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Her Money Story with Joy Thomas, CEO of the CPA Of Canada

Written by Kelley Keehn

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

When you're the female head of a national organization for math lovers, which is still predominantly represented by men, you're going to have a money story. And Joy Thomas, CEO of CPA (Chartered Professional Accountants) of Canada has a great one!

Thomas was destined for financial leadership with an entrepreneurial twist, which she learned from her father at an early age, and carried into her career. But it was both of her parents that gave her a strong foundational footing and understanding of money, investing and more.

"Both my parents served in World War II. Their perspective on money was typical for that generation: they were quite frugal," Thomas explains. This isn't surprising for a family with six children.

A Defining Lesson

Something Thomas reflects on was her father's decision to cash in all his pension money and start his own business.

"I really didn't appreciate the significance of that action from a risk-taking perspective, or the entrepreneurial spirit that he had until I was much older," she says. "But they still had a high degree of discipline and always lived within their means."

She witnessed her father's business acumen with great interest. He had a demanding side that taught her not to be afraid of what she wanted – whether it was asking for a better rate on a GIC, or anything related to ownership and negotiating. She was able to witness a skilled entrepreneur and investor at work.

"I think a combination of the fact that I got into accounting myself, became a CPA, and his sort of 'I'm taking ownership of my finances' approach made me the same way," she says. "So I was not afraid to ask for what I want and that's come out in all kinds of ways. Even if you think about it from the perspective of a woman, asking for what you want in terms of compensation."

"Just through observing the way he was, it did help frame me."

One of the many things Thomas was skilled at was asking for what she was worth, and it's a lesson she'd like other women to take away.

"I really think early on in my career, I was pretty good at not leaving money on the table and asking for it. I just wanted to be treated fairly. And that can make people uncomfortable, but it doesn't make men uncomfortable necessarily. Ask for what you're worth. Just do it, because what's the worst thing? The worst thing is you don't get it."

Build a Safety Net

Joy believes that having a fully funded emergency account provides so much more opportunity for freedom in your life. "Take 10 percent of whatever you get and put it in your piggy bank. Put it in your bank and build a safety net. I always said that to my kids. But there's a reason – it's about the stress related to money. And it's also about the choices related to money. Because, what I observe, in any income bracket, is if you don't have some choice, because you have no finances behind you, no nest egg, the stress just amplifies and amplifies."

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