A non-judgmental look at how young adults in Canada are spending their money
Name, age: Ben, 27
Annual income: $21,744 from employment insurance
Debt: $8,300 on line of credit
Savings: $5,100 in TFSA; $4,200 in RRSP
What he does: former bank representative
Where he lives: Ottawa
Top financial concern: “I don’t need a multi-storey house and a yard. I have debt to pay off, I want to travel, I want to enjoy my youth with my partner. 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 organizations shut down in early 2020 and Canadians stopped banking in person, he was let go.
He took the Canada Emergency Response Benefit for six months. Once he got his teller job back, he found himself wondering whether it was worth it: “I was making less than I was making on CERB.”
At 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 fortunate to have an inheritance,” he says. “I’m very grateful.”
In 2021, he landed a new job working at another bank, but this time in sales, with a salary of $41,000. But the culture was a bad fit and Ben was almost relieved to be laid off last October. He’s now receiving $1,812 a month in employment insurance, which he is living off as he searches for new positions. “If I can use my financial literacy to build wealth for a client, I don’t mind that,” he says, adding he’s applied to insurance firms and would enjoy a financial advisory role.
After having been denied full-time positions and raises for years, he also wants higher pay. “I want to be rewarded for the work I do,” he says. “I want to gain employment, stabilize my income and aggressively max out my RRSPs.” To that end, he’s been interviewing for positions and watching grimly as job notifications arrive in his inbox. “I’m getting job alerts for positions in Gatineau that are less than minimum wage,” he says.
In the meantime, he’s not letting life pass him by. That means he now owes $8,300 on a line of credit, albeit with a low interest rate of 5 per cent that he was able to secure as a bank employee. “My debt has grown faster than I would have liked,” he says. “I could spend absolutely nothing but it won’t fix the problem. I want to be my normal self.”
Ben’s been spending money on trips in recent months, visiting Puerto Vallarta in February with his partner and heading to concerts by train to Montreal and Toronto with friends. He recently paid $260 for Lorde concert tickets and $120 on Lights tickets. He plans to attend Pride festivities in Montreal this summer and to visit family in British Columbia. He likes to go out with friends, spending on Uber trips, cannabis and meals out. And he recently splurged on an e-reader and a PlayStation to have something to do during lockdowns.
He is no longer seeking to own property – “I don’t need a multi-storey house and a yard” – and he plans to rent 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 that to happen. “I have debt 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 & savings = $70
$70 to RRSP. “I put my Trillium benefit in there every month.” (The Ontario Trillium Benefit is a refundable tax credit.)
$0 to TFSA. “There are no active contributions to the TFSA right now and I’m trying to not pull from it. It’s the Tangerine Balanced Growth Fund ETF Portfolio.
Household & transportation = $1,431
$1,100 on rent. “It’s a brand new two-bedroom apartment in Ottawa with a great view of the downtown and the river. My partner has his own [ensuite] office.”
$17 on renters insurance.
$75 on utilities.
$0 on Internet. “It’s paid for by my partner’s work.”
$100 on cellphone. “I’m with Telus. The $100 includes the device fee.”
$139 on Uber. “The O-Train here in Ottawa was down for two months last year.”
Food & drink = $615
$210 on groceries. “We typically order our groceries on Instacart and have them delivered as we have no car. We also buy groceries at Superstore or the Independent.”
$30 on meal kits. “We order three meals a week from Chef’s Plate, Good Food or Hello Fresh. We are trying to eat in more.”
$250 on eating out. “We like pizza, Farinella, Kettleman’s for brunch and McDonald’s. At Browns Socialhouse I have recently been having the butter chicken or fettuccine alfredo.”
$75 on alcohol. “We get our beers from a local craft brewery. We buy beer, wine and liquor but don’t shop much at the LCBO. Typically, we go out to friends’ places.”
$50 on coffee/tea. “When I worked at a branch, I spent $5 a day for a breakfast sandwich and coffee. We buy our coffee in bulk on Amazon and brew it at home. It’s $100 for six bags of Ethical Bean.”
Health & fitness = $32
$15 on medical prescriptions ($180 a year)
$17 (approx.) dentist visits ($202 a year)
Miscellaneous = $607
$125 on cannabis. “I have a friend who works for one of the dispensaries so I go when he is working and get his employee discount.”
$55 on haircuts.
$100 on apps 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 I buy the Battle Pass once a season.”
$40 on books. “I just got an e-reader after seeing my partner reading a lot. I just finished my second book in two weeks.”
$242 on vacations. “I love travelling. We went to Mexico in February – it wasn’t cheap.”
$45 on news media subscriptions. “That includes The Guardian, The Globe and Mail and others.”
Some details may be changed to protect the privacy of the person profiled. We want to thank him for sharing his story.
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