8 Tips on Building Credit for Beginners

Adulting

Written By: Tiara Lynn

Growing up, building credit was the last thing on my mind. I avoided anything to do with loans and credit cards. It wasn’t until I took an “Introduction to Business” course that I learned about all the good and the bad when it came to credit. As someone with no credit history at all, I didn’t know where I should start. With all the knowledge I had gained from my own research and the course, I am here to share with you some tips that helped me build my credit score.

Photo Credit: Tiara Lynn

1.Take Out A Small Loan

My first step when it came to building credit was taking out a small loan. I was only working for nine months when I first applied for a small loan of $500, and so I needed a co-signer. I was lucky enough to have my grandma’s help with that. If you are working for over one year then chances are you won’t need a co-signer. Taking out a small loan helps you establish credit. 

2.Always Pay On Time

My first loan came with a lot of stress when it came to making the payment. I was always confused as to when I should pay and what not. You need to know that payment history plays a big role on your overall credit score. If you are late once, it may affect your credit score and can stay on your credit score for up to seven years. What I like to do is find out exactly when it’s due and pay my bill a couple of days before the due date. If possible, set up automatic online payments because it’s really convenient.

3. Paid Off The Small Loan…Now What?

It took about five months for me to finally pay off the loan. Even if I could’ve paid it off sooner, it’s never a good idea. Your goal is to build credit and paying it early won’t improve your credit. Keep the loan open for the length agreed and watch your score improve. What happens after you pay off your small loan? For me, I decided to apply for a credit card because it’s not borrowed money. I planned on using it to pay bills and then pay the credit card. Sadly, I needed to continue to build my credit. The bank offered me an secured credit card. 

A secured credit card is where you deposit the amount of the credit card limit as kind of like a security deposit. I decided to just do $500 limit. I kept this secured credit card for about 7 months before applying for an unsecured $500 credit card. Once I applied for an unsecured credit card, I got approved for a $1,000 credit limit. I know, it doesn’t seem like a lot but these are really great for someone who isn’t looking to go into debt. If you want to build your credit to prepare for the future of buying a house or something. Keep your accounts in good standing. 

4. Don’t Go Purchase Happy When Applying For New Accounts

Don’t apply for new credit cards or loans all at the same time. I get that you may be trying to see different options, but doing this can make your credit score decrease. Normally, each time you apply for a new loan or credit card it’s considered hard inquiries. What you want to do is be mindful when picking places you want to apply at. I normally look at the interest fee and annual fee when it comes to credit cards.

5. Monitor Your Credit

I recommend Credit Karma because it is what I use, but it’s not necessary accurate. My credit score on Credit Karma is significantly lower than what the banks pull. However, it has been really helpful when it comes to keeping track of payment history and credit card utilizations.

6. Keep Credit Card Accounts Open

Even if you don’t use your credit card often, it’s always good to keep it active. The longer the age and payment history, the more chances you have on improving your overall credit score. 

7. Keep Credit Utilization Low

A lot of people had suggested to keep credit utilization below 30% and that’s what I’ve been doing. If you have multiple credit cards, I believe it’s 30% across all cards. I’ve been doing just that and my score continues to improve daily. However, sometimes ‘life happens’ and we may find ourselves with quite a bit of credit card debt. If you’re trying to find a way out from a whole lot of credit card debt, this is how you can do it!

8. Don’t Take On More Than You Can Manage

I know a lot of people have multiple credit cards because they believe that they can manage but it can get overwhelming. If you overuse and are unable to make a payment, it will affect your credit score. That’s why I will always suggest to be mindful when committing to new loans and credit cards.

Photo: Tiara Lynn, owner of LifeWithTiara.com

These are just some tips that have worked for me. Within 10 months, I went from NO CREDIT to GOOD CREDIT. All within that time frame, I was able to get my own car and an unsecured credit card. I have learned that credit can be good and bad, but it all depends on the way you manage it. Please be advised that I am not a professional. Although these tips worked for me, I can’t guarantee the same results.

Tiara is a twenty-seven year old from the Island of Guam. She is a blogger sharing all things inspired by personal experiences, interest, growth, and development on her website https://lifewithtiara.com.

10 Steps to Recover From (Crushing) Credit Card Debt!

Adulting

By Faria Ahmed

Yes, you are a millennial and yes you swore to never use that credit card unless necessary and to pay back whatever you spent within a few days of swiping that card. Unfortunately, you and I both know that sometimes life happens. You fall sick and miss a few shifts at work. Things come up and your already small earnings have to be used for something other than paying back the credit card debt. And so it begins: the cycle of only paying the minimum amount due, and allowing your interest to rise. Before you know it, a year has passed and while you were chipping away at that original credit amount, a few more urgent expenses had to be made on that same card. The good news is that you are not the only one on that boat. The vicious cycle of credit card debt has sucked many of us young adults into a deep hole from which it seems nearly impossible to rise back up. The silver lining here is that it’s possible to come out of it!

Credit Card, Coins, and alcoholic beverage bottles in an artistic collage.
Photo Credit: Faria Ahmed

I myself have recovered from crushing credit card debt which I had incurred primarily on two occasions. Firstly, I went nearly three months without employment when I had finished school and was actively looking for jobs. I was working part-time at minimum wage but it was nowhere enough to let me keep up with my basic living costs. Second time, I had to get an emergency procedure done for my cat to survive. He was otherwise young and healthy and this one-time life-saving procedure cost me $3000 because I didn’t have cat insurance (that’s a story for another day). So the living expenses plus procedure cost came to about $7000 and while I was only making minimum payments, the interest charges and other costs brought it up to $10,000 in a short amount of time. 

Yes, I was 27-years old and just starting a full-time minimum wage job and I had a credit card debt of $10,000. At that point, I was trying to pay at least $200-$300 a month into that card, but my interest charges had risen to $190. So, I was basically just paying the interest amount. This is when I knew I needed a way out. 

I would feel suffocated every time I thought about that debt and what it meant. I couldn’t sleep at night whenever it popped into my mind and the only way to remain sane was by pretending it didn’t exist. Let me be very honest – pretending like it wasn’t there did nothing to solve the problem. That problem kept sitting there and growing, and instigating anxiety in me, until one day I became determined to find a way out. This is how I did it:

1. Assess the Financial Damage

The first thing you need to do is be calm, and take out all our credit cards, bank statements, etc. and make a total list of all the debt you have, on what card or cards and their respective interest rates. This will help you to figure out exactly what the total damage is and which disaster you need to manage first (i.e. which card has the highest interest rate). 

2. Measure Income & Cost of Living

The second thing you need to do is to check how much you earn each month and what is the absolute minimum that you can live on. Ideally, you will be able to cut you living costs and live extremely frugally until you have your debt paid off. This means, you need to find ways of cutting down your living cost so it is no more than half of your income.

3. Pay off Debt Proportionally

Now, use your remaining income (not used for living expenditures) and put that full amount directly into the credit card(s). If you have more than one, split it up so that more goes into the one that has the highest interest rate. 

4. Increase Your Income (& Sources of Income)

If it’s possible, try to find a job that pays more per hour even if it means a bit more work or a longer commute. Alternately, try to pick up some extra weekend and holiday shifts at work or find a second weekend job to help with additional income. Commit your full earnings from this added income to pay off your credit card debt. 

5. Borrow from Family/Spouse

I know this is not an option for a lot of people, however, if you can borrow the money to pay off your credit card debt from a family member or a friend who can afford to live without the money for a few years, it’s a good option for you considering they won’t charge you any interest. 

A dollar sign made up of Canadian coins including quarters, dimes, and twonies.
Photo Credit: Faria Ahmed

6. Liquidate Assets

I would not be selling land or an apartment. However, if you have something that is not drastically increasing in value as it sits there (like a car, a motorbike, a fancy watch collection, a branded purse collection), it may be time to give it up. Try to sell it to the highest bidder to recover as much as you can and put it towards your debt. You can even consider dipping into any savings bonds, coin collections, electronics, etc. that you think you can live without and sell it to recover cash and pay off part of your debt. 

7.Transfer to a Lower Interest Account

Often banks give offers of moving over debt that you have with departmental store credit cards, other banks and financial institutions and moving it over to your bank. This can come with incentives of offering you a reduced interest rate, or even keeping that transferred debt amount at 0% interest for 6 months or other such offers. This can allow you to have some time to catch up on your savings and be able to pay to reduce the original amount of the loan down instead of just paying the interest portion of it. Speak to your main banking institution and see if they have any such offers available. However, make sure you are going to a trusted and recognized bank, and not accepting such offers from loan sharks or small/new financial institutions. Small, new institutions may have fine print stating that once the 0% interest timespan passes, the interest may climb back up to being even more high than the original rate you had with your departmental store credit card. So, before transferring over the money, make sure you know all the information ahead of time.

8. Credit Card Consolidation

This should be a last resort. Remember that by consolidating your credit card, you are going to severely mess up your credit score. This means any loans in the near future may be more difficult to get. Having said that, if you have reached the point where the maximum amount you are putting into your credit card each month is solely paying off the interest and nothing more – it’s time to consider consolidation. What most banks do (and please go to a legitimate bank and not some loan shark), is that they will pay off your credit card and you will need to close it down immediately. Then, they will move over your loan to their institution at a much lower interest level. This means the credit card can no longer be used, to ensure you can no longer spend more. Secondly, your loan amount is now a personal loan which has automatic withdrawals from your bank account each month (usually) to pay off a minimum amount so you can pay it off in 5-10 years. While most departmental store credit cards charge an interest of 19.99-29.99%, the consolidated personal loan will charge you around 8-9%. This will allow you to pay off and chip away at the actual debt instead of just paying the interest. 

9. Loan Forgiveness/Declaring Bankruptcy

In some cities and countries, there are government loan relief grants. I have very little knowledge of them, but most of them are for large sums of loans which are about $15,000 or more in amount. You need to prove that you are unable to contribute any more of your income to pay off the debt or that you are unable to generate at income due to medical or other problems. Due to this poor financial situation, you will have to declare bankruptcy and a large portion of your loan may be forgiven or transferred over to another agency to whom you will pay a very small amount of money for a very very very long period of time. From what I have heard and read, this has a devastating impact on your credit score and any chances of becoming eligible for a mortgage or a car loan in the near future are slim to none. Compared to this, consolidated credit cards can actually allow you to eventually recover your credit score once you start paying it off. The only time I would encourage you to approach declaring bankruptcy as a solution is if you are on the verge of financial collapse and/or being chased by debt collectors. 

10. Close down your cards (But SLOWLY)

Once you begin to recover from credit card debt, it is a good idea to close down the credit cards so it doesn’t create temptation for next time. Keep any ONE credit card with a $1000 limit for emergencies and return the remaining ones once you have paid them off. However, do not close down multiple credit cards within a span of a few months as it can hamper your credit score. Spread it out over 6 months to one year.

So there you have it. There were some of the options I used myself when I came out of crushing debt of a little over $10,000. It’s difficult but it is possible and once you live life without using (or over-using) credit cards – I promise you that you will sleep so much better without financial anxiety hovering over you.

****Our Blog was featured in Feedspot’s Top 100 Millennial Blogs on the Web!***

Tinder? Grindr? Muzmatch? Which Dating App is right for you?

Adulting

By Faria Ahmed

If you are new in the dating game (or at least new in the digital part of dating), then this brief review and dating road-map is for you! I bet you heard from friends that there was an app called Tinder where you can go to meet people, something that has become very difficult to do in this day and age. You’re not wrong, but there’s so much more to that. Each dating app in the market now has its own niche and people go on them with a different set of expectations! You can’t go on a dating site known for ‘hook-ups’ and get upset that you didn’t find people who are seeking meaningful relationships. That’s why I decided to give you a review from my personal experiences of using these apps and set up your expectations from each of them!

Image result for Tinder Logo

  • Tinder: I’m pretty sure that Tinder is by far the most popular dating app out there and one of the first to start the swipe-right to match mechanism. Almost everyone I have ever spoken to, have at least heard of tinder, if not the other dating apps. However, what started off as a dating app currently has the image of a casual-dating/hook-up spot even though the brand does not exclusively market themselves as such. Now, I am making this assumption purely based on my experiences in how it worked for me in Canada and for a little while in the United Kingdom. So, speaking from experience, if you are looking to meet people for more than coffee, fun, cuddles and sex then Tinder may not be the most effective place to find that. Having said that, many people I know have actually met their life partners on tinder; they have dated for years and eventually gotten married. But the app and its general vibe are constantly evolving and I believe it currently has a more casual dating feel as of 2019.
Image result for Bumble Logo
  • Bumble: Unlike Tinder, where both parties need to match and either person can message, bumble exclusively needs the woman to begin the chat. If you two match but the lady doesn’t text, the portal opening will expire and you will become automatically unmatched. For whatever reason, this has made bumble into a much more serious dating platform. In many platforms men approach a dozen women each day, only to be ghosted or ignored due to the gender ratio on the apps or other reasons. However, that problem is counteracted on by this app, where only women interested in a man’s profile will reach out to him. If the man in return does not respond, they will get unmatched. So, the app allows both parties to gradually check out each other’s profiles and only begin talking if there is some level of interest to begin with. Not that I didn’t have some bad dates on bumble, as with any other app, but they were fewer in number and most dates were in general higher in quality. Almost every date I have ever been on through this app, allowed me to meet a nice person who was also looking for something real. Sometimes after one or two dates we felt we were different people so we stopped talking. But, not once have I been drowned by dick picks or unwanted approaches on here. It was almost like a big pool of nice guys and gentlemen out there and we were all trying to figure out who is the right fit for who. I might be biased because I met my current boyfriend through this app, but bumble is the way to go if you’re looking for the real deal.
Image result for plenty of fish logo
  • Plenty of Fish: Now this app has completely no swiping or matching requirements. You can message anyone you want which does remove a lot of the annoying complications of the other apps. However, what it also does is open you up to get a million messages from strangers whose profiles you may never have been interested in to begin with. I had to spend quite a bit of time blocking people and ignoring messages. Nonetheless, they weren’t kidding when they said the term ‘plenty’ of fish. The app does make one feel hopeful that there’s a lot of fish in the pond to choose from and you can meet some weirdos but also some very nice people on it. I met my ex of two years on this site, and the very first message from him was enough to tell me that we would be dating. In hindsight, I don’t think I would go back to app if I were to become single again. This is simply because as I’m growing older, I no longer have the patience to sift through the million messages to find a data-able man.
Image result for muzmatch logo
  • Muzmatch: As a brown, Muslim woman from a moderately conservative family I wasn’t enjoying all the ‘hook-up’ vibes of many of the dating apps. That’s what made me seek out muzmatch (which stands for Muslim match). An app made for Muslims to get to know each other with the intention of serious dating and eventually getting married. While the app is designed for that purpose and actually asks for your level of religiousness etc. to figure out the most compatible life partner, the people using it have turned it into a hook-up app. I was initially very happy to see that there’s also lots of other Muslims who were in the middle of the religiousness meter, who held some liberal values like myself, but also enjoyed discussing and practicing some elements of our faith. Yet, all the men on there that I interacted with either wanted to get married tomorrow, or wanted to hook up just like on other dating apps. I was annoyed by this and when I talked about it with some of my other Muslim guy friends that used the app, they told me it’s an app for Muslims to sleep with Muslims. Which seems absurd to me, seeing that a big part of being Muslim was supposed to be the not-sleeping-around part. Nonetheless, my friends had been meeting other girls who were modestly dressed, often wore hijabs but were open for hook-ups. That seemed to be a flavour of the app. In fact, right before I left, I began seeing a lot of non-Muslim men on there too who were showing up on the app to try and hook-up with Muslim women. I’m not judgmental of Muslim men and women being empowered by or being in control of their sexuality and sexual experiences. However, it’s not why I had gone on to that app to begin with, so I left soon after.
Image result for dilmil logo
  • Dil Mil: This app has a pretty brilliant concept in that it has made a platform for all the ‘desi’ people to get to know each other, make friends and date. The reason I loved this concept is because south-Asians, despite all the differences in languages and religions, actually share a very similar culture. We enjoy a lot of the same family values, lifestyle choices, approach to life, festivals, history, literature, entertainment and so much more. That allows people from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other countries in the region to share a common set of experiences. I was on this app for a very short time, because I actually realized that I wanted to date someone who had less in common with me and my culture as I found it refreshing. Nonetheless, while I was on there, I met some great people and I’m still friends with a few of them. We bonded over our love of Bengali food and South Asian politics! I can’t comment on whether it’s a more serious app or a dating one, but it seems fair game to anyone looking to date within their culture.
Image result for grindr logo
  • Grindr: My experience of grindr is quite limited since I have never actually used it myself. I believe it is an app for gay men as well as bisexual, trans sexual and queer individuals. Some of my closest friends who are gay and bi have shared their experiences about the app with me. From what they said, it seems like Grindr is pretty much a hook-up app with the once-in-a-blue moon chance of meeting someone with serious intensions and ending up in a long-term relationship.
  • Other Dating Apps:There’s definitely more dating apps that I have also heard of but never actually used. These would include OKCUPID, Hinge, Coffee meets Bagel and so many more. I have only tried the more popular ones because they seemed to have more people on them and so I would have a greater chance of finding mr. right on them!

There’s also special dating apps which are less conventional like 3nder (for threesomes), and ones I don’t have knowledge of like Her (for lesbians), Clover (Queer Friendly), and an endless list which keeps growing each day as companies understand the needs of consumer groups better. Of course the ones I have reviewed like Bumble can also be used to find both hetero- and homo- partners just by tweaking the preferences. Due to my limited sphere of experience, I will definitely be trying to collaborate with my friends who have tried these different ones and doing another review in the future.

So there you have it, my personal review of the major dating apps out there that I have personally tried and tested! I hope it helps you to navigate your way around the digital dating jungle!

Canadian Millennials reveal where they stand on important policies, platforms, and voting decisions this election

Adulting

Last week, I interviewed four Canadian millennial voters and asked them who they are voting for in this upcoming federal election and why! (Read that article here). Today I delve deeper into understanding what my millennial peers are thinking about the most important policy issues that took the front stage this election. The responses are extremely interesting and reveals the perspectives of each voter through a fun round of rapid fire on hot policy issues. 

Photo Credit: Hasan Ul Mokaddes

Each participant was asked a question individually and they answered as honestly as they could through a promise of anonymity. This is what they had to say:

Q. What is your take on the role and responsibility of Canada to reduce its carbon footprint? What and how much should Canada do?

I promised myself to not comment on these responses, but I must bring your attention to two responses in Question 1. Please take a look at the responses from the Conservative Voter and the Green Voter.
Photo Credit: Hasan Ul Mokaddes

Q. What is your take on the immigration & refugee policies that Canada has had and in what direction do you think they should be headed?

This appeared to be the only issue where all four voters agreed with each other.
Photo Credit: Hasan Ul Mokaddes

Q. What is your take on recent cuts to OSAP grants and changes to the loan repayment time? What do you think should be done with regards to student grants & loans for Canadian students?

Q. What is your take on the first-time home buyer’s loan?

Q. What is your take on the trans mountain oil pipeline?

Q. What is your take on NAFTA and Canada’s trade relationship with the United States? 

Q. What is your take on Canada’s small business loans?

Q. What is your take on Canada’s tax cuts for corporations that help create jobs?

Through these few questions from these four individuals, I didn’t expect in any way to get a full or representative picture of what the majority of voters in such voters bases think of. Rather, I wanted to share how diverse our perspective could be, even when we come from the same city, same university, same age group and the same gender. The drastic differences in perspectives was something I had expected to find. What remains interesting to me is the difference in knowledge and interest depending on the issues that each individual held close to their heart and those that do not effect them. I’m happy to see that we have some level of interest and participation in the election from among fellow millennials. Yet, the difficulty of finding people who were interested or aware enough to give me this interview painted a darker picture. Most friends I had approached had said they either have no interest in politics or they took a look at the interview questions and said they simply didn’t know enough to be commenting on any of the platforms and policies in discussion. Nonetheless, from among the young adults who chose to remain aware and engaged in policies, this is where we stand on these four political parties. I hope we can all go and vote to represent our generation – no matter which party we end up voting for.

Who did Canada’s millennials end up voting for? Read our review of the published statistics leading up to the election.

Canada’s Millennials Speak Up: Who’s voting for who and why!

Adulting

By Faria Ahmed

Photo Credit: Hasan Ul Mokaddes

For the first time on Millennial Things Blog, I interviewed four Canadian Millennial Voters, each voting for one of the four major political parties in the upcoming Federal Election (unfortunately I could not find anyone from Bloc Quebecois). These four individuals, all between the ages of 18-30, shared their perspectives on the political party they had decided to vote for and the issues that were driving that decision. 

As I began the interviews, I was curious to find out how four young men, all with similar levels of education, all living in the same part of Canada, with similar personal and economic goals in life, could have such different takes on what is best for Canada and how to get there. 

*Disclaimer: All four participants interviewed requested to remain anonymous. All four individuals interviewed are Canadian Citizens, eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 30, they are all male and they all plan on voting in this upcoming federal election in October 2019. The interviewed individuals were from various ethnic and religious backgrounds. All four participants reported that their ethnic or religious background had some level of influence in their voting decisions.* 

For the first portion of the interview, I asked them questions to better understand who they are voting for, their alternate choices, and the policy issues that were guiding their decision-making process this election. 

Q.1. Which three issues are the most important for you, on the basis of which you haven chosen to vote for a candiate/political party this year:

It was interesting to see that there wasn’t a specific set of issues that my millennial peers were prioritizing. Income taxes, environmental policies and healthcare were among the top three issues that seemed to come up among all four voters, yet they paid varying degrees of importance to them. Unsurprisingly, the conservative voter believed that balancing the country’s budget and improving upon economic growth should be a priority. So, I went ahead to ask exactly what about these core issues was driving them towards their preferred political party.

Q.2. Please explain what positions they have taken on these issues which convinced you to vote for them:

Liberal Voter: “I’m voting for Liberals because in my home riding, the toss-up is between the Liberals and the Conservatives. While my political views generally align with the NDP, the potential personal costs of a Conservative government simply outweigh any harm done by the Liberals. In a toss-up race I would always vote for the leading left option.”

I wasn’t the least bit surprised to hear this take. Many many liberal voters who weren’t very happy with Trudeau’s past term had told me the same thing. They would much rather have an NDP victory, however, the NDP numbers were nowhere close enough. They feared a conservative victory much more than they were disappointed by the Liberals. It saddened me to see that, much like the last US election, people were being asked to choose a ‘lesser evil’ than being asked to vote for who they truly admired or who they believed proposed the best policies. People in the US who were then disappointed in the Democratic Party, were then being asked to vote for Hillary Clinton, in fear of allowing a greater evil (i.e. Trump) from gaining access to the While House. I do not support the idea of placing that burden on the public to ensure the worse candidate does not get power, but that’s a rant for another day. 

Conservative Voter: “I believe their platform compared to others is the least committed to regulating the freedom of citizens. Compared to other parties they are more committed to free expression, low taxes, protecting the life of babies in the womb and are business friendly. Also, compared to other conservative parties like the Libertarian party and People’s party of Canada, the progressive conservatives actually have a shot at winning.”

Again, a voter was making a choice (partialy) on the basis on who has a chance of winning while being representative of their ideologies. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this statement from the conservative voter because it made me realize how differently we view ‘freedom’. This voter was absolutely correct about how the CP party as well as their values may promote freedom of speech and other such rights devoid of government regulation. The voter is probably also indicating the lax regulations when it comes to industry, community, and so on under a CP government. At the time time, I couldn’t help but take into consideration my own ideas of freedom. Freedom of religious practice and freedom of choosing my own sexual or gender identity devoid of harassment or hate speech is something I can only enjoy when the ‘rights’ of some citizens to share ‘hate speech’ is curbed. I also noted that the voter’s idea of freedom did not extend to the right of a woman to choose an abortion, and instead focused on the right of the fetus. I won’t go too deep on this issue in this article today as I want to share a more general overview of who is voting for who and why. Overall, it is apparent that individual freedom and religious principles did play an important role in the voting perception of this voter and it’s something that we need to understand better to making policies that can truly represent the whole population.   

NDP Voter: “I’m hoping for a minority government as I do not want either Liberals or Conservatives with majority”. 

I absolutely understand this position. I can clearly see how unhappy people are with both liberals are conservatives, and voting NDP is a strategic way to ensure neither of the two main political parties can gain unchallenged power through the formation of a minority government. NDP on the other hand is a party that has had a fair amount of influence in Canadian politics as one of the three main political parties, but never won the election. Some consider them a bit too left leaning, other think they make absolute sense but have no real shot at winning the election for many years to come. 

Green Voter: “Generally speaking, I don’t trust the Liberal or Conservative Party enough to keep their promises. I don’t support enough Conservative policies anyway. I generally trust the NDP, but, they’re too similar to the Liberal Party. The Green Party has costed their platform and proposed a 20-step plan for tackling climate change; the NDP has no emissions target, Jagmeet takes no clear stance in the debates, and they don’t even have a climate plan.”

Again, what I could see was the distrust and disappointment of the two major political parties among my millennial peers. I felt throughout this interview that the NDP had a perfect opportunity this election to come in and deliver to the public what the liberals and conservatives had been failing to do, but they had simply missed the mark. While this particular green voter had gone with their rationale and decided to vote for a party with the most elaborate environment policy platform, many others who I had spoken to had told me that while they agree with green, their vote would be ‘wasted’ on a party with no chance of actually winning. 

This brings me back to the understanding that voters no longer vote on the basis of actual policies and their admiration of politicians. People now vote strategically. They look at the current reality of who have the most chances of actually taking power as the elected government. They use their votes strategically based on the desired outcome. If they want a party with a small lead to win, they will vote for an opposition or one of the smaller parties, in order to ‘waste’ the vote. If they want a balance of power, they will vote for a chance at getting a minority government. Even if they love a party’s platform, they may not vote for them just because that party is polling at 5% leading up to the election. 

While this attitude towards voting may be quite realistic, I personally find it upsetting. The reason it bothers me is that the smaller parties who may have great ideas for policy reform may not be able to grow through increased seats each election year, simply because of this voting attitude. This will keep our larger parties in power despite their failures and keep our smaller parties struggling to find some limelight.  

Q.3. If your chosen party was not running in this election, which party would you have alternatively voted for? 

Liberal Voter: I would vote NDP

Conservative Voter: I would vote Liberal

NDP Voter: I would vote Conservative

Green Voter: I would vote NDP

Q.4. Which is the one party in Canada’s Federal election that you would never vote for (e.g. you disagree with some of their fundamental platforms)? Please explain briefly why.

Liberal Voter: I would never vote for the PPC (People’s Party of Canada) based on their purposed policies regarding social security, taxation, immigration. As well as the bigoted language and beliefs of their leader and many of their candidates.

Conservative Voter: NDP, although never say never. NDP are explicitly Socialist and Socialism is a failed ideology.

NDP:   No party. They all make ‘some’ degree of sense in their own ways. This is the problem with a “right vs left” mentality. 

Green Voter: Conservative. Broadly speaking, I don’t like how averse to change, in a word- conservative, the Conservative Party is. 

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For the second part of the interview, I didn’t add remarks to share the most unbiased and raw form of the voters’ responses. I kept their responses entirely unedited. It was pretty much a rapid fire round about what each candidate’s take on some of the hottest political issues facing millennials this election. Read this second part here.

Who are Canada’s Millennials voting for in the end? Here’s is our review of the published statistics leading up to the election!

Photostory: Global Climate Strike 2019

Adulting

On September 27th, people across the world marched on the streets to demand immediate climate action from their governing institutions. I was among the 5,000 people marching in Ottawa from Tabaret, to Confederation Park, to the Parliament Hill. It was beautiful to see people of all ages, including seniors, children, youth, adults, people with disabilities, pregnant women, gather together to fight for the future of the next generation. Here is a brief photo story as it happened in Canada’s Capital city.

All photographs were taken by Faria Ahmed.

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The Millennial Vote: Canada’s Federal Election 2019

Adulting

By Faria Ahmed

As many of you already know, Canada is headed for its federal election in October 2019. In simple terms, this election will determine who the next Prime Minister will be and who will be forming the next Federal government. For many millennials across the globe, Canada became a common household name over the last few years because of its compassionate policies for refugees, legalization of marijuana, and its rather charming Prime Minister. Another reason was probably that our universal health insurance, for the first time, stood out in striking contrast to our neighbour to the south who are also nearing an election.

However, many more things have happened as we headed into an election year. As an immigrant who just received her citizenship, this will be the first election in Canada where I get to vote. That is both exciting and a bit overwhelming, because I now feel responsible as a citizen to make the right call. That is why I began to go through lots of news articles, in an attempt to better inform myself about the challenges we will face as a population over the next 4 years, and to evaluate which party is offering better policy solutions for the issues. 

Millennials could decide the next election

On September 14, 2019, CBC News reported that young adults could have a huge impact on deciding the results of this upcoming election, since they made up more than a third of eligible voters (Abacus Data). On September 18th, The Star published an article titled ‘MIllennials and Gen Z are the biggest voting bloc in this election’, further analyzing the voting power in the hands of our generation. Reading this automatically made me feel even more responsible to dig deep and weigh each candidate and party in my riding. My votes and those of my peers quite literally has the power to decide the fate of Canadian politics for the next 4 years. 

Voting Differences among Gender Groups

One interesting thing I noticed was a Narcity article which cited a survey by Angus Reid foundation; this survey showed that females in the millennial age group were leaning towards a Liberal government while males were leaning towards Conservatives. This was extremely amusing for me, because until that moment I didn’t realize that I also had to factor in my gender, my rights as a woman, an ethnic and religious minority to decide who is more likely to do right by me. Let’s begin at the surface though. 

When I looked closely at the published data in that same article, I was pleasantly surprised to see that 17% females in my age group (18-34) were voting for the Green Party, which is the highest percentage from any other age group among both gender groups. I absolutely agree that the environment (which Green prioritizes) is among the top policy issues which we should be looking at as millennials.

“A vote cast is never a vote wasted”

Many would argue (including close friends of mine) that any vote given to Green or NDP is a vote wasted because the Liberals and Conservatives are still the two major players. I disagree. I personally believe that a vote cast is never a vote wasted, and no matter what we need to be voting and showing up in overwhelming numbers so that politicians on all sides of the aisle know they need to be working for our approval. 

Millennial Students and Shrinking OSAP 

As a university student myself, I know how important funding my education through grants and loans is to me. In Ontario, when Doug Ford’s conservative government came to power, we all immediately felt the effects of grant cuts on our provincial grant funding for university. Like many others, my loan-to-grant ratio increased and even the loans were less than the previous year. I would have contemplated taking the year off and working, but that’s when I realized that starting this year I have been out of high school for 10 years. That automatically qualified me to receive the Federal Skills Boost grant! Although this grant did not exactly compensate for the full amount that Ford’s Ontario had cut, this federal grant allowed me to just about manage my academic school year without having to drop out. 

The Liberals had previously increased the federal grants for full-time and part-time university students and now they are promising another bump to this ‘Canada Students Grant’ fund, according to macleans.ca (Sept 29, 2019). 

It’s Payback Time

Another part of student loans which recently turned into a nightmare for us Ontarians was the pressure to begin paying back immediately after graduating (with no interest-frozen grace period). Trudeau’s promise hits tackles this one head-on by promising to push interest-free status from 6-months to 2 full years after graduating. On top of that, he would potentially allow students to not begin paying back the loan until we are making CAD 35,000 or more (macleans.ca, 29 Sept 2019). It almost seems that he is taking our problems seriously, and understanding that we do not begin laying golden eggs the morning after our convocation ceremonies. On this particular issue, I am expecting millennials to lean a little Liberal. Having said that, the ‘overspending’ nature of Liberals is something that my conservative peers often bring up and I will fairly put forward those arguments in a follow-up article.  

So, Who Is Truly Green?

Canadian young woman standing in front of the Parliament in Ottawa, Ontario in 2019 with a sign "Where Is Andrew Scheer?" During a climate protest.
Photo Credit: Faria Ahmed

My feel-good sentiment is that in Canada (unlike the USA), the conservatives (at least) acknowledge climate change and have agreed to continue Canada’s support of the Paris Accord (thenarwhal.ca). The striking difference between Liberals and Conservatives in this regard is how they are planning on achieving the targets set for our country. 

Sheer’s climate platform “A Real Plan” has been said to focus on giving Canadians credit incentives to move to more efficient energy use in the home (cbc.ca, July 30, 2019). That’s definitely a good thing and in the right direction. However, cbc also reports in the same article that there is no significant plan to reduce greenhouse gases and meet the targets set out for Canada. 

Trudeau’s campaign has spent significant portions of its time harping about the green initiatives it has already implemented in the past term (such as funding 1000 green energy projects and financial incentives for electric vehicle purchases), however his plan for the next term and how exactly we will meet our 2030 targets are still unclear. (cbc.ca, 25 Sept 2019)

Their promise to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 appears to be unaccompanied by concrete plans and policies. That, along with his promise to Greta Thunberg last week to plant 2 billion trees if elected (Global News, 24 Sept 2019) almost seems like he is pulling last-minute tricks out of the hat. Plus, it could also be an attempt to cover up the guilt of buying a pipeline when in power (not the most eco friendly thing for Canada and the world). If his promises are all true, I’m on board for sure. However, until a time that more details are revealed, I will remain a little skeptical. 

NDP promises to move away from fossil fuel dependency and shed more light on the Liberal’s track record (ctvnews.ca, 24 Sept 2019). I won’t spend more time on NDP and Green because they are both already well known to receive the green check marks when it comes to environmental issues. So, when it comes to the environment I’m leaning towards NDP/Green.

Other Pressing Issues 

Apart from education and the environment, the three issues that stand out to me the most are foreign policy, immigration policies and ‘balancing the budget’. As a country whose only population growth is predicted to be through immigration alone by the year 2034 (The Conference Board of Canada), and as an immigrant myself I want to see comprehensive policies for allowing steady and diverse immigration backed up by detailed  resettlement plans. I have seen dozens of immigrants from my home country Bangladesh come to Canada through the skilled labour quota and remain unemployed simply because their academic and professional qualifications didn’t translate to Canada’s standards. I need my party of choice to be able to create better tools so immigrants can navigate their way through this new world with new expectations of them. All this, as well as promoting diversity, equality and being financially prudent as a nation are things I am still researching as we head closer to this election. 

Why We Absolutely Must Vote 

According to Global News, there are actually more millennial voters in this election compared to the babyboomer generation – which is why our voices can and should be heard loud and clear. Whether you will weigh job creation, student loans, environmental policies, healtcare or other issues at the top of your list…please please go and vote. It is extremely important that our generation is heard and acknowledged in the coming election so we can begin changing the national dialogue and policy,  one democratic vote.

5 Ways to Afford University Textbooks

Adulting

By Faria Ahmed


If you’re going to university in North America, then you already know about the trauma that comes with buying those uber expensive textbooks. There you are enjoying the first week of class at the beginning of the semester, and then the professor uploads a list of the recommended textbooks. As if paying for university wasn’t bad enough, the added burden of buying textbooks costing $100-$700 can surely make your undergraduate years into an absolute nightmare. Have no fear though, because I am on the same boat as you and over the years I have figured out a few tricks to be able to afford textbooks:

  1. Second Hand Books: No matter where you are studying, chances are that your peers who are just a year senior to you have gone through the same courses as you. This means they might own the very same textbooks that they want off their hands now. Although it may be one or two editions different from the latest one, it might still be a good idea to ask around. You can check if a facebook group exists for used books exchange and selling. If not, you can always ask some friends and spread the word that you are looking for a particular book. \
  2. Try Online Stores: From my personal experiences, I have always found mainstream book stores and on-campus bookstores to be exceptionally expensive for textbooks. Sometimes I have purchased textbooks directly from the publisher’s website or from online stores like amazon.   
  3. Buy the Looseleaf version: In between the hard cover, paperback and e-book formats lies my precious choice of textbook- the looseleaf version. The perfect book arrives without being bound into an actual book. It actually already has the punch holes in it so all you need to do is get a binder and use that as your hardcover. This formar is cheaper than the hardcover ones and you also don’t end up straining your eyes too much by reading it on your computer. 
  4. Buying the kindle edition: If all else fails, I opt to buy the kindle edition of the book from amazon. Even if you don’t have an actual kindle device, you can actually read the book on your computer through an online kindle cloud reader. I personally use this as a last resort because the amazon cloud reader doesn’t let me print it off and it strains my eyes to read a whole book on the computer. I might actually opt to buy a kindle if all my future textbooks are in this format. 
  5. Rent or Borrow: There’s a couple of different ways to do this. You can borrow from your university’s library, but they usually don’t allow that for a whole semester. However, if you are lucky enough they might have multiple copies, so you can return one and get it on loan again the next day (if they haven’ run out). You can also rent from various websites including ebay. Although not the most reliable in my experience, this is still a much more affordable way to get your textbooks this school year. 



Career: How I realized my true passion (almost too late!)

Adulting

A story of self-discovery By Faria Ahmed



When I was 18 years old and entering university, I could never have imagined that ten years later I would be where I am today. Like my favourite characters in books and on television, I thought I would go through the ups and downs by my early 20s, land my dream job by 26, find true love by 28 and get married by 30. Probably have one or two kids by the time I’m 33. Now I laugh when I try to plan the next 2 years of my life because its unpredictability has finally set in. This brings me to the adventurous, tumultuous and widely enlightening journey that I made while seeking out my dream career. 

It might sound like a bit of a brown immigrant cliche, but I was born to two physician parents in Bangladesh and was expected to stick to the health sciences as part of the family legacy. After I finally finished high school, I couldn’t make it through the brutal competition into the few publicly funded medical schools in my country, and I clearly could not afford any of the private ones. As a result, I settled for the next best thing – a career in biological sciences research. All those cool shows like CSI seemed to have an amazing forensic team who did biochemical tests to prove or disprove crimes! That was definitely what I wanted to do later in life. Another big source of inspiration came from the books by Erich Segal, whose characters were all MDs and PhDs working in the research field at Ivy League universities, conducting breakthrough research and getting nominated for the nobel prize. Yep, those sounded pretty sweet too. And so, armed with these fictional experiences from television and literature, I started writing admission tests for universities (yes, it’s a thing) offering these programs. 

I eventually received an offer of admission into a top architecture program at BRAC University after a few different tests and interviews. I also received an offer from North South University’s Biotechnology program. After three weeks of living in confusion and inner conflict, I decided to pick the latter. What helped me make the decision was the simple question I asked myself. 10 years from now, would I want to be standing in front of an amazing skyscraper against the skyline in a major city of the world and call it my design? Or would I want to know that I have found or contributed to the discovery of a drug that can cure diseases affecting thousands of human lives? I knew the latter would personally give me more satisfaction. 

Again, remember that I am doing neither of those things today. However, looking back, I do not regret the way I proceeded with my career through my first university degree. 

Through the usual ups and downs of university life, I eventually graduated Magna cum laude from that Bachelor’s program in Biochemistry & Biotechnology. Things in my personal life had shifted by then and it was time for me to move to Canada as an immigrant and go live with my father. This is when I was asked by my family to decide on what I wanted to study for my graduate degree. 

It’s important to note that by my final year of undergrad, I already knew deep in my heart that I didn’t enjoy being in a laboratory. As cool as it was to design experiments and analyze the data to draw meaningful conclusions, the actual act of being inside a large, cold room, (often by myself) was just not a pleasant experience for me.  

So I began to do some digging to figure out what programs and professions are available in Canada that I can really get on board with. Medicine was definitely of interest, but going to school to re-do pre-requisites in Canada (because my ‘local’ credits were not acceptable to them) and then applying for a program where only a few percentage of applicants get in – was a bit nerve wracking. I then considered paramedicine, nursing, dentistry, and pharmacy. After an extensive amount of reading online, watching youtube videos and speaking to actual people who were working in these fields, I felt that nursing would be the way to go. 

The way I saw it was that there was nothing I could not do as an RN (registered nurse). I could choose to stay a nurse and work in hospitals, nursing homes, clinics and doctor’s offices. I could choose to specialize in anesthesia, geratric care or pick another specialty. I could even become an independent NP (Nurse Practitioner) and diagnose patients in the community, much like a family doctor. I could combine by undergraduate research experience and my nursing degree to help conduct clinical trials. I could become a teacher and take life into academia. I could one day wake up and decide to join some international organization and volunteer my time as a nurse in warzones or places with famines and epidemics. 

The one big problem was that I needed a full 4-year undergrad to become an RN. 

Meanwhile, my family’s insistence had driven me to apply to graduate school programs and my offer letters began to come in. My nursing acceptance came first and I was absolutely thrilled. Within a few short days, my acceptance to two different Master’s programs came in as well. With these offers, there was a guaranteed tuition scholarship for the two years of my Master’s program as well as the guaranteed research stipend (which is like a salary). 

This made things very difficult for me. My family disapproved of nursing very openly. Not only because I hadn’t received scholarships for it, but also because it was a profession that was looked down upon (and unfairly so) in South Asia. This is the moment that I (kind of) regret a little in my life. I gave in to the greed of leading a comfortable life devoid of student loans and part-time jobs. I also gave in to what my grandmother, aunts and my father were rooting for. That’s what led me to continue my career in medical science research. 

I want to say that I ‘wasted’ the following two years of my life doing a Master’s of Microbiology & Immunology under the Faculty of Medicine at OttawaU. However, that would not be fair to all the experiences and achievements I had during that time. In the end of all that, I went right back to where I had started. Three scholarships, a few prizes and recognitions, and one research publication later… I still remained unhappy and anxious being stuck in a Biosafety Level 3 Laboratory. Some days I thought I needed to drink alcohol or try drugs just to feel something. I entered a dark period of my life when I began to realize how I would let people push me next into a phD. And just as I had thought, my supervisor eventually made me a financial offer I could not refuse, and I accepted a position in his lab to do my phD in Immunology as well. 

Image may contain: Faria Ahmed, smiling, eyeglasses

I spend 30 incredibly suffocating days following that decision. After that, I had had enough. I went back to my supervisor and to his surprise I said I didn’t want to do my phD. He was disappointed beyond belief and so were the rest of my family members and loved ones. Even my closest friends were questioning my decision and my sanity. But I knew what I did was right for me. 

I had never been so sure of something in my life. I knew this is what I wanted to do and I knew I would do it no matter what. I watched silently as my ‘world’ crumbled around me. I finished my degree, I graduated later than my peers, I had no job offers because the only thing I was trained for throughout my life was research. It became nearly impossible for me to get a job in fields other than research, as my skills were simply too specialized for that industry. My Scholarship money and my research stipend both ended and I was broke and unemployed. Even in that moment when my father kept asking me what I hell I was doing with my life…I turned to him and said with full confidence, that I was going to become a nurse. 

In that very moment, I had found myself. 



Millennials & Money

Adulting
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By Faria Ahmed

From being called ‘entitled’, ‘impractical’ to ‘lazy’, we millennials have been called everything in the spectrum that defines financial recklessness. Interestingly, an article by CNBC reported that Millennials actually have similar spending habits when compared to their previous generations, but it is their lower income that starts them off as poorer adults. Another report explains how most millenials came of age during the financial depression, started off with large amounts of student debt, and/or are dealing with higher housing costs than any of their predecessors. That often forces them to lean on credit cards to meet essential needs and deal with sudden emergencies. And thus we fall into a vicious cycle of debt and compound interest. As bad a hand as we have been dealt, the only way forward is to be extra cautious and assertive when it comes to dealing with finances. Here are the top financial lessons I have had throughout my 20s:

Income: The math of financial stability is quite simple. More money coming in compared to money going out will lead to greater stability. If the reverse is true, you will begin to submerge in debt unless you make some drastic changes to prevent it. It is difficult to maintain a decent income when you are in school or just starting off your career. However, I personally found a few tricks which I think helps to solve the problem. Firstly, I would recommend working full-time for the summer (or other vacations) from the first year of university (if not sooner). If you work through the breaks during high school and university, you should be able to build up a solid savings account before you even move out from your parent’s home. If you are living on your own, try to keep an evening and weekend job which will keep a steady flow of cash coming in while you finish school or begin your day-time job/internship. If you have an interesting hobby or a skill, see if you can sell some of your creations or earn some cash by doing performances at events. It’s a great experience and it is also an amazing feeling to be appreciated through remuneration for a skill you have developed out of passion. 

Banking: Money comes and money goes. Especially for cash, I always felt that keeping track of it and the loose change it acquires can be difficult. The minute I break a big note, I feel like the value of the coins pretty much disappears into thin air. I also end up spending more when I’m buying something and the vendor doesn’t have change on them. For that reason, banking and using a debit card is an excellent solution to the problem. The only thing to keep in mind is that the use of the debit card itself should not be adding to your cost. So, make sure to check out the bank you use and make sure there is an unlimited number of transactions that you can do with the debit card without acquiring more fees. 

Investments: I’m personally not a huge fan of investments, but let me try to give it a fair shot here. If you do actually have a decent amount of savings sitting somewhere, and you don’t need to dip into it for emergencies and daily expenses in the next year or two, you may want to consider investing. You can invest in your country’s local stock market or even in a business venture which you think has potential. The reason I’m not a fan of investment is the high risk that is associated with it. For someone who is a serial entrepreneur, I am surprisingly scared of large, risky investments. The other reason I don’t invest is that I don’t understand the factors influencing the stock market where I live now. This means I may not be able to safely predict risk periods and falling values and end up losing money. However, if you are someone that enjoys staying up to date on social, political and economic issues and your instincts about rising or falling stock values have been correct the last few times, it may not be a terrible idea to invest. 

Assets: The other type of investment, and one that I personally prefer, is investing in assets. This can be a car or a home or a piece of land. Ideally something that goes up in value (unlike a car which actually falls in value over time). You can put your money in silver, gold, real estate and many other options. Some people even invest in paintings or rare coins- but again the market for those are way more complex and dependent on your understanding of the industry  at a given point of time. 

Lifestyle Choices: Having been a shopaholic, a creative interior designer and in general a capitalist for the major part of my life, I think it is important to consider the lifestyle choices we are willing to make or give up, in order to achieve financial stability. I personally do not have a fasication for expensive/branded clothing, jewelry, perfumes, watches or bags. That in itself allows me to save tons of money which I then spend on my essentials and a little bit on my passion for travelling. Even if you do have an expensive hobby or passion, there’s always ways to get around without spending a large amount of money. Instead of staying at hotels and taking guided tours, you can go backpacking across continents, live in hostels or with friends, plan your trip to the last bit to avoid unexpected costs and so on. Having said that, we all do need to live a little in our 20s. It is a precious time when we have high energy and our youth allows us to push ourselves to the maximum of enjoyment and learning. So long as you can cut back on some unnecessary expenses and avoid debt, go and do what your heart truly desires. Work some extra weekends and save up for that trip to Disney World or save all your Christmas or Eid gift money so you can finally buy yourself the latest gadget.

That’s it right there. My top 5 suggestions to improve the relationship between us millenials and our financial goals. For inspiration, don’t forget to check out this story about a couple who managed to save $20,000 in their first three months of being married! Happy Saving!

Sources of Statistics: CBS News , CNBC