Meet Caleb

From: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

Caleb: Working 60 hours a week to finance his dreams

Caleb’s side hustle is creating beautiful wood furniture pieces. Because of his hard work and creativity, Caleb is a young Canadian who is on the fast track to financial success.

Caleb Schaeffer pours a shot of espresso coffee into a glass of boiling hot water and sips it with satisfaction. “Café Americano,” he smiles. “My favourite.” Ever the professional, even on his break, the young Ottawa barista keeps checking over his shoulder for signs his colleague is keeping up.

“I may have to go in a sec if it gets too busy,” he says, perched on a live edge bar stool made from prime Ontario walnut. “My carpentry shop made all of these tables and stools,” Caleb says with pride. “I hope to build the same kind of furniture for my own café one day.”

Working hard, saving hard

Slinging coffee 40 hours a week as Manager of Equator Coffee at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, and working another 20 hours at a local woodworking shop he uses for free after hours, is happiness defined for this jock-turned-barista and woodworker. He loves serving coffee, working with wood and most importantly, working towards his dream of building his own coffee shop and gallery.

A series of concussions in high school quashed Caleb’s dreams of becoming a professional athlete (after excelling at hockey, soccer and wrestling, and being scouted by a top soccer academy in Toronto) and forced him to reinvent himself.

A self-starter, Caleb started tinkering in his dad’s garage and found he was good at building things. Through woodworking, he was able to let go of his sports dreams and start working towards new ones.

“At first, I struggled with how to make money, how to live and then I slowly realized I had a passion for art. I find coffee and woodworking go hand in hand. Taking a green bean or a tree and turning them into something beautiful and different every time gives me that instant satisfaction.”

Overcoming obstacles

With perfect marks in shop and a year of woodworking at Algonquin College under his (tool) belt, Caleb set a goal to work hard at both coffee and wood. He pays off his student debt (about $15K) a bit every month, saves some money and leads a minimalist lifestyle by walking or bussing instead of owning a car.

He shares his trendy apartment with a roommate, uses only debit instead of credit (although he has a good credit rating, gained by paying more than the minimum on his student loan) and manages to treat himself to the odd cigar and take his girlfriend for a night on the town.

“My social life is pretty expensive:  I often go out for drinks and food with friends, but I’m young. I’m 19. It’s more about my quality of life. Once I get my student loan paid off, then I can really focus on my savings. The plan is to be debt-free as soon as possible.”

Having a plan

By combining his woodworking and barista salaries, aggressively paying off his student loan, only spending what he has and saving for a rainy day, Caleb is well on his way to fulfilling his dream of opening his own coffee shop by age 25.

“I don’t need fancy things or make all these purchases or accumulate debt because I’m doing what I love every day. I’m not looking for anything more than what I already have. I’m satisfied with my life.”

Financial advice for other millennials

Work hard. Live within your means. Avoid debt and love what you do.

“I wake up some days at 4 a.m. and go to bed at 11 p.m. and do the same thing for a week. It’s exhausting but I love what I do every single day, day in, day out. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. If people my age can find that niche and love what they do, they’re going to fly.”

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