Lessons

    

Multiculturalism and money
Canadians come from many cultural backgrounds.

So, let's take advantage of how other cultures think about money.

We talked with Christina Quinn, author of Wake up or Die Poor, about how her Russian heritage influences her approach to managing money.

 

Q:  You are Russian by birth;  can you tell us about the attitude of Russians toward money?  What can Canadians learn from Russians about money?
 

Ms. Quinn:  I think talking about money is a big taboo in Canada.  And I believe it is very much cultural.  As Canadians, we will absolutely never discuss, even with those closest to us, how much money we earn or what kind of debt load we carry. 

 

Imagine sitting at a dinner party and one of your guests announces that she just received a credit card offer in the mail and she’s moving her $23,487 worth of consumer debt to reap the rewards of the 2% introductory rate, followed by a frank pow-wow around the details of the fees for using those lump sum transfer cheques. 

 

Or the couple across from her talking about a fantastic break they received from their bank manager on a $225,690 variable rate mortgage that would save them almost $4,500 in interest payments this year to use for their RRSPs, so that if they continued earning their $83,000 collective household income, it would be enough to retire at 57 instead of 60. 

 

Crazy talk, right? 

 

The Russian discussion is very different. 

 

Of course, this is a bit of a generalization, but I will say that when a Russian comes into your home, the first thing s/he’ll ask is how much you paid for it, how big a mortgage you got, and then move right on to the price of your dining table without skipping a beat. 

 

 

It’s just not seen as rude or taboo. 

 

Russians for the most part do not attach these numbers to our value as human beings.  They’re just numbers, information, data.  It may be because under communist rule, everyone basically earned the same income. 

 

It didn’t matter if you were a doctor, a teacher, a plumber, or a janitor.  You were basically entitled to the same living quarters and everyone’s standard of living was basically the same. If you knew how to sew, you looked better than most because you could get clothes to actually fit or piece rags together to make a unique outfit;  but salary, costs, and prices for things were completely irrelevant to who you were.

 

Canadians believe their salary and to a great extent, their debt, defines who they are. No one wants to come clean about their specific financial affairs. We need to get over these stigmas.  We need to get over labels and fear in general. 

 

Sharing this kind of information could liberate so many people unaware of opportunities available to them.  I believe that the stigma attached to real money talk keeps us from developing the vocabulary and skills we need to do the right research, make the right decisions and negotiate with the banks and our creditors to get the best answers, products and services for our specific situation.

 

The only way to achieve our financial goals is to get real, and to get real numbers out into the open. We need the specifics, we need to get them down on paper so that we can make real fact-based decisions about how we’re going to move forward and reach our goals. 

Finance Spa is a mockup of a project under development.