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Erin Bury on quitting a stable job for a risky paycheque, investing in her 20s and more

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What’s the best money advice you’ve ever received?

To pay yourself first. One of the first money books I ever read was The Automatic Millionaire, and it really stressed the importance of setting up automated bill payments and savings so you’re always prioritizing your long-term financial health. That really helped me in my 20s; I wasn’t making much money, but even setting aside $25 from each paycheque into an RRSP allowed me to build savings, which in turn helped me buy my first property at age 29.

What’s the worst money advice you’ve ever received?

To stay at a stable job because of the salary. When I was 23, I was working at a PR agency, my first job out of university. I was approached to work for a startup, and several people in my life told me to keep the stable job, especially since it was the height of the 2008 recession. Thankfully my mom gave me the best advice: “You’re young, take the risk. What’s the worst that could happen?” That decision put me on an entrepreneurial path, and 15 years later my life is fundamentally different—and better!—because I didn’t [focus solely on] that stable paycheque.

What is the most underrated financial strategy?

Prioritize emergency planning. Now that I run an online will platform, I’m very passionate about getting solid emergency plans in place. I have life insurance, a will, power of attorney documents, a password management app and written instructions that my family or executor would be able to put into action if anything happened. Most Canadians don’t think about this, but they should.

What is the biggest misconception people have about growing money?

That the stock market is the only way to grow your net worth. I’m not a stock market person—it’s just not my area of expertise. Instead, I’ve focused on growing my net worth via real estate and entrepreneurship. There’s not just one path to success.

Can you share a money regret?

I didn’t start saving until I was in my early 20s, despite having a job since the age of 14. If I could go back in time I would save even 10% of every paycheque, and I would have bought a condo in Toronto in 2007 when I graduated university and moved downtown. I rented a condo from 2007 until 2015, and when I think about how all of that rent could have been paying down a mortgage it makes me a bit sick to my stomach!

What’s the first major purchase you made as an adult? 

It was a pre-construction condo in Toronto in 2014. I was running a marketing agency that worked with condo builders, and while working at a launch event I decided to purchase one of the units with my savings. Luckily they were flexible on the payment deadlines. That unit wasn’t ready until 2020, and we lived in it briefly before deciding to sell it this spring. The condo appreciated significantly over that time, and I’m still proud that I was able to buy that on my own and really jumpstart my real estate portfolio.

What’s your take on debt?

Debt can be used as a strategic instrument, both personally and in business. For example, we have raised convertible debt at Willful, and it’s a strategic way to raise external financing without having to put a set value on the company. 

Personally, I feel there are good types of debt—like home equity lines of credit that help you improve the resale value of your home or invest in new properties—and bad debt like high-interest credit cards. As an entrepreneur who has gone through periods of paying myself nothing, there have been times when I’ve lived off credit cards. Bad debt is often unavoidable, but it should always be a means to an end.