Name: Wilson Zhang
Annual income: $100,000-$120,000
Savings: $20,000 in savings account; $55,000 in TFSA; $55,000 in RRSP; $16,000 in a defined contribution pension plan
Debt: $250,000 mortgage
What he does: Research management consultant
Where he lives: Toronto
Top financial concern: “I don’t have a defined benefit pension. I want to save a lot for a comfortable retirement.”
Wilson Zhang knows how lucky he is. The son of Chinese immigrants who came to Canada with very little, he was taught to value money at a young age.
“They grew up pretty poor in China but were fortunate to get good educations,” says Mr. Zhang, a research management consultant who lives in downtown Toronto. “Education is a big part of the Asian culture.”
As a result, Mr. Zhang’s parents were determined that their son complete a post-secondary degree. They paid for his tuition and books while he worked summer jobs and earned scholarships, covering his own living expenses.
Their combined efforts meant that when he graduated from Western University with a business degree in 2014, he had virtually no debt. “I’m very thankful my parents were able to do that,” says Mr. Zhang, who hails from Ottawa.
Since graduating, he has been working and living in Toronto, eating out occasionally, taking weekend trips to visit his partner’s parents, and travelling extensively. “I like to see the world," he says, adding that he’s set foot on multiple continents – Europe, Asia and Africa – in recent years.
Mr. Zhang shares a condo with his partner that he purchased in 2016, a place close to St. Lawrence Market. A big fan of Toronto’s walkability, he has chosen to live a car-free lifestyle. “Not having a car saves me a ton of money,” he says.
Despite his relatively young age, his main focus is on stashing money away for retirement. "Right now, I’m trying to save as much as I can.... I want to keep my options open for the future. I want to save a lot for a comfortable retirement.”
At 27, he has amassed $75,000 in savings and $55,000 in a registered retirement savings plan. Mr. Zhang says that because he doesn’t have a DB pension at his workplace, he’d like to put away as much as possible in RRSPs. “At the end of the day I have to look after myself.”
He also wants to have enough money to possibly start a family in the future.
And he plans to look after others. He donates $50 to friends’ charitable initiatives on a monthly basis, but he’d like to increase that amount. “I’m thinking about setting up my own directed charitable fund with the Toronto Foundation, to give back to the community and help out people that aren’t as lucky."
“I know I've been lucky (with my parents' support, with my job, and with market timing), and so I don't want to squander that luck.”
His typical monthly expenses:
$1,000 to RRSP.
$500 to TFSA.
$1,300 on mortgage. “We have a condo on King West close to St. Lawrence Market. There aren’t enough single detached homes in Toronto. And I’m hesitant to commute. I got lucky and bought, with my parents’ help, right before the market spiked in 2016-17. Otherwise this would be twice what it is.”
$50 on donations. "I am weighing making more charitable donations soon, and in a more structured way than $50-$100 [I donate] every time a friend has a cause on Facebook.”
$600 on condo fees (his partner covers a portion).
$200 on property tax.
$40 on homeowners’ insurance.
$40 on Internet.
$10 on Netflix. “A lot of our entertainment is hanging out with friends or watching Netflix.”
$300 on groceries. “It’s probably $500-$600 total but we pretty evenly split with my partner. We shop at No Frills and St. Lawrence farmers’ market a lot in order to save.”
$200 on eating out. “We go out or order in probably once a week, and I try to make lunches – but it’s not always easy with two hectic work schedules. We tend to go to The Works, a burger place, or for Thai or Japanese."
$75 on alcohol. “We don’t normally drink when we go out, but I like learning about wine, so when something interesting shows up at the LCBO I’ll pick it up. We like cider, wine and beer. We also like doing bar trivia once in a while – we grab a beer at a bar and play some trivia.”
$25 on coffee or tea. “I grew up pretty frugally, but am trying to train myself to be okay with small purchases every once in a while.”
$5 on apps. “[I use] a language app – I’m trying to keep up my Mandarin, my native language.”
$0 on car. “I walk everywhere – Toronto is such a walkable city. My partner commutes to her job as a teacher, so her transit fees are high, but I love walking. All my friends think I’m strange for walking everywhere, especially in Toronto winters – but they’re not as bad as Ottawa ones.”
$0 on cell phone. “Work pays for this – in return there’s an expectation that you’re online in emergencies.”
$50 on Uber/car rental. “My girlfriend’s parents are in Milton, Ont. We use Uber once in a while.”
$50 on transit. “I generally load $50 onto my presto per month. I don't really use it very often.”
$50 on clothing. “It’s a lot easier for guys. When I spent a week in the U.S. a while back, I bought a set of dress shirts at Brooks Brothers – expensive, but I don’t have to worry for a while.”
$100 on hobbies. “I’ll probably buy one or two pairs of really nice running shoes per year to run with. I used to run marathons but I just run to relax and de-stress. [I also spend on] wine classes. I’m trying to get my Wine & Spirit Education Trust certification.”
$30 on haircuts/accessories. “My barber's downstairs. I could spend less, but convenience is nice.”
$50 on gym fees. “[We have a] YMCA membership – I just recently picked this up as an investment in myself and so my partner and I would have a shared commitment.”
$20-$30 on books. “I read a lot. I sometimes go to Indigo at the Eaton Centre. I also love BMV because they sell used books cheaply. We also borrow e-books from the library.”
$500 on vacations. “I love travel. I've been able to travel a lot for work and with friends and family, and this is something that's pretty important to me. I also try to go see my family around Canada when I can.”
$0 on pets. “I would love a dog, and our building allows dogs, but we just don’t feel we have enough time right now.”
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