Alumni, People

New book from alumnus teaches Canadians about money

March 08, 2022

Debt. Inflation. Interest rates. Mortgages. Skyrocketing housing prices.

These are some of the financial issues that are keeping Canadians awake at night. However, there’s a Western Education alumnus who’s using his financial knowledge to teach Canadians about money and relieve their stress.

Fred Masters (BEd’89) is using his passion for finance and teaching to make a difference in the financial lives of Canadians.

His book, ‘Lessons on Mastering Money: The Personal Finance Guide for Canadians in their 20s and 30s,’ seems to be the right book at the right time for the right people.

“People are struggling because they weren't taught personal finance,” Masters said. “My book tries to empower them so they can take control and understand what’s going on in their financial lives.”

As part of taking control of their money, the book tackles debt, investing, registered retirement savings plans, registered education savings plans, tax-free savings accounts, vehicle purchases and real estate.

There’s an insatiable appetite to learn more about personal finance but many people don't know where to turn, and many sources, such as banks, sell products, which aren’t necessarily in the clients’ best interest, Masters said.

Accumulating wealth takes discipline and time. Instead, we want everything done quickly in our society, Masters said.

“That’s the wrong way to invest because that means you will take on too much risk, and your timeframe will be too short. I like to use the phrase ‘Get rich slow;’ you want to invest methodically over decades.”

Masters began his financial literacy business after retiring from a 29-year career with the Waterloo Catholic District School Board. He taught financial accounting and cooperative education for decades while also spending time as a board-level consultant for experiential learning, careers and technological education.

Towards the end of his teaching career, he noticed students working long hours. Some of them worked 35 hours a week as swing managers at fast food restaurants.

“The kids would say they needed the money. There was either no money or parents told them, ‘We can't support you. You must save for yourself.’”

To help them, he started a personal finance club called Phoenix Finance. As part of a lunch and learn series, students dropped in and learned about credit scores, index funds, the importance of investing over the long term, understanding how to keep banking fees low and why it’s better to buy a quality used vehicle instead of leasing.

Masters said students came in waves and then teachers started to attend the club.

The club’s success attracted the school board’s attention. When Masters presented to their Wellness Committee, he realized money is also a wellness issue, and it’s one that people don’t talk about it. Although many see it as a taboo subject, money is the number one source of stress for Canadians, Masters said.

“When the Wellness Committee invited me back, I knew I could take Phoenix Finance with me into retirement. I launched Masters Money Management the month I retired.”

Over the last four years, he’s made financial presentations to different demographics ranging from elementary, secondary and university students right through to retired women's groups.

“I built a feedback loop into the presentations so I knew that the content was helping the attendees learn more about personal finance. A book, though, which captured my best lessons could help so many more young Canadians successfully navigate their financial journey,” Masters said.

Masters has always been interested in finance. While in university, he worked at Canada Trust and also did a co-op placement at Deloitte. He planned on a business career but that changed when his future wife convinced him to coach ringette. He discovered the joy of teaching and decided to pursue an education career.

“I combined my love of coaching with my love of finance. I thought I could teach finance, and that was the key moment when I pivoted and applied to Western Education,” Masters said.

Besides his own work helping Canadians achieve their financial goals, he’s also encouraged financial literacy will now be taught in elementary schools and in some parts of the secondary curriculum. What’s more, he would like to see this education become mandatory during each year of secondary school and in both university and college programs.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to give them some tools that they'll use in a practical way for the rest of their lives because you have to take care of your own personal finance journey to prosper.”