Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Last Entry of 2015

It’s been a month since my last entry so I must apologize. I'm sorry. The truth is, it’s been quite a crazy roller-coaster ride of a month and I’m only now able to discuss it. 

It started with a call one late Sunday night/Monday morning from my brother who just got off the phone with a Doctor in India. Why India? Well, my parents decided to go for an extended trip to Japan and India for 4 months! They left this past August and were due to come back before Christmas.  My mother, had fallen so ill, with an infection, that the Doctors there weren’t sure if she was going to make it. 

It was sudden, shocking and surreal all at the same time.  There was no warning whatsoever; I was not ready for this at all. Not now. Not like this. Then things started to unravel quite quickly so both my brothers and I decided to take the earliest flight out we could to be in India as soon as possible. We wanted to bring her back of course; but we had to brace ourselves for the fact that we may not be that lucky. We even had a very painful and honest conversation with my daughter and nephew that they may never see Grandma again. Try having a conversation on death and dying with a couple of 6 year olds. Quite possibly one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do. But it had to be done because it would be cheating if we didn’t and then had to tell them upon our return. Plus, my daughter had seen me spontaneously burst into tears a couple of times already. I wasn’t going to be able to cover this one up. And frankly, I didn’t have the energy to try.

We left promptly upon getting our visas (Tuesday evening) and landed in Kolkata early Thursday morning, with no clue what to expect. Our trip in India lasted 4 and a half days and in that time my mother’s condition and status on her condition changed almost hourly. But she did survive both surgeries and was making a turn for the better. Thank God for my older brother, because he was able to navigate us through the dark, sinewy maze of obscure medical reports and private hospital motivations and conversations. Since he is the doctor in the family, I was telling him that one of the 4 kids of the next generation had to become a physician as well.  It makes a huge difference to have someone who knows this stuff at your side. I don’t know that I would’ve been able to make it otherwise.

Now, we are all home, safe and sound. The entire family spent Christmas together and we will all be here to ring in the New Year!

Wishing you and yours a safe, healthy and happy 2016.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

F4F: Calculating your Net Worth

 Lesson 3: Calculating your net worth
Net Worth Statement Template

I’ve attached an excel-based template (see link above "Net Worth Statement template") which has a net worth statement and an accompanying schedule. Take the time and use it to figure out in your local currency what your net worth is.

This is super important, because if you don’t know where you stand now you won’t know how to manoeuvre yourself to hit your goals and live your values. In fact, the sooner you know and start working towards your goals, you are already living your values because you are de-facto doing things and making decisions that are consistent with your values. 

Remember your net worth statement is a financial picture of one moment in time. As of the time you are preparing your household net worth statement (now), what is the market value of all your assets, and your outstanding liabilities? The net of these two figures is your net worth. For some it’s positive and for some it’s negative. Don’t get too disappointed if it’s negative or lower than where you thought it would or should be. Awareness is key. Now that you know, you can plan towards a better snapshot for tomorrow and next month and next year. Tony Robbins aptly puts it in his latest book, “(Humans) often overestimate what we can do in 1 year and underestimate what we can do in 10 (years)”. This is an evolution. Don’t be hasty. 

How do I increase my net worth?

Simply put, if you hike your assets and or drop your liabilities, you will improve your net worth. 

This number is worth a thousand words. It’s your starting point and it’s a point you can monitor and track over the course of time. 
- You will be able to make decisions faster because you will know immediately if a certain purchasing decision increases your decreases your net worth.  
- You will be more focused on eliminating your debt and accumulating assets. 
- You will discuss as a family which routes to take to propel your forward. All really excellent standards of behaviour. 

So please take some time and put pen to paper. Figure out this number. Then we have one more exercise; figuring out our monthly income and expenses. With these 2 things, we can work towards a comprehensive financial plan! 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

An Evening with Susan Packard

A few months ago I blogged about a fantastic book I read titled “New Rules of the Game: 10 Strategies for Women in the Workplace” by Susan Packard. I liked the book so much I bought a few extra copies and gave them to some of my friends. I also did something else. I sent Susan Packard an e-mail to thank her for writing such a great book.

Imagine my surprise when she wrote back! Yes, that’s right. A woman who has won accolades for her professional success as well as her involvement and leadership with the community, personally replied to my email! It would be an understatement to say I was beside myself!

Within a few exchanges we somehow figured out a way to get Susan to speak for an event via Women in Capital Markets; a non-profit organization I am actively involved with. The planning began sometime in July and we had the event this past Tuesday, Novembr 17th. I know I have an unusual number of exclamation points in this post but it’s only because I still can’t believe all this has happened in the way that it has!!

The night was electric. The beautiful venue was offered by a very generous sponsor (Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt, LLP) and the room, food and drink were perfect. The people present were excited and happy to be there and there was a ton of energy and positive vibes floating around.

Ms. Packard was an inspiration. She is so grounded, modest, positive and …a whole person. She is a successful professional and a wife and a mom and a genuinely good person. She shared some of the insights from her book and the feedback after the event was tremendous.

The reason this experience was so astonishing and wonderful all at the same time is because we are constantly told that to move up the professional ladder one has to compromise values and integrity and heck, if you’re a psychopath, all the better!

I can’t say how refreshing (and jaw-dropping) it was to meet someone who has risen in her ranks and kept her values and family and friends intact. She is a real role model.  I encourage all of you to check out her book.  It applies to those who work for corporations and even if you are an entrepreneur because her take-aways are concrete and universally applicable.

Thank you Susan.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


 I must discuss what happened last night at the WBW meeting. We had a decent session on calculating your net worth. I had handouts and gave everyone templates on how to build your own balance sheet (per household really). But the discussion that ensued from it came right back to VALUES and subscribing Financial Goals to your values.

This is the part most struggled with, so the best way for me to illustrate what I meant was to discuss my process from start to finish and hope you can apply it to yourself. It was a little daunting as I am a very private person. But when I actually opened up with my process, the feedback was overwhelmingly fantastic! So a big shout out and thank you to all the ladies at Tuesday night’s event.

With that being said, I will lay it out on this blog and hope for the best!

My five values are written on one side of a post-it note. My husband’s five values are written on the other side. It wasn’t as easy getting him to do this exercise but I wore him down, as I can be quite persistent, and we talked about it and gave each other our list in our first year of marriage. My post-it with both our values is kept in my wallet at all times. I’ve had it for 8 years now. My 5 values in no particular order are:

Personal Growth
Financial Independence

My husbands 5 values are (with permission from him, of course!):


It’s important to know what your partner values so that both your goals are aligned. There will be some values you both share and some you don’t. By knowing them you can help each other stay on track and it’s easier to make decisions if you know it ultimately takes you as a couple/family closer towards both your values.


Now we have the difficult part of attaching financial goals to all of these.  This part takes some thinking and digging and introspection. But fun and productive and has permanent benefits. I went about it like this:

à 1 vacation a year before kids.
à After kids, 1 mini-vacation a year just the 2 of us.
à Date night once a month

à 1-2 family vacations a year. (At least 1 will be with my parents/brothers’ and their families and we alternate by going to visit my in-laws who are in Europe/Asia/Australia)
à 1 mother/daughter weekend with my mom. (+ my daughter when she is older).
à Kids’ post-secondary education to be covered.

I want to iterate that the financial goal we give to each value is unique to us. It is important to me that if my children really want to go to a specific university program, that lack of money not be a barrier in them achieving that goal. If they work hard and get accepted; money won’t stand in the way.  

à Eat well (Less restaurant. Cook more at home)
à Exercise regularly (Gym membership) and home gym set-up
à I hate debt, so the faster we pay off debt the better for my mental health.

Hope this helps give you some clarity on the exercise. Now you try it! By Lesson 3 we will be calculating our net worth to know where we are and how to get to fulfilling our goals and realizing our values.

Sunday, November 1, 2015


Welcome to the first ‘edition’ of F4F! I will do my best to compose this as a lesson plan. Together we will go through the necessary building blocks to create a cohesive and permanent financial system that we can all be proud of.

Let’s get started!

In order to make sure that this journey is the start of a lifestyle change and not just a phase, we have to think about the ‘end’ from the very beginning.  Not sure what the end is? Well, let’s begin by figuring that out. A method that has worked for me and for numerous others is that of making decisions that are aligned with your values.  

My grandfather used to tell us that Life is a sum total of all your decisions; if you don’t like your life you have to make new decisions. This is not just important; it is critical. It is critical because the regular practice of making decisions that are aligned with your values will lead you to a grounded happiness that fills you inside out. it will steer you the right way when you are super confused or torn. (Prominent writers like Stephen Covey, David Bach and Tony Robbins discuss this aspect in different ways in their literature).  I believe it is a fundamental stepping stone.  It is when we make decisions that deviate from our value system that we find ourselves climbing a ladder that we don’t find any fulfillment in once we reach the top.

Now that we know this, we have to very succinctly write down in black and white what our values are. This is Lesson #1.


Your value system is essentially your moral code. These are things that define who you are or rather emulate the ideal version of you, according to YOU. These are things that are at the root of who you are as a person and without it, you would not be you. What is important to you? How do you want to be remembered? What is the legacy you want to leave behind?

Think of a time when you were most happy. And when I mean happy, I mean complete and utter unadulterated bliss. A time when you caught yourself being so happy that you said to yourself, “This is IT! This is what life is supposed to be about!” Can you picture it? Was it after you received some sort of an award? Or went heli-skiing in Austria? Maybe it was watching your kids run towards you screaming with glee as you came home from a business trip? Was it lying on a beach celebrating a girls’ weekend? Was it your wedding day? Or looking at old photos of your mom when she was your age and reminiscing with her over a cup of tea? They all sound good to me!
It can be any one memory or a bunch of different little moments where you lived that element of

bliss. Don’t censor any of them. This isn’t a judgment call. Just be true to yourself. Don’t feel guilty or panicked or anything else. OK?

Great! Now, hone in on that feeling and try to extract what value created that moment and feeling? Not sure what I mean? This might help. My attached ‘Value List’ is just that. It is an alphabetized list of values. There are way more values than in my list, so if after looking at them nothing seems appropriate it, then please google ‘value list’ or something close and you will find a slew of hits. You will find though that after you read the list, some will automatically pop out for you. And chances are these values are what you were living in that blissful memory that you just recounted for yourself! 
Let’s go over the memories I outlined above just to make sure:
> Presented an award: RECOGNITION
>Heli-skiing in Austria: ADVENTURE
>Watching your kids run towards you as you came home from a business trip: FAMILY
>Girls weekend at a beach: FRIENDSHIP
>Wedding day: MARRIAGE
>Reminiscing with mom: FAMILY

So, take those memories and try to find a value that describes it and jot it down. Then think of a few more values that round out your value system. I would recommend 4-5 as too many will divert the focus and just one is not sufficient. We are whole human beings and so we need fulfillment from different aspects in life. One seldom does it.

One memory however, can fulfill a bunch of different values. You don’t need separate ones for each of your values. Take the ‘winning the award’ memory as an example. If the award was for running a half-marathon, then perhaps the value is HEALTH as well. Or, maybe the award was for hitting the highest sales targets. Then maybe the value is ACCOMPLISHMENT or ACKNOWLEDGEMENT. Perhaps that same memory has nothing to do with RECOGNITION. Maybe you won the award for giving to a cause that you are passionate about and they thanked you for it. So perhaps the value then is ALTRUISM or CHARITY or BENEVOLENCE.

Play around with them and take the time to figure out your 4 or 5 values. This is one of THE most important things you should be doing. And with that being said, you should also have a lot of FUN with it! Dream and create scenarios in your head of how you want to be remembered. Stephen Covey does a really interesting exercise in his book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People’, where he asks the individual to write his/her own obituary…sort of. 

Ostensibly, it may sound a bit odd and perhaps even off-putting but the benefits of doing that particular exercise really does outweigh the costs.

PLEASE have your list ready and then we can move on to Lessons #2.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

2 Different paths; which one to take?

Thanks for all the comments ladies and gents!

I am finding that there are two distinct flavours readers prefer.

The first has to do with discussing our values and dreams and then applying concrete exercises like making your own balance sheet and income statement to help realize those values and dreams. Where are we now and where do we want to be. By analyzing these financial statements to see where the money is going, we can now re-route and deploy the funds more effectively as well as pump up the revenues (via increased value proposition) and decrease the expenses (discuss necessities vs. luxuries).

Next comes creating a budget and strategizing ways to stay within it.  As women, we think about things differently. There are things we are good at so let’s take those skillsets and apply them to the world of investments. In fact, studies are showing that women actually make better investors (see Globe and Mail article from October 16, 2015, ‘Men are from Mars, women make better investors) because of our natural tendency to be modest, keep things simple and being very analytical and reflective.

The second path readers discussed was increasing our financial literacy. In other words, women want to know how to become more financially savvy. If we open the pages of the financial newspaper, what does all of it mean? Everything from definitions of ETF’s and dividends to RRSPs, RESP’s and TFSAs. Of course, fees would have to go in this section as well. And let’s not forget taxes! Ugh. I’ll admit it. Even I don’t like to talk about that…but I must I suppose.

One really great suggestion was to discuss how capital markets serve society and the factors that go into play that we should we aware of when wanting to be more active with our portfolio. This, along with the application of financial jargon to everyday analogies, should round out part 2.

The question now is, which fork in the road do I start with? The first suggestion of more broad-based values/dreams and concrete strategies or the second suggestion of understanding the markets better so there are more tools in the financial toolkit?