The rapidly evolving work environment—fueled by digitization and social change—often demands new expertise and up-to-date skills to achieve career and lifestyle goals. While some people can juggle part-time studies with their existing jobs, others opt for full-time courses. Both choices require creating a financial plan or adjusting an existing one, says Orlando Lopez, Certified Financial Planner® professional with TD Wealth Financial Planning in Toronto, Ontario.
“Going back to school full-time means you complete the course more quickly, while part-time enables you to stay in the job market while you study. But whichever option you choose, plan for the unexpected,” says Orlando.
This includes being prepared for expenses you may not have anticipated—and if you have made a leap to a full-time course, you may take longer than you think to land your next job.
“There may not be an immediate return on your investment and you may have to rely on savings or other sources of income until you find that dream job,” he says.
If going back to school is a goal you planned for, then this represents a great achievement. However, if it wasn’t an objective, then it’s time to revisit your financial plan, reset your goals, pause your savings strategy and develop a plan that will enable you to complete your studies.
“One of the worst-case scenarios is that you start a program and can’t complete it because you run out of money,” cautions Orlando.
And for those people who don’t already have a financial plan and are contemplating taking a hiatus from work to improve their skills, meeting with a CFP® professional will provide an overview of how your finances will be impacted over the following months or years.
“A financial plan is key if you're about to take your income off the table and take on debt. Even though you may be taking on debt, you can still do that in a financially responsible way to ensure that you graduate with the least amount of debt possible,” says Shannon Lee Simmons, a Toronto-based CFP professional. “It's all about planning ahead: hopefully boosting some emergency savings and then having a debt strategy in place so you pay the least amount of interest and use credit responsibly.”
Orlando advises people considering going back to school to hope for the best and plan for the worst. He also suggests people to set up access to emergency cash before they stop drawing a salary, such as a line of credit. "Its better to have it and not use it, versus, needing it and not having it, especially considering it is difficult to get when there is no proof of income."
“A CFP professional will help people to look at the various options and consider all the variables. If you haven’t mapped out the realities of the impact on your finances, then you may not get the result you were hoping for,” says Orlando.
After your education is completed, it’s important to review the financial plan. You’ll want to see if your jaunt back to school has resulted in a better job and more income, as well as consider how you may be able to make up for the time when your savings strategies were on pause.
Shannon suggests maintaining the budget that has been in place while income has been lower.
“Once you go back to work you can save the extra income you're making to pay back any debt you took on and catch up on your original financial goals.”
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