Occupation: Freelance web designer and developer, copy editor
Earnings: About $50,000 a year
City: Regina, Sask.
Assets and liabilities: My husband, Aidan, and I bought our condo in 2012; it’s worth about $250,000 and we owe about $175,000 on the mortgage. I have a LIRA from a previous job with about $20,000 in it—that’s losing money. And I just opened a TFSA and am making monthly contributions to it. I have no other debt, but because of some poor financial decisions I made earlier in my life, I also have no other assets. I’m a late financial bloomer.
From hobby to career
I started blogging as a hobby in 2003, at first anonymously and then under my real name in 2010. I was one of the first well-known bloggers in Canada. Attending blogging conferences really embedded me within a broad community of personal, parenting and business bloggers, many of whom have since become my clients.
When I started blogging, I was working in a series of administrative jobs that I hated. In 2010, I decided to take a part-time retail job to sustain me while I made the transition to freelancing full time. I quit retail in 2012. Today, I have more than a full-time roster of clients—I could easily work 12 to 16 hours a day, and I have to defer new work. I’m not sure when I’ll ever retire. I like my work, but I also made some poor financial decisions (see below) that mean I don’t have much—yet!—in the way of retirement savings.
A (fraudulent) wake-up call
When I started freelancing, I didn’t pay income tax for about seven years. I just ignored that aspect of the business. What spurred me to deal with my taxes was getting one of those phone calls from scammers pretending to be the CRA. The people on the phone told me the RCMP was coming to arrest me for nonpayment of taxes unless I transferred money to them immediately. I was so panicked I nearly fell for it—they said I hadn’t paid my taxes in many years. In the end, they didn’t get me, but it was a wake-up call: I knew it was time to do my taxes.
I hired an accountant to handle it all. It felt sickening, and I had a lot of shame about letting it go on that long. I thought, I’m in my 40s—who does that? As it turns out, a lot of people. I ended up paying $26,000 in back taxes and penalties, which is a large reason why I have so little in savings. Once I got it done and paid off, though, I felt much more control over not only my money but also my whole life.
A financial fresh start
Today, I use accounting software to manage my business finances. I love it. It lets me generate invoices and send automatic reminders, calculates PST or HST, differentiates between U.S. and Canadian clients, and accounts for all my business expenses.
It also lets me send all my business records to my accountant, who can sign in to download them. I learned the hard way that it’s better to hire someone to get my taxes done, rather than rely on a shame spiral to do it.
I love my new accountant. I finally got up the nerve to ask her, “So, how am I looking, comparatively?” Because I felt like financial trash. And she laughed. She said, “You’re actually fine.” She pointed out that my husband and I had good careers, low expenses and comparatively little debt. Hearing that felt amazing. I was so glad that I asked.
Up close and personal
I quit drinking in 2010. And while I took back a lot of control over my life when I got sober, there were still a lot of issues that I didn’t then have the capacity to deal with. One of those issues was finances. For a long time, I just pretended they didn’t exist.