*Interview: Hot Babe Shannon Lee Simmons, CFP

Posted on September 9, 2012


I am always appalled at the depths of my sloth when I read about go-getting superstars who are squeezing the juice out of life every day like a technicolour roomful of Willy Wonka workers on the task of making Magic Mango Mectar.  [sic. sigh.]  One such technicolour superstar is Shannon Lee Simmons, whose sense of social entrepreneurism I had lauded here. So, I tracked her down, tugging at the hem of her skirt by email, asking for an interview. Much to my delight, she cheerfully and graciously saw some kind of merit in pulling her brain up to the window with me here for a bit!

As a Certified Financial Planner, she has smartly left the caged-walls of companydom behind and has struck out on her own to help the people of Toronto, and now, all over the web, to feel that Financial Planning is easily within their grasp. This, as with Financial Literacy, still bloats with gastritis in our collective belly, as we are largely still unable to digest such big spikey topics. However, over the kitchen table, Shannon uses her big sister smarts to get us to just taste this surprisingly palatable fare.

Though, I may bubble-headedly confer “Financial Babedom” on her as a homage to her famous year-long project in 2011 of coaching 300 women in Toronto on Finance, on a unique barter basis…

…I do so in full recognition that she is so importantly helping us navigate the adult world of money and the life consequences of (mis)understanding it.

Shannon probably gets asked a lot of questions by all kinds of demographic groups, so quite selfishly, I decided to focus on what my friends and I, in our  20s and 30s, are totally dealing with: the Finances of Dating; Being Chivalrous and Independent; Being Single; Trying to Live and Save…

Me: Why did you decide to focus on helping (young) women in particular with financial planning in your Barter Babes Project?

Shannon: I had been conducting research on GenY and money for some time and noticed the trend in young women…. we are very anxious about money, more so than young men. There’s a fear of never having enough and a guilt around spending habits. I figured I’d start where I noticed the biggest fears are.

Do the fellas have a particular circumstance regarding financial planning that you’d have advice for?

I’ve found the young men have a really healthy outlook on money. Younger males tend to be less risk averse and are more willing to ask for larger wages. If there isn’t enough money, most young men plan to “just make more” whereas females worry a lot more. I’ve found men don’t start really worrying about money until there are kids involved – that’s the game changer and the great equalizer of financial fears.

In this age of dying chivalry, people staying single for longer, online dating and restaurants that charge tax and tip–what are the rules for paying on dates? What would you budget a month for dating expenses? Being lonely is expensive. Break down the expenses of a good date for us! (Or dating life…)

Oooo, the staying single for longer has a HUGE affect on our finances, both male and female. For starters, sharing living expenses is excellent for finances, and being single longer means higher living costs for longer periods of time.

Online dating can get extremely expensive as well because the opportunity for multiple first and second dates increases. Everyone, male or female, wants to make a good impression and have a memorable first date, so it’s likely there will be an activity, food, drink etc involved – these all cost money.

For the morbidly curious, this is how much a 2nd date cost me in Toronto. 2 pints, 2 scotches, 2 entrees (& a really good server that night).

There are no rules for paying on a date. It’s honestly each to their own. However, if you go on a first date and the other person doesn’t pay for it, maybe be less hard on them these days. It doesn’t mean chilvarly is dead, it means this person has been on too many first dates, paid and then have it go nowhere. That can be over $100/week!

Usually, the real courting and chivalry can come out after the third or fourth date, when both parties are sure that they are having a good time and want to continue seeing each other. Chilvary doesn’t have to been 100% financial either….

As for a dating budget, there can’t be one hard-fast rule because everyone dates differently. But, my advice is to pay attention to what you’re spending. If you notice credit card debt mounting from buying new outfits before many dates or treating again and again, be cautious. It may be time to start feeling better in the clothes you already have and going on experience dates – like a park, free art exhibits etc.

How did you get so good at Finance? (I didn’t perceive that in Canada I received any Financial Education–unless I chose it as a major) Was it your family? A good head for numbers? Your own drive? What would you tell parents / teachers today to start telling their kids? Or adults to do for themselves?

It all started with my family. My parents run a family business and we were involved in the financial ups and downs our whole lives. Talking about money was never shut out at the kitchen table, so I was never intimidated by it and didn’t realize it was a taboo subject for others until I was older. I think the business side of finances and the ability and enjoyment of number crunching got into my system from home and then in uni I studied it and did all my letters then.

In addition, I’m a huge numbers geek who excelled at math throughout highschool, so again, I really love working with numbers. I was naturally drawn to it.

I would tell parents to talk about money with their kids – good or bad. Bring the children in on the household financial decisions. Even if they are young and can’t grasp the details, the idea that money comes and goes is normalizing and healthy. It’s set realistic expectations for future incomes and spending.

With little hope of living off adequate private savings by retirement (i.e. low interest rates; no savings at all), pensions that may or may not be enough; the dream of homeownership in the GTA being ri-don-kulous; already being saddled with on average $27K student debt in early adulthood–what will the future generation need to be doing differently in the future? (or starting now?)

We need to save. Plain and simple. Maxing out the TFSA is a huge benefit. It will help to lower our retirement taxable income, and hopefully aid us in qualifying for more government pensions.

In addition, I think that we should seriously look at shared first-time home buyer scenarios. Pair up with another person or couple to get a large down payment, split the house and the bills, make a contract and sell it at a set price. Both parties can take advantage of the real estate market, but still afford life.

*     *     *

[Hmm, if you’re in the Greater Toronto Area and are looking for cheap date ideas, Cheap Dude dot com (!) has got the LOW DOWN!]

Thanks Shannon! ❤

Shannon’s advice can be found on Facebook and Twitter.  And check out Shannon’s show “Money Awesomeness” on the Coral Channel (YouTube)!  She talks about everything from joint banking for couples to buying a house responsibly to saving on ATM fees and on lunch–they’re short and highly watchable:

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