It’s said you should dress for success, but a Montreal financial advisor who briefly flirted with personal bankruptcy offers a cautionary tale on the costs of keeping up appearances. At 25, certified financial planner Tahnya Kristina started full-time job working as an advisor at a Montreal bank, providing clients with wealth management advice. In spite of earning six-figures, within just four years she found herself with no savings and over $50,000 in debt.
Maintaining a lavish lifestyle and accrued student-loan debt was a part of the problem. Amid the bad spending habits, she says, there were some ill-considered work-related expenses. As a wealth advisor, there is a need to project affluence -- by joining a golf club, buying an expensive watch and wardrobe.
“Everybody was in the same boat and it was ‘keeping up with the Jonses’,” she says. “I was the youngest and I was female, so there was a lot of pressure. Maybe I put some of that upon myself, but I don’t think so: we were told to dress a certain way, to join community organizations to make connections.”
“We were told to be at events and to go to golf clubs… and after you play golf you have to take a shower and then have an expensive dinner,” she adds. “It was awful.”
Now 32 and debt free, Kristina notes that one of the biggest components of her debt crisis stemmed from her car, which accounted for about about 40% of her total debt. It was also purchased more out of the need to make an impression than it was a need for transport.
“I live in downtown Montreal and there is no need for a car. I didn’t know that back then, and I just wanted it for the look of it,” she says. “I don’t even need a car, I sold the car after three years with less than 30,000 km on it.”
After the 2008 financial crisis, and her personal reckoning with near bankruptcy, she feels the industry has improved. “In 2007 people were sitting around at lunch and they were talking about their suits, and their vacations and their cars, but people don’t do that now so it has gotten much better.”
Kristina thinks young market entrants should focus more on substance than style, though the latter is still important. “You have to dress well, but you don’t need $600 suits to do that,” she says. “You need a nice suit, but it doesn’t have to be Harry Rosen.”
“To young advisors, my advice is that it’s not about how you look or how you dress: it’s about the service and the advice you give,” she says. “It’s not about your suit, or your car, or your apartment – it’s about how you treat people.".