"I don’t know where to start, and I don’t know how much we need,” said a client of Certified Financial Planner® professional Delores Moskal in their initial conversation.
It’s a situation too many Canadians find themselves in. “Without a financial plan in place, it is impossible to know if you’re doing the best you can with the resources you have,” says Ms. Moskal, CFP, a financial planner with Cornerstone Credit Union in Saskatchewan. “Starting the financial planning process as soon as you possibly can is probably the most important good that you can do for yourself and for your family – and there are experts available to help walk you through the journey.”
For one of her clients, realizing a lifelong dream of buying a lake cabin and spending time there with friends and family resulted in unexpected expenses, which created anxiety as retirement approached. But through the planning process, it became clear that the extra expenses would end as they moved forward on their plan to move to the cabin as their primary home, and were within their means.
“Going from actively working, with a constant cash flow, to relying on their pension and savings was a huge milestone for them,” says Ms. Moskal. “They were trying to manage their cash flow along with investments and taxes, all while trying to create their ideal retirement. The retirement plan we prepared for them addressed all of those elements, bringing them a lot of peace of mind.”
The benefits of a relationship with a trusted financial planner can start with debt and cash management in early adulthood and extend throughout the retirement and estate planning process, says Jeanette Brox, a certified financial planner and senior financial consultant with Investors Group.
One of her clients, a single professional woman, first met with Ms. Brox 18 years ago after deciding it was time to think about buying a home. “I took her through the financial planning process, setting short-term, mid-term and long-term goals. We figured out that she could save the down payment for the kind of home she wanted in three years, using her RRSPs as part of the down payment.”
Three years later, to the day, the client found a home she wanted to buy, and Ms. Brox arranged the mortgage. By following the plan, “she was then able to pay off her mortgage in six years rather than the 10 years she’d initially aimed for,” she says. “Then she focused on building equity outside her home.”
More recently, Ms. Brox helped her client purchase long-term care insurance and put plans in place to minimize taxes in retirement. “She has no debt, her RRSPs are substantial and she’ll have a pension from work, so her next goal is early retirement,” she reports.
Many Canadians procrastinate on financial planning because they fear they should be further along financially, without realizing that financial planning is the solution, says Ms. Brox. “It’s really important to understand how much procrastination may be costing them: it might be the opportunity to buy that house they’re dreaming of, or the opportunity to create a better retirement.”
“Many people procrastinate because they’re overwhelmed or confused,” adds Ms. Moskal. “They don’t know whether they should be focused on paying down debt or saving for retirement, or both. But we can help them sort out what’s really important to them now – and get to all of the other details as we go along.
“Just start – have that initial meeting with a financial planner,” she urges.
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