2022 Annual Review

As I said in our 2021 Annual Review, I write with post with some trepidation. In the interest in helping financial independence seem more attainable, I want to be very open about the math behind it. At the same time, comparison is a real source of suffering, and I don’t want to contribute to that. I’m also not a passionate tracker of these things, so our numbers are inherently rough. Regardless, in the hopes that this will do more good than harm, here’s how our finances played out in 2022.


I still work full-time and my wife still works part-time. This year was our first “clean” year in the sense that we were both working for Canadian employers. You’ll note that both our salaries are lower. For me, that’s because I got a lump sum payout on my vacation time when I left my US employer in 2021. For my wife, that’s because her US employer paid more. Now that our income situations are cleaner, I’m considering taking over our Canadian tax filing. For now, I’m planning to do it alongside our tax accountant and see if I get the same results.

And note that this is just salary — it excludes things like the Canada Child Benefit, re-imbursements, and credit card benefits.

Me$98,871 (CAD)$123,680 (CAD)$84,652 (USD)$73,599 (USD)
My wife$24,672 (CAD)$35,341 (CAD)$20,418 (USD)$41,581 (USD)

Spending (minus taxes)

Monthly Average$4,913$6,466
Annual Total$58,953$77,699

This year, I shifted to tracking our spending in a much simpler way. Itemizing it simply took too long. Also, I’m not trying to cut our spending, so knowing where it goes (e.g. groceries vs home repair) isn’t important. And I’m leaving out taxes because we’re now having them pulled from our paychecks. Thus, when I pull our spending from our bank accounts I’m not getting them. I’m OK with that, though, as I need to figure them in manually for our post-work phase as we’ll have significantly less taxable income then.

All-in-all, I’m happy with this spending. Would I like it to be lower, sure, but that says as much about me as it does about our spending. Using the 4% rule as a rough estimate, this would mean we’d need ~$1.5M USD / ~$1.95M CAD to retire, with the caveat that we’d need to account for taxes. We’re close to these numbers, but not quite there as our net worth dropped last year.

Net Worth

All values in USD
Jan 1, 2023Jan 1, 2022Jan 1, 2021Jan 1, 2020
457(b)s $167,360$184,711$154,718$131,036
Roth IRAs$229,437$279,360$237,008$201,669
403(b)s and RSPs$529,604$645,266$548,075$469,428

Our net worth went down by 14% in 2022, which isn’t too bad considering the market performance. We’re continuing to hold more cash than we usually would, along with ~$42K in iBonds, with an eye towards paying down a chunk of our mortgage when it comes due in 2025. After we top off our RRSP contributions for 2022, I’m planning to put the bulk of this cash into a 2 year GIC.


We don’t count home equity as part of our net worth. We purchased our house in July 2020 for $254,000 CAD (~$200,000 USD). The value has definitely increased from there based on comps. I’d guess, if we were to sell it today, we’d be close to (if not over) $350K CAD, which is nuts. When our mortgage comes due in 2.5 years, we’ll owe ~$178K. We’ll likely pay it off (or at least down significantly) if interest rates are high then. If not, we may do another 5 year mortgage.


Even with the market downturn in 2022, we’re still in the ball park of FI. At the same time, I’m not currently considering shifting to part-time work. This is partly because my company is going through a rough patch and I don’t want to make myself appear expendable. In addition, I’ve really come to appreciate the work-life balance that my job provides, along with a salary which would be very difficult (if not impossible) to find locally in semi-rural Nova Scotia. For now, my plan is to stay as a full-time employee for the next couple of years, then re-assess.

In addition, I’ve really come to realize that full retirement isn’t my goal. It does me good to have structure and purpose, and to have projects that make me engage with other people on a regular basis. Ultimately, I’d like to create this type of structure myself through part-time work and volunteering but, for now, I’m appreciating the security of a good salary with good work life balance. At the same time, I’ve started working with someone locally on some IT consulting that could eventually become a part-time replacement for my current job. We shall see.

2021 Annual Review

I have mixed feelings about putting these numbers down on the page. On the one hand, I think bringing more transparency and openness to personal finance is a good thing. At the same time, I think that our tendency to compare ourselves to other people is a lousy thing, and I certainly don’t want to encourage that. Fortunately, there are many people out there who have more money than we do, and there are lots of folks in the personal finance space who spend less that we do, so I don’t think our numbers should stir up too much suffering.

I’m also a bit hesitant to do this as I’m not a zealous tracker of every dollar that passes through our lives, and I realize that this isn’t a popular approach in the personal finance space. Until we moved to Canada, for example, I never tracked our spending or wrote out a budget. I’ve always felt that one of the perks of living well within your means is NOT having to track things religiously.

The combination of the international move and closing in on our FIRE number, though, made me more interested in knowing our actual spending. So I’ve been tracking that since we moved to Canada in the summer of 2020. I’ve also been tracking our net worth for about 9 years.


Currently, I work full-time and my wife works part-time. For most of 2021, we were both employed by US employers, switching over to Canadian employers in the fall. I got a bonus as I received a lump sum payout for my banked vacation time when I left my US employer. Next year, both of our salaries will likely be somewhat lower. And I’m only tracking our earnings from our jobs. In other words, I’m not counting things like the Canadian Child Benefit or investment earnings (which were all re-invested). We also received a small inheritance (~$15K USD) in 2021.

Me$123680 (CAD)$84652 (USD)$73599 (USD)
My wife$35341 (CAD)$20418 (USD)$41581 (USD)


All expenses listed in CAD
Home Repair / Maintenance$9,754
Spiritual Health$2,519
TOTAL$108,069 CAD
~$85,000 USD

The utilities number is actually a bit higher, as the pellets that we buy for our primary heat source are counted under “home repair / maintenance” (as that’s where everything from a hardware store goes. We probably spend about ~$750 CAD per year on pellets. Finally, spiritual health is a combination of meditation retreats and classes that we do.

Net Worth

All values in USD
Jan 1, 2022Jan 1, 2021Jan 1, 2020
457(b)s $184,711$154,718$131,036
Roth IRAs$279,360$237,008$201,669
403(b)s and RSPs$645,266$548,075$469,428
Net worth over the years, in USD

We moved in July 2020, selling our house in Tampa, and clearing ~$100,000. That’s part of both the jump in our taxable account, and also the jump in cash for January 2021 — I was dollar cost averaging into our taxable account at the time. The tremendous growth by January 2022 is primarily market gains. We’ve contributed a bit to our RRSPs up here, but I only had a little room.


I don’t consider our house as part of our net worth. We purchased our house in July 2020 for $254,000 CAD (~$200,000 USD). Crazily, based on the price per square foot of several recent sales in our neighborhood, I suspect it has already appreciated to close to $300,000 CAD. We have a mortgage of ~$195,000 CAD, with a monthly payment of ~$1100 CAD. I’m currently leaning towards paying it off (or at least down significantly) when the mortgage matures in about 3.5 years.


I suspect our future spending will be a bit lower, as we were still getting established in Canada this year. At the same time, we didn’t have any major one off expenses (we replaced our ERV, but that wasn’t too bad) so it may not be too far off. And I feel like the tax portion of our spending will drop significantly in retirement, as some of the money that we’re spending each year won’t be income. In other words, it will come from our taxable account or (eventually) our Roth IRAs.

If we take $65,000 USD as our target for annual spending, the 4% rule would give us a FIRE number of $1,625,000. At $1,448,280, that puts as about 90% of the way there. And neither my wife nor I plan to fully retire in the near future. I’m thinking I’ll go down to part-time in the next year or so, but at the same time with the combination of working from home and generous leave, I’m also thinking I might just stay full time until I’m ready to pull the plug. Regardless, I feel like we’re in great shape.

What we’re watching on CBC Gem (January 2022)

We really like the CBC Gem app. It’s free, and many of the shows have few (or no) advertisements. We stream it from our phones to our TV via a Chromestick. The streaming itself is excellent, and the app is pretty good. My main complaint is that it would be nice to be able to save a list of future shows to watch. Also, the app periodically will sign us out for no reason, but that’s a minor inconvenience.

Periodically, I’ll share some of what we’re watching. For better or worse, I tend to be pretty judgemental about pretty much everything, so I’m kind of hard to please when it comes to media. As a couple, we tend to like things that are “good hearted” — we don’t really watch anything scary or violent or based on people behaving badly. Here are the few of the things we’ve enjoyed watching recently.

Upright – Honestly, I think this might be one of my favorite shows of all time. It tells the story of a down-on-his-luck musician and a teenage runaway as they transport a piano across the Australia. Very well-written and well-acted, and unlike anything I’d ever seen. My wife and I both really enjoyed it. The pacing is excellent in terms of how you gradually learn about the characters. We both cried in the last episode (which, for me, is very unusual). In the US, I *think* it’s available on Amazon Prime.

The Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan – This is a UK travel show and the premise is that a comedian (Romesh Ranganathan) visits countries with dangerous or otherwise bad reputations. In the first series, he visits Haiti, Ethopia, Albania and the Arctic. The places he visits are interesting, and we really enjoy the tone of the show — he doesn’t make fun of the places he visits, nor does he view them through rose-colored glasses. It’s also been interesting to see some of the conversations around colonialism and racism, particularly with him being a person of color from a former colonial power. Each episode is about an hour long, too, which allows for more depth than some other travel shows (like Travel Man, for example, which is fine but kind of superficial in my opinion and also on CBC Gem).

Ghosts (BBC version) – The premise of this show is simple enough — a couple live in a house haunted by a bunch of ghosts from different time periods. It’s quite funny, and the team behind it is a group of improvisers who basically created the show so that they could all be in something together. It’s gets a little over the top for my tastes at times (there’s a Top Gun inspired montage in one of the later episodes that is pretty cringey) but we still like it. The first two seasons are on Gem.

Hot Docs – There’s a collection of “Hot Docs” that has recently been added to CBC Gem. My sense is that this might be an annual virtual festival, but I’m not sure. We watched Made You Look which tells the story of a long-term art fraud in NYC and found it to be very interesting. I’d like to watch Portrayal as well. Apparently, I’m interested in documentaries about art mysteries. Who knew?

Do you use CBC Gem? And, if so, what are you watching? Are there other free streaming services out there that you like?

Estate Planning

When our daughter was born, my wife and I had wills drawn up that used revocable trusts in the event that we both were to pass away. Control of the trusts would pass first to my brother and then to my sister, paralleling the guardianship of our daughter. Our goal is for the assets to follow her to her new family, with no strings attached.

Once we moved to Canada, though, we were told that having a US executors and US trustees would be problematic. At the same time, we didn’t really want to do a full re-working of everything, because our intention is that our daughter (aged 6) would return to the US if we both were to die. Thus, having a US estate plan still makes sense for us.

The solution we’ve arrived at is two-fold. First, we’re continuing to keep our US wills and US estates in place for our US assets (which is the larger share of our assets). Second, for our Canadian assets, we are having wills drawn up that, in the event of both of us passing away, use a trust services company (our bank) to enable my brother or sister to manage our estate remotely. We’ve made it clear to the trust services company that the goal is just to liquidate everything and move it back to the states.

I must confess — I’m no expert on estate planning and I’m not convinced that this is the ideal solution. I’m sure that there are things we could do, for example, to improve the tax efficiency of things. That being said, it meets our needs better than just having a US will, and because our intention (for now) is that our daughter would go back to the States if we both were to die, I think for the time being it makes sense to keep the US will in effect. Once our daughter is older (in say 10 years time) the plan will likely change to one that would keep her in Canada, at which point we’ll re-do everything with that in mind.

One downside to having the US trusts, though, is that Canada requires a tax filing for these trusts every year (even though they are empty). This isn’t a big deal, but it will add a couple of hundred bucks to our tax bill each year. My plan is to start doing our taxes ourselves in the next year or two, so I’m not hugely worried about this. Plus, since our goal right now would be for our daughter to return to the US, it makes sense to keep them even with the additional cost.

Finally, we took a similar approach with our power of attorney documents. If we both were to be incapacitated, we’re using a trust services company as co-attorney with my brother. That way, he can effectively direct things while remaining a US resident.

It was a little tricky to find a lawyer who could handle this. We worked with one lawyer initially, but it was clear that she didn’t really know what she was doing in terms of the crossborder aspects. We ended up with someone, though, that really seems to know her stuff. I don’t have any particular recommendations for trust services companies. I just went with the banks that we have our mortgage and checking account with. When we revisit our wills in 5-10 years, I suspect will get rid of the trust services company in favor of a local friend. If the goal is for our assets and daughter to remain in Canada, though, I could see us continuing to use a trust in some capacity until she reaches a certain age.

If you have any questions about estate planning, please feel free to ask, with the caveat that it’s entirely possible I will not have an answer for you. 🙂 And if you have any experience with your own version of a crossborder estate plan, I’d love to hear it!


In March 2020, we were planning to come to Nova Scotia to go house-hunting ahead of our anticipated May or June 2020 move. Needless to say, our plans changed. Fortunately, we were still able to find a house (via FaceTime) and ended up moving just a bit later than planned (in July 2020). Because of this, though, we ended up buying a house (and getting a mortgage) without ever having set foot in it. We had visited the town that we settled in for about 4 hours in October of 2019, and that’s it.

It worked out great (we’ve been here 18 months and counting and we love it) but it certainly wasn’t what we’d planned. I’d like to share what I’ve learned about the differences between Canadian and American mortgages. And just to be clear — I’ve had one mortgage in each country, so there are undoubtedly some aspects of mortgages that I’m not familiar with. Please feel free to let me know about other differences, or ask questions, in the comments below.

Amortization Period

The amortization period is the length of time it would take to pay off a mortgage making just the regular payments. For American mortgages, this will be the same as the duration (or term) of the mortgage, but not for Canadian mortgages (more on that below). In the US, the most typical amortization period is 30 years, versus 25 years in Canada. Amortizations periods of 15 or 20 years are also common in the US. I’m not sure how common shorter amortization periods are in Canada, but I may be investigating this our mortgage matures in about 3.5 years.

Term / Duration

The term of a mortgage (Canada only) refers to how long the contract is good for. This contract specifies things like interest rate, prepayment terms, etc. In Canada, this is different from the amortization period. For example, we have a 5-year fixed rate mortgage here in Canada, amortized over 25 years. In other words, we’re locked into the current mortgage contract for the first 5 years, and then we’ll renegotiate when that matures. Typical terms in Canada are 5, 7 or 10 years. The good thing about these short terms is that you can typically get a very low interest rate with a 5-year term. The bad thing (obviously) is that this rate is just guaranteed for 5 years and could go up. We went with the 5-year because we wanted the lower rate and we didn’t want to lock ourselves into anything longer because of the limited prepayment terms.

Prepayment (aka open or closed mortgages)

In my experience in the US, you can typically prepay as much as you want, whenever you want. If you pay more than your required payment each month, it gets applied directly to the principle. And you can pay it off in full whenever you’d like without penalty.

In Canada, on the other hand, many mortgages are “closed”. That means there is a penalty for prepayment before the end of the mortgage term. In other words, if we were to pay our mortgage off before the 5 years is up (remembering that the amortization period is actually 25 years) we’d have to pay a penalty. This penalty is typically a percentage of the remaining interest in the mortgage term, interest that you’d be avoiding by paying it off early. There are also open mortgages that allow prepayment without penalty, but those typically have higher interest rates.

Closed mortgages typically allow some prepayment without penalty (ours allows 10% annually) but you can’t pay the whole thing off whenever you want. If you move before the mortgage matures, you typically wouldn’t have a penalty because the mortgages are portable (meaning you can apply it to your new house) but I imagine you could run into this problem if you left Canada. Our mortgage is closed. Honestly, that made me uncomfortable at first, but the short term and the very low interest rate (2.44%) helped allay my concerns.


I’m not sure how typical this is, but our mortgage in Canada does NOT include our homeowners insurance payment. Perhaps there is some behind the scenes communication going on, but it isn’t clear to me how my bank guarantees that I have insurance. We found insurance ourselves, and paid for it ourselves, for the first year. Then we changed companies the second year. I notified the bank of all of this, but they weren’t particularly bothered by it. In the US (at least, in Florida) the bank made our insurance payments (so they knew we had insurance) and even dictated some coverage terms. In Canada, the bank just asked to be listed as the first payee. So our mortgage payment is just principal, interest and taxes in Canada, whereas in the US it has been principal, interest, taxes and insurance.


I don’t have a strong preference for one mortgage situation or the other. I was initially put off by the “closed” nature of Canadian mortgages, but because I’m not a monthly prepayer I don’t really mind. Our plan is to see how things are doing in 3.5 years and possibly pay off our mortgage then. We’ll owe ~$175K Canadian at that point. If the market is up (in other words, if we aren’t in the midst of a correction), I suspect we’ll just pay it off from a combination of our cash on hand, some I-Bonds, and some of our taxable account. On the other hand, if the market is down and the interest rates are low, we’ll probably just get another 5-year mortgage, likely having invested our cash on hand when the market fell. If interest rates are high, though, and the market is down, I think we’ll pay off a chunk, using whatever cash on hand we have (and probably the I-Bonds as well) but leaving our taxable account alone. I love the idea of not having a mortgage in early retirement, but I’m not wedded to it.

Are there any other differences that you’re aware of between Canadian and US mortgages? Are there any questions that you have?