The Wealthy Blogger
Bridget Casey is helping a new generation with their finances
By Breanna Mroczek
In 1989 the book The Wealthy Barber: The Common Sense Guide to Successful Financial Planning, penned by then-27-year-old David Chilton, was published. It consisted of a series of fables about twenty-something-year-old adults to relay financial advice. It sold more than two million copies and immediately became a go-to source for young Canadians and remained a classic personal finance resource for decades. Now, 31 years since its publication, things have changed in the Canadian financial landscape. For starters, the advent of the internet in the early aughts has given way to thousands of websites, apps, and digital tools that have changed the way Canadians can spend, invest, and save.
Facing a different economic reality than generations before them, and having the internet to turn to in order to share their challenges and triumphs, and to seek advice, millennials started blogging. The niche of finance blogs sprang up across Canada, including Money After Graduation (MAG) written by Bridget Casey from her laptop in Alberta. Like many others across the country in 2010, Bridget was a twenty-something new graduate (with a BSc in psychology and MBA in finance) entering the job market following the global recession.
“I think my story was just so ordinary that it resonated with a lot of young people,” Bridget says. “I graduated with an average amount of debt, I had an average job, and I was trying to find financial security in those circumstances.”
What started as a personal blog to chronicle her own financial journey and keep herself accountable turned into a widely read resource, and Bridget was tapped as an expert to comment in publications including Time, BNN, and Globe and Mail. The blog ended up becoming her main source of income and expanded to a full-service financial literacy website that helps its audience (typically people age 25-35) pay off student loans, invest in the stock market, save money, afford parenthood, and ultimately enjoy their lives and relationship to money. It’s now one of the most recognized personal finance brands in Canada and arguably the modern-day equivalent of The Wealthy Barber.
“I often joke that I’m very famous in a very small niche because you have to be pretty nerdy about money to know what it is, but if you like money, you definitely know about Money After Graduation,” Bridget says.
In 2015, Bridget formally incorporated her business as founder and CEO, and now oversees the strategic direction of the company, creates content for her popular Six Figure Stock Portfolio online course, films videos for her more than 7,000 YouTube subscribers, engages partnerships, reviews products, and manages a team of five. She’s handed off most of the writing and content creation to her younger staff—“I’m aging out of my own brand,” Bridget laughs. “Now MAG is a much larger platform and we try to cover all of the topics that might be relevant to young people.”
Diversifying the Portfolio
One of the things that makes MAG unique is its focus on diverse topics, its recognition that wealth inequality exists, and how it addresses the relationships between money and social challenges. “I think the conversation [around financial literacy] has become a lot broader, because even when I was younger I really thought it was just a matter of hard work and pinching pennies and saving money, and then everything would be fine,” Bridget says. “But now a lot of the articles that my writers create are really nuanced and interesting. For instance, we talk about how finances are different for LGBTQ couples and how to financially prepare for the climate crisis.” As a single parent, there is a lot of content about the financial aspects of raising a child or children, including financially planning for an unplanned pregnancy, saving for a child’s college fund, the motherhood tax, and paying more daycare. Money After Graduation acknowledges that saving, and spending, is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but rather a series of best practices.
And, despite running a financial literacy website, Bridget admits that it can be hard to define “wealth,” and that definition can change depending on stages of life and other personal factors. “I think it’s a moving target,” Bridget says. “The life I have now is one I would have considered very wealthy at the time I started Money After Graduation, but now the goalpost has moved. I think wealth is just having the financial security to live the life that you want, and not feeling restricted from doing some of the things that are really important to you.”
Unpopular Financial Advice
On Twitter Bridget’s opinions, advice, and comments often ruffle feathers of the more than 20,000 followers she has collectively between two accounts. She doesn’t even need to preface her tweets with the “#UnpopularOpionion” format, its practically a guarantee she’ll have feedback saying that she’s wrong (either from reply guys or those who earnestly disagree with her comments). That doesn’t stop her from sharing her advice—all founded in research and her own successful financial habits.
1. Invest in the Stock Market Even if You Have Debt
“Even if you’re paying off student loans, I still think that you should be investing at the same time. I never tell anyone to do one and then the other, I think that’s a horrible idea. You should always be doing both.”
2. An Emergency Fund Doesn’t Need to Be Excessive
“I don’t think your emergency fund needs to be three to six months of expenses, especially if you’re young and childless. I usually tell people to just save $3,000 and then refocus on another financial goal. Three to six months of expenses is $25,000 for some people, it’s just a ludicrous ask.”
3. Credit Cards are Good
“I like using credit cards. I love credit cards, those cash rewards and travel points are great. I get a lot of flak for saying that because people say you pay for the points because you pay whatever the fee is, or you spend more money on the card. I don’t care, I think credit cards are good.”
4. Renting is Better Than Owning
“This is by far my most unpopular opinion. In virtually every Canadian city, renting is better than owning from a financial standpoint. Everyone tries to do the math to make their defense work properly, and the math never works. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think you should buy a house. That just means, don’t buy a house and call it a financially good decision. Just acknowledge it for what it is, which is an emotional material purchase. It’s not an investment. If you’re looking purely for money, you better be renting or you’re lying to yourself.”
5. Go Ahead and Splurge on Fancy Coffee
“I don’t believe in cutting out your lattes. I don’t even believe in cutting out any luxury purchases. I think it’s a poor decision to never enjoy your life. If the $5 latte from Starbucks is the only nice thing you can have…just let people have their coffee. I think when we focus on those little expenses, you’re looking in the wrong direction. For me, if you focus your energy on increasing your income, that’s just a way better use of your efforts. A latte is not going to compromise your financial security. I try not to shame people for their luxury purchases even though I am always shamed online for my luxury purchases. I think the point of money is to enjoy it. Some people never want to enjoy anything and they think everything is a waste of money. Don’t be those people. Use your money to enjoy your life, just make sure that you can afford it. That’s my perspective.” (The 13,000 views on her “How to Afford Louis Vuitton” YouTube video suggests she’s not the only one interested in affordable luxury.)
Favorite Finance Apps
Coins, bills, visits to the bank, and buying stocks over the phone have given way to online banking, virtual investing, and hundreds of apps and digital tools meant to help with tracking spending, saving, and payment. One of the most popular features of the website is Bridget’s product reviews and recommendations. “There are so many different bank accounts and financial technology products out there that I really make the effort for us to try them all and give really authentic, honest reviews and compare them,” Bridget says. “When people are asking, ‘Is this legit? Where should I put my money?’ We have breakdowns of how products work on the website so they can read them.”
“Wealthsimple is the best tools to get anyone started in the stock market. Everyone always tells me they don’t know how to invest and I say, ‘You don’t have to, Wealthsimple will do it for you.’ Now everyone is trying to compete with Wealthsimple, every [bank] is coming out with robo-advisors. Millennials and Gen Z are exceptionally lucky in the reality that they can now log into an app and buy a stock for free if they want. It’s never been this easy to invest in the stock market before.”
“One that just came out that I use and love is called Willful. They’ll actually let you make a will online, and it’s only $150 [for the premium edition] and it’s so easy to use. You don’t have to hire a lawyer, you don’t have to do anything, and it’s still perfectly legit. So, I just did that and I was like, ‘Wow, that was completely painless and amazing.’”
“PolicyMe will help you get the best price on your life insurance, and that’s really great.”
“Koho is my favourite cash spending app. Koho gives you a prepaid Visa card that earns you cash back. It works like a credit card, except you can never go into debt because it’s not a real credit card. You can only spend what you put on it.”
New Year, New Advice
It’s a new year, and a new decade—welcome to the twenties. While financial new year’s resolution advice often reads as a series of small goals and changes, Bridget has other ideas. To start, she is against extremely restrictive budgeting and micro-managing small amounts every day.
“It’s really hard to change daily behavior,” Bridget says. “Budgeting is super annoying and it’s really hard to change daily behavior. I think the easier thing to do with your finances is to find something that only takes one action but has a really big impact. For instance, if you don’t have a TFSA or an RRSP, just open the account and set up an automatic transfer. You only have to do that one time. That will take you 30 minutes and then you’re done. You don’t have to do anything else for the rest of the year.” She also suggests negotiating a salary, finding a better paying job, or taking on a side gig. “There’s nothing I want to do repeatedly because I just want to do one big thing, one time. I’m not saying it’s easy, these are hard things, but they make a big difference.”
A Decade of Change
Before the internet, to buy stocks you had to call a broker and tell them how many stocks you wanted to buy, at what price, and then they’d have to execute the trade for you. Now, investing in the stock market is easier and ever—and to Bridget that means everyone should invest. “The internet has really changed how we access the market and how we use it and what it can do for us, and it’s still continuously evolving which has made the past ten years of writing about personal finance exceptionally interesting,” Bridget say. “Millennials are in a different financial landscape, and information is easier to access than ever.” Millennials have been blamed for killing everything from the diamond to cereal industries, but when it comes to banking they’re just interested in tackling their finances a bit differently. “I do think millennials continue to ruin everything in the best way by disrupting how financial services were administered before by demanding better products,” Bridget says. “Now there are websites like my own that are talking about all the products and tools that are available so users get a much clearer picture of what their options are. Consumers can feel a lot more confident that they’re getting the best products that are out there. Everyone loves to hate millennials, but we actually have the best products. We won’t just accept status quo. There is still a lot of innovation going on and it’s just fun to be in that space because all the innovation is basically happening for the good of the consumer. And that’s really nice because that’s not always true in most industries. In most industries, innovation happens for the good of the corporation. But in this the personal finance space it’s definitely really improving user’s day-to-day financial lives and that’s been really cool.”
At the end of the day, whether her audience members are raising children, wanting to buy a luxury purse, or saving up for a home, Bridget wants to help them make sense of their money and achieve personal wealth while making the most of the tools available to them.
“Money is a hard topic because we need it for survival, nut sometimes we forget to enjoy it when our target is always surviving instead of thriving,” Bridget says. “I’m totally against that mentality. I don’t think everyone should suffer. I think we should earn enough to enjoy life.”
The Wealthy Blogger
The Wealthy Blogger
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