It’s time for a check a 2021 financial check in as the year is winding down.

I began 2021 working part-time for a company I’ve worked for on and off since 2016. Off during the times I had full time work elsewhere. Usually short term contracts. But I take what I can get in order to survive.

Although I wanted to find a full-time job and make more money, I wasn’t having a lot of success finding work. Ageism is alive and well in Canada. Read this article that even when a labor shortage exists, older employees still have a dickens of a time finding a job:

A couple of things happened to spur me into action. Earlier in the Spring I suspected the elderly owners of the farm where I keep my horse were selling the property. A half-hearted clean up was going on.

The owner had mentioned a couple of years ago they were thinking of selling. And last year kind of hinted I should start looking for another place to board my horse. I’ve been keeping horses at this place on and off since 1988 so obviously I like it enough. I said I could probably stick around until the end.

Although nothing was ever said to me about moving my horse, the owners finally confirmed their intention to sell by asking the people who stored things in the other barn to clear out by the end of August. People have been renting storage spots in the other barn for as long as I’ve known them. Also parking spots with various trailers, boats, and cars that come and go. The problem is when people decide not to keep their things there anymore, they just abandon them. I didn’t really peak into that other barn much, but there’s a lot of auto parts among other crap left behind from former tenants. Even a couple of dilapidated boats and an old bread truck.

Back on topic…

The writing was on the wall. I had to find a new farm for Cajun to live. Most horse boarding places the service is for full board (the farm supplies the food and does all the work) and in the Greater Vancouver Area it’s very expensive. I’d be lucky to find a stable for $500/month. And the price goes up depending on location and amenities.

I’ve been doing self-board forever, which means I buy the food and do all the work. It would be easy if the horse lived on the same property as me. But driving daily 20 to 25 minutes to the horse in all weather conditions and hauling water and hay is getting harder as I’m getting older.

Another thing happened at the end of March, 2021. My employer announced the sale of the company. And the new owners would be there in an hour. It was sudden for the staff, but we were all offered positions with the new company. Really, no change in work. I was hoping I might get more hours. Didn’t happen. ☹

All of this lit a fire for me to look for a full-time job so I could make more money to get my horse into full boarding. I even wrote a blog post: More Monthly Income is Needed.

Something we can all relate to.

The Short Version

Am I actually capable of doing a “short version” of anything? Ha ha!

In May I found a really good full-time job near my house, and started working there in June.

Time-wise, this made it harder to take care of my horse. I found a stable I liked near equestrian trails for $600 a month, only to discover there were no spots available. I put my name on the waitlist.

Still waiting.

In the meantime, I found a private farm to move my horse to for $500/month, so right now all is good. I’m fine keeping my horse there even if I don’t come off the waitlist at the first place.

Retirement Savings Match

My new job has a retirement savings match program.

Always remember – if you’re ever in a position to be on an employer match retirement savings program: take advantage of it!

My employer matches up to 4% of income, so free money for retirement! It’s like increasing my salary a few bucks more each pay period.

The employee also can contribute more money to the retirement savings program, so I’m doing that as well, an extra 5%. I’ll see how that works out for me or if I need to scale it back. For me it’s about reducing my income. I receive dividend income on non-registered accounts that I’m taxed on, so I put money into a tax account to pay Revenue Canada when the time comes. I also try to bring my income down a bit with the contributions to my RRSP. Check out my article about how it sucks that low income earners end up paying big bucks in taxes.

Unfortunately, the money goes into a Manulife mutual fund. I’m not a big fan on mutual funds due to the high MER (management fees) charged. Canada has the highest MERs in the world, so that’s why buying similar ETFs on the stock market with their lower MERs is a smarter choice.

It’s kind of an interesting fund in that staff are automatically put into a fund that matches their approximate retirement date. Mine is the Manulife Retirement Date 2025 and the MER is .68% so that’s better than being over 1% or 2%. That most mutual funds cost.

In just over three months, that 2025 fund has over $1500 in there, so not too shabby!

And so far I’m not missing the money. It’s deducted off my pay, so it’s in the retirement savings account before I can spend it on horse and dog treats.

This is the kind of company I wish I’d found when I was younger.


I’ve talked about my TFSA (Tax Free Savings Account) a few times. This Government of Canada website explains the contributions better than I can!

My TFSA is fully funded with a combination of GICs (cash) and stocks. The annual contribution limit is $6,000, which means if I’m going to make it happen, I need to put away $500/month. That’s really tough to do on a low income. And even tougher to do during times of unemployment.

My Covid-adjusted financial plan was just to try to get whatever amount of money into that account. Any money I can contribute is better than nothing.

After I found a full time job, I put as much money towards it as I could to play catch up. Not easy but I was really determined.

With two months left in 2021, I’m happy to report I have just a little under $1,000 left to go to reach $6,000! Yay me for being so diligent! I’m on track.

More monthly income

When I wrote the post about more monthly income is needed, I was eyeballing $1200/month. See this money map I drew.

More Monthly Income is Needed

Even though I didn’t write in actual dollar amounts, I wrote in the post I was estimating $1200 a month to fund my goals.

The loose breakdown is $500 a month each for horse boarding and TFSA, and $200 a month for a vacation fund.

A girl has to have some fun!

Obviously I was already spending a monthly sum on horse boarding plus feed, around $175 to $250 depending on the time of year. I estimated I needed another $500 a month to put Cajun into full board, because horse boarding is so expensive around here.

Horseback Riding through the Trails

Yes, really, I talked to a couple of $750 to $800 a month places and one of them didn’t even supply grain. They supplied the hay and did all the work. They’d feed your horse any grain the owner supplied, so tack on another $30 to $40 a month if you want your horse eating more than forage.

That just leaves my vacation fund to get on track.

Between July, 2019 to July, 2021, I made one contribution of $110, in July, 2020. It’s taken nearly two years for me to be able to afford to save money towards a vacation again. I’m happy to report as of July, 2021, I’ve been contributing $100 each paycheck to meet my $200 a month goal.

So far so good!

It looks like I need to draw a new money map.

Financial Plan

Financial plans are something that are constantly changing based on our needs, wants and life situations.

You don’t need to spend a thousand bucks hiring a financial consultant to come up with a plan for you.

In the past, we’ve talked about various components needed for a financial plan. You want to understand your income and expenses. You want to figure out how to pay off debt, put money aside for retirement, create an emergency fund, and how to achieve your goals.

The following links should give you ideas on things you need to include on your financial plan and how to make them happen.

Covid-19 Financial Plan

Here’s what my Covid-19 adjusted financial plan looks like:

  1. Incur no debt
  2. Don’t look at the current value of my investments
  3. Don’t sell any stocks
  4. No unnecessary spending
  5. Build up my emergency fund
  6. Try to save a little for next year’s TFSA

For me, with a drop in income it was all about stay the course. Maybe I couldn’t save money, but I didn’t want to spend money either. I’ve come out the other side without incurring debt, so that’s truly a win.

Financial Plan in Progress

I checked everything off on my Covid adjusted financial plan, and now that I’m working again, I’m working on coming up with a new financial plan.

I’ll keep the incur no debt at the top of my financial plan. If I have debt, the rest of my plan will take longer to accomplish.

  1. Incur no debt.
  2. Increase the value of my investments.
  3. Evaluate my insurance needs.
  4. Updating a will.
  5. Keep contributing to employer matched RRSP.
  6. Save $500 a month towards next year’s TFSA.
  7. Build my vacation fund by $200 every month.
  8. Put aside $100/month for taxes.
  9. Figure out more income streams.

If you need more information on creating a financial plan, there’s a great article at Clever Girl Finance:

I hope my 2021 financial check in has inspired you to grab a pen and paper and track your spending, draw a money map, and create a financial plan. There’s something about writing things done this way that helps it become more real and put it into action.

Published by Cheryl @ The Lifestyle Digs on October 22, 2021.

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