Since it’s easier to help others when you’ve walked in their shoes, Philippine-born Lorina Serafico has a knack for educating newcomers about banking and settling in Canada.
While today she works as a Financial Solutions Specialist in a Vancouver area branch, her early days in Canada were not always easy. Arriving in British Columbia in 1990, she coped with having little money while working as a nanny. After a disabling back injury, she completed bank courses and earned a position at Scotiabank, with the help of the Career Edge internship program.
Since overcoming her own settlement hurdles, Lorina now shares first-hand financial advice with immigrants, as a volunteer at the Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregivers Rights, and with her newcomer clients at Scotiabank.
“I got my first credit card in the mail, but there was no education on how to use it,” recalls Lorina. “I now tell newcomers credit is important for their future here. However, you need to ensure you can afford to pay it back, and pay on time, or it will cost you later,” notes Lorina. Lorina offers the Scotiabank StartRight® Program1 for Newcomers, which includes a bank account, credit card2 options and other customized services and benefits.
“I explain that small steps can get them to their goal eventually,” observes Lorina, who herself began saving $25 a month, and banked her tax refund each year, until she accumulated the down payment for a condominium. “There are also programs like the federal government Home Buyers’ Plan, that lets you borrow from your registered retirement saving plan to buy a home.”
While the thought of a mortgage may be intimidating, Lorina explains the benefits of paying a mortgage rather than renting: “Your home can be the foundation of your financial future, and there are ways to pay it off more quickly. For example, as your personal finances improve, you can make an annual lump sum prepayment allowed by your bank, increase your monthly payments, or switch from monthly to bi-weekly payments, to greatly reduce the cost and duration of your mortgage. It’s up to you,” concludes Lorina, who tells newcomers to set goals and be disciplined with money. “Credit can be good, if you learn to use it to your advantage, to get a home, an education, and add value to your new life in Canada.”