Financial Literacy

A look back at our favourite MoneyMinded stories from 2019

By: Lisa Coxon on December 30, 2019
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If 2019 taught you anything, hopefully it was this: it’s okay to talk about money! 

Certainly for us at, 2019 was yet another year where we tried to push the money conversation even further, by featuring stories on our blog that encourage dialogue around what’s often considered to be a taboo topic.

If you could see inside our brains, you might conclude that all we do here at is think about money. And you might be right. We love finding the financial angle in every story. But even more, we love bringing those stories to you. 

So, in case you weren’t busy thinking about money every waking second of this year like we were, we compiled some of our favourite MoneyMinded posts from 2019, which, for the record, was a really difficult thing to do — because there were more than 150 to choose from.

Here are six of our best. 

My immigrant parents struggled so I wouldn’t have to. But the economy had different plans

This year, we launched MONEY MOMENTS, a series in which we asked Canadians to open up about a pivotal moment in their life that changed or cemented their approach to money. 

And boy did writer Stacy Lee Kong deliver. In this brutally honest piece, Kong reflects on the financial success her immigrant parents wanted to set her up for, but so far hasn’t come to fruition, as Kong entered a brittle economy right around the time she graduated.

“... like many immigrant parents, they knew that they may not make it, financially speaking, but they were working to give their children a better life,” Kong writes. “The thing is, I’m not sure that’s going to happen. While previous generations have successfully made that leap, it’s become harder than ever for my generation to do the same, thanks to crushing student debt, expensive housing and precarious work.”

Thinking you’re ‘bad with money’ can become a self-fulfilling prophecy

In speaking with financial planners for various stories, I kept hearing the same thing over and over again: that the more people would say or believe they were “bad with money,” the more it became a self-fulfilling prophecy, meaning they actually would start to behave in ways that were financially irresponsible, like taking on more debt than they could handle.

To find out how this phenomenon plays out in personal finance, I spoke with financial planner Shannon Lee Simmons, and Avni Shah, a research fellow of the Behavioural Economics in Action Research Cluster at the University of Toronto.

“. . . if a person believes that they’re just not the type or they believe that they’re not going to ever remedy their situation,” Shah told me, “then it’s very easy to act in a way that's more myopic or present-biased and not plan for the future because there’s a belief that I’m already doomed so why not just behave in ways that will punish myself even further?

FIRE can help you retire early. But at what cost?

Tired of hearing about the FIRE movement yet? Think again.

Jessica Vomiero knew better than to add yet another FIRE “success” story to the personal finance canon. Instead, she talked to two people who went the FIRE route and, uh, actually have some mild regrets about it.

Like Sean Cooper, author of Burn Your Mortgage, who paid off the mortgage on his Toronto home just three years after purchasing it, thanks to an extremely frugal lifestyle. 

“I think I definitely could have had more fun if I had paid it off in even five or six years,” Cooper said. “I’m trying to make up for lost time now I could have taken a few more trips and maybe I’d be married by now. I’m still trying to work on that, but they say hindsight is 20/20.” 

Are we being told to save too much for retirement?

Ah, what a controversial question. We knew this story would spark a lot of, err, debate. But we didn’t expect to see an entire reddit thread devoted to picking it apart. 

As it turns out, people have a lot of opinions on how much we should be saving for retirement. And some of those opinions aren’t all that popular. Like that of retirement expert Malcolm Hamilton, who says in this story that “Low-income people should save, but not really for retirement.” The thinking is that government benefits like Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement will do much of the work in replacing those peoples’ incomes come retirement. Higher earners, on the other hand, will need to save more.

We’ll leave it to you to decide whether or not we’re being sold too much fear on the retirement savings front.

My rental from hell and the financial toll of bed bugs

We don’t mean to bring bed bugs into the conversation (are they on us? It feels like they’re ON US!!!) but guess what? They’re a financial problem, too.

Sinead Mulhern takes us through her nightmare of an experience finding out she had bed bugs and the $650 she spent every month to share her apartment with these nasty creatures. Along the way, she provides insights into the many ways hidden costs creep into the lives of those living on the poverty line. 

“I have lost so much money from all the dryer bills from trying to get rid of bugs,” Mulhern wrote in a report on Toronto’s “Myself and my roommate are both throwing out mattresses, clothes, rugs, blankets, pillows and our couch (all of which we will have to replace),” she continued. “Living here has been a nightmare and a huge regret.”

The team on the weirdest jobs they've ever had

And last but not least, we can’t talk about money without talking about all the hilarious things we’ve done to earn it. 

That’s why, earlier this year, we encouraged each other to reminisce on the weirdest jobs we’ve ever held. What we found out about each other’s employment history was . . . shocking. 

We’ve got biblical nudes, “you’re fired” text messages, an attempt at a second-hand golf ball business, promotional dishwashing, and an interest in martial arts that somehow turned into a coat check job for your perusal in this piece. Enjoy!

Honourable mentions