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Net Worth Update August 2015 – Sean Cooper (+6.3%)

Welcome to the Million Dollar Journey August 2015 Net Worth Update – Team MDJ edition. A select group of readers were selected to be part of Team MDJ which was conceived after the million dollar net worth milestone was achieved in June 2014. Sean Cooper was selected as a team member and will post net worth updates on a regular basis. Here is more about Sean.


  • Name: Sean Cooper
  • Age: 30
  • Net Worth: $652,949
  • Day Job: Employed with a major global pension consulting firm.
  • Family Income: $50,000 (full-time job), $18,600 (rental income before expenses), $40,000 (approximate freelance income), $5,000 (part-time job)
  • Goals: Mortgage paid off by 31, million dollar net worth by mid thirties.
  • Notes: Owns a house, rents out main floor. Most of net worth is in the principal residence. No other debt besides mortgage.

I’ve been working very hard in the last quarter and the hard work looks to have paid off. In two short months I’ll have accomplished my ultimate goal of reaching mortgage freedom. August 1st is my mortgage anniversary date, so I made the maximum lump sum payment of $38,250 to bring my mortgage balance down to just under $6K (this money was mostly from my successful freelance writing business).

At the end of September my mortgage will be paid off (five months before I reach age 31, no less). Words can’t express how happy I am. Paying off my mortgage will feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders. To celebrate this milestone, I’m planning to have a huge mortgage burning party. Does anyone have any suggestions for throwing the best mortgage burning party ever?

Over the last few months, a good friend of mine has helped me realize there’s more to life than saving. She’s inspired me to step outside my comfort zone and try out new things. For example, I recently enrolled in the Improv Program at the Second City. Although the courses are a bit pricey, they’re worth every penny. Not only have I made a ton of new friends, it has helped me come out of my shell. Friends and coworkers have mentioned how much friendlier and sociable I am. Me a year ago and me today are like night and day. If you’re a shy, quiet person looking to become more outgoing, I highly recommend these courses.

Although I’m still frugal with my spending, I’ve helped realized there are certain aspects of your life when it’s ok to splurge. For example, I recently purchased a cellphone. Being frugal I used a basic cellphone that I had from six years ago. I figure I don’t really need a smartphone since I spend enough time on the computer as it is (I don’t need to get addicted to my phone).

Instead of a monthly plan, I chose to go with pay as you go. For $100 with Fido, I get 100 minutes and unlimited texting for a year – not bad! While I don’t talk often, I mainly use my cellphone for texting. A $100 voucher works out to less than $10 a month – I’d be foolish not to own a cellphone!

With my mortgage paid off, I’ll have the financial freedom to pursue other goals in life. Since I’ve been so focused on paying down my mortgage, I haven’t been able to travel as much as I’d like to. I plan to change that soon. Since I’m a big fan of cycling, I’d like to visit Vancouver. I’ve heard the view of the mountains is breathtaking. Other places I’d like to visit include New York City, Chicago and Europe.

A couple months ago, I started going to the gym. This was my first time going to a gym, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m happy to say my experience has been a positive one. I enrolled at a local neighbourhood gym in Toronto called Resistance Fitness. The staff is friendly, the machines are in good working order and the membership is reasonably priced. If you’ve never joined a gym before, I’d highly recommend it. I’ve been taking a couple supplement products and seen immediate results. I’ve recently started taking Serious Mass and Kre-Alkalyn. Not only do I feel better (both physically and mentally), I’ve gained 16 pounds in muscle in under two months. Are there any products you can recommend that you’ve seen great results with?

This year I’ve been really focusing on my social life. With my mortgage soon to be paid off, I’ll have more time to hang out with friends and hopefully meet that special someone. I’ve been out of a few dates the last few months, but so far no luck. A word of advice: when you’re meeting someone for the first time, it’s a good idea to go out for coffee. Save the expensive dinner for the second or third date once you get to know the person a bit better. My friends have been nice enough to offer to give me a makeover. I’ve started with growing a beard to look a bit older, next is to invest in a new wardrobe.

On to the net worth numbers:

Assets: $658,278 (-1.49%)

  • Cash: $4,145 (-89.77%)
  • Registered/Retirement Investment Accounts (RRSP): $68,526 (+29.47%)
  • Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSA): $0 (+0.00%)
  • Defined Benefit Pension: $35,266 (+44.41%) (commuted value adjusted annually in June when I receive my annual statement)
  • Non-Registered Investment Accounts: $341 (-1.00%)
  • Principal Residence: $550,000 (+0.00%) (purchase price adjusted for average selling price annually)

Liabilities: $5,329 (-90.13%)

  • Principal Residence Mortgage: $5,329 (-90.13%)

Total Net Worth: ~$652,949 (+6.30%)

  • Started 2015 with Net Worth: $585,926
  • Year to Date Gain/Loss: +11.44%

Some quick notes and explanations to common questions:

The Cash

The cash is held in a no fee chequing account with PC Financial. I use my chequing account for regular bill payments, as well as making lump sum payments on my mortgage.


My savings are held in a Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) with Canadian Direct Financial. I mainly use my TFSA as an emergency fund and to save towards the balance owing when I file my personal income tax return at the end of April. Even though I contribute the maximum to my RRSP annually, I still have a large balance owing to the taxman since I receive rental income and income from self-employment (I’m a freelance writer).

You may be wondering why my balance is currently $0. At the beginning of the year I had $15,000 in my TFSA. However, this year was especially costly, as I had to spend $25,000 on repairs and renovations to my house, including a new retaining wall, side walk, front porch, sump pump, and eaves troughs. I plan to rebuild my emergency fund once I’ve maximized the prepayment privileges on my mortgage. If any more costly home repairs creep up, I can always slow down on prepaying my mortgage.

Where Do the Savings Come From?

I’m very frugal with my money. People are often amazed at how low my monthly expenses are. For most families the most costly household expenses are housing (mortgage or rent), transportation, and food. I’ve been able to minimize all three through lifestyle choices.

As a single first-time home buyer in Toronto, I decided to take on the added responsibility of being a landlord. Instead of living upstairs, I decided to live in the basement and rent the upstairs to a family. I got this brilliant idea from the host of HGTV’s Income Property, Scott McGillivray, who lived in his basement for nine years while renting out the upstairs unit to save money.

Instead of driving a car, I cycle the majority of the year and take public transit during wintertime. In my recent article in the Financial Post readers were amazed I only spend $100 per month on groceries. How have I managed to spend so little? I shop at discount supermarkets, price match, avoid fast food, and buy sale items in bulk. I’m also vegetarian, which helps me avoid paying the outrageous prices for meat.

How Have I Been Able to Pay Down My Mortgage So Quickly?

Despite an annual salary of only $50,000, I’ve been able to pay down over half of my mortgage in only two years through hard work and determination. Besides being a landlord, I’m a financial journalist. I also work part-time at a grocery store once a week. Through secondary sources of income, I’ve been able to maximize the prepayment privileges on my mortgage and maximize my RRSP contributions each year.

Update May 2015 – I’ve revised my freelance income up to $40,000 from $20,000 to better reflect how much I earn. I’ve received a few questions about how I’ve been able to pay down my mortgage so quickly. It’s mainly been through my freelance income. I tend to be conservative with my estimate of freelance income, as it can vary a lot from month to month. For example, some months I earn $2,000, while others I earn $5,000+. For 2014, I ended up earning over $60,000 in freelance income. Earnings that much in freelance income requires working 80 hours or more a week (including my full-time job). I don’t plan to keep this insane workload up forever. Once my mortgage is paid off at the end of 2015, I plan to scale back and only focus on the freelance work that I enjoy.

Real Estate

My real estate holdings consist of my primary residence. I purchased my house in August 2012 for $425,000 with a mortgage of $255,000. As I live in Toronto, one of Canada’s most expensive housing markets, I’ve based the value of my principal residence on comparable properties that have recently sold in my neighbourhood.


The pension amount listed above is the value of my defined benefit pension plan. I take the commuted value from my annual statement, which I receive by June 30th each year. I am fortunate to receive the commuted value on my annual statement, as most employers don’t provide it. This makes retirement planning a lot easier.

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About the author: Sean Cooper is a single, 20-something year old, first time home buyer located in Toronto. He has experience in the financial sector as a Pension Analyst, RESP administrator and Income Tax Preparer. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce in business management from Ryerson University. You can read some of his other articles here.

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Liquid Independence August 3, 2015, 9:08 am

    Great job, Sean. Once that mortgage is gone you’re going to have so much free cash flow! It’s funny how guys have to find ways to look older, while girls use makeup to look younger, haha.

  • Kevin August 3, 2015, 10:29 am

    We will be mortgage free in 4 years. Our payments are $3500/ month and i make $70k/year over payments. My plan once it is paid off is to have our own “cash for life.” We will blow $1000 per week for one year. The rules have been set:
    1. Must be frivolous. Nothing too practical. Like using it to top up RRSPs.
    2. The $1000 weekly can be accumulatedand not spent for no more than 6 weeks. We had to have this so we could do big trips.
    3. Charitable donations are mandatory.
    4. Focus is on memories rather than possessions


  • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader August 3, 2015, 1:09 pm

    One thing to keep in mind is that in order to keep building wealth, paying off debt is only one part of the equation. The next step is to use some of the cash flow to invest with.

    • Sean Cooper, Financial Journalist August 3, 2015, 1:39 pm

      Good point, FT. I plan to max out my RRSP and TFSA every year. I have a defined benefit pension plan, so that together with my RRSP should be more than enough to retire on.

      I’m still trying to achieve a better work-life balance. I’d like to stop working 80-100 hours a week, but I need to find something else to fill my time. I’d like to hang out with friends, but they’re busy as well. I’d like to eventually get married, but finding a girlfriend is proving more difficult than anticipated.

    • Kevin August 4, 2015, 10:16 am

      Thanks FT, I still invest $100k via my holding company per year and am starting a completely new venture (a franchise) in 2 months to diversify. I do not think RRSPs are a good choice for professionals. I think it is more wise to invest via a holding company. However, with a TFSAs it may be better via after tax amounts according to the blunt bean counter http://www.thebluntbeancounter.com/2015/06/should-you-fund-your-tfsa-with.html

  • Claudia @ Two Cup House August 3, 2015, 1:43 pm

    Wow. I’m really impressed by the progress you’ve made with your mortgage. Mortgages scare me–I’m always so worried about the liability if something happened to either of us. Posts like this really help me to stay focused on paying off our debt. Thank you!

  • Andrew August 3, 2015, 2:51 pm

    Just wanted to say congrats Sean, that’s a great net worth for someone so young.
    Very glad to see that you’re branching out and trying new things. Money is important but only because it allows for other, more important, things!

    And, as FT mentioned, get some investments going! Better to be financially independent, I think.

  • Dominic @ Gen Y Finance Guy August 3, 2015, 3:30 pm

    Hey Sean – Congrats on being just a few months away from being mortgage free.

    Question – So based on a purchase price of $425K and a loan amount of $255K, that means you put down $170K when you bought the house? Did you save this or was it from selling another piece of property?

    Either way, good work!


  • BRands August 3, 2015, 10:15 pm

    Congrats on your financial success. Motivational, indeed.
    Glad to see the openness toward life experience. Now that you have a very solid base, you should allow yourself to feel good about enjoying some of the experiences (not things) life has to offer. My wife and I are frugal but have never regretted spending money on cool life experiences. As we look back on the past 8 years, many of our most memorable moments happened abroad.

    As you add physical fitness goals to your regime, supplement use is fairly simple:
    Whey protein directly after your workout
    Cassein protein before bed.
    One fish oil supplement daily, unless you eat fish 3+ times per week.
    Creatine – 5 grams daily.
    Possibly glutamine – but most commercial protein products contain 5 grams per scoop. Check ur labels.
    A daily vitamin.

    If you are eating enough then you shouldn’t need a weight gainer. Though, I understand the conflict of frugality vs. Spending on food/products that will compliment your fitness regime.
    And for the regime – progressive overload will be key when you hit your first plateau.

    Finally – 16 pounds in 2 months is aggressive. Gaining 1-2 pounds max per week is healthy. Any more and you’re likely adding fat.

    All the best on the next leg of your journey.

  • Greg August 4, 2015, 3:36 pm

    “At the end of September my mortgage will be paid off (five months before I reach age 31, no less). ” Sounds like you are no longer 29 as stated in the profile or “twenty something” as stated in the About section. Time for some updates?

  • The Follower August 4, 2015, 6:42 pm

    Definitely do some biking in Vancouver. It’s gorgeous over here!

  • Stephen August 4, 2015, 11:49 pm

    Looks like a great month in gains! Most people aren’t getting big returns this month, great work.

  • Alpha Centauri August 5, 2015, 3:52 am

    Congrats on such a large feat – paying off a hefty mortgage! Your story is very inspiring, and goes to show how if you put your mind to a task, it can be done!

    And perhaps even more congrats to balancing your life more! The improvement in social life you describe sounds very healthy. And with no mortgage, this will do wonders to your cash flow. Which means you should be able to balance your life even more.

    And here’s an idea: why not work on increasing your passive income? You already partially are doing this with your home, by renting the upstairs. What else could you do, you ask? Air Bnb’ing rooms in your home? Dividend paying stocks? Private equity that pays regular distributions? Starting some sort of business?

    Also, passive is never completely passive. At the very least, you still have to research and monitor your investments. Plus you have to find something that works for yourself. Everyone has their own set of skills and interests.

    Well done, though! I look forward to your updates.

  • SST August 5, 2015, 10:27 am

    re: “passive is never completely passive.”

    Thanks for reminding us all of this fact. You might not be doing most of the actual physical/mental work that money, but someone somewhere is, so at the very least you have to check in with your investment just to make sure they/it is still alive.

    Another reason why “financial independence” should be struck from the PF lexicon — it does not exist. Your finances will always be dependent on/tied to at least one other entity, be it a market, business, person, ideology, law, etc.

  • besmartrich August 5, 2015, 11:17 am

    I am always amazed by your progress. You are doing incredibly well Sean and good luck with dating with girls. :)

  • SST August 6, 2015, 10:39 am

    p.s. — Sean, if you want to remain a vegetarian, I’d suggest you inquire into the sources of your creatine supplements.

    All the positive effects you are experiencing from your supplements should give you an insight into why meat is good for you. Just sayin’. ;)

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