Do We Suck at Personal Finance Because We Suck At Math?

“I just don’t get Math!”

“Well, there is no use studying math, you’re either good at it or you’re not.”

“When will I ever use this in the real world anyway?”

As a high school teacher I hear complaints about math constantly (well… I just hear many complaints period).  There is this widespread general attitude towards numeracy and math as if it were some kind of magic that a few chosen practitioners can wield, while the rest of us commoners are left helpless in the dark.  This is logically ridiculous, but that makes it no less a constructed reality.  The sad fact is that many of us – probably a solid majority – do everything we can to stay away from math after we leave the public school system.

Related: What Is The Best Personal Finance Tip You Learned In High School?

According to the PISA test (the most widely used international standard – and a really good baseline) Canadians aren’t that good at math to start with (depending on how you read the statistics – we’re better than the OECD average, but roughly two years of education behind Shanghai) – and we’re getting worse.  When you factor in how little most of us engage with math after high school I highly doubt many of us get more comfortable with the subject.

A High Correlation Between Knowing Percentages and Understanding Interest Rates…

Do We Suck at Personal Finance Because We Suck At MathInteresting enough, I might be the exception to the rule.  I graduated from a small school and didn’t have many comparison points with which to rank myself.  My good friend was a math wizard and since graduating he has finished an engineering degree at an advanced rate while being covered under an all-expenses-paid scholarship in Europe.  Compared to him I knew I wasn’t a “math person”.  I didn’t intuitively engage with more abstract calculus-related concepts very easily.  I did well enough with some good teaching, my friend’s help, and a lot of extra homework, but I knew I didn’t want to depend on math skills the rest of my life.

In university I got my first taste of the mainstream attitudes towards math.  Because I was relatively weak in math and didn’t have a passion for it, I enrolled in a course called “Topics in Math”.  Essentially it was a math course designed to get humanities majors their math and sciences requirement for their undergrad degree.  I hoped that it would be relatively painless and that I could get through without harming my GPA too badly – I wasn’t a “math guy” after all. Continue Reading

youngandthrifty April 2014 net worth update $332,100 (+0.8%)

Since last month, investments that I have purchased have been doing pretty good already (everything in the green, woot!).  CPD which was not doing very well also picked up and I am in the green again.

I am already in vacation withdrawal and it seems so far away.  I had all these plans of cooking and recreating the foods I made while in Thailand and so far I have made none of them.  Guess that’s always the case, eh?

Recently read an article in the Province (which has spawned a heated reddit thread) about a couple in Vancouver who live “young and cheaply in Vancouver” and spend under $250 on groceries per month and they don’t eat out (apparently they are vegan), who earn $54000 annually in after tax dollars combined, and they travel internationally twice a year at $7500 per person AND are set to retire in their mid-30′s!  Passive income all the way, eh? I wonder how large their investment portfolio is :)  Talk about putting your money where your values are :)

My friends and I were talking about how much we spend eating out, and $200 seems like quite a large amount to be eating out… but I just found out my number is even higher.

I am pretty proud that this month my spending hasn’t been too ridiculous.  I spent just under $200 in March for groceries, but I did eat out a few times.  The amount didn’t seem very much but I just added it up and it was $325!  Jeebus that is quite excessive! I did take my parents and sisters out for dinner though and treated my boyfriend a few times (we alternate).I think I live a pretty balanced lifestyle, I don’t restrict myself eating out but I don’t get at $50 per person places regularly.What’s your going out for meals number?

Okay, so here’s the breakdown for April 2014 ($332, 100):


CASH: $57110 (+2.7%)

Net Worth Update

  • I added up my chequing and savings accounts (High Interest Savings Account). I automatically deduct money from my chequing account and have it siphoned to the HISA account (paying yourself first)
  • I have $4800 saved up for my big trip that I hope to do this year.

Non-Registered: $98790 (+0.6%)

  • I moved $5500 from my nonregistered cash to the TFSA
  • These are stocks that capture the “moment in time”, including unrealized gains or losses in my BMO Investorline and Questrade accounts.Continue Reading

15 Steps to Knowing Personal Finance as Well as Eh Canadian

Canadians are some of the biggest personal finance buffs in the world.  Everyone says so.  I mean what other conclusions can you draw given that our media keeps telling us that our net worth numbers are constantly rising and that our large banks’ performance in the middle of a recession were amazing?  As Canadians, we are in the top tier of the planet when it comes to having lots of material goods and high incomes.  Clearly we know our stuff when it comes to money.

As a Canadian stereotype, I am both nice and good at this personal finance thing.  Consequently, I thought it wasn’t fair to keep all of this mainstream Canadian financial wisdom to ourselves and that we should really try to help the rest of the international community.  Without further ado, here is how to become a money expert the Canadian way eh:

1) Don’t teach your kids about money, they’ll learn when they have to.  Money is kind of a dirty subject that isn’t polite to talk about.  Besides, everyone knows that if you aspire to have more than a middle-class income or net worth you’re probably kind of a bad person.  Wealth = suspicion after all.  Really, if money were truly something that kids needed to learn, then our schools wouldn’t be completely ignoring it right?

15 Steps to Knowing Personal Finance as Well as Eh Canadian2) Go to university no matter what.  This choice will single-handedly determine your earning potential for the rest of your life.  You know that statement is true because most parents and every adult in the public school system says that it is.  If you have even average grades in high school it is very important to remember that you should never work with your hands because that means you’re probably illiterate and not a “deep thinker”.  Canadians send more people to university per capita every year than any other country and the herd is always right (forget that supply and demand stuff the rest of the world believes… bunch of n00bs).

3) Get on social media so you can pick up tips on frugality from your Canadian friends.  Just think, that loan they took out for that new RV was at a super good interest rate!  Now you’ll know exactly what level of toy/status symbol/vacation you should be pursuing in order to become a paragon of personal finance wisdom.

4) Everyone knows that to be good with money you need a budget.  Now budgets don’t have to be exact or anything, they’re just to get a rough idea of like how much you get to spend on treats at the end of the month.  Don’t worry if there are a few hundred bucks you can’t really track down – that’s normal – and a person really needs their coffee on the way to work every day right?Continue Reading

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