I wrote this post a few years ago, but found it in the archives and thought it deserved some attention. Check it out!
Calvin and his spouse Beverly immigrated to Canada in the early 1970’s (both in their mid-late 20’s). While people move to different countries all the time, the couple came to Canada under a number of challenging circumstances. They arrived with very little understanding of the English language and into a city that was predominately English speaking. They had very little money in their pockets (about $500 Canadian), no work lined up, and to top it off, they had an 11-month-old baby (and pregnant on another).
They left their home country and moved to Canada for its reputation as the land of opportunity and as a safe place to raise kids. While both Calvin and Beverly did not have any post-secondary education, they had a strong work ethic. Both of them started work in their home country at a very young age, younger than imaginable by today’s standards. Calvin, as the oldest 8 siblings, started his first job in a factory when he was 13 years old to help support his family.
Their First House
Fortunately, when they arrived in Canada, they had a connection to a relative of a relative who owned a small service-based business. Although an entry-level job, Calvin was grateful for some work in the new environment while Beverly stayed in their modest apartment with the baby.
It wasn’t long before they grew tired of renting and wanted a place to settle down and call their own. So in the mid/late-1970’s, they found a place for sale in the downtown core that had a convenience store on the main floor (street level) and an apartment above.
They jumped on the opportunity but it came with a catch, a high-risk mortgage with a 23% interest rate! Although the payments were onerous, they managed to keep their heads above water. Beverly would run the convenience store, while Calvin would continue working at his entry-level job to keep cash coming in the door.
Calvin’s parents immigrated to Canada as well to help out with the kids and moved in with the four of them in the small apartment above the convenience store.
Starting a Business
Calvin and Beverly were entrepreneurs at heart so they enjoyed running their own business. Although their means were conservative, they lived a frugal lifestyle and made saving a priority. After a couple of years of saving, Calvin took the leap and joined 4 other partners to start a risky small business. To start the business, Calvin and his wife had to put their life savings on the line, all while expecting their third child.
The new business had a rough start, but revenues slowly grew on an annual basis. By the third year, the other partners were growing tired of the daily slog, so Calvin offered to buy out the other partners with his savings. The partners were happy to sell their shares, but Calvin now had a big endeavor in front of him and needed some help.
While the convenience store helped pay the mortgage on the property, it wasn’t a big profit center. So Calvin and Beverly felt it was best to sell the convenience store property so that Beverly could join the business full time (all while expecting their fourth child!).
Investment Real Estate
With four children and grandparents to support, their next residence needed to be a little bigger. They put the proceeds from selling the store towards a modest house with 3+2 bedrooms. Business remained steady and saving remained a priority which enabled them to raise their children in a frugal but comfortable middle-class lifestyle.
With savings accumulating, it wasn’t long before the couple started buying income-producing real estate assets for the long term. First, a two-apartment house that was close to a local college. Then they decided to sell their principal residence but keep it as a rental. They did this a couple times until settling in a nice property in a quiet neighborhood.
In addition to their own properties, Calvin and Beverly partnered with a friend to purchase a few more properties over the years, including a small commercial unit.
Investing in the Market
Not only was Calvin an entrepreneur and real estate investor, he also had a lot of interest in the stock market. While he didn’t start investing in the stock market until his later years, he was a believer in long-term investing.
He taught his kids about the power of compound interest over the long term. He even convinced them to start investment accounts while they were in their teenage years. In addition to lessons about investing, the kids learned about work ethic where they all worked in the family business.
Calling it Quits
While the business had its up and downs over the decades, their saving and investing habits allowed Calvin and Beverly to retire in their early 60’s. This is while raising four children and putting them through University (co-op work terms helped).
Even though they gave up their main source of income, their retirement is currently funded through rental and investment income, and a small amount of CPP and OAS. In alignment with their conservative nature, they made sure to retire without any debt. They still maintain a modest lifestyle spending their time with their grandkids, a local church, and some travel.
Putting it All Together
Calvin and Beverly’s story is truly an immigrants success story that includes challenges that would instill fear in the best of us. They show that financial freedom and a comfortable retirement is possible even when the odds are stacked against you.
Their ticket to financial success was not just starting a business, but how they lived modestly and saved to buy long-term income generating assets. A concept and strategy that I believe is the easiest and most consistent way for the everyday working person to build serious wealth.
I owe a lot to Calvin and Beverly. Among many other things, without Calvin and Beverly moving to Canada and facing some financial adversity, I probably wouldn’t have the financial mindset that I have today.
I’m proud to say that Calvin and Beverly are my parents.