Gail Vaz-Oxlade, the Jamaican-Canadian money guru, became a household name almost by accident. She was born into a wealthy family and first started her financial career by writing retirement savings manuals for a banking client -- this led her to write freelance finance columns for a number of publications and her eventual position as Canada's TV money expert.
Over her long career, she has attempted to separate money conversations from all of the strange connotations many people attach to the topic. In her new book, Money Talks: When To Say Yes and How to Say No she reveals the ways in which money and relationships can become intertwined, sometimes with negative consequences. Gail explains how family and money often don't mix and how conflict can spring from unpaid loans, disputes over inheritances, and boomerang kids moving back in with their baby boomer parents.
However surprising, Gail points out that often the money isn't really the problem but gets the blame for other issues that have been simmering under the surface.
For more than a decade, Gail has provided no-nonsense money advice and fought against unfair credit card and payday loan fees in her many blog posts, articles, best-selling books and her hit TV shows Til Debt Do Us Part, Princess and Money Moron. Her shows have demystified complex financial topics for her fans and managed to encourage families to talk about the often taboo subject of money.
When she announced her retirement last year at the age of 57, her many loyal fans were disappointed to see her go, yet her legacy will continue through her almost 2,000 blog posts and her seemingly simple yet revolutionary jar technique.
Gail warns against our overuse of credit cards and debt to fund "wants" rather than "needs". Part of her regimen is to meant encourage debt offenders to commit to a cash-only diet. To help people to really understand where their money is going, she advocates keeping a spending journal and distributing a weekly budget into different small glass jars designated for different types of spending. For example: Housing costs, travel and transit, food, gifts, clothing and whatever else applies to you. The concept is that once the jar is empty, over-spenders have a concrete way of recognizing that there isn't any money left. Sometimes when we charge transactions to a card without having to handle the physical money the amounts can seem like abstract numbers and not actual money that could be used for more important costs.
"You decide how much to put in the jars, you put the money in, you live on it, you can see when the dough's running out so you have to stop spending, and you get a real kick out of having money left in the jars."- Gail Vaz Oxlade
Gail always encourages those featured on her shows and all her clients to balance their own budget, she won't do it for them because she believes this is an important step in getting out and staying out of debt. In fact, she even describes becoming financially literate as "empowering".
Gail is an inspiring role model for women in a predominantly male dominated industry and has spent her career counseling those who have allowed their money (or lack of it) to take over their lives. One area that has especially concerned her is how willing some women are to relinquish control of their finances to a romantic partner. She doesn't shy away from discussing difficult topics like divorce, death, and job losses that could leave women bankrupt if they aren't keeping their eye on the pennies.
Gail Vaz-Oxlade has been described as tough-talking, and although it's true that she isn't afraid to tell it like it is, her direct attitude is what's needed to help people to change their lives. In her incredible career, as the author of 13 money management books, she's done just that.
"I believe that we can have anything we want in life…anything. It's all a matter of what's important to us and how hard we're prepared to bust our butts." - Gail Vaz-Oxlade.