Romwar Cusi, born and raised in the Philippines, made his way to Canada in 2014. He arrived with his younger sister and made British Columbia his new home, officially becoming a Canadian citizen in January 2020.
Romwar is a Scotiabank financial advisor, working at the main branch in Victoria. In his job, he gets to help other newcomers with their finances as they make Canada their home.
I help make newcomers feel that they belong in Canada. They deserve to have accounts, products and services like Canadian residents have — even if they are new to Canada.
Here are his top tips on managing your finances as a newcomer to Canada:
1. Set a budget
The most important advice I have for clients is to be mindful with your budget. Review your limit of expenses and set aside money for future expenses.
It’s important to know your goals, plan out your priorities, follow that plan and re-evaluate your goals and priorities as you go.
What we had to tackle first when we moved to Canada was budgeting. How much money will we be spending while we are waiting for the permanent residency? I evaluated my current savings and what my future expenses would be while studying in Canada. While at school, after becoming a resident, I then had to balance my expenses between helping my mom with her finances, save some money to pay for my education, and save some more for after graduation.
2. Have an emergency fund of savings
Save and invest! The advice I like to give all my clients is to be mindful with their expenses, always budget, and set aside funds for emergencies.
While I was looking for a job in Canada, I had savings back in Singapore and at the same time in Canada, with those funds allocated for future expenses in case that I wouldn’t be able to get a job for a few months. So it’s like back-up funds. Remember to not use your high interest rate credit borrowing products (like credit cards) as a savings driver or as a back up for emergency savings.
3. Start building your credit history
Credit score can be a challenge for newcomers. When I have a client that is new to Canada, I share my stories from back in 2014 of how I struggled to build my credit history.
You need to find a bank that will help you get started. Just last February, I helped around 30 people who were new to Canada. Newcomers are usually kind of hesitant to go to the bank because they don’t know if we’re going to trust them to open an account, or any borrowing products. That’s why I always start with my story and that Scotiabank offers a program for new immigrants and we welcome new Canadian residents.
I had a client referred to me by another immigrant … He brought all the documents in, but his first question was ‘am I eligible to open any banking services or products with you?’ I said, ‘Yes!
“I feel like I’m paying it forward in a sense, it helps make me feel like I’m part of the Canadian family, that I’m part of the Scotiabank family and that this is my home as a new immigrant.”