Welcome to our Personal Finance Bloggers of Color interview series!
Our goal with this series is to highlight the experiences and perspectives of people of color in terms of money and personal finance topics, as these voices are often underrepresented.
This interview features Enoch from Savvy New Canadians.
1. Please introduce yourself by telling us about your background.
My name is Enoch. I am originally from Nigeria and immigrated to Canada in 2011.
I hold a doctorate degree in veterinary medicine, a masters degree in finance and investment management, and a second masters degree in agricultural economics. I also hold a variety of certificates in accounting and have completed the Canadian Securities Course, which is the starting point for those seeking licensure to sell various financial securities.
My day job is as a veterinarian (mostly livestock and horses) and I moonlight as a personal finance blogger in my spare time.
I have had several different hobbies over the years. The most enduring of them (for now) are golfing, fishing, and reading all kinds of stuff on the internet or in a book.
2. When and from whom did you acquire knowledge about personal finance?
My lessons in personal finances started at a very young age. My dad and mom worked in banking for a while before moving on to start their own businesses. The concept of money, the value of money, frugal living, and working hard for success, were a familiar subject while I was growing up.
My parents did very well for themselves financially and this was mainly as a result of their working tirelessly in an environment that was not so conducive for entrepreneurial success.
As kids, they carried us along and we learned early on that you earned your way in life and did not just wait for good outcomes to come by easily or effortlessly. My parents also emphasized living a debt-free lifestyle. Their motto was simple: if you couldn’t afford to pay cash for something, don’t even bother!
On the investing side of things, I received my initial lessons as a teenager by reading the business newspapers my dad bought to inform which stocks he held in his portfolio. With time, I built my own portfolio of stocks and my dad and I would discuss why a stock was a good or bad buy, when to sell a stock, dividends, and more.
Following graduation from veterinary college and working for a while, I decided to pursue a masters in Finance and Investment at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. My time in the business school formalized my understanding of investments as a whole.
3. Do you feel that your race/cultural background has impacted your life in terms of personal finance? How so?
Yes, in some ways. I will explain below.
In my case, it may be more appropriate to use “upbringing” instead of race or cultural background. I say this because there are many examples of people I know personally who share the same cultural background but vastly different approaches to their personal finances.
Spending, saving, borrowing, living within my means, planning, and reaching goals… my core approaches to these aspects of my life generally draw on how I was brought up and what I learned from seeing how my parents administered their business and household finances.
They worked hard, made money, lived frugally, were accountable (budgeted), and avoided consumer debt at all costs. While I don’t consider myself as frugal as my parents were, I find that their strategy for building wealth works all of the time.
As an immigrant and serial postgraduate student, I have faced significant challenges, however, the outcome has been mostly positive. Even though, I have had to start again from scratch.
Given that my veterinary degree was obtained outside of North America (the U.S. and Canada), I had to become re-certified in order to practice veterinary medicine in Canada. What this meant was that I had to go back to school, complete numerous board exams, and spend a lot of dollars.
After initially completing a second masters degree in Canada, I got an okay job, but it was a step down from what I could otherwise be doing working as a veterinary doctor. From Day 1 on this job, I set my sights on the goal of working full-time (to cater for my family) and completing the qualifying veterinary exams within the minimum time possible.
About 2 years later and with another $25,000 out-of-pocket in costs, I became eligible to practice veterinary medicine in Canada and the U.S. I changed jobs and doubled my salary.
I could have settled for average when I got my first professional job after grad school, however, I did not grow up with an ‘average’ mentality. Simply put, I would not have been able to live with myself if I had taken the path of least resistance.
It may be worth noting that the majority of people who tried to discourage me from working to obtain licensure as a veterinarian were fellow immigrants who strongly believed that “the system was rigged” and I did not have a fighting chance!
4. How did you become interested in personal finance? What made you want to start a blog?
I have actually had a few blogs over the years. They covered a variety of topics ranging from commodity trading to poetry and spirituality. They all lasted a few months before shutting down because I simply lost interest in the subject matter.
When I started my personal finance blog (Savvy New Canadians) in the fall of 2016, my intention was to chronicle my understanding of the many Canadian personal finance topics I was reading about. I had a bit more time and money on my hands and I wanted to start planning for the future.
For example, after reading about a specific retirement savings account, I would summarize my findings and publish it on the blog so that I could come back to it later, while also hoping that other immigrants would find the summary useful. My goals for the blog were very modest at the start. However, it has since gained traction and the data shows that the blog’s contents appeal to a much wider audience than I originally intended.
5. What advice would you give to others with a similar background?
My advice to other immigrants has always been to never settle for less.
I would be naive if I said that life as an immigrant is all easy-peasy. It is not. However, I have always strived to work harder and smarter in order to get to where I want to be.
Don’t cut corners. Go the distance. Fight to reach your goals, and then, fight some more.
Your worst enemy can be you. Don’t let that happen!
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