Peanut Budget Jelly Time!

It’s time for the talk. It’s been almost two months into this relationship of ours. Some good times. Some tougher times. But before we go any further into the relationship, we have to have this talk. You knew it was coming as I’ve brought it up before, but I think it has reached the point where it is now or never.

I am talking about Budgets. What else did you think I was talking about? 🙂 I don’t personally understand the inherent dislike and hatred of budgets. I personally ❤ keeping track of the dollars and seeing what they’re doing, whether they’re coming in and staying for awhile or heading out to purchase a cupcake for me. It’s like stalking people on Facebook and seeing what they’re up to! Well, not exactly, but you get the idea.

If you have never kept a budget before, I recommend doing this for just 3 months. This will give you an idea of what your cash flow is like, and helps tell your financial story. Most people I talk to believe that budgets are unnecessary but when I ask them what they spend their money on, their guesses are WAY off from reality. With a more accurate understanding of your cash flow, you will be then equipped to answer stressful money questions such as: Can I buy a house? Am I saving enough for retirement? How much can I invest each year? Or the most important question of all: Am I spending more than I am earning?

The toughest part of a budget is keeping track of all your daily transactions. Some find that a little notebook in their pocket is the best to jot down every purchase. Some prefer to jot down their transactions on a spreadsheet similar to this Budget template. You can customize it and print it out to write down your expenses, or just track it in excel. Others prefer to use an electronic tracking tools (Quicken, Mint, etc.) to accumulate the data to make it easier to manipulate. Whatever you choose, try to stick with it for just 3 months.

Once you have 3 months worth of information, you can sit down and figure out where your money is going. More importantly, you can determine if you are spending your hard earned money on things that are important to you. Are there categories where the amount of spending surprised you? Are there categories that you are willing to cut back on? Are there categories where your spending is perfectly aligned with your priorities in life? From this, you can determine which level you are at in my Financial Well-being game. If you are at Levels 1 or 2, you can now see which spending categories you can cut back on to put yourself in a better financial position. If you are in one of the later levels, congrats! Using this information will allow you to set savings and investment goals.

If you have completed this challenge for 3 months and absolutely HATED keeping track of every transaction, there are other options. I only recommend you do this if you have progressed beyond Level 2 in the game. Until then, I believe you should still be tracking your expenses, as 3 months may not be sufficient enough for you to have a full understanding of why you are spending more than you are making and why you are being forced to use credit cards to supplement your lifestyle.

For those who are looking for other options, you can set things up automatically. The concept is basically PAY YOURSELF FIRST! You basically treat your savings and investment goals as bills. As a result, you make these payments to yourself BEFORE paying every other person in your list. This way, your goals will be achieved without too much effort and thought on your end, and you do not risk paying everyone else first and leaving nothing for yourself at the end of the month. This can be a tricky to do though without a having a good understanding of your cash flow; you DO NOT want to end up in an overdraft position with your chequing account!

Ideally, if you can put a percentage towards saving and investing at the beginning of every month and don’t run out of money at the end of the month, you are good! You can start off small, say 5% of every paycheque is paid to yourself at the beginning of the month. If you find that you have a bit of extra money at the end of the month, boost this percentage up. What’s the ideal number? Depends on your savings goals and your priorities in life. My personal saving % has ranged from zero (sigh.. although I am enjoying my current lifestyle) to almost 60%.

Do you keep a budget? Is this something you have thought about and keep meaning to do? Is the effort worth it? Is this something you can use some help on?

I need your help! As this is a new blog, please spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, or email the link to a friend or family member. Thanks for the support!


Registered Educational Savings Plan (RESP)

No, I’m not expecting any kids. No, there have been no changes to my ‘relationship status.’ This is not at all applicable to my situation, but it is something I had to do a bit of research to learn a bit more for one of my clients and thought I would share with those readers who have little ones running around.

What are they?

Like TFSAs and RRSPS, RESPs are NOT investments; they are an investment vehicle. You can put different types of investments in them: Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs), stocks, bonds, mutual funds, Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), cash, etc. You can open an account at most banks or you can open a self-directed account at a brokerage account. There are individual accounts, or family accounts, which can be useful if you have more than one child. A family account is good to save on account fees and may simplify paperwork. Also, if one child does not go to school, RESP funds can be transferred to other siblings (beneficiaries).


The purpose of RESPs are to help save for a child’s education; you can also open RESPs for children that are not your own. The money you contribute is not tax-deductible, but since they are registered accounts, the money is allowed to compound tax-free. The biggest benefit is the Canadian Education Savings Grant (CESG), which is free money that the government throws at you to the tune of 20% on each dollar that is contributed. A 20% return is hard to beat! The annual maximum of the grant provided is $500, which is the equivalent of you making a $2,500 contribution. The lifetime grant total is $7,200 and the lifetime contribution limit for every beneficiary is $50,000. The CESG grant can only be earned by beneficiaries up to the end of the year of their 17th birthday, and unused contributions can be carried into future years. The only catch is that the grant is only applicable to only one previous year’s worth of contributions. Therefore, you shouldn’t wait too long to start contributing to the RESP as you may run out of time before collecting the full CESG grant available.

Withdrawal rules

Your RESP account will have two components. The first component is the contribution amount, which is literally the sum of all the contributions you made. The second component is called the accumulated income amount, which includes all the grant money, capital gains, dividends and any interest income earned on the account. When you start withdrawing money as your children start attending post-secondary schools, you will be making two types of withdrawals. The Post Secondary Education payment (PSE) is taken from the contribution portion of the RESP, and there is no limit for this type of withdrawal. The Educational Assistance Payment (EAP) is taken from the accumulated portion, and there is a limit of $5K during the first 13 weeks of school. Afterwards, the limit is removed.

All expenses are eligible for RESP withdrawal; tuition, books, rent, transportation, etc. There is no harm in asking for as much as your child will need.

What if your child doesn’t pursue post-secondary education?

RESPs can be collapsed without using them for post-secondary education. Unfortunately, you will not get everything back:

  1. The contribution amount that you made can be withdrawn with no tax implications or penalties.
  2. All CESG (grant money) is returned back to the government.
  3. Any additional money from your accumulated income portion can be withdrawn, but it will be taxed at your current tax rate PLUS an additional 20% penalty. Pretty stiff! If you or your spouse have RRSP room, you can move up to $50K over from this portion of the RESP to your RRSP account.

Before the RESP can be collapsed, all beneficiaries must be over the age of 21 and the plan must have been open for at least 10 years.

Additional Grants

–          Additional CESG. For lower income individuals, you may be entitled to additional money! You may be entitled to an additional 10% or 20% on the first $500 that you contribute to the RESP account depending on your income. You will have to check your bank to see if they offer this service, as not all banks will provide this additional benefit. Also, if you have a self-directed account, the brokerage may not have the capabilities to provide this additional benefit.

–          Canada Learning Bond. If your children are born after 2004, and the family receives the National Child Benefit Supplement (NCBS), you can receive $500 in first year then $100 per year up to 15 years. The maximum of this bond is $2K.

–          Alberta Centennial Education Savings (ACES). For babies born in Alberta after 2005, you are eligible for this grant. No contribution is required for the $500 initial one-time grant and $100 initial deposit is required for $100 grants payable at age 8, 11, 14. The application must be made within 6 years of child’s birth.

This is a pretty brief summary of RESPs, which is a decent investment vehicle to save for your children’s education. If you would like more information, please check out: The RESP Book by Mike Holman.

Do you currently have RESPs for your children? Is this a vehicle you would consider using for your children’s post-secondary education?

I need your help! As this is a new blog, please spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, or email the link to a friend or family member. Thanks for the support!

Life As We Know It

This story came to me from a reader and a good friend.

My journey into debt hell, and the long climb out of it

This story may hit close to home to some readers; others will read this, shake their heads and say “how can someone be so stupid!” but it is one worth writing about, and – I would guess –  is a story that can be told thousands of times over by many people you see each day in your life.

Quick backstory of me: I have had a good job since finishing University, making “average” money. I really enjoyed buying things. EVERYTHING – cars, vacations, clothes, movies, video games, dinners – you name it, I probably had it. Only problem was – this all went on the credit card (outside of the car – that was financed). I had a budget imposed on me by my partner, but I would purposefully understate my income to them, to leave room for “fun” – when I wanted something, I would buy it. It was actually an addiction – there would be times where I would  get an unstoppable urge to go purchase SOMETHING new – even if it was something that I would never touch again (I still have movies I haven’t watched, and video games that have at most 5 minutes of playing time on).

I had a savings account set up as well, which I would put nominal amounts into each month, but that was done more to appease my partner  to show that I was committed to saving and was not done for the purpose of paying off my credit card debt (which had by then ballooned to ~$15,000). I knew having this debt was wrong, and “committed” to paying it off. I would continue to put some money into my savings (stupid) and would dedicate over $2000 each month to payments on the credit card… sounds good, right?? Sure, if I had only STOPPED USING THE CARD. I didn’t – my spending habits hadn’t changed, and each month I would see that not only did my debt not shrink, it was in fact still growing. It got to the point where I would not even open and look at my statements as I was terrified of seeing a higher amount owing, even after putting a $2,500 payment on it the month before.

I knew I was in serious trouble, but didn’t know where to turn. Those closest to me had no idea, and most assumed I was well off – nice car, plenty of travelling, new toys – things most people associate with success. I didn’t want to destroy this illusion. I didn’t want my partner to know as I knew they would leave if they found out – they abhorred credit card debt. I went to my financial institution to see about getting a consolidation loan to thus lower the interest rate I was paying on my debt, and hopefully pay the amount off faster without anyone knowing. Problem was, because of my extremely poor debt ratio and poor credit, the interest rate offered me for the loan was still double digits. I would also be required to cut up my card – I couldn’t do that – how could I explain to people why I no longer carried a credit card? So I continued to flounder, hopelessly lost, and getting buried deeper each and every day.

I had given up – outside of winning some sort of lottery where I could wipe out the debt in one fell swoop, I was resigned to the fact that I was f***ed. I would continue to throw larger amounts of money on it, but I never changed my habits, so my card was always close to being maxed out.  The CC company, however, was oh so nice to provide me with unrequested credit increases to make sure I could keep up my spending habits.

Thinking back on this now, the most terrifying thought is where I would be now if one thing hadn’t changed – my partner figured out my lies, called me on it, and instead of throwing my ass to the curb (which they had every reason to) told me they were going to make me fix this problem once and for all. I had to pull up my credit card statements, and all-in, I owed approximately $20,000 by this time. Going through the statements, it ended up that I was also a victim of fraud… to the tune of $3,500 (really, really stupid). Because I hadn’t even looked at my statements, it was past the period to challenge it, so I have now paid $3,000 for someone to have a trip on Air Canada somewhere nice… I hope they enjoyed it; I sure didn’t.

Fortunately, because of the original forced savings, I had the money to pay it all off at once. 2.5 years of savings wiped out. At the time, my net worth was an amazing -$8,000. Because of this, I was then forced onto an extreme savings budget – if I strayed, my partner would leave, and I am willing do anything for them.

All eating out was cut. ZERO retail purchases for me. Travel? Sure, to work and back. I remember one night we were out as a group for wings and beer – I had water. I didn’t want to be there, feeling so helpless, feeling so CHEAP… but I made it through that.  As I continued to save, a more reasonable budget was put into place – I had a set amount for eating out, a set amount to set aside for vacations, etc. Difference being that this time, there would be no hiding, no lies, and no binge spending sprees.

Fast forward 1.5 years to today. I own my car – no car payments, only regular maintenance fees (which I wish I could eliminate as well, and would, if I didn’t NEED a car). Net worth has changed from that negative $8,000 to a positive $40,000 – nowhere near where someone at my age should be, but an almost $50,000 swing in a year and a half is pretty decent in my books. I feel free now – there is no weight on me, and it is an absolutely fantastic feeling knowing that I owe no institution any money.

I recently had a conversation with someone who rarely sees me, and I was asked “so, what toy do you have your eyes on now?” My response: “Nothing.”

He was blown away; he told me that there was always some new toy that I wanted, but for me now, that is not important. I still get the occasional toy, but now it is done using gift cards received from work, birthdays, etc.

So what is the point of this long-winded commentary besides I am one incredibly lucky idiot? There is a light at the end of the tunnel. If you have credit card debt, get out of it now. It will require sacrifice; it may require a LOT of sacrifice – your current standard of living will likely change, and it will seem like it will change for the worse… but it is a necessary change. I was lucky that I was called out on it and held accountable by someone. If that didn’t happen, I would likely be sitting here, alone, with over $100,000 in retail debt. Hopefully you have someone in your life to hold you accountable – if you don’t, find someone. There are many friends and family out there who are willing to help you. I think almost everyone knows carrying debt on credit cards is bad, but the majority of people do… find that strength however you can, cut up those cards, and put everything you have to eliminate that financial cancer. The feeling of being debt-free is indescribable, and it will be worth every single meal, pair of pants, DVD, video game, concert, and trip that you gave up… honest.

I still have a long ways to go – I am not married yet, and the reason is because of my stupid spending. I do not have the cash to get married with, but I am working on rectifying that now as well – instead of worthless toys and numerous vacations, I am using my money for something far more important – a future for me, and the ones I love.

As more and more people are starting to face their own reality, their own truth about their financial situation, this story is more common than not. I would honestly like to thank my friend for sharing their story; it takes a lot of guts and bravery to share their story in hopes that it will help someone else in the similar situation. I know that people may feel embarrassed or ashamed to even admit to their loved ones what the financial reality is, but I believe that if you truly ❤ them, honesty isn’t the best policy, it is the ONLY policy.

Financial Well-being: The Game!

Happy Monday, everyone! So you’ve made the decision to start doing something about your own personal finances. But where do you start? The amount of information is overwhelming, and this may be the reason why you decide to just keep the status quo. Things are okay; life is chugging along. Another day, another dollar, right?

Today’s post will be simple and sweet. There’s different ways to look at your financial well-being, but I’m going to use a video game analogy because I spend a lot of time (too much!) on video games. I’ve finished off that darn Tiny Tower (all 154 floors with 280 dream jobs) and am still collecting plants on Plants vs. Zombies. As for “real” games, I’ve started Dead Island and Bio Shock. Although I’ve finished off Gears of War 3 (sniff, sniff), I’m still leveling up my character in the Hoardes mode. So that’s the analogy I will use. Although the level you are on is pretty fluid, you need to grasp the concepts in each level before you can level up.

Financial Well-being: The Game!

Level 1: Cash Flow – Are you earning more (salary, interest income etc.) than you are spending?

Level 2: Debt – Do you have credit card debt?

Level 3: Savings – Are you regularly contributing to your savings? Are you saving enough for your goals and retirement?

Level 4: Investment Performance – Over time, are your investments performing as well as the benchmark index?

Level 5: Taxes – Are you taking advantage of tax saving vehicles and optimizing your tax savings?

Level 6: Insurance – Do you have sufficient insurance so you are not a financial burden “in case shit” happens? I ❤ Chris Rock!

Level 7: Estate planning – Do you have current wills and powers of attorneys in place to help your love ones?

Level 8: Optimizing Returns – Are you learning/employing new strategies that can help maximize your goals?

Answer yes on each level to level up! To all my computer programmers/geeks out there, this could be a great idea for a game. 🙂 We could have individual characters that are either super cute with huge eyes or big, strong.. robots? Optimus Returns! Just throwing it out there.

Most of the topics covered on this blog should fall into one of these levels. I’m obviously not finished this game; technically, I’m at Level 7 but one can argue I’m at Level 1.

So, what level are you on?

PS: Stare at the word level long enough and it doesn’t seem like a real word anymore.

PPS: I’ve added a private comment box so you can email me directly. Money is still a tough subject to broach and you may not want your first baby steps to be plastered on the web. So, for public comments, you can use the link on the top left of the post, but if you want it to be private, use the form at the bottom.

Financial planners = Sales people?

I have a friend who has spent his career working as a sales rep/account executive for a variety of computer companies and wireless phone companies. As a result, he is ACTIVELY being recruited by one of the biggest insurance companies in Canada. For what, you may ask? As a FINANCIAL PLANNER! Makes complete sense, right? It does actually; as a result of his experience, he is a very charming and successful salesperson. No knowledge or experience in anything money related required! The reality is that the majority of financial planners in the industry today are salespeople. Their livelihood depends on the number of products they can sell you (yes, mutual funds and insurance policies are products) and the more complicated the product, the better the commissions on it.

I had a financial planner when I was younger. Well, I dutifully maxed out my RRSPs every year and sent the money to the lady at the bank who purchased mutual funds on my behalf. I never actually met the lady. Year after year, paycheque after paycheque. I was too committed to my work to really think about what my money was doing in that RRSP, but she was the advisor, she was the professional, she knew what she was doing, right? One fateful day a couple years ago, I opened my statements and thought, “boy, that seems low.” I’ve been contributing every year, but the balance just seemed off. I sat there, and realized I didn’t even know how much money I had put into the account! If I didn’t know how much money I put in, how in the world was I supposed to know how much money I had earned? So I sat down and figured it all out. Not only had I not made any money at all, I had lost money. Almost 15% of what I put in. Wait a minute. I knew there were inherent risks in the stock market, but I didn’t know if this was reasonable or not. I had no idea what I was invested in, what my risk tolerance was, or even why they were buying and selling different funds every year. It was then that I started to learn anything and everything I could about investing. I made the mistake of relying and trusting someone who I perceived as being a professional, and the result was life changing. I just felt dumb. Really, really dumb. I busted my ass for that money, and I didn’t even respect it enough to know what I was doing with it. To be fair, I could have made an appointment to go meet up with them, although the message would be the same. Stay invested for the long-term; you’re young, the market will bounce back. The stock market will move up and down. But that required actually walking into a bank. And you know how I feel about banks. Aside from PCF of course.

This is why I don’t want to become a financial planner for a bank or an insurance company. You are ‘supposed’ to be suggesting products that are best suited for your clients, but your livelihood is dependent upon how well you can sell the in-house investment products your employer manufacturers. I don’t want to make a blanket statement saying all financial advisors working for banks or insurance companies are bad; I just want you to be aware of the relationship that you will have.

So how do I see the world of financial planners? Let’s say there are 10% that are really, really good planners. They have their client’s best interest at hand and sincerely want to help them meet their goals and have them ready for retirement. They keep apprised of the business and financial world and have the credentials and experience to back up their advice. Then there are the 5% who are out there to get your money. They are sleazy and ambitious, and will sell you the most expensive products they can to get as much money as they can from you. And the rest are in the middle. Some really do believe they are helping you, but they don’t really understand the products or can afford to own it themselves. Most are just trying to make a living. Although the amount of money they make pales in comparison to the money that the companies who manufactures the products are making.

So, if you are looking for a financial advisor, or are currently working with one, I recommend you ask the them the following questions:

Working with a financial planner is great if they are able to offer you guidance and reassurance that your money is being utilized and allocated properly. But this does not replace your own education and knowledge about money. You don’t need to know everything there is about investing and money, but you need to know enough to make sure you’re not getting screwed. No one cares more about your money than YOU!

So, do you currently have a financial planner? Are you looking for one? What are your own perceptions of financial planners?

Now what?

I’m sure the weekend seemed like torture as you were all anxiously awaiting the next post. 😉 After all the background information, you must be highly anticipating the post that can get you started on your own journey towards financial freedom, right? (I can dream, can’t I?).

So, where does one start? Well, where are you financially? Are you spending more than you make? Are you saving enough for your dreams and retirement? It’s hard to answer without knowing where you are today.

Enter the net worth calculation. Simply put, it is a snapshot of where you stand financially at a specific date. To calculate your net worth, you sum up all your assets, and subtract all your liabilities.

Assets are everything you own that has economic value such as cash and savings accounts, retirement accounts, pension plans, houses, cars, etc.

Liabilities are what you owe, either to a bank or to another person. These things include credit card debt, student loans, car loans, mortgages, lines of credit, etc.

If this is the first time you are doing this calculation, realize that this number can be surprising. Even shocking to some. This is the first step for you to start to fully understand your current financial situation and if this number comes out very negative, it can be very disheartening. But don’t give up hope. No blame, no judgement. Everyone has to start somewhere, and you deserve props for taking the first step. You can continue being blissfully ignorant to your financial situation, but there will come a time where it will bite you in the ass. I guarantee it. No time like the present to start.

So go home and start collecting all the information you have to calculate your net worth. Bank statements, credit card statements, etc. Some of this information can be gathered online if you do any sort of online banking at all. Try to get the most recent information possible, but do not let this deter you from doing the exercise. An estimate is better than not doing anything at all.

Find attached a sample excel file you can use (Net worth). Add/delete your own categories as necessary. If excel scares you, write this down on a piece of paper. Whatever floats your boat.

Couple quick notes:
– I personally don’t include the value of my car in this calculation; it will continue to depreciate and it is hard to estimate what this is worth. Who knows, someone may decide to accelerate instead of braking and destroy your car tomorrow. We all know how well guys drive. 😛
– For your house, I would use the purchase value as the asset value. You may want to increase this with inflation, but I would hesitate to use what you think your house is worth in today’s market. I err on the side of conservatism in the calculation of assets.

Don’t worry if this isn’t 100% complete. And you don’t have to show anyone this calculation. Well, your partner might want to know. Ideally, you would do this exercise together, but I’m sure there’s a hockey game on. Or Monday Night Football. Or Glee. Or… you get the idea.

If you have any questions about what other things should be included in assets or liabilities, please leave me a comment or fire me an email. If you get off your butt and actually DO this exercise, I would ❤ to hear about it! If you want me to keep you accountable, post a comment saying you’re in, and I will check with you in a week to make sure you do this step. I find that when I actually tell someone else that I’m doing something, I’m much more likely to do it.

Now you know what the first step of your journey is.

So, what are YOU going to do about it?

What does “Retired” mean anyways?

You may have noticed that I don’t claim to be retired, but feel I am currently “retired.” Big difference, right? Huge! So, what does that mean anyways? It means that I don’t need a paycheque from a job right now to survive. To me, it means that I have enough in my savings for me to enjoy this lifestyle for a couple of years, but not for the rest of my life. “Boy, she must have a crap load of money to do that,” you may be thinking. I know some of you have more money than me. Some have less. I have no idea where I sit in comparison, but let’s say I’m about average. Everyone likes to believe they’re about average. Like people’s perception of their own driving skills. Everyone honestly believes they have above average driving skills. We all know how true THAT perception is. I ❤ all my friends, but there are some where I have to say a little prayer before I jump into a car with them.

So how am I doing this and everyone else is slaving away at their 9 to 5s? The easy answer is that I have a good grasp on my monthly cash flow. In other words, I know exactly how much money I have and how much money I need each month to survive. Can you say that for your own situation? How do I do that? Easy, I have a budget. Yup, I can feel all your eyes glazing over and ready to jump ship. I know, I know, its too early to bring out the dreaded “B” word. Relationship suicide! Like dropping the “L” word too early in the dating process; it’s a disaster! But bear with me. Just let the “B” word swirl inside your head right now and that’s it. I’ll revisit it at another time. Just easing it in for now.

So, if you’re continuing on with me, thank you. We may have lost a few who jumped at the mention at the “B” word; hopefully they’ll come back and finish this off once they get over the initial shock! Some may think I’m being a bit silly in regards to the “B” word; have enough conversations about this in person and I assure you the response is not entirely exaggerated.

But I digress. So, knowing my cash flow helps me. For income coming in, I don’t have a monthly paycheque, but I have interest income, dividend income, and money from other sources such as money from my favourite credit card (oh yes, I said it. You heard correctly. My credit card pays ME for the honour of using it) and from people who are paying me to help them with their financial planning. But alas, it is not enough, so I have to dig into my savings to make up the difference.

Savings? What is that? When I quit my job, the rumour mill at the workplace was abuzz on what I was going to do; how will I survive? I MUST be moving home to live with my parents; I can’t POSSIBLY afford to live without a job. These comments were coming from executives who were making 6 figures easily a year, but they couldn’t fathom the thought of taking some time off? I was shocked! But this emphasizes the importance of saving and paying yourself first; topics I will cover in detail later on. And yes, your savings will grow faster if you are making a full-time wage and living at home. But I still paid rent at home. And yes, I know other people who have stayed at home but cannot afford to take a year off. Full disclosure required to appease a good friend of mine. You know who you are.

The next thing is debt. I have ZERO debt. Nothing. Nada. I owe nothing to anyone. I’ve been working since I was 13 to pay off my own education and to pay cash for my car. So this definitely helps with my cash flow each month. Am I against debt? Certain types. Mortgages are fine, although if you can pay cash for a house or condo, I salute you! I don’t believe in financing cars and advocate saving up enough to pay cash for your cars. And what about credit cards? The root of all evil if used incorrectly. But we’ll save that for another post.

What do you think? Should I be using “retired?” Or should I think of using another word? I don’t like the connotations with unemployed, cause it implies that I am currently looking for employment. And if I’m unemployed, then I should be able to collect EI (employment insurance)! Are you financially stable enough to take a year off? Have you even thought about the possibility?

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