO GO. Even in grade school the teacher ask us when we come back from Summer or Christmas vacations to write a story about our vacation. I have never had anyone ask me how was my financial journey for 2009. Thats why we do not take the time to work on our financial life like we do a vacation no one wants to help us unless we ask for help and even then we are lucky to get a few dedicated Fiancial Advisors who wants to help us get to our financial destination.
      For your second question Sandy, I would recommend to you that when money is flowing you need to make sure you created an emergency fund to cover 12 months to 18 months of your expenses, what would you do if your company decides to cut back, or lay you off, how are those needs going to be met. It is always great when the funds are flowing but what do you do without an emergency plan and the money tap gets shut off? Thats where he emergency fund kicks in until you can get on your feet again.

  2. Tessa-Marie is the best. We should all learn something from her about our financial freedom. Thank you.

  3. Tessa-Marie I had a great laugh reading your blog from a $26.00 dollar bra to saving for a flat screen. I am glad you are helping people reach their financial goals. Keep up the great work!

  4. I really think the story of Kathleen and Sean is a life changing story that will empower people to think before they act. Making sound decisions is the essences of improving life in all aspects and in today’s world major of people don’t think about the choices their making. Evidently, as I plan for the future not knowing whether I will live to see another day I pray to Allah (Swt) the creator of the heavens and earth to help me with all me with all my struggles in this life and the life to come. This is my personal outlook to life and all I can do is to be patient and work hard day in and day out.

    1. Hi Sharmarke
      Yes Kathleen and Sean’s story is one that will cause people to think, ask for help and learn to follow a plan. What I do know for sure is that you need to always look forward to your furture with great hope and focus knowing that if you stay on plan no matter what the world throws at you, you will succeed.

  5. Hi Tessa,
    I have learned and continue to learn so much from you. You are truly inspirational.
    I’ve enjoyed reading the blogs.

  6. Dear Tessa- Marie,

    It is a great pleasure for me to take part in your Financial literacy class. I am happy to see that what I have learned from my culture and my religion is appreciated in your financial planning. We believe that one drop of water added to another drop and at the end it becomes sea. The story of Kathleen and Sean is a good sample to be aware of our goal and our needs.
    Thanks a lot

  7. I will make a point of reading it later this evening and most likely do another comment then, this time definitely giving my take on the whole topic.

  8. Hello Tessa-Marie,

    How nice it was to meet you yesterday at Atria. I really appreciate your sharing some financial advice with me, as well as giving me your blog. I know that I can benefit from your financial acumen!The odd thing is that after all these years of being a financial dummy (and I still am!), I finally have the desire to do something about it! Cheers! – Diane Brockman

  9. OHHHhh Tessa….I can’t believe the bra made it to the blog world!! Weeks ago I sent your blog address out to some co-workers and this post has become quite famous around the office! I think one important thing you left out is that you set us up for great success in only a couple of visits before we moved 4 provinces away. For 3 years we have followed, strayed, re-grouped and follow again, all while being away from you geographically. The goals were so big but you were and still are supportive that distance was not a problem. So if we can do it from here, there are no excuses!

    Now that our biggest goals are almost complete, we can’t imagine a world that doesn’t involve saving for them. It’s like getting to the end of a good book, by the last page you have to sit for a moment and take it all in.

    1. Hi Kathleen
      You did a great job, your were focus and you knew what you wanted so even when you fell or slide it was easier to get back on track. Now think of some new goals and we can work to make them a reality together.

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