Key areas to focus on for creating a workable plan
“Why even bother with family financial planning?” I’m asked that question frequently. After all, the money comes in, the money goes out. The kids have to go to some practice or other. Then there’s the grocery shopping, doctor’s visits, house-cleaning, yard-work, the list seems endless. Who’s got time to worry about finances? It somehow all works. But that’s really relying on a false sense of security. As you your life responsibilities increase – marriage, children, family, home, career, retirement, aging, health –some sort of financial response is needed if only to give you some peace of mind in at least this one area of your life. Here’s a checklist to help you focus on what’s important.
Financial planning. 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 long.
Investing. 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.
Tax planning. 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.
Education. 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.
Estate planning. 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 we come in. At Castlemark Wealth, we specialize in holistic family financial planning. We’ll take the weight off your shoulders with an integrated plan that lets you sleep at night – and get on with taking the kids to practice and shopping for groceries.
© 2018 by Robyn K. Thompson. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is prohibited. This article is for information only and is not intended as personal investment or financial advice.