All Posts by Wendy Brookhouse

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10 Tips to Manage your Finances during this Pandemic
Mar 17

10 Tips to Manage your Finances During This Pandemic

By Wendy Brookhouse

What a difference a week makes.  

I’m a small business owner and have loads of small business owners as clients. We’ve gone into virtual mode here and have contingency plans for continuing to help clients with their needs.  In an ideal world, we would all have 3 months of expenses in the bank. That isn’t always the case. I have a number of friends and clients who are completely shut down with no way to generate income and are at risk of or are already losing the income they had booked. If this sounds like you, read on…

Here are my thoughts and tips around managing your finances during this virus. We don’t know the time frame and we don’t know the impact – so this is my best thinking TODAY. With the ‘small print’ right up front – I’m not advising you to do this, just suggesting. You’ll need to decide which ones make sense for you.   

  1. Meal Planning. When my husband and I decide we really want to conserve money, we go into budget lockdown; we’ve found the best way to save the most amount of money during a budget lockdown is to Meal Plan. And make big pot meals. We did an experiment once: We bought a $27 turkey and just over $20 of chicken breasts. The chicken breast provided maybe 6 servings.  The turkey, on the other hand, yielded over 20 servings and that was before we made soup from the leftovers! Chili and casseroles are some other ideas for yummy foods that allow you to spend less per serving. Yes, it can be more upfront work to make these dishes, but we find the savings can be immense.
  2.  Review your credit card statements. Hopefully, you’re doing this on the regular anyway, but right now you can be extra picky about what services to put on hold so they’re not billing every month. I would argue you still need a streaming service — this isn’t about having no life at all, but maybe you don’t need 2 apple music subscriptions, etc. Find a way to suspend in-game purchases for your kids – now is not the time for expensive surprises.  
  3. Go down to minimum payments.  If you’re really low on cash and don’t know when the next bit will arrive, you may want to hit pause on paying down debt.  (Yup, I said it!)
  4. Contact your financial institution about payment deferral plans. Ask what they have in place, expect to put into place, or are willing to negotiate.   
  5. Have an all-hands-on-deck family meeting. Be upfront. Tell your family how social distancing is affecting your business and how it will lead to some changes in the short term for everyone. Have a brainstorming session on how you can all cut down on costs, and what you can enjoy together for free.
  6. Stop stressing about your investments. We’ve seen this before, and we will again. No one – and I mean NO ONE — knows how to time a disaster-time market, so chat with your advisor to make sure you’re positioned to take advantage of the upswing when it comes. Then let it go.   
  7. Review your receivables. Send notes explaining the situation and that you would love to have payment asap. I just had photos done for a new employee and we received an email like that.   Instead of waiting until my next bill-paying day, we expedited.   
  8. Review your payables. Are there any larger companies that may be better able to absorb a delayed payment? Call and talk to them and see what you can negotiate. (Keep an eye on your credit rating though.)
  9. Pause contributions on your savings plans. This won’t go on forever, but we also don’t know how long we need to plan for. Right now, the priority is having the cash you need on hand for necessities. Especially is you’ve been squirreling money away for travel in the short term, you may want to consider deploying this cash into keeping the lights on.
  10. Consider borrowing against the cash value of your whole life or universal life policy. Again – this is to ensure you have money for necessities. Understand any penalties, changes and credit rating implications first.

We’ve been here before….

I’m sure there are many more “hacks” that can be employed. I think the biggest one is to be kind to yourself and to the world. We are in uncharted territory; there is only so much you can do, and you need to prioritize the basics of living. Once we’re past this phase, you can work on getting back to your regular planning, saving and investing!

Nov 27

Check Out What Our “Juniors” Are Achieving

By Wendy Brookhouse

I often speak to audiences about money: the stories we have about it, the shame and embarrassment we feel talking about it, and how social media is making it harder than ever to set goals that are relevant and true to yourself.

At some point during each presentation, I ask who learned about money in school. Few, if any, hands go up!

Everything about money is learned. Our beliefs, our attitudes, our habits, our skill, our mastery. Most of us start this education way too late. 

One of the key pillars of Junior Achievement, in addition to Entrepreneurship and Workplace Readiness, is Financial Literacy. You can see why Junior Achievement aligns so closely with my values! They do great, very important work.

Junior Achievement

This is where my passion for Junior Achievement comes from: my desire to get the next generation building a good relationship with money right from the start. I’ll even do lunch-and-learns for companies in exchange for donations to JA. I figure if I’m teaching my peers, it’s a good idea to pay it forward to the next generation. I want to see a future with more and more hands going up!

One of the key pillars of JAJunior Achievement, in addition to Entrepreneurship and Workplace Readiness, is Financial Literacy. You can see why Junior Achievement aligns so closely with my values! They do great, very important work.

Here’s proof, from the Boston Consulting Group, which reported in 2010 that:

  • JA in Canada creates an annual return to society of $45 for every $1 received from supporters.
  • The work of JA has a direct impact of $105 million on Canada’s economy each year.
  • Achievers are 3X more likely to hold senior and middle management positions in their organizations.
  • Achievers are 50% more likely to open their own business, which leads to innovation, new jobs and wealth creation.
  • JA alumni launch 6,500 companies a year, a rate 50% higher than the Canadian average.

I’ve seen the impact of Junior Achievement up close. I’ve volunteered in the classroom, chaired Junior Achievement Nova Scotia, and just finished my term on the Junior Achievement Canada Board.  JA Canada reaches thousands of students across the country. And they’re ahead of the curve when it comes to building community and sharing knowledge, deploying technology in a smart way to streamline operations and also reach more volunteers and more students. Junior Achievement is in the planning stages of some pretty amazing things.   

I’m still in touch with and mentor some of the amazing young people I met through JA, and I just love watching them thrive.

“I want to see your kids, grandkids and future employees raise their hands high when asked if they learned about money in school and were taught how to sustain a healthy relationship with finance, wealth and money. Would you like to play a role in that future?”

In the spirit of Financial Literacy Month, I would love for you to find some time, during this last week of November, to help our next generation achieve financial literacy by donating time or money.

You can donate to the national digital strategy or your own local chapter. Stat here: https://www.jacanada.org/donate. It’s a great way to prepare kids for achievement! 

Junior Achievement

And if you feel your own financial literacy is lacking, I’d be happy to answer your questions! Just leave them in the comments below or contact me directly for a consult.

Wendy Brookhouse
Oct 22

Older… and wiser?

By Wendy Brookhouse

A few weeks ago, I passed the half-century mark.

With the parties, dancing and hanging out with friends far and near behind me, I can’t help but get a bit introspective as I glance backward. So many great times, adventures, and people have come in and out of my life.  

It seems surreal. I still think of myself as 30 and catch myself having to remember I’m not – although the mirror provides a really good reality check!  I’m pleased that at 50 I still don’t hold back at the gym (even though my knees are a little cranky at times).

I’ve been in the financial services industry for over 15 years. This means 30% of my life has been spent coaching people about money, building wealth and protecting themselves from the hiccups that happen along the way. I’ve met with hundreds of clients, peeked behind the curtains if you will, and have seen patterns of behavior that accelerate the growth of wealth and some that absolutely don’t. 

I’ve noted attitudes and patterns around money in myself as well. If there’s one thing 50 years has taught me, it’s that I’m not perfect. Like everyone, I’ve made mistakes with some of my own money choices.  

So… since I keep thinking I’m 30, with the wisdom of 50… I like to imagine what my 50-year-old self would tell my 30-year-old self now that I have all those financial service lessons under my belt. 

Wendy Brookhouse 50th Birthday Cake.

Things I Know About Money Now that I’m Wiser (and Older)

  1.  It’s better to do something than not. Sometimes we want to wait and make perfect choices. I can remember working with someone when I was in my twenties who never joined the company Group RRSP because she didn’t know what to invest in. She passed-up on the 5% matching component because of analysis-paralysis. Even if she had stashed the money in a cash account, she would have doubled her investment because of the dollar for dollar match. 
  2. It’s never too late to start, but earlier is always better!  I’ve been guilty of investing almost all my money into my business, but on the occasion of my birthday, I escalated some key base components to my plan. If you’re self-employed, start doing a little something as soon as you can. Although I’m saving more aggressively now, even escalating 5 years earlier would have made a big difference.
  3. Simplify and automate. Once I set up a system to automatically pay myself from my business, things became so much easier. I also set up automatic payments for my cell phone, oil, water bills, etc. Everything that I might forget to pay. It shortened my to-do list and I never incur late fees or interest charges. 
  4.  Buy more insurance and buy it earlier. I keep adding to my insurances so that my protections get to the level I require (it does shift over time). However, it was easier to qualify when I was younger, and it was a whole lot cheaper!  Every time I see what the effects of premature death or illness are for a financial plan of one of my clients, I up my coverage.
  5. Get all agreements in writing and signed. I skipped this step once and I lost a bunch of money – it sure would have been nice for my 30-year-old self to have seen that coming! The next time I documented everything and guess what – it worked!

Unfortunately, I can’t actually go back in time and benefit from the hard-learned lessons I received and witnessed over the past 15 years. But maybe those lessons can help you now!

Birthday cupcakes on blue pastel background. Three cupcakes vanilla and chocolate with blue candles

In honour of my birthday, I am opening up time in my calendar for 5 one-hour consultations. I will consult and coach for that hour as my gift to you – no charge and no obligation!  (What to expect) If you have any questions about investment performance, financial planning or money mindset I’d love to hear from you! Book A Consult Here


Sep 11

Weathering a Personal Financial Storm – Storm Chips Won’t Help

By Wendy Brookhouse

Well, Hurricane Dorian wasn’t a very nice guest, that’s for sure.  He took down 80% of the power in Nova Scotia, ripped up trees, crumpled a crane and flung some pretty heavy stuff around. We knew he was coming and he wasn’t going to be pleasant – so we strapped everything down, charged our devices and cleared out the grocery stores of bread, propane and storm chips.   

Many of us remember when Juan touched down over a decade ago. We remembered the days without power and the damage we faced the next morning – so we took Dorian seriously and prepared.

Now why don’t we prepare as well to face off against financial storms?

Sure, you can predict a hurricane… you can watch it building and approaching. With a hurricane we get multiple warnings, real-time updates, and visuals of wreckage along the storm’s path. You don’t get a forecast for accidents, illnesses or other personal catastrophes. You don’t get a warning. Financial storms just hit.

Last week I delivered a cheque to a very young, grieving widow whose husband died from cancer way too young. Because they had gone through the process and set up insurance coverage long ago, this young mom and her child will be okay from a money perspective. The financial buffer she has now allows her the space to grieve without worrying where the mortgage payment will come from. She won’t have to rush back to work because she needs to pay bills. 

Actually, this was the second cheque I delivered to her. The previous critical illness claim had provided money to help with extra expenses like parking and eating out during treatments, extra childcare on tough days, making their home more comfortable for this awful reality, settling bills and debt that were adding stress they didn’t need, and taking more time off work when it counted.  

It occurs to me that we need to prepare just as well for what we DON’T know is coming, as for what we know is coming. Especially with statistics like this: 1 in 2 Canadians (49% of men and 45% of women) is expected to develop cancer during their lifetime – that’s a pretty alarming forecast. 

The best time to batten down insurance is now. Review your policies, make sure you work through an honest and extensive gap analysis and get the right protections in place. The chance you’ll need to weather some kind of personal storm is almost inevitable. 

Once you’ve cleaned up from Dorian and restocked your storm chips, please take the time to make sure you’re ready for any storms in your financial life.

Aug 13

How To Shrink An Elephant

By Wendy Brookhouse

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room.

That one in the corner, sitting silent for now, brooding… getting hungrier and hungrier, side-eyeing you. That elephant won’t take its eyes off you and the big bag of elephant food you’re sitting on. 

 That elephant is Money… and everything to do with it. Earning, spending, having, showing, dreaming about, wishing about, worrying about.

What I know for sure is that the elephant, if not acknowledged, fed, watered, and given love and respect, can cause a lot, and I mean A LOT, of damage.  

It will trample your relationships, job productivity, mental health and financial future.  

 So, how do you tame a hungry-hangry money elephant?

 First, you see it. And talk to other people willing to discuss the elephant in the room.

As long as you stay stuck in your corner, ALONE, looking into the eyes of a threatening, hungry elephant, you’re going to feel paralyzed, anxious, obsessed with spotting those first signs of trouble.

 That’s what happens with money. We avoid it, ignore it, pretend we don’t care about it, worry we care about it too much, tell ourselves stories. And the whole time we feel a current of shame, embarrassment, stress and anxiety. The elephant grows bigger and bigger. 

 When you get comfortable talking about money, the elephant starts to shrink.

 There’s a way to ease into these conversations and start dismantling the money myths. One way is to talk about your memories of money as a child. When did you realize what money was for? How did your parents talk about money? How did they treat money? And how is that affecting you today?

 I wrote a guide on how to shrink an elephant, I mean your Money Conversation Guide. You can get your copy here.  

Because there’s nothing worse than spending your whole time at this party, stuck in a corner, fearing the elephant who won’t look away. 

Jul 15

The ONLY Thing I Don’t Want You To Delegate…

By Wendy Brookhouse

Woman and technology. Refined business woman in glasses, sitting at table in cafe with windows in the background taking notes on a notebook. On the table is laptop, agenda and a cup of coffee

OF ALL THE D-WORDS… DOLLARS, DRIVER, DESSERT, DOG-WALKING, DICAPRIO… ‘DELEGATE’ JUST MIGHT BE MY FAVOURITE.

Because I whole-heartedly believe that you can do anything, but you can’t do everything

And often you’ll find a much better-suited person to take over tasks that have to be done, but don’t have to be done BY YOU. 

Here are some of the things I delegate:

  • Filing
  • Laundry
  • Vacuuming and dusting
  • Managing my calendar

It’s not always that I don’t want to do these things; some are simply better done by others. (Believe me, all those things on my list are sooo much better done by others!!)

I see lots of women take on more than their fair share of a whole range of tasks. I know the whole division of domestic labour is a complicated debate. Personally, I simply do not suffer from the need to do everything myself, especially all things domestic as you can see.   

Happy smiling woman doing vacuum cleaning the carpet in the living room holding a child, modern interior. Busy mum. Home, housekeeping concept.

HOWEVER, THERE IS ONE THING I DON’T WANT TO SEE WOMEN, OR MEN FOR THAT MATTER, DELEGATE EVER. AND THAT’S THEIR FINANCIAL FUTURE.

Strangely enough, household budgeting, spending, planning and saving is one domestic task I see women abdicate responsibility from all the time! And these are professional women who deal with money and finances daily in their career. They manage budgets in the millions yet  they don’t weigh-in on the family finances.   

It’s not because they don’t care, or prefer to live a life of blissful ignorance – no!

These smart, competent, ambitious women STILL carry the mental load of persistent worry, fear and not-knowing. They don’t have enough information about their own financial future to ease their fear of living on the street eating noodles in retirement.

It really doesn’t matter to me why this happens… whether it’s cultural, systemic, conscious, unconscious, whether we’re facing time constraints or career distractions…

I just want it to stop.

I want women, in particular, (because they’re the ones I see being left out of basic financial decisions at home) to pull up a chair, sit at the table and participate in the discussions about their own financial future, the way they participate in all the other discussions at home that affect the health, happiness and futures of their loved ones.

Even if right now ‘portfolio management’ seems like a task better left to someone else – it’s not laundry or dusting.

Mastery of your finances changes how you show up at the table, cements your confidence at a deep level, and gives you the security and certainty that your sound future is something you’ve had a hand in creating.

DISCOVER THE EASIEST WAY TO DISCUSS MONEY WITH YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER, WITH OUR FREE DOWNLOAD: 

The Money Conversation Guide For Couples

Jun 25

How To Marie Kondo Your Finances

By Wendy Brookhouse

Well, the Marie Kondo tidying craze has gone mainstream. There’s a new Netflix series, and a long line of products now available in retail stores.  

Now, I haven’t transformed my entire closet yet, but I am folding things differently. I like to think that counts for something. My drawers of t-shirts and sweaters look amazing!

As I watch the miraculous transformations in spaces on her Netflix show, I’m struck by how the change always goes deeper than just the organized closets and junk drawers.  

You can see the weights that have been lifted off the shoulders of the participants. They seem happier with less stuff. Less stuff makes their life better. They have more joy, know where everything is and find effective systems to keep things Kondo’ed.

Of course (as I do), I kept relating the process back to money. 

Money and finance cause so many people so much stress. We worry when things are due. We’re cluttered in our minds, in our finances. We’re not really sure, when we open that money drawer, what we’ll find or what might fall out! We need to bring simplicity and joy to our money.   We need to change our money story.   

But how? Is it possible to Marie Kondo our finances?

I’ve gone through six steps of the KonMari Method to show you that tidying up your financial house is not that different from tackling your sweater drawer.

Personal Organizer Management Schedule Planning

1. COMMIT YOURSELF TO TIDYING UP

With the pressures of career, family and life in general, it isn’t easy to start this process. I like to think of this step as crossing over the line from being interested to being committed. If I’m interested in dieting, I’ll have good intentions but still accept excuses for going offside. If I’m committed, I’ll stay on track and keep moving forward. Commit yourself to organizing your money. Schedule time in your calendar, even if it’s just an hour a week until you get it done.

old love couples relaxing on the coastline

2. IMAGINE YOUR IDEAL LIFESTYLE

No, it’s not easy to balance the competing demands of enjoying life today and saving for rewarding experiences down the road too. But one thing’s for sure: you can’t save for goals you don’t have.

Don’t squirrel money away because you think you ‘should’ — that’s not enough motivation to make tough choices.

Get yourself out of the shoulds and list some real short term and long term goals. When you know exactly what you’re giving up in the future because you think you want something today, you may find it easier to make a different choice.


3. START BY DISCARDING

I think of this as a mindset issue. Discard all the negative stories and mindset issues you have about money.

Don’t be scared of it.

Don’t resent it.

Don’t fear its lack or its abundance. Learn to love it. It’s incredibly important to recognize the issues that are keeping you from taking control of all aspects of your financial life. Nothing will change until your mind does.

4. TIDY BY CATEGORY

Let’s divide up your financial life into four categories: spending, debt repayment, investments and insurance. (…recognizing that these may not all apply to your financial life at all times.) The first two are where you’ll focus your KonMari energy — they are the foundation on which your financial health is built.  

Spending: A great way to approach this is to evaluate your spending for the last three months. So haul or print out the statements for your chequing accounts, lines of credit and credit cards and look at how you’re spending your money. There’s no wrong or right here! This is just to make sure you bring any unconscious spending back into the conscious realm. With the ‘tap’ system and other quick & easy ways of paying, we can quickly lose track of how much things cost and how fast it adds up. Just getting some totals can be sobering. Now you can notice whether your spending aligns with your priorities (see step 2).  

Debt: Totalling your debts, including your mortgage, is an important part of your complete financial picture. So make a list: credit card debt, lines of credit, student loans, car loans, outstanding CRA bills, mortgages. List the interest rates by each of them and then figure out how much carrying a balance is costing you in interest. 

5. FOLLOW THE RIGHT ORDER

By this, I mean spend in the right order.

Step 2 made us evaluate what we wanted today to live our best life, and what we would decide to do without so we could enjoy an ideal future. We set our (reasonable and balanced) goals, and now it’s time to stick to the plan.

The best way to set yourself up to stay on track is to go back to cash. So, add up what you’d like to spend on lifestyle items – eating out, entertainment, convenience foods, gifts, clothing, small luxuries — then take out that amount of cash. When it’s gone, it’s gone.

6. ASK YOURSELF IF IT SPARKS JOY

We see so much unconscious spending in the world. And it’s getting worse as the way we pay for purchases becomes easier, faster and less intrusive. We tap and swipe our way into debt, into worry, into oblivion.

That’s why I like cash.

The cash system keeps us honest. It makes us conscious about everything we spend. Cash in our pockets is a tangible, physical, and limited resource. Which means every time you hand it over, it’s a choice. You have to ask yourself – does this purchase spark joy? Is it worth dwindling down my cash allotment to buy?

“In essence, tidying ought to be the act of restoring balance among people, their possessions, and the house they live in. – Marie Kondo

When you’ve discarded your old money hang-ups, you have a clear picture of where your money’s going, you’ve imagined a life you love now and later, and you’re spending consciously only on what you need and what sparks joy, I think you’ll find your finances start to feel refreshingly manageable and tidy!

And if you’re curious about how to build your wealth in this new tidy financial house of yours,  book a complimentary Wealth Acceleration call with me here!

Top Photo Author: www.netflix.com//MarieKondo

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