I’ve been interested in making money since I was nine. I still remember my first job: Every Saturday morning I would put on my tiny apron and start washing dishes at a local cafe in Whitby, Ont. The owner paid me $5 an hour—cash—for helping out. Right after work I’d head over to the bank and deposit my hard-earned $20 into my savings account. My parents—also cafe owners—joked that I only knew how to use the “deposit” button on the ATM and they were right. In fact, the two most important things my mom and dad taught me are a good work ethic, and how to save for a rainy day. I still remember the local pawn shop. At age 12, I wanted to buy a guitar there for $250. My mother kept asking me, “do you really need it?” I still ask myself that question about almost every purchase that I make today. I didn’t buy the guitar and was fine with that.
My parents never spent frivolously. Growing up, all of our appliances were different colors and our computers were 10 years old. Yet my parents valued experiences and always spent money for family vacations. That was special.
In ninth grade, my history teacher saw my love of finance and suggested I read The Wealthy Barber by David Chilton. The book’s premise was to save 10% of your income and spend 90%. I always did the exact opposite—saved 90% and spent 10%. I had several jobs right through high school, including as busboy, banquet waiter and as a cleaner for several parking lots, something I did for several years in the early morning before school and on weekends. Throughout the summers in high school, I worked 50-hour weeks—saving almost all my earnings.
My first investment was a GIC in 2005. It paid 4.5% interest, or $30 a month. I quickly realized that if I had more money, I’d earn more interest, which motivated me to work harder. Then, in 2009, I was voted “Most likely to become a millionaire” at my high school prom. I was 17 and had accumulated $60,000—enough to pay for four years of post-secondary school anywhere in Canada. But my parents had a modest RESP for me so I decided to attend a local university. Living at home allowed me to keep expenses down, continue working four jobs and to keep saving.
In 2011, I discovered stock investing and started a $100,000 mock portfolio. I bought every stock Warren Buffett traded that year and earned a 23% annual return. That encouraged me to invest my own money and to take more business courses. I also maxed out my TFSA two years ago and bought $25,000 worth of stocks, mostly bank stocks. I’ve since added shares in Costco, Footlocker and Starbucks—investments in places I like to go to. I now have 25 dividend paying stocks, and I monitor them every day. Last year I averaged a 15% return. That’s pretty good.
This spring, I reached $100,000 in savings and started working full-time at my local bank. Were the 50-hour work weeks and delayed gratification worth it? Absolutely. I always enjoyed myself playing soccer and hanging out with friends—two things I love doing most. I never felt deprived.
Last month, as I was planning a trip to Mexico with friends, I looked back at a note I had written to myself years ago. My future goal for myself was to be a millionaire by 2017. That’s ambitious, but with hard work—and my money working for me—I feel up to the challenge. Check back with me then to see if I was able to accomplish that goal, too.—As told to Julie Cazzin