Most of us know Gail Vaz-Oxlade for the frank financial advice she doled out to spendy princesses, money morons and stressed couples on her assortment of TV shows, including, most famously, Til Debt Do Us Part.
We asked her about her new direction and she explained it’s actually not as big a pivot as you might think.10 Pieces Of Personal Finance Wisdom We Owe To Gail Vaz-Oxlade
You quit giving financial advice a little over two years ago. How come?
I retired from money for a couple of reasons. First, I was bored. To be honest, that’s the big reason. I had said it, and said it, and said it, and said it, and said it, and I couldn’t figure out another way to say it. The second reason is that there’s an influx of influencers into the personal financial arena, and I don’t want to be associated with them. They’re not doing it to educate, they’re making money off of it [from financial institutions].
What would you have said to me if I had asked you for financial tips for readers?
I would have just declined the interview. I would have said, “Sorry, I’m napping that day.”
In March, after an almost two-year hiatus, you started blogging again. You announced it on Twitter, saying it was, “not about money, like before. But about things I think are important.” Is Gail Vaz-Oxlade “woke”?
I have always been woke. I have always been woke. What I have not been is … well, for the most part, I have stayed out of politics, but I have stepped up on issues.
A while back, I was all over [Ontario Premier] Kathleen Wynne’s ass about hydro, and I tweeted regularly about the discrepancy between how policy is set and its effect on communities. When Stephen Harper brought in the legislation [Bill C-24, which made it possible to revoke the citizenship of dual citizens] that made my children second-class citizens in Canada, I stepped up. I did it on my radio show and I did it on my blog and I talked about it on Twitter, and I like to think I had a small hand in its defeat.
I don’t have a party, I don’t represent anybody. I think Kathleen Wynne’s arrogance has been a huge part of her downfall. However, I will take Kathleen Wynne’s arrogance over [Conservative leader] Doug Ford’s stupidity any day of the week.
So the coming Ontario provincial election is part of the reason to revive the blog?
Absolutely, absolutely. If Doug Ford had not been chosen as leader, I would have just let this run. But they chose Doug Ford and then everybody stepped in line behind him, which is exactly what the Republicans did with Trump.
Other than similarities to Trump, what are your biggest concerns about Ford?
Did you read my blog post?
Yes, I did.
(Note to readers: Vaz-Oxlade is referring to an April 2, 2018 post in which she raised concerns about Ford’s position on abortion rights, the LGBTQ community, disability issues, a living wage, global warming, transit and rent control, among other things.)
So, my main concerns are in my blog. And when he got chosen, I went, “Over my f—— dead body,” and I said [on Twitter] “Who wants to jump in on this?” And, God bless them, a bunch of people jumped in and said, “We want to help.” And so that’s what we’re doing.
You’re referring to the social media campaign #NotFord that you’re involved in. What’s your goal there?
My big message is you need to vote. I am very, very concerned about the number of people who feel like they’re between a rock and a hard place and will not vote because they don’t know who to vote for. My big message is if you don’t want Doug Ford, you need to vote for the person who is most likely to beat the Conservative candidate in your riding. I don’t care who it is. It could be green, it could be orange or … Are the liberals red or blue? Red, right? It could be red, I don’t care. See, I don’t even know the freaking colours, OK?
But if you want to make sure Ford does not get to run Ontario, vote. I have said I will move out of Ontario if he is elected. And I will. I’ve already started looking. And I’m taking my money with me when I go.
Has anyone ever asked if you wanted to run for office?
Yeah, loads of people. But I can’t run for office because I’ve slept with way too many people! Besides, who wants a loud-mouth who won’t tow the party line? NOBODY!
You’ve never been afraid to say what you think, whether it’s about personal finance or political issues, so less has changed than people might think.
Totally. Nothing’s changed, it’s just a different issue that I’m dealing with now.
Are the issues changing? In Til Debt Do Us Part, you often helped people with low-income problems. But if inequality continues to grow, will there be people who won’t be able to make it work, even if they follow all your rules for managing money?
How Much Should You Really Spend On A Sofa? We already are seeing that. Because we’re seeing real estate having outpaced peoples’ abilities. And I’m not talking about just purchasing, I’m also talking about the rental market. If you’re a person making minimum wage, how do you rent an apartment in Toronto? How do you do that? I’m just saying that in a community where people can’t afford to pay rent and buy food, we have a problem. Once upon a time, bosses made 20 times what their workers made. Now they’re making 300 times more. That’s wrong.
Especially for young people. It doesn’t matter how much avocado toast you give up, you’re never going to be able to afford a million-dollar house. But from your blog, it seems like you think the kids are alright.
The Millennials? I love them. And, you know, they are farther behind the 8-ball than just about any generation that’s come before them. That avocado toast stuff is the rubbish that people I’m going to call old white guys are spewing about the next generation.
I know you’ve gotten some flack for your willingness to speak out on Twitter and elsewhere. Does it hurt?
I won’t let it hurt. So if my initial reaction is “Ouch,” I quickly dismiss the ouch and say, “Don’t be an idiot, I don’t even know that person,” and ask myself “Why do you care?” But part of this is because I am always watching my own thoughts because I’m a depressive and, if I’m not always watching my thoughts, my crazy will take me to the wrong places. And so, in large part, my depressive disease has equipped me to deal with people’s nasty because they can’t be anywhere near as nasty as my own crazy has been.
Do you have any advice for people looking to be bolder about speaking out?
The first thing you have to do is know who you are and be true to yourself. When I was a child, a favorite aunt wrote this in my autograph book: “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” And I’ve lived my life by that philosophy. I am always true to myself.
This interview has been condensed and edited.