Ottawa engineer, 29, with side hustle, balances debt repayment, invests and saves for wedding

istock/The Globe and Mail

Name Age: Alexander, 29 years old
Annual revenue: $76,000
Debt: $28,000 in government student loans; Auto loan of $8,544
Savings: $23,000 in TFSA; $10,700 in RRSPs; $3,800 in company share ownership plan
What is he doing: Chemical engineer/researcher
Where he lives: Barrhaven, Ont.
Main financial concern: “I can’t wait to get out of the pandemic and have a great wedding with my fiancée.”

Like many young Canadians, Alex, 29, has many competing financial priorities.

Paying off student debt is a big deal. The Ottawa-based chemical engineer earned a doctorate in 2016 with government and bank loans. “When I graduated, I had $15,000 in student debt on a line of credit,” he says. “I focused on that – my line of credit was my top priority.”

He made his last payment to the bank in July 2020, but he still has $28,000 in government student loans. “The pursuit of a doctorate was definitely a financial blow to me…I still ended up in more debt than I was comfortable with,” he says. Looking back, he is satisfied with his academic investment, which he believes will ultimately result in a challenging career and high salary.

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Alex’s short-term priority is next year’s wedding. He and his fiancée have saved between $10,000 and $15,000 so far. “I don’t want to go into debt,” he said of the 120-person event. “My parents will help me with the bar bill.”

To raise his salary by $71,000 a year, he and his fiancee, a teacher, have a side-hustle. “We do after-school tutoring, teaching high school students math and science,” he says. This brings in between $4,000 and $5,000 more per year.

Currently, Alex and his fiancée are paying off a $300,000 mortgage on a small townhouse in Barrhaven, a suburb of Ottawa, which she bought in 2018. He contributes $850 a month.

Alex is also an avid investor, transferring $350 a month into a TFSA with an online broker and $110 into his TFSA emergency fund with MotusBank. He also contributes $177.50 a month to a group RRSP and $295.83 to a corporate stock program, where employees buy stock from their employer.

“I always max out all options in the business,” he says. Her inspiration comes from her grandmother. “She has always invested and managed her own finances and retirement.”

Alex splurges on a few things: his car, his dog, and the odd dress shirt. His vehicle, a 2018 Volkswagen Golf that he bought new, costs $447 a month. “You get peace of mind with a new car,” he says, adding that he drives to Ottawa from Barrhaven, 20 minutes away, three to four times a week. As for her dog, a two-year-old Labradoodle, dog daycare costs her $100 a week.

He hopes to buy another house in the same neighborhood after the wedding, if the couple have children. And he’s grateful to already have a foothold in the housing market. “Ottawa’s housing market has grown more than Toronto’s,” he says.

Until then, Alex plans to continue tutoring and hopes to teach a university evening class in the next few years. “I’m fiscally conservative,” he says. “I have a spreadsheet. Not going into debt is an important goal.


His typical monthly expenses:

Investments ($971.66)

$498.33 to TFSAs. “It’s $175 biweekly for self-directed investments through Questrade and $55 biweekly for an emergency cash fund with MotusBank.”

$177.50 to RRSP. “I feel like I’m making up for lost time. My monthly contribution is 3% of my salary, which includes a 3% company contribution. I’m into mutual funds. All actions.

$295.83 the company’s stock purchase plan.

Debt repayment ($249.17)

$249.17 to student debt. “It’s a low-interest Canada student loan. »

Household ($1,731.12)

$850 on mortgage. “My fiancée bought a place in 2015. I moved in in 2018. It’s a mid-unit in a small townhouse. The mortgage started in May 2018, at 3.6% interest.

$446.62 on car payments. “It’s a 2018 Volkswagen Golf. It’s $32,000 over six years, 0% interest. There’s peace of mind with a new car. I had a toxic relationship with the previous car.

$180 on gas. “The journey is 20 to 25 minutes.”

$65 on car insurance.

$45 on car repairs.

$56.50 on mobile phone.

$88 on the Internet. “I pay for Crave, HBO. I watch Succession. I surf a lot and watch podcasts like The Looney Hour. I glean a lot of financial information.

Food and drinks ($685)

$500 on the grocery store. “We are Costco employees and we usually go to smaller stores to buy products. We will have dinner with friends on weekends.

$150 at the restaurant. “There are a lot more takeaways. We get it once every few weeks, usually from Mucho Burrito.

$35 on alcohol. “I’ll buy a few bottles of expensive scotch every few months.”

Health and Fitness ($61.67)

$20 on dental costs. “My fiancée’s benefits are pretty nasty.”

$41.67 on sports. “We’re both pretty into the gym. She’s into spinning and I’m into weights.

Miscellaneous ($956.95)

$500 on the wedding fund. “It is in August 2023. We have given ourselves two years. We don’t want to go into debt. It will probably cost between $25,000 and $30,000.

$40 for paper subscriptions. “I [subscribe] at the Globe and The Economist.

$35 on apps. “This includes email, password manager, Apple Music and cloud storage.”

$16.95 on Netflix.

$60 on haircuts.

$40 on the clothes. “I don’t spend too much on clothes. I try to get good dress shirts from Harry Rosen.

$100 on pet. “Dexter loves dog daycare.”

$165 on gifts for birthdays or special events.

$0 on holiday. “Before the pandemic, we drove in New York. We were doing short trips. »

$0 on entertainment. “We walk around Ottawa with the dog. It was our thing during the pandemic.

TOTAL: $4,655.57


The last name has been omitted to protect the privacy of the profiled person. We would like to thank him for sharing his story.

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Tana T. Thorsen