Occupation: Accountant

City: Markham, Ont.

Age: 25

I plan to retire: When I can live comfortably and enjoy life—including travel—on my retirement savings. I don’t have an exact age in mind yet.

Investable assets: About $6,000 in a chequing account, another $34,000 in a savings account, less than $3,000 in an employer-sponsored pension plan.

Do you have an advisor? It’s on my to-do list for this year!

Family influence

My parents immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong before I was born and didn’t have much when they arrived. That, plus the fact that my mom worked as a financial advisor, meant that I grew up in a household that had a pretty frugal mindset. It was drilled into us not to spend recklessly, to save, to be smart with our money and know where we wanted to invest it. That still drives a lot of my financial decision-making—for example, I drive a Jetta now; I wouldn’t buy a BMW or Mercedes-Benz until later. My dad is a real estate agent, and I know that I would like to invest in property when I have the means to do that.

My mother passed away suddenly when I was 16. Financially, it did create a lot of pressure on our family. We went from a dual-income to a single-income household, with my dad supporting me and my brother, and also my grandparents. My mom didn’t have a will or mortgage insurance. It really brought home to me and my brother the importance of financial planning and saving: her death was the clearest example of how things can change completely in the course of one day. After that, my dad made a will and got life insurance.

For my part, I graduated last year with a master’s degree in accounting. I’ve paid back [my entire] $15,000 student loans already. I’m still living at home, so I don’t have to pay rent or make mortgage payments, and I spend about $500 a month on a car lease.

Degrees of success

I wanted a secure job, and something that would let me help out my dad. I thought about going to law school, but the risk of not getting into law school after four years of undergraduate work seemed too big to me. Two of my cousins are accountants, and so is my brother, so that helped guide my career path.

I chose the University of Waterloo’s undergraduate program in accounting in large part because it had a co-op program that let me start working—and paying off student loans—while I was still in school. I also knew that future employers would value my co-op work experience.

From there, I went immediately into Waterloo’s master’s program in accounting. I got my job, at a major Canadian real estate investing company, immediately after graduating and getting my certification. I’m proud to have accomplished what I have, to be able to live comfortably, and to not have to account for every penny.

Next steps

Because I’ve been in school until very recently, I haven’t really started investing yet, so that’s my next goal: to get an advisor, open a TFSA and think about my RRSP. I hope it’s not too late.