By Ken Green
Contributing Finance & Tax Specialist
I immigrated to Canada in January 2002 to join my wife, Marie, who had arrived in the country, four months earlier. I can clearly recall how excited and anxious I was, watching my wife board the plane from the International airport in Lagos, Nigeria, on her way to Canada to begin her post-graduate degree in Saskatoon, a relatively small city in the province of Saskatchewan. At the time, I could not wait to join her.
As I adjusted to a new life in Canada, I had dreams of creating a better future, building a family and creating wealth in our new homeland. I shared my hopes, dreams, desires and fears, daily, with my wife, and all I wanted was to financially support my wife, who was a full-time student at the time, with a part-time job — washing dishes at a restaurant.
I struggled finding a job that matched my qualifications. I had a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering, with over 4 years of work experience in the Financial Services Industry. At the time, as an immigrant, it was incredibly challenging to find relevant work, with no Canadian education or Canadian work experience. It turned out, I had little preparation for the challenges I would encounter in my search for a job in Canada.
As our savings quickly vanished, eaten-up by tuition, rent, food and other living expenses, I started feeling the financial pressure. On a daily basis, I wondered what the future would be like. Even worse, I felt terrible and so shameful that I could not contribute financially. Each day, I would watch my wife come home from school, study and work her part-time job at the restaurant, to ensure we had some money for food and rent. She worked so hard and was graceful in her support and encouragement, as I continued to struggle with my job search.
I felt like a failure, as I could not support my wife financially, and certainly lost my pride as a man, as I carried this weight of disappointment on my shoulders.
With the mounting financial pressure, I gave up my search for a job that matched my qualifications, and started looking for any hustle that would provide income. I moved from one menial job to another, working at minimum wage – stacking papers in a newspaper publishing company; stocking shelves at grocery stores; and working in production lines at various factories. This certainly helped, but the income stream was small and inconsistent, as it was almost impossible to get any full-time hustle.
As I continued to struggle, it suddenly dawned on me…why did I abandon my dreams? Why did I stop investing in myself and in my education?
I recalled various conversations I had with my wife, and even with my cousins growing up, on the importance of keeping your eyes focused on the big picture and pushing past challenges. With the encouragement from my wife, I moved to Toronto in 2003, to start an MBA program at the Schulich Business School at York University, all funded with debt.
Subsequently, my wife graduated from her post-graduate program and joined me in Toronto, but, we still had no jobs, no assets, no income and now a lot of debt. Essentially, our net worth was negative.
Later in 2003, my wife got a part-time job with one of the big five banks in Toronto and, in 2004, got her first full-time offer with another bank. We were ecstatic, it was a breakthrough for us!
Shortly after, I finished my MBA program in 2005, and got my first job with one of the big four professional accounting firms in Toronto, with a starting salary of $45,000. Although I had hopes of getting a six figure salary after my MBA program, I was excited to get my first job.
Together with my wife, we now had a household income of approximately $75,000, higher than the average Canadian family. With the income, we were able to pay off my student loans, save some money and, in the Summer of 2006, bought our home as first-time buyers.
As our income grew, I noticed we were keeping less and less of it, principally due to high taxes. Although we had overcome the initial financial challenges we had, when we initially arrived in Canada, we were still struggling, as we lived from paycheck to paycheck. I figured there had to be a better way.
I tried a number of different things and stumbled onto a few real estate investing educational programs. I was sold on the idea of creating wealth, through real estate, and started investing in several real estate educational programs. My plan was to become a professional real estate investor, and eventually leave my regular day job, to pursue real estate full-time. Over time, my wife and I acquired several rental real estate properties.
While I have made significant progress in building my net worth and growing my income, year over year, I continued to pay a significant amount of the income earned in taxes. So, this got me on the path of learning as much as I could about taxes.
In 2010, I started a side hustle providing tax planning and compliance services and, in 2012, formed a corporation with two other partners to launch a CPA (Chartered Professional Accountants) firm in the Toronto area.
It has been an incredible journey of learning – learning from our clients, and from the stories of their victories and struggles; learning from the challenges of running my own businesses; learning from my mentors and the various mastermind groups I’m part of; digging deeper into the Canadian tax law to learn more; uncovering the various tools the wealthy use to build and accelerate wealth; getting enormous encouragement from other business owners, particularly, my band of brothers in Christ; and of course, getting a ton of love and encouragement from my brothers and sisters in our broader church community.
Today, along with my wife and business partners, we control millions of dollars in rental real estate assets, and generate close to a million dollars in annual gross revenues from our businesses. I have helped hundreds of clients – professionals and business owners – manage their taxes and get clarity in how they run their affairs and businesses.
As I continue on this journey of life-long learning, I look forward to helping more and more people build a stronger financial fortress for themselves, their families and businesses. I am grateful for the support and encouragement I continue to get from my wife, Marie, and I watch with excitement as I teach my kids – John, Hallie and Adiel – the fundamentals of business, money management and financial accounting.
I hope that my story can encourage you to continue to invest in yourself, to keep working harder and smarter, to keep your dream alive. Part of what I do, is to help you create a plan and put action plans in place to see you accomplish your desires. Together, we are all on a journey to learn, grow and impact our world — as we share the insights from our journey.
Ken Green, who has an MBA from the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto, is a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) and entrepreneur. He runs a professional accounting practice — GMS Professional Corporation — with his partner, Celia Meikle, and the support from their loyal employees. The firm provides accounting and bookkeeping services, tax planning, business advisory and financial planning. He can be reached at: 905-919-3543; or firstname.lastname@example.org.