Only half of Canadians say they have a plan to guide their financial decision-making and most of those plans have been put together without the help of a professional financial planner, according to a nationwide survey conducted in 2016 for FP Canada.

The survey also showed that only 41% of respondents felt that they make more good financial decisions than bad ones, and 26% were unsure of who to turn to for financial planning advice.

Your road map to peace of mind

A professionally developed financial plan is the foundation for good financial decision-making, says David McGruer, CFP, a financial adviser at HollisWealth Advisory Services Inc. in Ottawa. But many Canadians don’t know the benefits of engaging in financial planning with a qualified professional.

“In my experience, people expect financial planners to focus on subjects such as economic and market analysis and forecasting, explanations for what is currently happening in markets, and performance of a market benchmark and market risk management,” he says. “But financial planning encompasses much more.”

David says that a planner’s fundamental value comes from three timeless functions:

  1. The establishment of written, time-specific, dollar-specific plans based on clear goals

  2. The construction of a suitable long-term portfolio to match those goals

  3. A lifetime of behavioural coaching that will enable clients to continue working the plan, through all the cycles of the economy and all the fads and fears of the market

Beyond investments: The broad scope of a financial plan

David believes that 20% of the value of a professional planner is in the formulation of goals and the implementation of a suitable investment portfolio, while 80% comes from coaching clients on how to avoid the pitfalls they’ll inevitably face.

Having a savings plan and being careful with your money is important, but it’s only one aspect of a financial plan, he adds.

“For example, financial planning may involve a complex interaction between cash flow, income tax, investment selection and asset allocation. A qualified planner will have studied and thought about these interacting issues over time and is likely to have helped a large number of clients to address them.”

People who try to develop a financial plan on their own typically miss the elements that only a professional planner can add to the mix, says David.

“First, there is an array of technical knowledge gained through experience and education. People who try to plan on their own may not even know what they’ve missed or why some aspects are important,” he explains. “Second, and more important, is the behavioural coaching that a knowledgeable and experienced planner can bring to the table.”

David believes lifelong financial planning, in partnership with your planner, helps provide peace of mind and personal fulfillment. And isn’t that the true definition of financial success?

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For more on financial planning and how to find a professional financial planner, read The value of financial planning, Choosing a financial planner and Do you really have a financial plan? It’s all about the big picture.