Rita Silvan, editor-in-chief of Golden Girl Finance talks to Melissa Leong, resident money expert on The Social (CTV) and author of Happy Go Money, about how to invest in happiness.
GGF: Melissa, I really enjoyed reading your book. It’s not often that finance books are so witty and funny, as well as useful.
GGF: We all know that our early childhood experiences influence our money attitudes later in life. How did your parents influence you?
ML: My parents were immigrants. They came to Canada with a mentality to sacrifice and work hard for every dollar. My Mom internalized that in a way that translated into extreme frugality. From her, I learned that it was better to sacrifice happiness to save money. That’s the opposite of my husband’s philosophy, by the way.
My father is not a risk taker and is always very well prepared for the future. He’s very generous and likes to give gifts, including monetary gifts. He enjoys his money but in a very careful way. I’m extremely generous like he is. That’s my love language, too. But I do think I’m more like my mother in terms of my financial attitudes.
GGF: How have your attitudes changed since you were young?
ML: I give myself a spending account that gives me the freedom to buy things that make me happy. I married someone who values the now. He feels free to spend on things that he enjoys. At first that created conflict in our relationship. Having the planning in place allows me to treat myself. For example, I love planning events. My best friends and I used to exchange a lot of gifts. Now, instead, we plan events around someone’s birthday. Every month we allocate a certain amount of money to a new activity. In the past, it’s been archery, wine tours, visits to trampoline parks or playing dodge ball. Lately, we plan “escape room” challenges. That costs around $25-$30 for a great night with friends and then another $20 for the meal together to reminisce about our experience. This creates bonds and great memories.
GGF: If you could meet your 25-year-old self, what advice would you give her about money?
ML: Money is not your enemy.
GGF: In Happy Go Money you mention how different you and your husband’s attitudes to money are. How do you think your life would be different if you had married someone with very similar money attitudes and behaviors to your own?
ML: We’d have less stuff! And, I would be less happy. My husband has taught me to value my money in a different way. He’s taught me to see money as a tool and to see myself as a valuable generator of money.
Before I was focused on my passions, on my work, and the money was something that would come but I had to work really, really hard for but it. My husband is an entrepreneur, and also from a family of entrepreneurs, and he taught me different ways to advocate for myself regarding money.
GGF: From the “joy ninja” explorations you did after your husband’s illness, what are the practices that have stayed with you the most?
ML: I don’t’ want it to sound like happiness is work but it takes effort to move your happiness setpoint. For example, when I put my son to bed, I ask him what made him happy that day. I also try to be more grateful. If feel negative, I counter that with something positive.
GGF: What have been your best and worst financial investments so far and why?
ML: The best money I’ve invested has been to ensure that my husband and I have a strong foundation for our marriage. I’ve invested in pre-marital therapy, couples counselling, in preparing for the birth of our son, on romantic dates and sharing new experiences that will bond us. One of the greatest detriments to wealth is divorce and greatest asset to happiness is your partner. I’m happy to invest in that.
I suppose the worst investment would be that I rolled the dice on cryptocurrencies. But I don’t see it as a bad investment because it was money I could afford to lose and sometimes you are curious about something and want to try it out. Lesson learned.
GGF: What advice would you give investors on how to maintain peace-of-mind in the face of market volatility?
ML: Having a long game plan will address some of the anxiety that can come with investing in the market. The truth is the market goes up and down. If you’re older, you’ll remember 2008 or the dot-com bust, times when the prices dropped 40% or more. In recent times, the younger generation would have only experienced a bull market; they may not be prepared for a bear market. My advice is, have a long game plan and mitigate risks by diversifying. Know your own risk tolerance. I would suggest, don’t look at your portfolio every 2 minutes. Having a game plan gives you a backdrop when markets drop.
GGF: The old saying goes, “If money doesn’t buy happiness, then you’re spending it wrong.” What did you buy recently that made you very happy?
ML: I spent money on my book launch party. I spent on my wedding. We had a budget. I didn’t go into a debt. My husband and I always talked about that day. It was great, great experience. I also felt that way about this book launch. I spent money to thank the people who were supportive in my life.
GGF: If aliens blew up the world tomorrow, what would you regret—financially speaking?
ML: I would regret not giving away more. Because moments before the world ended, I would have wished that I had made the days better and happier for people.
GGF: Why is saying “no” important in how it relates to happiness?
ML: When I was a young reporter at the National Post, I developed a reputation as the “yes” girl. I would do any work that was given to me. I wanted to climb the ladder and to not disappoint anyone. That cost me in two ways: my happiness, and my actual value in the workplace. You have to learn what you’re worth and to say “no” to work that’s not up to your standard. Otherwise, you wear yourself very thin.
GGF: If you had a superpower what would you change about the way women, especially younger women under 30, handle money?
ML: Make everyone confident about money. If women felt more empowered with their finances, they’d do better. I would spread financial confidence.