By Cary List, CPA, CA, CFP
President and CEO, Financial Planning Standards Council
Get more exercise. Cut out trans fats. Floss daily. Spend more time with family. We all know what we need to do to create more wellness in our lives. We’ve all got a mental list of “shoulds” and “one days” – all the things we know are good for us, but we don’t always do.
Financial planning usually falls somewhere on that list. We know it’s good for us, but it can feel overwhelming or even scary. Some are held back by common misconceptions about financial planning – that it’s just about budgeting and cutting back, or that it’s just about investing. Others figure they’re generally moving in the right direction and hope their financial goals will take care of themselves, or that financial planning is something for people who are younger, older or wealthier.
The fact is, most Canadians can benefit from financial planning, regardless of life stage or situation.
When you have the right financial plan for your circumstances – covering every area of your financial life, from investments to tax planning, insurance needs and retirement planning – you can balance what you need and want today with the personal goals you have for the future.
These are important decisions, and you shouldn’t have to go it alone. An appropriately qualified financial planner can guide you through what you need to know. New global research from the international Financial Planning Standards Board, in association with Financial Planning Standards Council in Canada, shows that just one in five Canadians feel they have the know-how to create a financial strategy or have strong confidence that they will achieve their financial life goals.
Comprehensive planning with a qualified financial planner not only helps proactively navigate your financial future, but also helps deal with the inevitable financial surprises along the way. In fact, it’s often these unexpected life events that first make people think seriously about financial planning. Life happens – unexpected job loss, the death of a spouse or partner, divorce or the birth of a child with special needs. In these moments of great stress, we often find ourselves needing to make critical decisions that could have significant financial impact on the quality of our lives down the road.
Last year, Financial Planning Standards Council released research that showed that money is the number one stress factor for Canadians, and nine out of ten wish they had made better decisions earlier in their lives. Today’s Boomers are living longer, fuller lives, but many are joining the ranks of the “working retired” because they can’t afford not to work. Not only will their savings need to last longer, but they’ll likely face rising costs in health and long-term care. According to a recent HSBC study, 45 per cent of working-age Canadians expect some period of semi-retirement before fully packing it in, while another 15 per cent expect they’ll never be able to fully retire.
Many Boomers also find themselves sandwiched between two generations with their own unforeseen financial issues. Their own parents are living longer with insufficient savings; their kids are entering adulthood at a time of great economic uncertainty, and often haven’t been taught responsibility for their own financial well-being. This is a big cohort – by 2020, the Millennial generation will make up the largest percentage of the Canadian workforce. But today, they have high student loans and consumer debt, leaving less for savings. Younger Canadians have the best opportunity to build a solid financial future, but for the rest of us, it’s never too late.
The results of a three-year longitudinal study of 15,000 Canadians, conducted on behalf of Financial Planning Standards Council, provides important insight into the potentially life-changing impact of financial planning. The Value of Financial Planning study revealed that those who engaged in comprehensive financial planning report significantly higher levels of financial and emotional well-being. Those with comprehensive plans say they’re more on track with their financial goals and retirement plans, have improved their ability to save in the past five years and feel more confident that they can deal with financial challenges in life. Clearly, a solid financial plan can also help overcome some of today’s biggest financial fears – dependence on government or family in retirement, needing to join the ranks of the “working retired”, or simply the fear of never being able to realize life’s goals.
Financial Planning Standards Council declared Financial Planning Week seven years ago to start this very conversation. It’s not easy to talk about our finances, particularly if we feel ill-informed, overwhelmed or embarrassed by our past choices or current circumstances. Confronting these issues today can make a world of difference in the quality of our lives tomorrow.
If you need a qualified professional to help you tackle your financial worries, FPSC’s Find a Planner or Certificant tool can put you in touch with someone in your area.