Credit card debt can ‘rule your life if you don’t watch it,’ says 26-year-old landscaper earning $60,000

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Credit card debt can ‘rule your life if you don’t watch it,’ says 26-year-old landscaper earning $60,000

Name: James Power

Age: 26

Annual income: $60,000

Savings: $300 in TFSA; $1,300 in RRSP; $300 in life insurance dividends

Debt: $20,600 in bank loan; $19,500 on credit card

What he does: Construction project manager/landscaper

Where he lives: Kanata, Ont.

Top financial concern: “I want to get out of debt, save a bit of money and have some disposable income. We want to do a tour of Asia − Thailand and Japan.”

James Power wants to put 2017 − and his past financial mistakes − behind him. Since graduating in 2014 from Algonquin College with a degree in civil engineering and $23,000 in student bank loans, Mr. Power has worked in construction and landscaping to pay off his debt.

But when his grandparents in the United Kingdom both passed away in 2017, he was forced to fork out $5,000 for last-minute airfares and travel costs. He also got laid off, leading him to reluctantly cash in $2,000 of his RRSPs. “It was a pretty big hit to take,” he says.

Then there was the credit-card debt he had accumulated as a student. “I unfortunately did not learn as a kid the importance of how to deal with credit cards – and that they rule your life if you don’t watch it,” says Mr. Power, who is paying off his debt each month, with $400 going to credit cards and $400 to the bank loan.

2018 has brought new opportunities. Mr. Power was hired full-time in February at a successful landscaping firm that works with the city of Ottawa to landscape parks. “I get to see this park, which is dilapidated − we do all the sodding and planting − and we come in to reinvent it,” he says. “It’s so rewarding. I love what I do.”

Mr. Power has been fortunate in his housing situation. He had been living with his girlfriend’s mother after being unable to find a rental that would take pets. He and his girlfriend recently moved out into a Barrhaven, Ont., home purchased by his uncle, who has agreed to sell the home to the couple at market value when they can raise enough funds to purchase it.

In the meantime, Mr. Power will pay a low rent and upgrade the home. “My uncle stepped in and said ‘I can buy a house for you,’ ” he says. “The deal is we’re going to do work on it.” Mr. Power is planning renovations over the summer.

For now, he is focused on living frugally, keeping his grocery bills to $100 a week, and forgoing travel this year. His goals include growing his savings, paying off his debt and hopefully travelling some day. He hints at wedding bells in the future.

“I want to get out of debt, save a bit of money and have some disposable income,” says Mr. Power. “If I can be at a point in my life when I don’t have to have to think about when payday is, that’s the goal. We also want to travel, we want to do a tour of Asia − Thailand and Japan.”

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