Who are your finance heroes?
My parents. They are of Ukrainian ancestry and immigrated to Canada as kids from Eastern Europe after World War II. They raised me with their Old-World values. Part of that included the idea that material goods come and go—so Buddhist, in hindsight—and things should be secondary to family and education. And there was the idea of scarcity and being OK with not having everything you want.
When I was in grade eight or so, my folks started making me pay for all my wants myself. It was tough watching friends that had their wants paid for by their parents, but I did enjoy the independence. Then, when I was 20, my parents severed the financial cord completely. That was extremely difficult, working minimum wage jobs while in university, and even a couple of jobs below minimum wage—under the table—to make rent. Although those days were tough, I knew it would serve me well going forward.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I really enjoy spending time with my immediate and extended family. Also, when the pandemic started, I began regular one-on-one walks and talks with close friends, either in person or over the phone. And I continue to do those walks now. Finally, I’m rewatching the TV shows I loved as a kid—we recently finished Matlock. I’m currently streaming Star Trek: The Next Generation with the kids, and I’m so happy to say that they love it.
Also, and I’m not sure if this is “free time” per se, but I took a bit of a sabbatical from Bay Street a few years ago to fulfill a goal I’ve had since high school: I completed a graduate program in applied music at Sheridan College, and then I co-wrote, workshopped and produced a musical called Breaking Bread: The Musical, set in Ukraine during the Holodomor. It was so wonderful to do something completely different and it was so incredibly fulfilling. Both the subject matter and the craft of creating musicals continue to interest me, and I would like to bring it to the stage again. I planned to do it again in November 2020, but, well, COVID-19 happened.
If money were no object, what would you be doing right now?
I think about that every single day, and I frequently ask my friends that same question. Some things that come up are to continue what I’m doing now—work, study music composition more deeply, go to law school or get into suburban gardening.
What was your first memory about money?
When I was three or four years old, my mom helped teach me addition by giving me a handful of coins and having me add them up. There were 50-cent pieces back then. That was always a lot of fun. I made sure to pass that along to my kids.
What’s the first thing you remember buying with your own money?
A poutine at Harvey’s. I felt I reached peak living. There will always be something nostalgic about Harvey’s poutine for me.
What was your first job?
Apart from delivering flyers in grade eight and nine, my first job was working in the kitchen and as a server at a retirement home when I was in grade 10 or 11. It was just a short bike ride from my parents’ house. It was a great gig. I loved chatting with the elderly, and the home had a piano that residents and staff could play.