“You don’t always have to turn to the experts. You can have a conversation and build confidence with anyone. … Just start. Take any step. Once that’s done, go to the next step. The world doesn’t need to be taken on all at once.”
Desirae Odjick is the author behind the personal finance blog, Half Banked, where she helps millennials get a handle on their personal finances. Her blog posts have ended up in places like Business Insider, FLARE Fashion, CBC, the Globe and Mail and more.
Desirae’s signature product, the Quick Budget Fix, has helped over 50 people create spending-and-savings plans that work for their lives.
You’re a personal finance blogger, what started it all?
I first started to feel confident about finances when I first opened an account with an online bank. It seems like such a small thing but I wasn’t paying five dollars a month to save my money anymore. It had such a big impact on me. It felt like the kind of thing people did when they were good with money. That moment made me think I can do the next thing, like looking at my budget, tracking my spending, and starting to invest. Taking that step and feeling good about it really started my whole personal finance journey.
What’s the easiest way to start understanding personal finance?
The thing I always say is, it’s not as scary as you think it’s going to be. If you take a single step – if you track your spending for a single day, that’s a good start. Basically, whatever you can do that doesn’t feel like too much. There’s no reason to dive into all the textbooks in the world. To be quite frank, I never made it through an investment book. I think it’s easier to become good at finance by just starting – by taking any step that feels manageable, and once that’s done, moving onto the next thing. It’s important to know you don’t need to take everything on all at once.
Why do you think people hesitate when it comes to starting a conversation about personal finance?
Whether it’s about money or anything else, I think it’s intimidating when people say you should know something but you don’t completely understand it. It can shake your confidence. In my case, people expected me to know a lot about investing and it didn’t feel good to realize that I didn’t know everything. But I also realized that I knew enough for what I needed right now, that I’m doing everything I should be doing to hit my goals, and if I need advice, it’s okay to ask.
What’s a low-risk way to start the conversation?
I think the best thing is to meet with three or four of your friends (who have the same level of knowledge as you do) to talk about something all of you want to learn more about. You don’t always have to turn to the experts, starting the conversation with anyone can be a great way to build your confidence. It might even turn out that you know a lot more than you think you do.
Did anyone encourage you to learn more about finance?
When I was growing up my mother was very open with money, she kept me informed about our family finances, and even paid me to read personal finance books. What really stuck was saving ten percent of your income no matter what. It was the one thing I took from the books and it’s been a huge support to my goals and my retirement savings.
Did you always stick to saving ten percent of your income?
I was no saint when it came to personal finance when I was younger. And when I look back on my spending, I definitely spent more than I would even now but I avoided credit card debt and saved ten percent of my income as soon as I got a full-time job. I think if you can do those two things, you’re on solid footing and the rest will sort itself out.
As told to Cara Lau exclusively for Stnce. We make taking financial ownership approachable and relatable.