According to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, having a budget or a financial plan is a great way to start saving to reach your goals or be prepared for unexpected expenses. However, 51% of Canadians don’t have a financial plan.
The good news is, it’s never too early or too late to adopt good financial habits and optimize (or create!) a financial plan!
The difference between a financial plan and an investment plan
First, let’s look at the difference between a financial plan and an investment plan. As we’ll talk about later in this article, a financial plan includes a lot more than you might think. It should include all the products and services you use to protect your estate (insurance, will, etc.) as well as your savings strategies.
Financial planning: where do you start?
Putting your financial plan on paper is the first step. When you establish your goals for the short, medium and long term, you can create the best financial strategies to reach them.
Here are some examples of short-term goals:
- Create an emergency fund equal to 3 months of your cost of living expenses in an account that’s accessible at all times and that’s not affected by the financial markets
- Open a tax-free savings account (TFSA) for projects that require quick access to cash
- Meet current financial obligations
- Become debt-free
Here are some examples of medium- and long-term goals:
- Create or update a retirement plan
- Save for your children or grandchildren’s education with the registered education savings plan (RESP)
- Protect your savings with the right insurance product
- Start thinking about estate planning
How to make your own financial goals
A simple and easy way to create goals for your financial plan is to use the SMART method: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.
Specific: the goal should have a well-defined and observable result.
Measurable: pick something that can be easily measured or quantified.
Achievable: your goal should be a motivating challenge, but still achievable.
Realistic: make sure you have the resources needed to achieve it.
Time-bound: set a date for achieving your goal.
If you have several plans in mind, you can make multiple financial goals. A SMART goal should be specific!
To get it all in writing, download our checklist for creating financial goals.
What your financial plan should include
In addition to your goals, your plan should also take into account your insurance and estate planning needs. Think about the insurance products you may need:
- Life insurance
- Health and disability insurance
- Critical illness insurance
- Home insurance
- Car insurance
Then, take some time to think about estate planning. You never know when an unfortunate event might occur and being prepared will allow your loved ones to get through it much more smoothly. Here are some things to consider:
- Determine your goals (heirs, last wishes, etc.)
- Gather your official documents and prepare an estate summary (marriage contract, life insurance policies, investment statements, etc.)
- Prepare your will with a professional
- Designate your heirs
- Optimize your tax planning (review your tax strategies)
- Plan your funeral arrangements
- Create instructions for your final moments (protection mandate, advance medical directives, etc.)
- Choose a proxy
- Gather together all your relevant legal documents
We’ve also created a handy checklist including all the above considerations for you. Feel free to download it and keep it in your files for reference.