A non-judgmental look at how young adults in Canada spend their money
Name Age: Ben, 27 years old
Annual revenue: $21,744 from employment insurance
Debt: $8,300 on line of credit
Savings: $5,100 in TFSA; $4,200 in RRSPs
What is he doing: former bank representative
Where he lives: Ottawa
Main financial concern: “I don’t need a multi-storey house and a garden. I have debts to repay, I want to travel, I want to enjoy my youth with my spouse. I haven’t stopped living.
When the pandemic hit, Ben was employed as a casual teller at a bank, working to pay off his student loans as he completed his political science degree at Carleton University. But as the organizations closed in early 2020 and Canadians ceased in-person banking, he was fired.
He received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit for six months. Once he got his cashier job back, he wondered if it was worth it: “I was earning less than I was earning on CERB.”
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Around this time, a relative passed away, leaving him enough money to pay off $18,000 in provincial student loans and invest $5,100 in a tax-free savings account. “I was really lucky to have a legacy,” he says. “I’m very grateful.”
In 2021, he landed a new job at another bank, but this time in sales, with a salary of $41,000. But the culture was ill-suited and Ben was almost relieved to be fired last October. He now receives $1,812 a month in employment insurance, which he lives off while he looks for new jobs. “If I can use my financial literacy to build wealth for a client, I don’t mind,” he says, adding that he has applied to insurance companies and would appreciate a role as a financial advisor.
After being denied full-time positions and raises for years, he also wants a higher salary. “I want to be rewarded for the work I do,” he says. “I want to get a job, stabilize my income and aggressively maximize my RRSPs. To that end, he interviewed for positions and watched with concern as job notifications hit his inbox. “I get job alerts for jobs in Gatineau that are below minimum wage,” he says.
In the meantime, he does not let life pass. That means he now owes $8,300 on a line of credit, but with the low 5% interest rate he was able to get as a bank clerk. “My debt grew faster than I would have liked,” he says. “I couldn’t spend anything at all, but that won’t solve the problem. I want to be my normal self.
Ben has been spending money on travel in recent months, visiting Puerto Vallarta in February with his partner and traveling to concerts by train in Montreal and Toronto with friends. He recently paid $260 for Lorde concert tickets and $120 for Lights tickets. He plans to attend Pride festivities in Montreal this summer and visit family in British Columbia. He enjoys hanging out with friends, spending on Uber trips, cannabis, and dining out. And he recently splurged on an e-reader and a PlayStation to have something to do during the shutdowns.
He’s no longer looking to own property — “I don’t need a multi-story house and a yard” — and he plans to rent out his two-bedroom condo for the foreseeable future.
Ben hopes his fortunes will change. But he’s committed to having fun while he waits for it to happen. “I have debts to pay off, I want to travel, I want to enjoy my youth with my partner,” he says.
“I haven’t stopped living.”
His typical monthly expenses
Investments and savings = $70
$70 to RRSP. “I put my Trillium benefit into it every month.” (The Ontario Trillium Benefit is a refundable tax credit.)
$0 to the TFSA. “There are no active TFSA contributions at this time and I try not to withdraw any. This is the Tangerine Balanced Growth Fund ETF Portfolio.
Cleaning & transportation = $1,431
$1,100 on the rent. “This is a brand new two bedroom apartment in Ottawa with a great view of downtown and the river. My partner has his [ensuite] Office.”
$17 on tenants insurance.
$75 on utilities.
$0 on the Internet. “It’s paid for by my partner’s work.”
$100 on mobile phone. “I’m with Telus. The $100 includes the cost of the device.
$139 on Uber. “The O-Train here in Ottawa was down for two months last year.
Food and drink = $615
$210 on the grocery store. “We usually order our groceries on Instacart and have them delivered because we don’t have a car. We also buy groceries from the Superstore or the Independent.”
$30 on meal kits. “We order three meals a week from Chef’s Plate, Good Food or Hello Fresh. We try to eat more.
$250 at the restaurant. “We like pizza, Farinella, Kettleman’s for brunch and McDonald’s. At Browns Socialhouse, I recently had butter chicken or fettuccine alfredo.
$75 on alcohol. “We get our beers from a local craft brewery. We buy beer, wine and spirits, but we don’t buy a lot from the LCBO. Usually we go out to friends.
$50 on coffee/tea. “When I worked in a branch, I spent $5 a day on a breakfast sandwich and coffee. We buy our coffee in bulk from Amazon and brew it at home. It’s $100 for six bags of Ethical Bean.
Health and Fitness = $32
$15 on medical prescription ($180 per year)
$17 (approx.) dental visits ($202 per year)
Miscellaneous = $607
$125 on cannabis. “I have a friend who works for one of the dispensaries, so I go there when he works and get his employee discount.”
$55 on haircuts.
$100 on applications and video games. “It’s about $20 a month for my account with Final Fantasy XIV. I spent $50 on Apex Legend and Fortnite this month and buy the Battle Pass once a season.
$40 on the books. “I just got an e-reader after watching my partner read a lot. I just finished my second book in two weeks.
$242 on holiday. “I love to travel. We went to Mexico in February – it wasn’t cheap.
$45 on news media subscriptions. “This includes The Guardian, The Globe and Mail and others.”
Some details may be changed to protect the profiled person’s privacy. We would like to thank him for sharing his story.
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