– It’s true that with all the other obligations of our busy lives, even
checking your credit card bill can seem like another chore on the pile. But
leaving things to coast and hoping for the best financially is really just
wishful thinking. As your life responsibilities increase – marriage,
children, family, home, career, retirement, aging, health –some sort of
financial response will eventually be needed if only to give you some peace
of mind in at least this one area of your life. And with the right sort of
help, it needn’t even be all that difficult. Here’s a checklist to help you
focus on what’s important.
Find a quiet time to sit down with your significant other and get to know
yourselves. Assess or reassess your life goals, values, investment goals,
and financial objectives. Are you looking for early retirement? Or perhaps
you really just want to get the mortgage monkey off your back. You might
want to save for a cottage. Children’s education. There are plenty of
long-term and short-term goals to consider. Make a list. It won’t take
Even if you have a mutual fund at your bank or GICs or savings bonds,
you’re investing. Evaluate those investments in light of your financial
goals. A good financial plan includes a detailed statement of investment
objectives, defining the optimal allocation of your investment assets. Do
you have an investment strategy? Do you invest or set aside investment
savings every month? If you have set out longer-term life objectives, you
will want to think about how to achieve them. Those investments and savings
goals are a great place to start.
Protecting your nest egg.
No one likes to talk insurance. But insurance is a critical part of your
overall financial plan. To get the optimal coverage (for example, life
insurance to protect your family, extended health care, disability or
critical care insurance), analyze your current protection, including all
employment coverage and benefits, and assess your true needs. You’ll
quickly see if you have too much or too little coverage.
Here’s another topic most people would rather not talk about. It can get
complicated, and usually requires expert help. But you can start off by
analyzing your current family tax situation to see if you’re taking
advantage of all personal and family deductions, credits, and writeoffs
available (most of this information is widely available online). But you
may also be missing major tax-planning opportunities, including specialized
tax-minimization planning for those who are business owner/managers,
professionals, senior executives, and self-employed. It’s here you may need
expert help to take care of all the details and make sure you don’t get
into hot water with the Canada Revenue Agency.
With a four-year university education creeping up to $100,000, do you
really want to saddle your kids with that kind of debt on graduation? Of
course not! A cornerstone of family financial planning is to start saving
for your kids’ post-secondary education with tax-efficient plans like
Registered Retirement Savings Plans and Tax-Free Savings Accounts. And the
sooner you start, the better, so that you get the full benefits of
long-term compounding. Even putting in a little every month is better than
doing nothing at all.
Making wills is a critical first step. But it’s only one part of a good
estate plan. Other key items could include trusts, registered accounts, and
insurance policies. All of these elements, and more, go into creating an
estate plan that provides for your family and determines how your assets
are transferred to the next generation – and how big a cut the CRA gets.
Make a list of all your legal documents and items that have an effect on
estate planning, including wills, powers of attorney, insurance policies,
registered plans, trusts, and so forth. If your list is blank, you need to
do something fast! At the very least, consult a lawyer to have wills made
for you and your spouse. Then move on to some of the other items.
There’s a lot to consider here, and it can seem overwhelming. That’s where
a good financial planner comes in. Look for one that specializes in
holistic family financial planning. Get references from friends or family.
Or check the directory of the Financial Planning Standards Council for
planners in your area who hold the Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
Robyn Thompson, CFP, CIM, FCSI, is the founder of
Castlemark Wealth Management, a boutique financial advisory firm specializing in wealth management
for high net worth individuals and families. She is also listed as a
MoneySense Approved Financial Advisor. Contact her directly by phone at 416-828-7159, or by email at
for a confidential planning consultation.
Notes and Disclaimer
© 2018 by the Fund Library. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or
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The foregoing is for general information purposes only and is the opinion
of the writer. Securities mentioned are illustrative only and carry risk of
loss. No guarantee of investment performance is made or implied. It is not
intended to provide specific personalized advice including, without
limitation, investment, financial, legal, accounting or tax advice. Please
contact the author to discuss your particular circumstances.