Miroslav and Marika Bucek were taking a big risk in 1983 when they defected with their family to Canada from Czechoslovakia but they were determined to forge a better future for their six-year-old daughter Janet and her younger brother Rene.
“My parents knew they would have been shot for what they were doing,” said Janet Dawes. “They were prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for my brother and I.”
The family settled in Guelph where Dawes attended Bishop Macdonell Catholic High School.
“I was in the last graduating class at the old Bishop Mac building on Norfolk Street before they tore it down,” she said.
When Dawes was 17-years-old she developed a high school crush on her future husband Jason Dawes. They are now the proud parents of two young sons Jack, 3, and Julian, 1.
After high school, Dawes enrolled at the University of Guelph.
The fall of communism in Eastern Europe, including Czechoslovakia five years earlier had led to new civil and economic freedoms her parents could only have dreamed of during their early lives behind the Iron Curtain.
“I spent my summers travelling Europe and the Middle East,” said Dawes. “The Lebanese make some of the best food in the world. Where I was staying I had a view beyond the Lebanese border where all the military conflict was going on.”
Dawes decided early in life that she wanted to help improve the lives of others.
“I was going to be a doctor before realizing how squeamish I was,” she said. “I had to mentally prepare myself each time before the labs. There is a big difference between working with cadavers and treating living, breathing people. I knew this was not going to work.”
Nevertheless, she stuck it out and earned an undergrad degree in biological science.
“I had to finish,” she said. “I had gone too far. I was the only one in my close circle of classmates that graduated.”
She didn’t go on to practice medicine but she gained valuable skills and experience that would shape her work and life philosophy. One major lesson she learned is familiar to many students experiencing their first real taste of freedom.
“I got a wakeup call when my OSAP bill arrived and I realized I had $50,000 in student debt,” said Dawes. “I decided I wasn’t going to be a statistic. I started reading every book I could find in the library because it was free. I followed the economic advice I found and I was debt free in four years.”
The experience opened new opportunities for her.
“I fell in love with economics and went back to school,” she said. “I took on a full course load online and was also working 60 hours a week as a retail manager.”
She got her license to sell investment vehicles and worked at Scotiabank for seven years before becoming an associate investment advisor with Green Private Wealth Counsel.
“Banks are in the business of giving you credit,” said Dawes. “I am in the business of making you money and I don’t make money if you don’t.”
Her work with Green also allows her to utilize elements of her medical training.
“I loved psychology in school,” said Dawes. “I look at behavioural problems people have with money. My mission is to change one’s financial trajectory for the better.”
She is especially interested in helping women who are assuming more economic responsibility for family finances.
“Studies show that 90 per cent of the decisions will be made by women because in most cases they are outliving their spouses,” she said. “I know what it feels like to be in debt. Debt needs to be used appropriately and that is something most people don’t know how to do.”
She wants to help people remove obstacles to their happiness.“Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the road,” said Dawes. “I want to help people find their way and stand on their own two feet.”