When Lesley Scorgie extols the virtues of "financial literacy," the one most emphasized is freedom.
The financial virtuoso won her freedom the hard way.
Faced with a reading disability and financial hardship as a child, Scorgie didn't just hurdle these hurdles - she pole-vaulted them.
By age 10, Scorgie had gone from being a challenged reader to challenging herself with financial books and articles. Now 23, she has released her own personal-finance book for people under 30.
|Robin Kuniski photo|
|Lesley Scorgie's wealth of knowledge is a valuable tool.|
Scorgie became fixated by finances at an age when most kids haven't even heard of a bank account, in hope of finding a solution to her family's financial instability.
And while she isn't banking on her book, Rich By Thirty - A Young Adult's Guide to Financial Success, to make her just that, she was touted as a millionaire by age 25 on Oprah Winfrey's TV show when she was only 17.
Today, the Calgarian is dedicated to offering advice for her generation and future generations as to why they should put their collection of coinage into something more secure than a piggy bank - and how they can get a firm grip on their loose change.
Scorgie, a 2005 University of Alberta marketing and finance graduate, provides practical answers to issues she says aren't being taught in schools.
"My inspiration (for Rich By Thirty) came from the fact that there is nothing in our school system for teaching young people (about personal finance)," says Scorgie, who is also the editor in chief of the Rich by Thirty newsletter.
"If there's anything it's, you know, a one-period class in high school."
Focused on building what she called her "empire" as a child, Scorgie's initial motivation came from her desire to earn spending money she wouldn't otherwise get.
"We didn't have any money when I was growing up. My parents were back in school and we were living off of, like, $24,000 per year, which is just above the poverty line. And that was for a family of five.
"My parents said: 'If you need something, you are going to have to figure out a way to raise money for it.' So I did."
Scorgie, who attended grade school in Edmonton and Calgary, parlayed a new-found knack for reading into a pleasure for reading stories with charts and tables instead of pictures. "I went from not reading anything to reading 500-page novels and enjoying them and reading financial columns. I liked articles because they were free and they were short."
Scorgie, who has read "pretty much every personal-finance book available," didn't take long to realize her financial goal was to turn her spending money into saving money.
It was a fateful viewing of a Canada Savings Bond commercial that led Scorgie to make her first investment.
"I saved $100 and bought my first Canada Savings Bond because, for a 10-year-old, that was easy to understand. You buy a bond now and seven years later your $100 bond is worth $130, and you didn't have to do anything for it," she says.
"It's simple realizations that can sometimes be wonderful. Imagine if you did that with $100,000 or $1 million."
While schools are emphasizing good grades for the purpose of attaining post-secondary education, Scorgie, who paid for most of her $45,000 tuition tab with savings, wishes schools emphasized the money skills that would enable students to afford tuition fees.
"Parents aren't talking about it (personal finance), teachers aren't talking about it. My peers have no idea unless somebody shows them or talks about it," she says. "Money shouldn't be something that's hidden - it should be talked about.
"Sixteen-year-olds have more disposable income than the average parental unit in their homes. It's going to cellphones and pizza and movies. And why? Because these kids have everything paid for them."
Although she says she hasn't had time to approach school boards about implementing the teachings from her newsletter into school curriculum, Scorgie says her wealth of knowledge has been in demand.
"Some schools really warmed up to the idea, because it is a regular publication and it's designed like curriculum. Every article in the newsletter has relevant (information), whether it's how to save on a cellphone bill or how to have a stock-market portfolio.
"I'd love to see it in the school system. I think that it's a really valuable tool. I don't know if I am going to be able to break those barriers, but I'm certainly going to try."
Scorgie recently left a job at a Calgary brokerage firm where she did equity research, working 80 hours a week. The former YWCA volunteer has taken a part-time position as a director of marketing at the YWCA in Banff, Alta. Her new job allows her to spend two days a week promoting her book and newsletter.
"The whole concept of Rich By Thirty is that you want to be rich by 30 - you want to be rich by any age - but the reason you want to do that is freedom.
"Financial security is the freedom to choose what you want to do with your life.
"A lot of dreams have price- tags attached to them. How are you going to go to university without money?" Although Scorgie is still chasing the million-dollar benchmark, she aspires to be rich by the definition described in her book. "Whether I have $1 million or whether I have $5 million or $100,000, being rich is having - and I stress this in the book - three components of wealth," she says.
"The first and foremost is being able to spend your money wisely and the second component is being able to save and invest for your future.
"The third component is being able to give back to the community through your time and resources, because that enriches the life of someone else and keeps that whole cycle spinning. I'll be rich by 30 because I'm doing all of those things."
Scorgie's book is becoming particularly relevant as the aging population prepares for a mass-retirement exodus, leaving a void in the economy.
"We've got some big shoes to fill (left from the Baby Boomer generation). There are a lot of gaps in our society, but these are also opportunities."
How does one become as opportunistic with their capital as Scorgie?
"The No. 1 recommendation that I can make to any young person is start now," she says. "The longer you wait, the more you cheat yourself out of time and time allows for compounded interest, which is free to anybody that invests their money.
"If you invested $35 a month starting at the age of 16 and increased it as your income increases, you could probably stop investing your money at 45 years old and have a million dollars."