A Money Coach in Canada

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My life has not been a long streak of happiness and I’m betting yours hasn’t either. In fact, I’ve gone through several long periods where life didn’t feel good. At. All. The months following getting a B on my thesis (the death knell for an academic career) a string of promising relationships that weren’t so promising after all (the most recent resulting in over a year of utter grief), and the painful discovery over the years that life probably wouldn’t meet my expectations of it…

Somewhere along the way, I stopped chasing happiness.

And you know that cliche about happiness finding you when you stop chasing it, like a pretty butterfly? It ain’t true.

Furthermore, somewhere along the way, I stopped chasing an uber-life. Whether or not life meets my expectations is increasingly irrelevant to me.

Now I’ll boldly put this out there: I think I’m better off for it, and so is the world around me.

Something about letting go of the quest for a really great life is freeing. It allows me to set aside questions of personal satisfaction in favour of getting to know this gorgeous globe of people. It allows me to say “screw off” to powers that previously had me in their grip, because they represented something I wanted. It allows me to choose solidarity with the discarded people in my neighbourhood (not that I do it very well. I’m a newbie at this) instead of joining in with the ‘clean up those junkies’ crowd.

Am I happy? I honestly don’t know. I’m certainly not miserable, although I cry a lot more than I used to (if you saw an act of kindness to a junkie, you would too)

Am I free? More and more.

Does my life has meaning? I like to think so. It sure feels like it.

As I learn to deepen my roots in this soil, the continual barrage of messages insisting that “you can you the life you want” sound increasingly shrill and fake.

I wonder. If we all tuned out those messages, and just got on with inhabiting this planet, taking due note of it, of deeply respecting our lives (which is different than insisting they be wonderful), of deeply respecting the lives of others, what would the world look like?

If your life isn’t shiny and nice, you have a friend in me. And if you want to meet a couple other people who I suspect don’t have shiny lives, but I’m quite sure have a passion for life itself, here’s a start:

Sean Orr, a young man who’s done more to take the wind out of mainstream media headlines than anyone I’ve known, and has much stronger critical thinking skills than I did in my 20’s, (heads up: he’s not for the faint of heart)


Blackbird, a photographer who captures the humanity of my ‘hood like no one else.

Oh. what does all this have to do with money? I’ll leave that one to you ….


Update:  Isabella wrote this poem partly as her response to this post.  Thanks, Isabella – it’s often nearly impossible to believe in a god – any god – who cares.  Somehow, i still do, which i suppose is a miracle in itself.

care to pull together your heart,
your caring heart, pull it together and pull it apart
open it up, make it an abode
of the godless, the heartless, the ones without eyes,
care to break open your heart
and let the blood flow
out on the streets
into the gutter
where jesus
sits and smokes a pipe
with the likes of you and me?

care to rip up your heart
take it out onto the highway
see the road rage, see the tired truckers,
see the dead dog, the one that tried to cross
where once was a yard –

care to lay down your heart
at the feet
of a god
who cares?

About the Author

Imagine if Canadians were known for being all over their money. Engaged. Proactive. Getting out of debt. Savvy. Saving. Generous. Nancy wants to help. Nancy started her own journey with money over 15 years ago, and formed her company “Your Money by Design” in 2004 to help others along the same path. It’s not the usual financial advising/investment stuff. It’s about taking control of day-to-day finances –managing monthly cashflow effectively, spending appropriately, getting out of debt, saving. If you're ready to take control over your finances, pop by her business site, YourMoneybyDesign.com


  1. oh gaw. where do i start.

    i notice that despite my impending cold, i am much more passionate about dragging a response to this out of my tired brain than a previous post to which i “should” have responded professionally.

    this post, my dear, has so much meat in it i HAVE to sink my teeth into it.

    1) what’s happiness? we all have our own definitions, and that’s good an important. however, i find that much happiness lies in contentment. here’s one: most of my relationships are very, very good. that’s happiness. kinda dwarfs the rust spots on my old car.

    2) deepening roots in the crazy soil of the downtown eastside, that’s LIVING. is it “happy” living? do you care?

    3) the world is better off for your/own non-shiny life – isn’t that happiness? why measure happiness only in terms of our little singular lives?

    if we all tuned out inane messages, and just got on with inhabiting this planet, taking due note of it, deeply respecting our lives and that of others, the world would look reeeeal good. what could be happier than that?


    Mar 17, 2008
  2. Thanks Nancy! Great post!


    Mar 17, 2008
  3. Just spotted this on twitter and, after a quick glance, have reserved it for more focused reading after my travel today.

    PS: Wish the blinking fluorescent light in this conference room *was* playing the moonlight sonata instead of the “bug bouncing against the hot light bulb” stoccata.


    Mar 18, 2008
  4. I guess I am lazy, because I have seen my Father and Brother chase the elusive “Best Life” for different reasons, and decided (did I really decide, or procrastinate) that just wasn’t what I wanted.

    I’d love to have more money, I’d love to have a more stable job environment, and I’d love to feel I was more physically fit (I am not in bad shape), but then again, at what cost?

    Everything has a price, are you willing to pay it?


    Mar 18, 2008
  5. @isabella – thot of you as I was writing. My prof’s would have been all over this for how roughly framed my little argument is, esp defining terms like ‘happiness’. I’m not sure that ‘the world being better off’ translates into collective happiness, although that could be one side effect. And I do agree – what could be happier than the world looking reeeall good because we have learned to respect our own lives, and those of others. In fact, I’d choose a stronger word – maybe, joyous.
    @sean – just keep doing what you’re doing.
    @matt – thanks for dropping by! And of course, welcome your thoughts. Hope you’ve recovered from the demonic light.
    @C8j – i suppose figuring out what’s worth paying for, and what’s not, is one of our life-long questions, yeah?


    Mar 18, 2008
  6. Thanks for the heartfelt article and the compliment on my photos.

    There may be times, years down the road, when you question whether you made the right move going with your heart instead of with your wallet. The answer to that question is, who knows? No one can say what might have happened. But what did happen is you chose to live an authentic life, to be true to your own instincts and nature.

    Take care.


    Mar 18, 2008
  7. Those who are always chasing never seem happy to me (despite the lip service to the contrary). We do what we do, try to improve what we can, and we should enjoy the shiny moments (wasn’t yesterday lovely out?). Great post as usual Nancy.


    Mar 19, 2008
  8. I don’t think that we are very good at determining what will make us happy. After all there is an entire industry devoted to turning us into consumers – and it takes quite a while to realise that buying things – or experiences – based on commercials is not going to make you happy. But obviously enough people do that. otherwise the economy would grind to a halt. Or maybe that is what is happening just south of here.

    I did not get off the merry go round voluntarily. And I spent frustrating few years trying to clamber back on. But once I stopped doing that, and let go of all the things I had been trying to hang onto, I suddenly kept having these brief moments when it occurred to me that I was actually happy. Not all the time. And hardly ever at 3am. But more often now. And after a while you start to recognize what will make you happy – and what you need to do to get it.

    Often surprisingly little.


    Mar 23, 2008


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