My name is Wendy Ma and I moved to Canada with my parents in 2010. At the time, I was still in Secondary School completing my education so I didn’t have to worry much about finances and investments. It was much later that I learned how important it is to have a financial plan! 

This is my story.

I wasn’t always finance-savvy but learned about the processes and the financial ecosystem along the way. I was introduced to an investment product, Tax-Free Saving Accounts (TFSAs) during an accounting class — that was my first brush with finance! 

I began to gain a deeper understanding of finance when I decided to use the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) to pay for my college tuition. After I started my year-long internship, I learned how to better manage money and was able to pay off most of my student loans from those earnings. I graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Science, electrical and computer engineering in 2017. Post-graduation, I took up a full-time job and with access to a more stable source of income, I started thinking about investments. 

Since I wasn’t aware of my options, I decided to consult a financial advisor who explained the various investment products. There are a few things that you need to think about before you go to a financial advisor:

  • Your life/financial goals
  • Your willingness and ability to bear financial risk

Dividing my goals into short, medium, and long-term helped me plan better.

Long-term goals: I set up periodic automatic payments for money to be deposited into the respective investment accounts. Knowing the returns I would get on this investment after a few years is reassuring and helps keep my mind at ease! 

Medium-term goals: Like many other newcomers in Canada, I always had a dream to purchase a house. During my financial planning, I listed it out as a mid-term goal. Earlier this year, with some of our savings and a little help from my parents, my husband and I were able to purchase a pre-construction condo. Since it’s pre-construction, we just had to make some initial down payments; the mortgage payments will begin once the construction is over. This also allows us some time to save.

Short-term goals: I feel proud to announce that I successfully achieved one of my short-term goals recently: I leased a car! Leasing a small car is inexpensive, so I was able to afford it with minimal savings and advance planning. 

Here are three tips that helped me in my financial journey. I hope fellow newcomers find them helpful too.

  • Define your goals: Know your goals and discuss them with a financial advisor; they are the best people to assist and guide you in realizing your dreams. 
  • Get your mortgage pre-approved: If you’re interested in purchasing a house, it’s better to get your mortgage approved before you start looking at places. In my case, even though our condo construction will be completed next year, my husband and I got our mortgage approved in advance — just to be safe. 
  • Evaluate your options for buying and leasing a car: Depending on where you decide to live, having a car might be a necessity. Therefore, you need to figure out your best options by talking to car dealers (whether to buy or lease) as well as financial advisors (for car loans).  

Navigating your finances in a new country can seem confusing but with clarity on your goals and help from an expert or an advisor, you can be well-positioned for financial success!