6 Money Lessons We All Need To Learn (A CPFC Recap)


If you follow me on Twitter it’ll be no surprise to hear that I was at a personal finance conference this past weekend: the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. It’s what was behind all of my #CPFC16 tweets, and if you missed it, that hashtag is gold. So many people tweeted the best lines from every presentation that it’s worth reading all on it’s own.

Seriously, go now. I’ll wait.

We good? Awesome. It was my first year attending the conference, but I can say definitively it won’t be my last, because it was everything. Not only did I have an amazing time, meeting amazing people, I learned a lot too.

Since not everyone could make it, I figured I’d share some of the most relevant money lessons I learned at CPFC with you guys – because whether you’re a finance blogger or not, they’re hella valuable.

You can acquire skills if you practice

I’ve made a few videos over the past year, which you can (embarrassingly enough) find on the Half Banked Youtube channel. However, I don’t make them on a regular basis, because I am not what one would call “good at video.” From having no idea how to sync the audio track, to knowing what kind of file to export it as, to not making the weirdest faces on camera, it’s just not my strong suit.

But… I want to be good at video. It would be an awesome skill to have, and in the very first session on Saturday, Melissa Leong called out video specifically as a skill you can learn. Sure, it takes work, but it’s also worth it.

Hmm… sounds like something I’ve said multiple times about managing your money, eh? “It takes work, but it’s also worth it.” Since I’m all about starting where you are and being gentle with yourself when it comes to money, maybe I need to cut myself the same deal in terms of video – and then just start. (Again.)

Your best financial decisions are based on you

After Melissa’s presentation, there was a powerhouse (ahahaha puns) panel of housing experts, talking about the housing market and affordability. There was a lot of really interesting insight, including Rob Carrick’s brutally accurate rebuttal to everyone who says that housing is a forced savings plan: it’s also a forced spending plan.

But they also admitted that the housing market is hugely based on your location. What’s true in one city, or even one neighbourhood, or one type of housing, isn’t true for everyone. To take it a step further, some of the advice that I didn’t agree with was based on the fact that what’s true for one person isn’t always true for everyone.

Since I know (to an almost obsessive level) exactly how much I can afford to spend, and what that gets me in my current neighbourhood, I’m able to decide which financial advice is and isn’t relevant to my housing decisions.

As long as you know what’s true for you, you’ll be able to make decisions based on that, as well as the expert advice available. And that’s how you’ll really make the best possible financial decisions.

Know how much you’re worth

Lesley-Anne Scorgie gave an awesome talk about the business of side hustling, and broke down some serious real talk about the economics of building a biz. One of the best things she brought up is that so many of us are way too comfortable de-valuing our work.

Stop it! Stop it, stop it, stop it. Whether it’s doing your research and asking for more money at work, or raising your rates, your work is valuable. If you never test out your pricing – which includes your salary – you’ll never know what people would have paid for your work. 

Know what’s worth it to you

The closing keynote, from Bruce Sellery, was unreal. He had one simple question that changed the game:

What’s your money for?

He walked through some great examples, like “adventure” and “beauty,” and how your personal answer will have a big impact on how you can best spend your money, and how you plan your financial life. Aside from the running Twitter joke that my money is for dogs (only half a joke, it’s actually pretty accurate) I was able to clarify some important distinctions about how I want to spend my money.

And yes, I said spend my money. Not save. It turns out, mind-blowingly enough, money is for spending, too.

Be yourself

Ok, the running joke for the weekend was that I was probably the biggest nerd in a room full of nerds, because I could not keep my cool when I met new people. Seriously, I don’t know how anyone did, because pretty much all of the rockstars of personal finance were like, right there! I got to meet so many of my favourite authors and bloggers and financial-email-senders, and you know that saying, don’t meet your heroes?

Well, you should totally do it, they’re super nice.

But you know what was easy? Not trying to manage my reactions during the weekend. Like yeah, I get it, I have no chill and was truly, deeply excited to meet these humans, so I let it very clearly show that I was thrilled to talk to them. If nothing else, it was very on-brand for me, and I think at least half of them weren’t freaked out by my enthusiasm.

I find the same approach – just doing what I know comes naturally to me – applies to money, too. Once you know what you value (aka what your money is “for”) and you’re clear on that, spending in line with the things you naturally love feels like the easiest thing in the world. You can also start to scale way, way back on spending that doesn’t improve your life.

Start today

If you’re on my email list, you got a super-sappy email from me on Saturday, about how glad I am that I started Half Banked when I did. I feel like I’m living the cliche of “A year from now, you’ll be glad you started today,” because it’s true in a lot of ways.

I’m glad I started Half Banked when I did from a blogging perspective, because it really does take a while for a blog to gain traction – and ahem, for you to get good at it. (Speaking from personal experience on that one!) It was great to feel like I was at the point of having friends in the personal finance community at the conference, precisely because the blog has been around for a while.

And I’m glad I started tackling my money stuff when I did, too.

  • I’m glad I started tracking my spending over a year ago, so that when Christmas becomes a madhouse of spending, I won’t bury my head in the sand and avoid my spreadsheet for weeks. I planned for this!
  • I’m glad I compared my insurance rates when I did, because saving $25 a month with no discernible impact on my life is still just fantastic.
  • I’m glad I invested when I did, because even with the absolutely nutso 18 months we’ve experienced in the stock market, I’m up more than $1000 in my Wealthsimple account in pure investment returns, simply by staying calm and continuing to contribute on a regular basis. That’s $1000 I wouldn’t have had if I had kept avoiding investing. 

But uh, back to the friends thing for a second.

There’s no way I could link to all of the amazing people I met this weekend, because this post is already way too long, but to literally all of you: you’re amazing humans and I’m even more excited that we met than I seemed to be at the time. True story.

If you were at CPFC this year, what was your biggest takeaway from the weekend? And if you didn’t go, you’re coming next year, right?!

PS. If you’re looking for an inside view of the weekend, my unbelievably great roommate Alyssa from Mixed Up Money did a vlog about her time at the conference, and I make some horribly embarrassing cameos. So good at video, you guys!