7 rags-to-riches Canadian stories

7 rags to riches CanadiansThese days, low financial literacy levels are becoming a national epidemic in Canada. In fact, a recent Statistics Canada survey found that about half of Canadians who want to buy a home aren't saving what they need to for a down payment. Most believe that they'll have enough retirement income, even though they don't know how much they must save now. Worse, many Canadians aren't even bothering to plan for the future. More than one-third were struggling to keep up with their finances, and about half didn't have a budget.

Fortunately, not all Canadians are strangers to stretching a budget. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty himself learned the value of a dollar as one of eight children, raised by a sales manager father and a stay-at-home mother in the 1950s.

Here's a list of seven well-to-do Canadians whose rags-to-riches stories could teach the rest of us a thing or two about saving for the future and promptly paying off your credit cards.

  1. Celine Dion: The 14th of 14 children, Dion was raised in a poor household in rural Quebec, where her father made $160 per week to support a family of 16. Today, Dion is ranked as one of the highest-grossing female entertainers and recently ranked No. 3 in Forbes magazine's list of top-earning Hollywood women.
  1. Frank Stronach: An Austrian immigrant, Stronach arrived in Canada in 1955 with US$50 in his pocket. For two years, he took on menial jobs until opening a tiny machine shop in Toronto in 1957. Today, Stronach is the founder of Magna International, an international automotive parts company based in Ontario.
  1. Shania Twain: The country music superstar grew up in Timmins, Ontario, in a household that was too poor to pay for heat, and at times couldn't afford to buy food. As a child, Twain sang in bars to earn an extra $20 for her family. Her net worth today is estimated to be around $450 million.
  1. Michael Lee-Chin: Born in Port Antonio, Jamaica, Lee-Chin's mother sold Avon products while his stepfather ran a local grocery store. Named one of the richest people in Canada by Canadian Business magazine, Lee-Chin is best known for serving as executive chairman of AIC Limited, a mutual fund company, which was recently sold to Manulife Financial. Lee-Chin's wealth has been as high as $2.5 billion and his name adorns a new addition to Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum.
  1. Justin Bieber: Sixteen-year-old teen singing sensation Justin Bieber was raised by his single mother in small-town Stratford, Ontario. He taught himself how to play the piano, drums, guitar and trumpet. Today, Bieber landed at No. 1 with his album 'My World 2.0,' and has been spotted at the White House Easter Egg Roll, on the 'American Idol' stage, and on the couches of Jay Leno and David Letterman.
  1. Jim Carrey: Funnyman Jim Carrey spent his early years working eight-hour shifts in a factory while attending school to help support his struggling family in Scarborough, Ontario. The family eventually found themselves living in a camper van, that is, until Carrey found fame and fortune working the stand-up comedy circuit and landing a string of TV gigs. Today, he is one of the most highly paid comedians and movie actors.
  1. Robert Herjavec: The son of Croatian immigrants, Herjavec's mother could barely speak a word of English and lost the family savings to a vacuum salesman. After working menial jobs, including waiting tables, Herjavec now heads The Herjavec Group, one of Canada's top IT security and infrastructure integration firms. The host of CBC's 'Dragon's Den,' he also boasts a 50,000-square-foot mansion worth an estimated $15 million.
Published April 28, 2010

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