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How To Blend Lifestyles And Finances

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 15 January 2002 00:00

The start of a fresh new year inspires many Canadians to tackle life-improving goals. Among these Canadians are those who chose a lifestyle move a few years ago that has not panned out the way they hoped.

Some have discovered the "house-rich, cash-poor" lifestyle that goes with a new 95%-mortgaged home can be overwhelmingly stressful. Others have found that moving to the country was neither as idyllic nor as rewarding as they hoped. They learned that although real estate values seemed cheaper, the cost of living wasn't. Whatever the disillusionment, determined Canadians will bite the financial bullet and make a move forward, even if it means first taking a step backward.

The Hunters of Halifax, Nova Scotia, have begun the transition to financially solid ground.

Paul and Judy Hunter -- middle-income professionals with two school-age children -- are content to be typical thirty-something Canadians. What they don't like is the typical never-ending struggle to stretch their incomes between today's demands and tomorrow's dreams.

"In our twenties, we did not think about this much," said Mr. Hunter, 39. "We did think that when we were in our forties, the mortgage wouldn't be quite as much and we'd be able to look at investing. But here we are with a mortgage and with children whose education we cannot ignore -- and we are no different than our neighbours."

The Hunters moved from the new home they built in rural Nova Scotia back into the city of Halifax about two-and-a-half years ago. Their country home did not capitalize on real estate increases seen in the city and it was on the market almost a year before they found a buyer.

They selected their Halifax home intent on realizing real estate appreciation. The house had the added benefit of being near work for both of them so they saved on travel costs. This made up for the fact that their mortgage payments were higher since homes are more expensive in urban neighbourhoods.

"When we bought in the city, I wanted to get a conventional mortgage and not high ratio one," explained Mr. Hunter. "I did creative financing to save the [high-ratio insurance] premium cost and took a small personal loan. It was a double-edged sword, trying over the last couple years to pay off the mortgage and the loan, but worth it."

High-school sweethearts who have been married almost 14 years, they are equally committed to their financial goals and equally frustrated. All the labour and money that they had invested in their country home didn't put them ahead financially -- a particular loss since profit made on the sale of their residence would have been tax-free.

"We started [saving] together about a year after we were married," said Mr. Hunter. "We thought we would be diligent and put money away. We have stalled out each year because each year, the cost of living seems to be steadily increasing.

"We feel a little frustrated with the bulk of taxes we pay. It seems our taxes have gone up and the cost of living has gone up. Over the past ten years, we were investing a little each year in RRSPs, but for the last three years, we have not put anything in, what with living expenses, the mortgage and our children's education. This makes it a real challenge to be a consistent investor."

The Hunters don't allow themselves to get discouraged even if their financial situation is improving more slowly than they would like. They believe their commitment and diligence will pay off.

"I look back 11 years and say time has flown," said Mr. Hunter. "We haven't accomplished as much in investing as I hoped. I look forward and see we have got to do some aggressive investing to give us what we want in 11 years."

With renewed determination triggered by the new year, the Hunters have revised their goals and intend to learn how professional financial advice may accelerate their progress.

For more articles by P.J. Wade, please press here .

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PJ Wade

Futurist and Achievement Strategist PJ WADE is “The Catalyst”—intent on Challenging The Best to Become Even Better. A dynamic speaker and author of 8 books and more than 1800 published articles, PJ concentrates on the knowledge, insight, communication prowess, and special decision-making skills essential for professionals and their clients who are determined to thrive in the 21st-Century vortex of change.

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