Last Tuesday night, I had the pleasure of hearing famed author Cheryl Strayed speak at TD’s “Your Story, Your Future” speaker series. The series was started in honour of the Bank’s “Your Story, Your Future” financial planning program – the first experiential investor program for women in Canada. While all of us have different ideas about what success and financial stability mean, TD is seeking to help women take control of their money, and by extension, their destinies. The program aims to help women develop financial literacy by combining workshops and materials with inspirational speakers’ events to help women feel confident and inspired about their futures.
New York Times bestselling author Cheryl Strayed is the epitome of a woman who took control of her life, and therefore an apt role model for women curious about TD’s pioneering program. Speaking at The Art Gallery of Ontario, Strayed relayed her story, a tale she refers to as one of “resiliency.” After her mother tragically passed away at the age of forty-five, the young Strayed admits she spent much of her twenties mired in a rut of drug abuse and unfulfilling – sometimes dangerous – sexual encounters. Strayed, however, ultimately decided not to let the mistakes of her youth define her future.
Strayed knew she wanted to break the self-destructive spiral her grief had initiated, and so she bravely set off in search of herself. Her journey took the writer on a three-month solo trek along the Pacific Coast Trail in 1995, a trip that became the inspiration for her popular 2012 memoir Wild. Strayed told the crowd assembled at The AGO in her honour about how the hike tested her physical limits and ultimately taught her the secret to succeeding in the wilderness and in life: “You just have to keep walking.”
Now forty-eight and happily married with two children, Strayed is still grateful for the life-changing wilderness trek she embarked upon twenty-one years ago. As she sees it, the central question Wild asks is this: “How do we bear what we cannot bear?” It is a question everyone asks sometimes, but, as Strayed’s talk demonstrates, resiliency is the answer. We must find a way to fight the challenges that overwhelm us. For Strayed, that was not abandoning her wilderness journey. For other women, however, the unbearable challenge we never anticipated could take the form of single motherhood, struggling to make a success of a new business, or caring for a sick parent.
Strayed’s message of carrying on through difficult times is one from which TD wants all women to learn, regardless of their interests, careers, or individual financial priorities. The TD Wealth Women Investor Program seeks to give women all over Canada the tools to follow our dreams and cope with setbacks. While Canadian women influence a significant and ever-growing share of the country’s wealth, the truth is many of us still do not have detailed plans for our financial futures. That truth is certainly not helping us realize our dreams, whether they involve taking a year off to write a novel, or paying for our children’s graduate degrees at a prestigious university.
The beauty of TD’s “Your Story, Your Future” program is that it provides a holistic advisory relationship that is based on achieving your life goals, rather than hitting an arbitrary financial benchmark. If for you, financial success means being able to retire early to travel the world, then that is the dream TD will help you to achieve. The goal is to empower women investors to live the lives they want to live when it comes to all areas of life, from career to family, to legacy.
In the end, Strayed’s story inspires introspection. It motivates us to wonder if our lives are going in the direction in which we wish to see them head. And ultimately, as Strayed says, “It’s a good idea to seek out hard things.” That’s why it is so important to ensure our lives are set up to face challenges and overcome obstacles.
If you wish to join TD’s conversation about financial literacy, you can weigh in on social media by tagging posts with #YourStoryYourFuture.
This post has been generously sponsored by TD Bank but opinions are my own.