We all know how quickly life happens. One day we’re in university and then all of a sudden we’re reflecting on the last 10 years of our careers. With every stage in life, whether it’s post-university/college or retirement, we have different needs and numerous decisions to make.
Many of these decisions are based on what we want to achieve and the resources we have to achieve them. Joanne Conan, senior financial planner with Westoba Credit Union, said that planning for the short term or for the long term is largely based on goals.
“It’s not about how much money you have, it’s about the goals you have and how you achieve them. It’s not a matter of having a bunch of money, it’s about how you get the money you need to reach your goals,” Conan said.
For people who have just finished university or college and are starting their careers, their goals might be centred on debt reduction or saving for a house or vehicle.
Regardless of the goal, it’s important to put strategies in place to determine what’s affordable and what makes the most sense.
“It’s exciting because they are just beginning to embark on their financial journey. They sometimes need someone to help bring some focus to establishing good savings habits or establishing a good credit rating. We often advise clients at this age what will happen if they do use credit cards to fund purchases and what risk that puts them at,” Conan said.
As couples get married and start having children, their needs change from when they first began their careers.
This is generally a stage when people are looking for the most guidance and couples are often confused as to whether they should be paying down their mortgage, putting away money for the kids’ education fund or saving for retirement.
As young families often have a lot of different things that they need to be putting money towards, professional financial planners will help to determine what takes priority and what makes the most sense at this stage of their lives.
“For young families there are a few things that we have to explore. It’s not just about how much money are we going to put away, it’s also about things like their protection strategy. Meaning, do they have a will, do they have a power of attorney, do they have life or disability insurance in place? We will often look at what priority is driving them right now and setting expectations for the future. Sometimes it is a matter of coming up with strategies to help free up a bit more money to meet those expectations,” Conan said.
As the children grow up and move out on their own or as a person gets closer to the age where they are thinking about retiring, the same philosophy applies. Conan says it’s about the goals that people want to achieve.
“For those getting closer to retirement, the first focus tends to be getting the home paid off. I often use the line, you need your debt retired by the time you retire. Sometimes they’ve done a really good job (of paying off debt) and they don’t have the debt to worry about.”
Having an action plan, a checklist and an annual review (at minimum) with a financial planner can help to keep people on track.
And, regardless of what stage of life you are in, having someone to help guide you to achieve your goals for today and into the future can only lead to good things.
“We help you to figure out what is realistic based on your budget,” Conan said. “It’s not always about the amount, it’s about the goal. If we break it down into smaller pieces, it’s easier to stay focused. We look at what life event is going to happen first, get a handle on that and then move on to the next stage.”
» The Brandon Sun