Money

Canadians Worry About Money Two Hours a Day: A Diary

Here’s what two full hours of fretting about your finances looks like.
January 14, 2020, 7:51pm
Canadian millennials worry about money two hours a day
Photo by Lucreative via Unsplash.

Australia is burning, both the U.S. and Iran can be wrong, and people keep expecting me to have an opinion on #Megxit. As if there isn’t enough to stress about in the world, you can add your finances to the pile.

Young Canadians worry about money 2.4 hours a day—more than older people do, according to a Scotiabank poll out Tuesday.

More than 70 percent of people aged 18-34 find it challenging to save, invest, and pay down debt. We know that personal debt is the norm; according to an Ipsos poll, about half of millennials carry debt and the most recent government figures show that median millennial debt is $35,400.

And the less money you make, the more you worry about it. Households bringing in less than $50,000 a year worry about money spend almost double the amount of time that households making $100,000 or more do.

Where you live matters too. People in Atlantic Canada worry about their finances the most (3.4 hours a day on average) compared with Quebecers who worry the least (43 minutes a day).

Considering the average amount of time that people under the age of 34 are awake—15 hours—those 2.4 hours represent more than 13 percent of total waking hours. That’s more than double the amount of time that Americans spend eating.

So what does 2.4 hours of fretting about finances actually look like? Scotiabank spokesperson Alen Sadeh said in an email, “The question in the survey didn’t define ‘worrying’ or what specifically it looked like.”

So here’s our attempt to show you:

6:30-6:40 a.m. - I lie in bed thinking about how today is the 14th and tomorrow is pay day and tomorrow will be better but it’s also time to put money on your Visa and did I pay my phone bill last month? I think about my $8,500 in non-mortgage debt because who can afford a down payment and because I am a composite character for the purpose of making a larger point about money stress. Sixteen months at $600 a month, I can do it.

8:30-8:40 a.m. - Spent an extra 15 minutes in bed and didn’t have time to make breakfast. I buy a coffee and breakfast sandwich that says it has cheese but it tastes like vegan cheese. I feel guilty about getting a grande and not a tall but need to look extra alert for the big morning meeting. That’s $8 I didn’t need to spend but I have $75 left in chequing and hey, I won’t go into overdraft this month. I might even be able to add an extra $50 into savings this month.

10-10:20 a.m. - Shit. Realized it’s my niece’s birthday tomorrow and I’ll need to Amazon one-day package it because she lives in Alberta and her parents just lost their jobs in the economic downturn out there and I should probably pay for wrapping. If only I had done this a few weeks ago I could have bought locally, wrapped it myself, and not felt bad about giving money to Jeff Bezos. But what a rush to get those shipping notification emails!

12:15-12:30 p.m. - Feel hungry. Too bad I curled up in bed instead of making lunch. I can’t really afford this, but I can’t afford not to eat and it’s better for your health and your conscience to support the mom and pop shawarma and salad shop than line the pockets of an evil multinational. Technically, I am eating on my lunch hour, so it’s like work is paying me, as long as I sit at my desk and look like I am occasionally typing. $13 bucks down.

5-5:30 p.m. - Walked home instead of taking the bus. Saved $3.25. Felt good about myself for saving money until I started thinking about how I am paying so much more in rent so I can live close to work. I keep asking myself, do I work to live, or live to work, and can I get off this conveyor belt? I am 28 years old. Only 42 more years to go until Freedom 70.

7-7:05 p.m. - Have a friend’s birthday tonight. Life is too short not to show up for your friends, even people whose birthdays fall after the holidays and the crowd will be light because everyone is doing dry January. I’m not a flaker, like Ashley. I’m an adult with a credit card. In fact, the first round of drinks is on me.

9:00-9:15 p.m. - The bill comes: $140, not including tip. I paid for all those drinks, and did Ashley really need those shots? Dinner was definitely not worth $23.99. I’ll add a bit extra to paying down my credit card tomorrow; it will be fine. Friends are forever.

9:25-9:26 p.m. - Remembered my cousin is visiting from the States on Thursday, and that’s another dinner.

9:27-11 p.m. - I’m not thinking about money. I’m only young once.

11 p.m - Taking an Uber home and still not thinking about money.

3 a.m. - Wake up to pee and go back to bed. Not. Thinking. About. Money.

3:02-3:22 a.m. - Lie in bed and start doing the math backwards from pay day cheque. Student loans, $300; phone bill, $90 but probably worse; credit card, uh, let’s go round with $600. Let’s just say I have $400 until my next cheque. How does anyone afford children? Thank god I am an insufferable but self-aware urban millennial without many responsibilities.

4-4:03 a.m. - Briefly think about saving for retirement. Did I miss the RRSP deadline? Is that in April or March? Is a TFSA better? Do I even have extra money? Maybe it’s time to renegotiate my cell phone plan. Or look for a house, somewhere more affordable. But can I get a decent job in a smaller town?

8 a.m. - Slept in, don’t have time to make lunch but it’s O.K. because today is pay day.

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