Michael Ford (post until Oct. 31/19)
Family

Avoid debt for a happy life: Sadiq

Debt problems are at the heart of many divorces, Toronto family lawyer Usman Sadiq tells AdvocateDaily.com.

His work handling more than 1,500 divorces has given Sadiq, founder and principal owner of Sadiq Law Professional Corporation, the perfect vantage point to watch the devastation that financial problems have wrought on the average Canadian family.

“I see the most intimate details of people’s household finances, and debt is destroying our homes, our children and mental and physical health. Families are innocent in this — they are the victims,” he says.  

But Sadiq goes further, saying that he sees debt as the “root cause of all evil in our society right now,” and he worries that another recession, housing market collapse, or other major financial shock could send many over the edge.  

“Debt is enslaving Canadians, but I feel like financial institutions don’t care about family units,” he says. “They and the government are more concerned about keeping the economy afloat. But if we don’t keep families strong, then Canada will crumble.”

Even for professionals making salaries at the upper end of the scale, Sadiq worries about the enthusiastic embrace of large-scale debt. In his own profession, he says many of his colleagues over-leverage in an attempt to attract lucrative work or even just to show off.

“I see people driving fancy high-end cars, and wonder why they’re adding so much to their monthly expenses for no reason at all,” says Sadiq, who expresses admiration for a lawyer friend who moved to Windsor to build a modest practice, eschewing opportunities to make more money in Toronto   

“His mortgage there costs $500 per month, and he can live like he’s semi-retired,” Sadiq says. “If he were to move to Toronto, he’d have to get his kids into a daycare and pay a fortune for a house, and anxiety levels would be through the roof.

“Pretty soon, he’d probably be calling me for legal advice,” he says.

And Sadiq has followed his friend’s example in the last six months, revamping his schedule to make more time for his wife and two young children, as well as his own personal development.

“I’ve started playing golf, and I have time to go to the gym,” he says. “I’m enjoying life, and I’m not stressed, and I can’t overstate the importance of avoiding debt in helping me achieve that.”

Since graduating from law school, Sadiq has made avoiding debt a priority, starting his law firm in 2013 with an investment from family members. He quickly paid off his student debt, crediting his prudent business practices and love for the simple life.

Sadiq says families who are struggling to get by financially should consider downsizing their home or moving out to areas further from expensive city cores. Everyone else should take on as little debt as they possibly can, he says.

“Get out of the rat race. Your kids are your best investment, and you should spend as much time with them as possible because time is something you can never get back,” Sadiq says. “I’m optimistic that Canadians can get out of the trap. We’re a country full of opportunities.”

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