Client confidential: Saima Naz

By Suzanne Sharma | October 7, 2016 | Last updated on October 7, 2016
3 min read


principal at iLearn DL Secondary School


Surrey, B.C.



I’ve been investing for:

10 years

Investable assets:

more than $250,000

How long I’ve had an advisor:

10 years

New beginnings

I immigrated from Lahore, Pakistan to Montreal in grade two, and then moved to Surrey, B.C. a few years later. I started working at age 15, and opened up a bank account. I’d always wanted to travel, so I also opened up a travel account, where I put $50 to $60 out of every paycheque.

My money didn’t go into the household pool, but I also didn’t need my parents’ support. Thanks to my job, I started paying for school supplies and field trips.

Lessons never learned

My parents weren’t financially savvy—my father got his first credit card four years ago. They lived off cash, spending what they earned.

Now my dad says he missed an opportunity. He could’ve bought a house or invested. But he never did. In Pakistan, if you want to buy a house or car, you pay the full amount up front. Having a loan means you’re not financially free. And even though we had enough to survive, we could’ve done much better had we not wasted money renting, for instance.


Within the South Asian community, we have this habit of hanging on to money, either in a safety deposit box or under a mattress—and that’s dead money.

It doesn’t matter if you have $10 or $10,000, you should be thinking about your finances.

Becoming independent

I’d planned to become a teacher. But some of my friends who’d already finished their teaching degrees weren’t getting jobs. That was an eye-opener for me. I had always been taught that you get an education, get a job and then you’ll have financial freedom. But back then I was working part-time as a radio host, and already making more money than those friends.

At the same time, it dawned on me that there’s a huge South Asian community where I live. I thought there could be a market for tutoring this community—in Pakistan, everyone has a tutor. Parents here had money, but they didn’t speak English and needed a bridge between them and the Canadian education system.

So, at age 21, I launched a tutoring business. My parents gave me their $1,500 in savings, and I went to the bank for a $5,000 loan. They declined me—I had no credit and had student loans.

There was a gentleman that used to advertise with us at the radio station. I was sitting in my office, depressed because the bank had turned me down. He asked what was wrong. I explained, and he gave me a blank cheque. He said he was an entrepreneur at one time, and someone had given him the capital he needed. So I borrowed $5,000. The business took off and I paid him back within six months.

At 23, I bought a $500,000 home for my family. Comparable houses today sell for about $1 million. I also started working with an advisor, who helped me add mutual funds, insurance and RRSPs to my growing portfolio.

Suzanne Sharma