Monthly Archives: November 2011

My Financial Bucket List

I had never given my finances much thought until a year ago. I luckily did not have any student loans to pay off and I had a good chunk of savings from working every summer since Grade 11. I never had any set budget or any clue really how much I was spending on my non-fixed expenses like groceries, entertainment, personal care etc.

So about a year ago, I tried tracking my spending and creating some sort of budget. Once I got the iPhone 4, I downloaded a great app called iXpenseit that allows you to track all your expenses and income (and you can even download a PDF of your report)!

Since then, I have become very aware of what I spend during an average month. Most of it was not surprising – transportation and groceries were my main expenses, after rent. But it definitely made me realize how much little things, here and there, add up.

A few days ago, Financial Blogger Krystal Yee posted a contest on her blog. To receive an extra ten entries, you had to write a blog post with your “Financial Bucket List.”

I would love to win the $500 Give Me Back My Five Bucks competition, sponsored by Life Insurance Finder, the life insurance experts, but I also think a financial bucket list is a great way to have clear financial goals.

My Financial Bucket List

1. Save 30% of my income to be able to afford a down-payment on a house by the time I’m 25 (three years).

2. Start an RRSP and an RESP (yes, thinking ahead).

3. Figure out what I’m saving for – what my goals are. Just to save for a rainy day? To save for retirement, a house? Or to save so I can splurge on other things I love, like pretty notebooks, nice clothes and more scrapbooking pieces?

What are your financial goals for the new year?

Can an ethnic-sounding name take you out of the competition for a job?

Last week, I was reading an interesting article on the Globe and Mail’s website about career advice. It revealed that job applicants with an ethnic-sounding name may actually be subconsciously discriminating against you and assuming that you may not have the right language and social skills for the job.

I think it’s quite shocking in this day and age that an ethnic-sounding name might reduce your chances of landing a job. Even if it’s not a conscious decision, now that a study has revealed that recruiters are more likely to pass over a resume with an ethnic-sounding name, employers should make sure that they aren’t making these mistakes and missing out on top talent.

According to the article, “the researchers sent out more than 7,000 hypothetical résumés to hiring managers at companies in three cities that had advertised jobs requiring that applicants have a bachelor’s degree and fluency in English. The positions covered a number of professional fields.” The study found that employers are 40% more likely to choose an applicant with an English sounding name than an ethnic-sounding one.

If employers want to increase diversity in the workplace, then this is a great way to start. Employers should be looking over their hiring ways and examining if they’re prone to these errors – and if they are, start correcting them before missing out on great candidates.

Have you ever felt that an ethnic-sounding name may reduce your chances for landing a job?

Costs of establishing Africentric high schools in Toronto

Less than fifty years after the last racially segregated school in Ontario closed its doors, another one will open – but this time by choice. The Toronto District School Board approved the creation of an Africentric high school, to open once they find space or a school willing to share quarters. It won’t be easy. The project was put on hold last year when parents were furious at the notion.

I’m not sure if this is necessarily a set-back for Black rights but it certainly makes you question why the need to re-introduce segregation after spending so long fighting to end it. Proponents of this idea claim that it helps students feel more self-confident, have a sense of belonging and have even boosted academic grades.

But at what cost? At the steep price of telling these students that it’s easier and better to create your own separate school than learn to integrate with the rest of the population. Maybe that will be too difficult so soon we will be hearing demands for Africentric universities and even workplaces.

I’m not trying to minimize the benefits of these schools but I feel strongly that we should not be reverting back to old ways. How will students learn about different cultures, religions and races when the only people in their schools are all the same culture, religion or race? How do you learn to get along with diverse types of people if you grew up segregated?

Instead of segregation, we should be encouraging schools to promote inclusion when there is a mix of races, religions and cultures in the school. If students can’t attend a non-segregated school without feeling lost and out-of-place, then schools have a bigger responsibility to make students feel a sense of belonging. If Black families want their kids to receive a certain type of education about some aspects of their history and culture, then let’s incorporate those subjects into the classroom.

As Canadians, we often pride ourselves due to our multiculturalism. Let’s not revert back to archaic ways and instead promote inclusiveness, not segregation.

No end in sight for YRT/Viva strike

It’s a shame that weeks have gone by and the bus unions and contractors are no closer to an agreement than when they started. With over 60% of bus service suspended, people who rely on these services have had to find other means of transportation to get to work, school or just get around.

But rather than just being a short-term nuisance for commuters, the bus strike has revealed that we can’t rely on public transportation and when it comes down to it, we can find other arrangements.

I’m not saying it’s easy making carpool plans, taking cabs or figuring out other ways to get where you need to go. Lots of people are struggling, including students who have no other way to get to school and workers who need to get to their office.

I’m extremely lucky that the bus I need to get to Finch has run – had it not, I would have struggled to find another way to get to the subway and to work.

But the fact of the matter is that this strike has shown that we can’t rely on public transit – so we shouldn’t. There has not been an overwhelming demand from commuters affected by the strike, encouraging a decision to be made. Even media coverage has been unusually quiet.

The short-term effects of the strike are the extra hassles but the long-term ones are much worse. It has told us not to rely on public transportation – so even if an agreement is reached, people may think twice before reverting to their pre-strike routines. This will have drastic effects on the already-horrible traffic situation in Toronto. At a time when our politicians should be encouraging us to use public transport to reduce traffic congestion, this strike has told citizens “don’t bother.”

People who have been able to make alternate arrangements have realized that it’s possible to exist without these services. Perhaps you never considered carpooling with your neighbour and now you do. You may find it’s even more convenient than waiting for the bus in the rain and snow.

I’m not trying to negate the demands of the unions – it is fair to demand higher wages when YRT bus drivers make much less than their GTA counterparts yet we pay much higher fares.

But the fact of the matter is that people are re-evaluating the way the public transportation system works – and this strike proves it needs to dramatically change for us to re-gain confidence in it.