12 Years

• 4 min read

Hello my friends!

Welcome back to Toonie! It’s been awhile.

It’s been five full weeks since I last shared a Toonie newsletter.

Let me explain.

I wrote the CPA Canada Common Final Exam (CFE) at the end of May. Formerly the Universal Final Exam (UFE), the CFE is one of Canada’s more difficult professional exams. The exam spanned three days —  four hours, five hours, and five hours, respectively — and required skill demonstration covering a competency map that I started studying in 2009. It was a long, long haul and May 2021 was the home stretch.

I’m done now though, and it’s been a really, really fun first week post-exam. I’ve had the chance to go for a bike ride with my family for the first time this year. We started some landscaping in the backyard. And we’ve done some summer camping planning.

After 12 years of school, I’ve learned some lessons along the way. They aren’t all related to personal finance, but they are especially related to life. I’d like to get a few of those lessons off my chest before diving back into some financial tips next week.

Here’s a lot of pent up thinking from the last decade.

The Most Important Lessons Come from the Least Expected Places

You’re bound to learn a few things over the course of 12 years. There are the basic lessons, like diligence, networking, and critical thinking. There are the not-so-basic lessons, like basically any technical piece of knowledge in any field.

And then there are the lessons you never expected to learn. Or the lessons you didn’t think you needed to learn.

I’m not a particularly humble writer — I’ve written a blog for 8+ years, I’ve written for online publications for 5+ years, and I inherited my mother’s fast piano fingers. Those skills have combined into a competitive advantage I’ve utilized right through to the last day of exam writing.

But it also led to a humble lesson in 2013. I had recently graduated with my degree from the University of Winnipeg and had started working towards my then-CGA designation. I waltzed into that Business Communications course unlike anyone you’ve ever seen, thinking I didn’t have to blink and I’d score an A+.

Though it took some persistence, the instructor was able to put me in my place.

Business Communications was as advertised — a humble lesson in learning how to write efficiently, effectively, and worthy of closing a deal. Additional lessons included how to speak during an interview, how to write a memo, how to structure an email, and how to consistently structure bulleted lists. Boring, dry, but incredibly useful.

I use the lessons I learned in Business Communications every single day.

If you told me to recommend a single course I took over the last 12 years, I would recommend Business Communications.

Patience is a Competitive Advantage

In a world of instant gratification, patience will inevitably become more rare. In the world of career-making, patience means delaying income, delaying vacations, delaying new vehicles and new toys. It means watching your peers do things you yearn to do, or questioning whether your perseverance will be worth it.

But patience has its benefits.

Patience breeds consistency and stability. To start, work through, and complete a long-term journey means to trust the process, to trust individuals around you, to trust those people are put there for a reason, and to trust yourself.

Patience requires you to adapt to your surroundings, to listen to feedback provided, and to implement lessons as you’re directed. Patience will make it clear when you need to forge your own path or when it’s wise to follow the path most travelled.

Patience proves to others you’re willing to see the results of your work. It proves to others you measure twice and cut once. It proves to others you don’t tend to give up when you face a little adversity.

In a world where no one else wants to work 8 to 10 years to position themselves for a stable future, or in a world where short-term investment returns are the only returns that count, patience becomes a competitive advantage.

It’s Always Worth It

You don’t have to look hard for people denouncing the value of a post-secondary education. Considering the staggering compensation and the lack of correlation between schooling and salary in the tech industry, who can blame advisors for making the claim?

But there are three specific reasons why I think investing in yourself is worth it.

First, fast and high compensation comes great risk. A post-secondary education provides stability, consistency, and substantially less risk for a range of core careers. Every town needs a doctor, a dentist, a lawyer, an accountant, and a coroner. I know at least four of those five require a substantial education and they generally provide a reasonably high guaranteed income for the rest of your life.

Second, there is largely a correlation between the amount invested in education — a combination of tuition and time — and compensation. Generally speaking, the longer and more taxing your investment in education, the higher the resulting salary thereafter. So while doctors and dentists may come out with $250,000 of student debt, they can also pay that amount back faster than someone who invests $30,000 for an Arts degree.

It’s not difficult to run the math and figure out that an investment in yourself is the single greatest investment one can make. In Canada, the government provides tax credits, rebates, and other forms of grants for the better part of 50% of your schooling. So $50,000 of schooling turns into $25,000, which will likely result in a $10,000-$25,000 per year raise after you’re all finished. This quickly becomes the best return on investment in your life and it only grows over time.

Third, it’s not all about money — there is a genuine value in having the ability to critically think, to research, to synthesize and formulate thoughts using information from various sources, to compile a thorough debate, and to understand there is always more to learn.

Lastly, throughout the schooling process, it is likely you will learn how to learn — the discovery of how you most effectively and efficiently pickup a new skill is something that pays dividends throughout life. The smoother your learning routine, the more skills you can pickup in a shorter period of time.

Wrap Up

I’ve concocted plans in my head about what I’d do once I finished school and many of those plans are coming to fruition now. I have certain people I want to thank in person. I have certain people I want to approach for future opportunities.

I also have certain blog posts I want to write and certain newsletters to share.

This is one of those newsletters.

Next week, we’ll get back to some more regularly scheduled programming. I appreciate everyone’s patience.

I hope you have a fantastic weekend (it’s supposed to be 40 Celsius in Southern Manitoba this weekend! — not very early-June-like!) and a healthy week ahead.


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