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Do You Want to Build A Snowman?, with Steven Arnott

Presented by Wealthsimple

Welcome to The MapleMoney Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom. I’m your host, Tom Drake, the founder of MapleMoney, where I’ve been writing about all things related to personal finance since 2009.

Have you ever avoided dealing with important money issues? If so, you’re not alone. Many Canadians put off saving for retirement, or other financial goals, because the strategies seem too complicated, and they feel like they lack the knowledge.

My guest this week is Steve Arnott, author of The Snowman’s Guide to Personal FInance. Steve drops by to show us that just about anyone can embark on a journey towards financial independence by following a few simple steps.

One of the key takeaways from this interview was how much a person’s investment strategy must change as they age. As Steven explains, when you’re in your 20’s, your biggest focus should be on growing your income and building your savings rate. Compound interest is important, but you won’t realize its benefits until later in life. What you can do is lay a solid foundation for future compounding.

If you didn’t get started investing in your 20’s, it’s never too late. Older investors must consider investment risk, as they have fewer years to recover from market declines. According to Steve, the biggest risk with investing later in life is being forced to sell in a down market. It’s why income holdings such as bonds become important as you approach retirement.

At any age, a sound strategy needs to focus on investments that have the ability to create income. Trends like Bitcoin are purely speculative. That is, they don’t have the ability to create income. Investors can only hope that someone will be willing to pay more for it later. Instead, seek out investments that generate income, such as dividend-paying stocks, bonds, or real estate holdings. This is the better long term play.

This week’s show is brought to you by our sponsor, Wealthsimple. With a current interest rate of 1.4%, the Wealthsimple Cash account offers higher interest rates than the big banks, and there are no fees on deposits and withdrawals. Find out more about Cash from Wealthsimple today!

Episode Summary

  • Increasing your income beyond a certain point doesn’t bring more happiness
  • A great side hustle can bring the best of both worlds
  • The importance of using analogies to understand how money works
  • How to start your savings snowball
  • 2 ways to manage investment risk
  • Tips on investing after retirement
  • Everyone has a different level of comfort with risk
  • Ways to plan for unexpected expenses
Read transcript

Have you ever avoided dealing with important money issues? If so, you’re not alone. Many Canadians put off saving for retirement and other financial goals because strategies seem too complicated or they feel like they lack the knowledge. My guest this week is Steven Arnott, author of The Snowman’s Guide to Personal Finance. Steven drops by to show us that just about anyone can embark on a journey towards financial independence by following a few simple steps.

Welcome to the Maple Money Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom. This week’s show is brought to you by our sponsor, Wealthsimple. With the current interest rate of point nine percent, a Wealthsimple Cash account offers higher interest rates than the big banks and there are no fees on deposits and withdrawals. Find out more about Wealthsimple Cash by visiting today. Now, let’s talk with Steven…

Tom: Hi Steven, welcome to the Maple Money Show.

Steven: Thanks for having me on, Tom.

Tom: You wrote an interesting book, The Snowman’s Guide to Personal Finance, I thought was a unique take. One of my favorite books ever was, The Wealthy Barber. It took personal finance and made it very readable, almost like a novel. I like that you’ve taken all these somewhat boring topics and made it a little more digestible for people. I was going to save this for later, but I’ll ask you right now; I would like to know what gave you the idea to write this book.

Steven: When I started writing the book, it was about seven years ago. I had just finished up a conversation with my younger brother over dinner. He had saved a bunch of money from working part time jobs and over the summer. When he walked into the bank one day, they asked him, “You have a ton of money in your checking account. Have you considered investing it?” He hadn’t given any thought. Here he was putting in all the work to earn the money, setting it aside (with so much discipline) yet he just wasn’t taking advantage of all the tools available to him. I used an analogy to describe why it was important that he was investing his money. I compared money sitting in a checking account to water in a bucket sitting in the sun. Similar to water gradually evaporating, you don’t see anything happening minute-by-minute. Eventually, it’ll be gone. The same sort of idea happens with a checking account where you have $20,000 today and you let it sit there for 20 years. It’s going to be worth way less than it was when you initially earned it. The idea that things get more expensive over time—you need to earn a return on your money so you’re able to continue to buy at least as much as you could when you earned. That was the first idea for the book. Things snowballed from there (which is where I got that part) and I ended up gathering 20 analogies that related building a snowman to managing money. It was just this way of bringing very common, to the point, tried, tested and true approaches to managing money and making them relatable, memorable and accessible.

Tom: The first thing your book is that we need to start with some income. If you’re not making money where do you go from there? What are your thoughts on income? Should we be looking to increase it or are we just happy with what we have? Where do we go?

Steven: It’s a great question and an important one at the beginning. The way I look at income is; are you earning enough to live the life that you want to live? All money comes back to is what your goals are for life. What are your priorities? Are you on track to achieve that? If you’re earning $30,000 right out of undergrad and you want to have several kids, maybe live in a particular town, you know that’s going to require a $50,000 or $60,000 income. So, it’s important to start working towards that additional income, whether it’s a part time job, taking additional courses to up-skill on a technical component of your job or working really hard at work so you can earn a promotion. I think getting to the right level of income is critical because if you’re earning $30,000 and you want a lifestyle that’s going to cost $50,000 you can’t scrimp your way there. You can’t lower your spending and save a bit. You’re going to need to materially increase your income. Whereas if you’re at $70,000 a year and making good money, there’s research out there that increasing your income beyond that point doesn’t necessarily bring more happiness. What we see a lot is that people continuously increase their spending in line with their income. If you go from $70k to $100k, you might just keep spending. You might get a nicer car, a slightly bigger house. But are those items bringing you more happiness? It comes down to the tradeoffs. Everything in finance and in life is about what you are giving up in exchange for what you’re pursuing. If you can get an increase at work and negotiate a salary raise, absolutely. But if you’re going to give up 10 to 15 hours a week for two years to earn a side credential, it’s a tradeoff.

Tom: I’m a big fan of sort of doing the side hustle stuff. That’s how this blog and podcast started. But early on, I definitely liked the idea of focusing a little more on your career, whether that’s asking for a raise or jumping different companies to work your income up that way. But you can make a lot of gains focusing on your career early on. Side hustles certainly help when you hit that point where you’re getting the 2 percent raises and feeling like you’re not going anywhere.

Steven: On that point with the side hustle, when I wrote the book and now that I’ve started the blog, I get enjoyment out of that. It’s almost a double whammy where you’re increasing your income potential and you have a creative outlet that gives you satisfaction. It’s kind of a blend—if you can find a side hustle that’s also entertaining and enjoyable for you, you’ve got the best of both worlds.

Tom: One hundred percent. That’s what I try to tell my kids when I’m working. We still call it that. But ultimately, working on my blog and things like that still has a bit of a hobby feel. It’s what I want to be doing. It’s better for me than watching TV or scrolling through Facebook. It’s my favorite downtime thing in a way, but it’s also an income producing hobby. As people are starting to make money what did they do next? Should they be budgeting so that they’re not blowing beyond that $70,000 and all that? How did they get this under control?

Steven: There are two components to taking your money. The first step is to decide how much of your income you want to spend today and how much of it you’re going to want to spend in the future. There’s an idea of creating a sustainable lifestyle. If you’re spending all of your income today, you’re not going to be able to continue spending at those levels later in life once you stop earning an income. Then the question becomes, “Do you want to splurge and live the most lavish lifestyle you can today?” You could still enjoy your life later, but you wouldn’t be spending at the same level. And if that’s the case, then you can spend your whole paycheck and enjoy yourself now. Just know that later on you’re going to have to give up a lot of that spending. The alternative is to save a portion of it—10 to 20 percent of your money and set it aside for the future. There are some advantages to setting aside money for the future that we’ll talk about shortly around compounding growth and the idea that it will go a lot further later than it will today. It’s really a tradeoff of, “Do you want to create a sustainable lifestyle that you can continue to spend into and throughout your retirement?” I know that for a lot of people, retirement is really far off. So it can be shorter term goals whether you want to buy a house, take a sabbatical and go travel, do a side project, or start a business. Anything where you need more money than what you’re bringing in on a weekly basis for a one time purchase, that’s where savings comes in where you want to set some aside for the future.

Tom: My friend J.D. Roth at, Get Rich Slowly, has something that ties in nicely to this. It’s called the Wealth Snowball which is a very FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) simple math, which is, if you save 10 percent or 20 percent and you keep upping that until you’re saving even 50 percent, you’re buying yourself future time. You’re reducing those years that you have to keep working so that you could retire early in that case. But, all the compounding and stuff aside, it’s just simple; the more you’re saving now, you’re buying yourself future years where you can continue living at that same rate.

Steven: Exactly. Yeah. The second component is when you’ve decided how much you want to spend today and how much you want to spend in the future. Let’s say that’s an 80, 20 split. We’re going to spend 80 percent of our income today. We’re going to save 20 for the future. A lot of us get into habits where we spend out of subconscious decisions. We’ll just grab items that we feel we need and don’t necessarily know how much those are costing us on it on an annual basis. With the 80 percent, if you want to get the most out of that money and enjoy your life as much as possible given how much you have, you can create a budget. And that process is really about listing out what items are required like rent, food, transportation then listening out the items that bring you the most happiness. Maybe that’s going for walks with your significant other or a hobby—anything that might cost money or take up your time. You list out those items and then you kind of go down the list in order of priority and say, “I have $3,000 a month. I’m going to put $1,000 toward rent, $500 groceries, and $300 toward transportation.” Then you allocate line-by-line what you want to be spending on. That’s kind of your target. That’s what you think will bring you the most happiness. So rather than simply spending and then looking at your bank account at the end of the month wondering where the money went, it’s taking a more thoughtful and intentional approach to what you want out of life. And it’s also about how your money can help you get there.

Tom: I like that. One thing I found that was helpful for me, especially when I was originally trying to get this all together myself was using Mint. Just to track that and see that. Even if you’re not doing a so-called true budget—just to be able to actually take a look at it. I hate to use the latte factor but little things like those coffees and stuff, they can add up. By the time you look at that in just one year you might start to wonder if that’s where you really want you money going. Just to know how many hours you worked to pay for this thing or that thing can be pretty eye opening.

Steven: And just as a final point on it, I find a lot of text will tell you what to do, what to spend on. I don’t think that anyone can tell you what to spend on but I think making an informed decision is what’s important. Knowing how much that is costing you and what you’re giving up for that item, that’s where you can make the decision about what’s right for you, what’s going to bring you the most satisfaction out of your life. If you know you’re spending $1,000 on coffee and it always is the go-to line, that’s a different conversation than if you don’t know that that’s how much it’s costing you.

Tom: Yeah, exactly. I like that you give that leeway for people to spend on what they want to spend on because everybody has their different interests. You hear a lot of people saying they’ll cut the cable and stuff like that but maybe someone really wants to watch TV. Maybe they want to watch their hockey team or whatever. It kind of comes down to values—where you want your money to go and what’s important to you. At least you get that view of things to actually make sure what you’re spending on aligns to those values.

Steven: Exactly. Yeah.

Tom: The next part of your book of starts to go through the simple math of it with compound interest and all that. When I was in college in macroeconomics, I had my teacher break it down for us to see the value of it. We were told we should start investing now because of how much further we’d be. And I did not listen. I’ve said a couple times on this podcast, I basically wasted my 20s not really saving. It took me until roughly 30 to start getting it together. Even someone that knows this, what’s going to make this really sink in for people? How can they understand these concepts?

Steven: I think the visualization of a snowball is one way. In the book, I compare compounding to a ball of snow rolling through a field. It’s not a new analogy. I think this is one of the most common ones that I reference. It’s the idea that you start with a small snowball that you form in your hands. And by the time you roll it through the field and reach the end of the field, it’s a boulder that you and your friend are running into in order to move it forward. It’s something that starts very small. Over time it picks up at a faster and faster rate. You look at any sort of graph where it’s just exponential in its growth, the rate of return you’re able to earn in certain investments can provide incredible growth over a long period of time. When you look at people like Warren Buffett and investors around the world that have billions of dollars starting from high school, side gigs where they just continue to invest and grow their money, not take anything out, that’s the sort of example that is possible through high returns over a long period of time.

Tom: A simple way I like to think about it is, let’s say your investments are going to double every 10 years. That’s the difference between me starting at 20 or at 30. Do I want to have $500,000 for retirement or do I want to have a million? That extra 10 years literally buys you that kind of difference since things are roughly doubling every 10 years. So it can make a big difference to start early and get that snowball moving.

Steven: The one thing I read recently, which was really eye-opening was an article from Fourth Pillar Freedom, a blog on personal finance. It outlines that in our early years, our 20s to our mid 30s, the most important thing we can be doing is focusing on income and your savings rate because, while compounding growth is valuable and really does pick up in the later years, the more you’re able to put in—the larger that starting snowball is, the more it’s going to grow over time. People might feel like they’re behind or they’re late. But two things that are often not talked about are; what is your income? How much are you able to save? And of that, how much are you saving? It helps to have the compounding. That is really the biggest tool you can have for having a stable financial retirement. There are other factors that you can control earlier on if you haven’t had the chance to invest just yet. But that said, if you are able to save and you have the money, start as early as you can because those graphs really do happen.

Tom: That’s a good point. Just using my case again, I was able to save a lot more in my 30s than I would have been able to save in my 20s anyway. So even if I had this great idea of saving, I was in college and barely had any money. Maybe I would have saved a $1,000 in a year. It would have been a nice start. It might have been habit forming, but there was only so much to go around at that time too. There is only so much you can do about that. When we talk about savings and investing, what are we talking about? Is this buying Bitcoin and marijuana stocks? Or, on the opposite spectrum, is it just savings accounts and GICs? Where do we fall with this idea of starting this snowball?

Steven: The way that I look at it is; how do you maximize the chance of reaching your goal? If you look at your goal of wanting to retire and spend $40,000 in retirement, how do you maximize the chance that you’re able to do that? If use only GICs and savings accounts that are basically only earning 2 percent interest, the chance that you’re going to be able to save enough to spend that level in retirement is almost zero. You’d have to be saving 30 to 40 percent or more of your income today. At 2 percent interest, it’s only keeping up with inflation. So, everything you spend in retirement, you’re going to have to save today. If you look at risk in that prospective, savings accounts and GICs early on are actually the riskiest option for your retirement savings. If you look at the other end, is something like Bitcoin or marijuana stocks going to provide for you in retirement? Do you believe Bitcoin is going to be able to start owning companies and spitting off money in order to pay for your expenses? Bitcoin isn’t going to create money and therefore its value is undetermined. The only way that it has value is if someone else pays you more for it later. And so it’s purely a speculation that it’s going to increase in value. I’m just personally not comfortable sleeping at night without that underlying value; knowing that I own a part of a business or real estate or something that is physically there. I talk about this idea of what you feel when you walk into a store. It’s the value you own that you’re going to get paid for in the future. If we look at those two extremes, it’s risky to simply use savings and GICs unless you’re able to save a significant amount of your income and you’re okay with limited spending in retirement. It’s also risky to speculate and depend on someone else paying you more for something in the future. In between there is what I talk about with a diversified portfolio; some bonds where maybe you’re earning a bit more than a GIC or a savings account and some stocks where you own part of a company and, ultimately, some real estate for a diversification. If you bundle a bunch of investments together that are worth something fundamentally because they’re earning a profit, they’re a physical building—those are what will create wealth over time that you can look at and say, “I own that.” When you walk into a Starbucks, if you own an ETF that bundles stocks of Starbuck’s into it, you own part of that purchase you’re making. I think that’s where the opportunity lies in creating an investment that will serve you over the long-term.

Tom: And I should point out, when I spoke of doubling your savings in 10 years, you won’t do that a 2 percent. In 10 years, for your money to double, you need to have 7.2 percent. That’s a pretty safe number with the stock market. The stock market is normally more like 10 percent over a long term. So if you are only doing savings accounts, GICs, bonds, you are not going to double your money in 10 years.

Steven: Another thing is, I know we’re talking about this in the midst of a market decline but even if returns in the future are 5 or 6 percent over the period that you’re investing, it’s really the differential between the savings—what you would earn if you’re purely in a savings account and what you could earn if you’re in equities or if you’re buying companies or real estate. Right now, with interest rates so low at 1 percent, we might not see 10 percent returns in the stock market. But we’ll see higher returns in the stock market and a higher chance of reaching your goal than you would if you weren’t saving or if you were using a traditional GIC or savings account.

Tom: Now, you mentioned risk. How do we manage this? Is it about the diversification? Are there steps we can take as we go along to manage this?

Steven: In terms of investment risks, particularly, because there’s a bunch of different risks that we’ll face in personal finance, I mention some of them later in the book, but sticking with investing, it’s really about the likelihood between where you are today and when you need the money; what is the chance that you could miss that target—that $40,000 a year in retirement? When you’re early in your savings, in your 20s, or mid 30s, you’re saving money and you have your whole life ahead of you, there’s a lot of time for two things to happen. One, if the market comes down it can recover and increase back in value. So the longer you have, the less risk there is that you’ll lose money in the stock market because it has historically trended up. And there’s reason for that. There’s all the value being created by the investments you own. The second piece that’s important is how long you have to change your behavior in response to anything that happens with your investments. If, for any reason, a particular investment that you have goes to zero… Let’s say you buy a leveraged real estate investment and something goes bad and you lose everything, you can factor that into the remainder of your life and decide, “Okay, now I’m going to save an extra 5 percent a year. I’m going to make that back up,” then you can still get back to your goal. Having a longer time horizon gives you two ways to manage the risk. You can either recover it through investments or you can change your behavior and your savings rate and get back to that goal. As we approach retirement (and even in retirement) those options don’t exist or they’re not as high. If you are 60 and you’re planning to retire at 67 or 68, you only have seven or eight years. And so there’s no guarantee that if the stock market declines significantly, that it will be back above where it is today by the time you retire. At that point you want to take on a bit less risk and have a balance of more secure investments like GICs and savings accounts. But you also know a person’s average age is increasing year-by-year so you might need that money for another 40 years to pay for your retirement. You can’t go entirely into bonds or else you just won’t get the return that you need in order to meet your goal. So you need that balance of equities and fixed-income. One option is, as you’re approaching retirement you can have a structured retirement approach where you have a laddered GIC. Let’s say you have a GIC expiring every year for the next five years. Right before you enter retirement, you set up a structure where you know that your next five years of sending is locked in and ready for you. And the remainder you can have in equities and continue like you were previously. And as the market moves, you decide whether to continue to roll over and buy new GISs or, should you hold off for a couple of years, not sell your equities and replenish the GICs. There are a lot of ways you can work to minimize the risk that you don’t achieve that goal for your retirement income.

Tom: Something you brought up there, too, is important; you could be in retirement for 30 plus years. Some of the books out there that are very popular were written a long time ago. It’s becoming more and more a thing where some of that advice may not hold up still because, if you still have 30 years for some of that money, you definitely want to keep some in stocks. You’re taking that extra risk but it’s sort of spent over a long time. So there’s some safety there. And I hate to use a gambling term, but the idea of taking some money off the table seems good to me. I like the idea where, yes, it’s not going to grow as much—barely beyond inflation. But at least you know that’s your money for that year if you’re structuring it that way. That’s the money you’re going to spend each of those GIC years and the stock portion is going to continue for up to 30 years in your retirement and keep growing that way.

Steven: It kind of goes back similar to the budget; there’s no one-shoe-fits-all. Everyone has their level of comfort with risk and the way they think about their investments. So like another way of thinking about your retirement and how your money is allocated is by doing the “cake” method where you have layers of the cake. Or as I’ve seen before, the bucket method where you decide what you need to spend in retirement. What is bare minimum? What can I not live without? Maybe investments that are intended to cover that spending are a bit more secure. There’s not as much equity, if any, at all. Then the next layer are things that you’d like to do; travel, visit family, maybe get a new car every so often. Those are things that you want but could live without if I had to. Maybe you’d take on more risk with the money that’s allocated for that. And then there are the things you’d love to be able to do. Maybe that is two or three trips a year and things like that where you kind of think about what you’re willing to give up and what you’re not willing to give up then balance your investments and the risk that you’re taking accordingly to those needs.

Tom: You touched on inflation with your brother’s story, the sole evaporation idea. What can we do to protect against that? We certainly want to have investments that are doing better than inflation. Are there any other steps we can do to help with that?

Steven: There are specific investments that you can get that are tied to inflation where you get a return in line with whatever inflation ends up being. If inflation over a 10 year period is 3 percent, then you get that 3 percent return. There are direct ways to protect against inflation. But again, they’re not historically as high a return as if you own that stock or real estate property. What that means is stocks and real estate historically have been able to recoup the inflation component because companies raise their prices and housing typically goes up in value when there is an increase in inflation. What you really want is to avoid investments that don’t do well when there’s inflation. So things that can’t increase their pricing or experience higher costs through that period and so therefore their profits come down. It’s about buying investments that are naturally going to be able to pass inflation on to consumers and not lose value through that period.

Tom: The final thing in this portion of your book I wanted to cover was about unexpected expenses. You have the spending plan. You know how much you’re spending on your coffee and everything. And you’re saving your money. But things happen. Things come up. What do we do there? Do we pull money out of our investments? How do we handle these expenses as they happen?

Steven: The timing as we’re recording this kind of provides a perfect example of the need for this type of saving account. The goal is to have an emergency savings fund that has three to six months of your mandatory expenses. That’s your rent, food, transportation—any contracts you have that you can’t really get out of. So those expenses that you know you’ll need to spend over three to six months. And the three to six months, again, comes back to a range because everyone’s life is different. If your income or your job is more secure, then you’ll likely need a smaller emergency savings plan because there’s a lower chance that you’ll lose your job. And if you lose your job, there’s a higher chance that you can get a new one in the immediate future. If you’re working contract work and you don’t know where and what your next project would be, then you might need a longer six or even nine months, depending on how frequent you’re turning over your projects. That means anywhere typically between three and six months. What that does is cover major expenses. So let’s say that your car breaks down or your furnace breaks, you need a new roof; these are all things that we can’t plan for necessarily. And the danger of not having an emergency savings plan is that you would then have to go to your investments. And for the most part, that’s fine. You withdraw from your tax-free savings account and sell your investments. The real damage is if you’re forced to sell in a period where investments are down. For instance, if you had your car break down today and you don’t have an emergency savings account and you go to your tax-free savings account to sell your investments and they’re down 25 percent, that’s where there’s risk to your long-term retirement because you’re not going to be able to necessarily recover that. If by the time that you’re able to read contribute, the stocks have gone back up 10 or 15 percent you’ve missed out on that investment. The emergency account kind of provides that buffer between what happens in the world and where your investments are at. One of the most important things is that often there is a large correlation between bad events and needing money. In 2008 when the stock market crashed, a lot of people lost their job. That sort of overlap is where it’s dangerous, because if you’re out of work and don’t have an emergency savings plan and turn to your investments, they could be at their lowest point in the last 10, 15 years. It’s that overlap that’s really dangerous for not having a savings plan. A lot of people want to skip directly to the investing. They want to start seeing a return on their investment. But the important piece is having some money set aside in a savings account, earning as high of interest as you can, but being accessible and available if you need it.

Tom: I think the house of cards can really fall down sometimes. I live in Alberta so on top of the stock market right now and the Corona virus and everything, people might actually find themselves in situations where maybe they were planning to retire in five years and not only is their portfolio shrinking daily, they go and lose their job. It can happen quite easily where all these things kind of happen at the same time. Or, on top of losing a job maybe real estate prices drop because everybody’s losing their jobs. We’ve seen this in Alberta before but I think the emergency fund can be huge. I don’t mean as an amount. I agree with maybe six months being a good conservative way of looking at it. Three months is fine, too. And actually, if someone hasn’t started it, I would say one month is fine just to get something aside. It would go a long ways so you’re not hitting your investments or credit card and you’ve actually got some money. What stops people from misclassifying things as emergencies thinking, “I’m so stressed out and really need a vacation. I’m going to take this out of my emergency fund.” How do people avoid that?

Steven: One thing you can do is put the money at a different institution. If it’s sitting on your everyday banking profile and every time you sign and you see $5,000 sitting there, you might be tempted to dip into it. So, you can either put it at a different bank or a different online financial institution. I’ve heard (and I believe) that you can put restrictions on withdrawals. So whether it’s I need to go into a branch in order to withdraw from this account or there needs to be two signatures to withdraw from this account, just putting barriers in place that you’ll be able to overcome if there’s a true emergency but are going to cause that pause to think about if this really is an emergency or is this an opportune time? Is this my subconscious mind, my animal instincts, telling me to get that short-term reward? Those are the types of things that you can put in place. Ultimately, it comes down to managing short-term tradeoffs for long-term delayed gratification. If you dip into your emergency savings and have a vacation today, that’s four vacations you’re giving up in retirement. That tradeoff of what do I want out of my life—maybe it is truly an emergency. Maybe someone’s mental wellness is important and they believe that in this situation, that’s the best use of their money, then, by all means. But try to have that conscious, intentional thought of, “Should I be spending this money or is there a better use for it either in the near future or in the distant future?” Because the idea is that if you spend that savings account, that emergency savings account, then you should be saving towards it for the next few months until it’s replenished. If you want to go on a trip now, you’re going to have to give up some of your spending over the next year in order to replenish that savings account on top of all of your other savings that you’ve been doing anyways.

Tom: Normally, I don’t plug sponsors during this show but EQ Bank did come to mind as something where there is a high interest savings account that has that separation. That’s all they do. If you’re banking somewhere else, it gives you that little degree of separation where the money’s going in and it’s not as quick to get to so you’re not just spending it for any random so-called emergency. You actually have to be a little more thoughtful with it.

Steven: Exactly. Any delay that gives you a chance to second guess your decision or to think about your decision in a different light is helpful.

Tom: Yeah, I’m a big fan of delays in general even when you’re out shopping. I would love to get a hot tub. I never bought one because every time I think about it, I wonder if I really want to spend that money. If I was more impulsive, I’d probably have that by now. And hopefully I wouldn’t take it out is an emergency. This has been a great running through all this to kind of give people these basics of where they can get started and not being like me in my 20s, wasting that time from an investing standpoint and increasing income. Can you let people know about your book and where they can find you?

Steven: The book is called The Snow Man’s Guide to Personal Finance and it’s available through Amazon or Indigo in print and digital formats. You can check out more about the book on my blog, And you can follow me on Twitter @snowmans_guide. I just did a mini-series on where to start with your money and I’m continuing to add ideas that either didn’t fit directly into the book or have come to mind since it was published. Again, my mission is to try and help as many people as possible to get those early starts and get the information they need to make decisions that are going to help them live their best life. For me, I get a lot of satisfaction out of it. I love what I’m doing and I appreciate you having me on the podcast and giving me the chance to share more with your viewers.

Tom: Great, thanks for being on the show.

Steven: Thanks very much.

Thank you, Steven, for the advice on how to invest at any age and for the practical tips on starting a savings snowball. You can get the show notes for this episode at I want to take a moment to thank you for listening to the Maple Money Show. I appreciate your support in helping us continue to grow. If you have the Apple podcast app on your phone, can you pull up the Maple Money Show and give it a quick rating? Even better, leave a review and let everyone know what you think of the show. I hope to see you back here next week when Court, from Modern FImily joins us to share how her family lives on $25,000 a year.

The way I look at income is, are you earning enough to live the life you want to live? Everything about money comes back to what are your goals for your life, what are your priorities, and are you on track to achieve that? - Steven Arnott Click to Tweet