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5 Questions With Bruce Sellery

January 21, 2016

One of our favourite blog features is called “5 Questions With”, in which we pose 5 thought provoking questions to various prominent members of our community.  In this week’s blog post, we ask 5 Questions to Personal Finance Guru Bruce Sellery!

Bruce Sellery is one of the top personal finance experts in Canada. The Founder and author of Moolala (a personal finance training company and book of the same title), he is one of the founding journalists at CTV’s Business News Network and the host of Million Dollar Neighbourhood on the Oprah Winfrey Network. He is currently an advice columnist at MoneySense.

  1. What is the best financial advice you’ve ever received? What is the best financial advice you’ve ever given?

Spend consciously.  My dad gave me this advice and modelled this behaviour my entire life.  He wasn’t an obsessively frugal guy – we traveled and ate out and all that – but he was very good about having us think before we spent.  Allowance wasn’t given out in cash.  The 25 cent weekly amount was added to a ledger and we had to go to him to withdraw it.

The best advice I’ve ever given?  Answer the question, “what is my money for?”.  This is the context for everything and it will give you a very clear indication of what your motivation is when it comes to getting a handle on your money.  You’ll be struggling to find the paperwork for your taxes, annoyed that you don’t have money to go out for a nice dinner.  But you’ll be able to connect those frustrations back to something that matters to you.  You money could be for beauty, family, travel, experiences, adventures.  Create something great that will help you stay on track.

  1. What is the biggest mistake that Canadians make in regards to their personal finances?

Aside from not creating a context for their money, their own unique “why”, I would say the biggest mistake is that they are oblivious to the consequences of their behaviour about money.  Up until about 1980, we were oblivious to the consequences of driving without a seatbelt.  People just didn’t really wear them because they didn’t connect that behaviour to fines and fatalities.  Now as a culture we get it and we wear our seat belts, most of the time.

But people sit on $3,000 in credit card debt and don’t connect that to the hundreds of dollars in interest they are paying.  Or they hold high fee mutual funds and can’t see how that behaviour is eating into their performance.

  1. Do Canadians have a credit card debt problem?

Yes.  The data on average outstanding balance makes me want to cry.  What is it – something like $3500?

I know I’m going to sound like a fundamentalist here, but it makes no sense to me why someone would carry a balance on a credit card for an extended period of time.  Sure, there are emergencies.  But once the wound heals, I would encourage everyone to attack that debt like a momma bear protecting her pup.

  1. What do you think of the Fintech revolution and startups challenging the big banks?

It is about time.

I think new FinTech is good for consumers and for the economy.  There will be lots and lots of Fin Tech failures.  But there will be a few standout successes that will make up for it.  And the big banks will become better, smarter, leaner and more consumer focused in the process.

  1. Did you get to meet Oprah through your show Million Dollar Neighbourhood and if so, how was it?

Not during the show.  But a few years earlier I was within 10 feet of her.  I worked in New York City and I crossed paths with her in the lobby at the NASDAQ in Times Square where I was reporting.  She demonstrated how to get into a limo backwards, so the paparazzi wouldn’t be able to get a shot of her butt.  It was very impressive.

Thank You Bruce!

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