Despite now having a career as a financial advisor for Scotiabank, Maddie Findlay-Proctor knows all about living the stereotypical broke student lifestyle and the challenges that come with an unstable financial situation.

The 21-year-old from Vernon, B.C. spent some of her time in university working full-time to help keep her afloat while also being in school full-time, but she didn't keep a tight budget and blew through a lot of her savings.

“I definitely remember eating a Costco bag of popcorn for dinner a couple nights in a row,” she says, remembering when she had to stretch her money.

Maddie Findlay-Proctor

“When I was in school, I had a little bit of money saved up for things like food, gas and my expenses. I didn't really have a next goal in mind after school, so, I just went the route of using up all of my savings, basically as income. That definitely didn't put me in the best position coming out of school.”

But she was able to get her finances back on track while finishing her degree from the Okanagan School of Business in British Columbia. During her final semester, Maddie began working as a bank teller, which sparked her passion for not only getting her own finances in order but working with clients to achieve the same goals.

1. Be aware of your financial situation

Bring in every component of finances into your life: how do you spend your money? How do you save your money? Are you going to invest it? What kind of credit or borrowing do you have and also protection, too? I think being able to see a big picture of your finances is really important.

Also be aware of what goes in and out of your account. When you start a job out of university, you start getting nice pay cheques and see the money in your account sometimes you want to just go spend it. I think people need to keep in mind, what's your next goal? How are you going to save for that?

Every time there's a big life event in your life, it's important to review your finances, because it plays a part in anything in your life. When you’re a new graduate, that's a big milestone and change in your life. So that's going to be a substantial change financially for you. When you are getting close to these milestones, like starting school and graduating, that is definitely an important time to sit down with somebody and go over what your finances look like, what your next goal looks like, and what you want to achieve in the future.

2. Try to save as well as pay down debt

Many people have debt, but it’s also important to have a little bit saved.  It could be ten dollars a month put away. To have even a little bit of extra money saved is always something I recommend.

It’s important to set-up a plan to start paying down your debt, but also to incorporate one that includes saving.

If it is ten dollars a pay-cheque, or ten dollars a month in total, that's fine. Over time it's going to start to grow and just give you a little extra savings to have available.

3. Set financial goals and make savings automatic

Definitely start just with a financial plan, sitting down with an advisor and going over key questions like:

  • What am I making every month?
  • What are my payments every month?
  • What can I afford to save and what can I afford to (put) towards my spending habits?”

If it's in terms of debt, think about:

  • How can you pay this down within a certain time frame and what's your next goal?
  • Do you want to buy a house?
  • Do you want to buy a car?
  • Do you want to go back to school?
  • What's the next five years look for you?”

When I'm advising new graduates a couple things that I always recommend is a credit card to be able to start building up your credit history and learn how credit works.

In terms of accounts, you want to find something that works best for you, I recommend looking into a high-interest savings account, somewhere where you can put in funds for emergency savings, rainy day funds. Another great place to save is in a Tax Free Savings Account. It's a great account to be able to contribute and invest your money and really see it grow.

A great way to start saving as a habit, that is super easy, is setting up automatic contributions into a Tax Free Savings Account or just a regular savings account. It definitely puts yourself in a good position financially going forward. Set it up on pay day so as soon as you get paid it automatically puts some money into a savings account. So, it's something you don't even need to think about.

4. Try not to get overwhelmed if you have debt

I always recommend that you don't get overwhelmed with the debt that you have after you graduate. You’ve gotten your education and now it's time to find a job so we can start paying what you borrowed down.

Your financial advisor will work with you to create a plan that works for you, what your current income is and your goals for the future. We’ll find a savings plan that works for you, even if it means you are just saving $5 a month. Saving even small amounts adds up quickly. You can look to increase what you are saving each month whenever you can, like when you get a raise or your expenses go down.

We’re here to help you move into this next phase of your life.

Ready to get your finances on track for your future? Come in and speak to a Scotia advisor