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Money. Happiness. Family. How do we define success?
I’m not exactly sure when success and money become inextricably linked, but there’s no doubt it’s the context that ’80s babies grew up in. The “why” behind going to school and getting good grades was to prepare yourself for getting a steady job and making a good living, plain and simple. Conforming to this path and pursuit was both subtly and overtly encouraged.
In the almost 20 years since I graduated high school, the rules of success have most certainly changed.
How to navigate a 2019 economy
The world of work is increasingly complex and challenging. Many jobs and entire industries are precarious. Incomes aren’t keeping pace with the increased costs of living. And passion for social and environmental issues are ensuring the newest entrants into the workforce have a lot more than money and financial stability on their mind.
“Generally speaking, the economy is difficult for young people to navigate,” says Michael Flood, Director of the Nova Scotia Quality of Life Initiative at Engage Nova Scotia. “We’re not necessarily willing to sacrifice our values to participate in it. For some of us, quality of life considerations are more important than income and status.
“A lot of creative, young people enjoy precarious work because it allows them to do a lot of things they love, but that doesn’t provide the security or stability that jobs along a more traditional route might provide. A lot of my peers are finding that the system in its current form isn’t set up to support them. What if there are new ways we could re-imagine the system that supports that kind of approach to work and creates more freedom for you to do what you love?”
These are exactly the types of questions that Flood will be asking at the upcoming How We Thrive conference (from June 2-5, in Halifax, N.S.), where he’ll be co-leading a learning stream with Jess Popp and Justin Andrews called Economy for All. Their goal? Honest conversation about big questions, changes, obstacles, and challenges.
“The learning is going to come more from the shared experiences and stories in the room than the presentations or tools we can practically offer people,” says Flood. “We want to create a space where people feel comfortable talking about the complexities of the economy and society, our mental health, and other barriers that are preventing young people from thriving.”
Some might ask: what’s the point of talking or thinking about this if you’re struggling to get by? What if you can’t afford not to sacrifice some of what matters to you? What if finding a job is your most immediate need?
Flood believes that this is exactly why we should go all-in on having ambitious, honest conversations, rather than shy away from them.
“When considering what it means to succeed and thrive, we should set the bar high,” he says.
“Why have a conversation about settling or about the system as it is, when we can have a conversation about what the system ought to be? It doesn’t mean we’ll get there in the next 10 or even 15 years, but we’re all on this learning journey together and we need to be planning for a world that is a better one. We needed to start yesterday.”
A resource you can bank on
Nick Mombourquette, Founder and President of NewGround Financial, couldn’t agree more. Working in an industry where fellow millennials are hard to come by and members of Gen Z are even less common — the average age of financial advisors in Canada is 58 — he sees starting his own firm as a huge opportunity to change the conversation.
“Most of our parents grew up thinking that the only place you should ever invest and seek financial advice is the bank,” says Mombourquette. “Banks are billion dollar companies that are in it for profit. Do they have solutions? Of course. But I want people to know there is an alternative.”
Launched less than six months ago, that’s exactly the kind of company Mombourquette wants NewGround Financial to be. Offering insurance, investment and savings options, the firm is actively focusing on serving people under 30 and letting them know there is a resource available to help them.
“The information young people receive now could be the difference between struggling for the rest of their life or living prosperously,” says Mombourquette. “In the simplest terms, what a financial person does is help you have more money at the end of the month than you have month at the end of your money. I have a client who’s saving $25 a month right now. That won’t pay me anything, ever, but they’re building the habit of saving and doing what’s right from them. That’s what is most important.”
According to Mombourquette, having a plan is a critical part of setting yourself up for success — and is way easier to accomplish than we might think.
“You can make a plan today and it may change tomorrow, but I think it’s important to have something written down that you’re working toward,” he says. “There’s a book called The One Page Financial Plan and I think that’s all people need; it can be written down on a napkin.”
Being wealthy is certainly not the be all and end all. And with Flood’s earlier comments in mind, it may not even on the radar for many young people today. But no matter where our priorities and values lie, there’s no denying that meeting your basic needs is a necessary component of enjoying a good quality of life.
As Mombourquette plainly states: “When you spend more than you earn, you’re going backwards.”