A Money Coach in Canada

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On Feb 20, 2009 I boarded a plane and moved from Vancouver, my home of 20 years, to Yellowknife.   I was born and grew up in Yellowknife, so it’s not quite as impetuous as it may sound.  I moved for two primary reasons:  The Gov’t of the NWT offered a job I couldn’t resist and I wanted to help my senior parent transition to life “down south”.   In the decision making process, I wrote out pros and cons, but I overlooked a few!  Here are 5 factors that deserved more sober attention than I gave them:

1.  The value of my professional network I’d built up. I hadn’t fully grasped the implications of starting from scratch, at this stage of my life and career.  Over two decades in Vancouver, I’d built up a vast network of people who knew me, knew what I was about, and knew what I was capable of delivering.  I underestimated the quiet sense of security that provides a person.  My colleagues up here are wonderfully warm and receptive to be sure, but nothing can replace two decades of building up a professional reputation.  This leaves me feeling a lot more professionally vulnerable than I had expected.  I often feel like I have to ask for the benefit-of-the-doubt since my new network hasn’t actually seen demonstrated results from me yet.  Presumably this will diminish with time, but still, I wish I’d reflected more deeply on this.  Lesson: factor this in, and ensure there are support structures in place to compensate for this loss.

2. The job is quite different than what I’d expected.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact, it may play out very positively.  Nevertheless, moving 3,000 miles to make that discovery is unsettling.  When making a career change within your geographic area, you are more likely to be in better touch with an informal network that can give you a clearer picture of the employer.  If you discover it’s not what you want, after all (and I’m not saying that’s the case for me!  It remains to be seen…), it’s a whole lot easier to opt for a Plan B if you’re in your home stomping grounds.  Lesson:  dig a little deeper, if possible, to get as complete a picture as possible of the new job context.

3. The situation has changed for my parent. One of my reasons for moving up here has been unexpectedly eliminated for reasons that have nothing to do with me.   Lesson: In retrospect, I wouldn’t move for the sake of another person, unless things had been really nailed down. I think of all the women/men who have moved for the sake of a new relationship only to discover the relationship didn’t work, and shake my head a little.  If you have a story to tell about that, I’d like to hear about it – leave a comment!

4. The personal impact of changing cities. Because I grew up here, I thought I knew Yellowknife, and in many ways that’s the case.  But I didn’t realize how deeply I’d miss a few elements that align with my values and aren’t available to me here.  These include my formal, gritty, inclusive (!) parish church which nourished my spiritual life, it includes digital infrastructure (YK isn’t really wired), and above all it includes my home – I’m in an adequate rental unit but it doesn’t provide the sense of contentment and “at home-ness” that my condo in gastown provided.  These are taking a cumulative toll on me and I wish I’d taken them into greater account in my decision-making process.  Lesson: Clearly identify values critical to quality-of-life and weigh them heavily into the decision.

5. The ancillary costs of a move.   For me it’s been:  $1200 to build a fence for my dogs, $1000 for a winter parka, $3000 to paint and fix up my Vancouver condo for the tenant, easily $2000 in replacement costs for furniture which I didn’t bring with me, $2000 in airfares for Christmas … you get the picture!  Lesson:  just like home renos, I suspect moves always entail unexpected expenses.  Add 50% to the estimate!

I cannot conclude without saying this:  None of this is in any way a reflection on Yellowknife or my new job.  Rather, it’s a sober acknowledgment that in many ways, this move was a Bigger Deal than I’d originally anticipated.   Maybe, like a lot in life (parenting?), it’s a good thing we don’t know all the challenges in advance or we’d stay in our comfort zones.

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. Kat Karen Pattinson


    Thank you for sharing your thoughts; I don’t think we ever know the truth about making the moving until we are into it. 🙂 I did move up to Fort St. John for a man but also for myself. It was not easy to leave my family of faith, my family and a city filled with friends, great food and shopping. But I also know that it was important for me to not live in a safety zone; just for the sake of the unknown.

    I feel so blessed and so happy with what has moving up here as brought me and it outweighs the hard things. I have cried a few nights over missing family and how at times I wish that I had people to celebrate the Sabbats with or how at 41 making friends is much harder. But we are surround by an amazing beauty, we have fox and deer in the backyard and clean air; I don’t miss the smog of Vancouver. I love watching the seasons change and still get excited about the snow.

    I have heard that it takes 2 years to feel like a place can be home. I love how my hairdresser stops by when she is visiting a friend in our complex and how the cashier at Save-On knows us.

    I know for each person it is different. I hope that you enjoy the adventure of it all. Think of it as part of the journey and that you will have awesome stories to tell if or when you return back to your life in Vancouver.

    love and blessings,


    Oct 05, 2009
  2. brad

    I feel your…well, maybe it’s not exactly pain, but clearly you’re feeling some misgivings and a few regrets.

    When I was 41, I moved to Montréal from rural Vermont, to live with my girlfriend. That move was the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. I had lived nearly all my life in the U.S. (born in Ontario but we moved to the States when I was 10 months old), so moving to Canada was a big step, plus my girlfriend is from France and living in a very francophone quarter of Montréal so that was a big adjustment. I had never lived in a city before; in Vermont I lived 5 miles up a steep dirt road in a little cottage surrounded by forest and fields. That life had suited me just fine.

    Our landlord in Montréal spoke no English, only Italian and Québecois French, and I had to learn to do all my shopping, banking, car repairs, etc. in French. I left behind all my friends and family in the US, and while I already knew quite a few people in Montréal I found myself depressed and homesick for the first couple of years.

    Then my girlfriend’s daughter decided to leave her father and live with us, which added more misery to the mix: she was a juvenile delinquent who rarely went to her classes, had trouble with drugs and alcohol, and paid no attention to any of our rules. We got used to visits from the police, drug deals on our front steps, suicide attempts, prostitution, serial crises, and lots more.

    Three or four years in, I was ready to call it quits and figured I’d made the biggest mistake of my life. But I stuck it out. I got used to life in the city and started appreciating it. My stepdaughter dropped out of school and eventually left home to live with a boyfriend. My girlfriend and I bought a lovely house together in a quiet neighbourhood on the bike path, near a big park where I can cross-country ski in winter. I made new friends.

    A few years ago if you’d asked me what I would do if my girlfriend left me for someone else or booted me out, I would have replied with no hesitation, “I’d move right back to Vermont.” But now I’m not sure. I think I’d stay here. Maybe not in Montréal, but probably somewhere in the province; at the very least I’d stay in Canada.

    My point is that humans are adaptable. We adjust. It does get harder the older you are…a move like this would have been a cinch in my 20s. It was a lot more difficult in my 40s. I don’t know if I’d even contemplate it in my 50s. But I do think that, if you can stick it out and give it a few more years, the tide may turn and you may find it was a good decision. But if you don’t get that feeling, hightail it back south before it’s too late. The longer you stay away, the harder it will be to slip back into the networks and lifestyle you had in Vancouver.


    Oct 05, 2009
  3. Made big move to Scotland from Canada in mid 50s and find that such a disruption, enormous as it is, can be beneficial. Now happily blogging instead of working in constraining corporate world. Airfare to go back and visit friends and family does add up to a significant on-going cost. I think as you get older adjustment time is longer though.
    .-= CanadianInvestor´s last blog ..UN Praises Canada =-.


    Oct 06, 2009
  4. Well it looks like I’m in good company 🙂
    Thanks for sharing your experiences.
    @Kat good point re: we can’t know in advance the truth. I’m so happy for all that’s transpired for you!
    @brad holy smokes. Well, now I think: if you can make it past all that you did, I sure better 😉 Seriously, that’s quite a story. Thanks for your encouragement.
    @Canadian Investor Again, encouraging – wow – crossing an ocean no less, and shedding corporate for blogging. It’s good to hear how well it worked out for you.


    Oct 06, 2009

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