Q. I graduated from university five years ago and have never been unemp­loy­ed. But I have nothing to show after all these years. Between student loans, rent, entertainment etc., there’s nothing in my bank account. Should I get a loan or line of credit and pay off all my debts? How can I save when there’s nothing left at the end of the month?
— Gregory, Toronto

A. Your problem appears to be not having goals and a financial plan. Like business owners, individuals should have objectives and a road map to achieving them.

• Write down what financial goals you’d like to accomplish in a specific time frame. Once you have a number, work backwards to figure out how to attain it.

• Have a monthly budget that itemizes your cash flow from earnings and all your fixed expenses. Anything left over is discretionary. Health-club memberships and Sports Illustrated subscriptions are not fixed expenses.

• Pay for things using debit, not credit cards.

• Set up an RRSP with an automatic deduction from each pay cheque.

• Pay off credit card balances each month and search for cards with the lowest rates. Get rid of high-interest department store and gas cards.

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