Community & Current Events

There's more to Gail Vaz-Oxlade than money smarts

By: Jill Buchner

Photography by David Wile Author: Canadian Living Credits: Photography by David Wile

Community & Current Events

There's more to Gail Vaz-Oxlade than money smarts

By: Jill Buchner

Gail Vaz-Oxlade is not your typical financial guru. She doesn't harp on about fixed versus variable rates or mutual fund options like many experts, who, in her estimation, work very hard to make sure we don't understand our money. "They sound like ‘wah-wah-wah,' like the teacher from the Charlie Brown cartoons," she laughs. By contrast, Gail—beloved by fans of her television shows and seven personal finance books—is plain-speaking, practical and to the point.

When she breezed into Canadian Living headquarters to collaborate on this issue (find her most important money advice here), her running narrative was punctuated by her famouswagging finger, shrieks of laughter and even a few expletives. Gail's informal approach to finance stems partly from the fact that her own mastery of money wasn't learned in school. She grew up in an upper-middle-class family in Jamaica. At 17, she and her family moved to Toronto, where life was very different. "It's nothing almost every immigrant in Canada hasn't gone through," she says. The move gave her the initiative to become financially mature, and fast.

In 1980, three years after she had moved to Canada, she got her first full-time job, making $150 a week. "I needed to track every penny to make sure the money lasted because I didn't have very much of it," she recalls. This healthy money habit has stuck with her all these years, and it's one she passes on to the debt-burdened people she counsels on her TV shows, Til Debt Do Us Part (which ran for an incredible nine seasons—you can watch episodes online at slice.ca/til-debt-do-us-part), Princess and Money Moron.

And there's much more to Gail than money smarts. When she's not super-busy writing her books or blogging on gailvazoxlade.com (she once worked 42 hours straight and survived the second day on Nanaimo bars—"Seriously, just Nanaimo bars"), she can be found at home in Brighton, Ont., with her dog, Tabitha. She's a knitter, an avid reader (we're talking 200 books a year), a tea drinker and an accomplished painter (check out her art project with our Home & Garden director). And when we brought her into The Canadian Living Test Kitchen, we discovered she's also an incredible cook (watch her cook up a storm with our Food Director).

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There's more to Gail Vaz-Oxlade than money smarts

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