Looking Beyond Investments

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When it comes to personal finance, it seems the majority of individuals focus on investments and how they can build their net worth. Many individuals I speak to generally want to get advice on what stocks to buy or what’s the best allocation of investments that should be made. It’s all good and dandy that people are concerned about their own financial well being, but being financially independent involves more than just having the right mix of assets in your investments.

What many financial advisers miss when discussing personal finance are the topics that are outside of investing. That’s because there is always a conflict of interest when it comes to financial advisers. Many of them are trying to make a living while giving financial advice and that means trying to sell products that will earn them a commission. It’s not their fault. It’s the way the system was designed for better or for worse.

Good financial advisers will look beyond just the investing aspects of achieving financial independence because they know that each individual is different from the other. We’re all different and that’s because we all have different financial goals that we want to achieve. Making the proper investments is just one of the things that go into a well organize financial plan. So what are you missing? What should you be learning about?

Insurance

The problem with talking to a personal financial adviser at a bank, for instance, is that most are not qualified to sell insurance of any kind. Most advisers are only certified to provide financial advice on mutual funds and equities. For insurance, you need to talk to a specialized insurance broker. That’s another salesperson you’ll have to deal with. By now you probably want to shoot yourself. How many sales pitches do you have to go through?

Insurance becomes extremely important when you start having dependents in your life. That could mean anything from a child, a pet, or a spouse. People who depend on your income in any way are your dependents. If anything should happen to your stream of income, what kind of consequences would your loved ones face? Are they going to become homeless? Will they die of hunger?

Having the right investments in your stock portfolio doesn’t solve this problem. That plan was for future retirement or to make a large life purchase, but it doesn’t take into consideration if your income stream should stop. Taking the steps to ensure your dependents are taken care of if something unfortunate should happen to you is another story. We’re not talking stocks or bonds anymore!

With so many different varieties of insurance that are out there it can be overwhelming. Where do you even begin? Talking to an insurance broker to determine your options is the first step. Figuring out how much you want to insure is probably the second step. Once you’re armed with all the knowledge then make sure you complete your insurance policy to ensure peace of mind for your loved ones.

Don’t ever take insurance for granted if you have dependents. You could leave them in a difficult financial situation if you don’t plan carefully.

Estate Planning

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Hey, you might be in your late 20’s or early 30’s so why the heck do you even care about estate planning? Similar to having insurance, planning what to do with your estate is very important. And it’s not just about money.

If you’re a parent, you want to make sure that your kids are taken care of. Who’s going to be the caretaker in case something tragic should happen? You certainly don’t want your child to go to some deadbeat parent that’s been neglecting her forever. Just think. What would have happened had Bruce Wayne not been left to the care of Alfred? We’d have no Batman. We’d have two Robins!

All of this should go into your will. Writing a will a very important. It puts your ideas on paper and legalizes all your decision when you are no longer around to speak for yourself. Don’t you just hate it when siblings squabble over the inheritance because they thought they were the “chosen” one. If you don’t know already, material goods brings out the worst in everyone. Choose people you trust to be power of attorneys to make decisions on your behalf. These are the people with final say. Say goodbye to all those family squabbles.

Picking an executor is even more important to make sure things are done properly. The executor is someone you nominate to ensure that the responsibilities of your will is exercised. This includes divvying up all assets, ensuring taxes are paid, and closing any loose end that you might leave behind. This person is your project manager, so please remember don’t choose Mr. Drunk Uncle Luey to handle your matters when he can’t even keep his own head straight.

So what happens when you don’t complete a will that details all your plans? Easy, the government decides for you. We all know how well and fair the government is at managing their finances. I’m sure they’ll do a great job with yours.

Tax Planning

We all love taxes don’t we? In Canada it pays for our healthcare, our education, our roads and all the free services that we get on an everyday basis. Yeah right…. let’s be honest here. We all hate taxes. We want things for free without paying for it, so long as the other guy is paying for it. You’d rather keep your hard earned money in your pocket, or perhaps with a brand new iPhone 7 Plus instead.

A financial planner should be well aware of the Canadian tax code if they are helping with your financial planning. Tax planning is important because there are many different tax laws that can apply when individuals are single or married. Plus there are many ways to be tax efficient with the money that was earned.

Tax planning is totally different than actually investing because you are trying to keep more of the money you earn in your pocket. This isn’t the same as doing illegal activities to prevent paying taxes. We all need to pay our fare share of taxes, but someone that knows their tax laws will be able to identify areas where you might be paying too much tax. This happens more often than not when individuals fail to identify areas for savings. That’s just like saying “here you go Mr. Government, take my money because you can spend it better than me.”

Unlike investing, this is a guarantee return. You’re keeping money that is rightfully yours. Just make sure you don’t get yourself involved with some shady, tax dodging adviser who’s driving a Porsche because he’s been avoiding the CRA and paying his taxes. No doubt the guy is probably using the Porsche to speed away from authorities.

Debt Management

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Sometimes we get ourselves into a hole. That’s probably either from bad luck in employment, or the fact that we have terrible spending habits. If that’s the case, a financial planner should be able to help with managing your debt in the most efficient manner.

This means the financial planner should be able to come up with a viable solution to paying down the debt without necessarily forcing you to drink water and eat white bread for the rest of your life. Financial planners should be able to help you create a month to month budget that can help improve cash flow. They should also provide you with different instruments and methods to consolidate your debt into more manageable payments.

Although an adviser may not necessarily be able to execute the strategies on your behalf, they should be providing advice. That’s what you want to seek from your adviser. Advice. Not someone that will remote control you. Your financial adviser is not playing augmented reality here. You still have the abilities to think and move on your own. Even though being in debt might feel restrictive in its own right.

Did You Even Think About All This?

Sure we all love making money on our investments, but as responsible adults there are other “real” adult world things that we have to think about. A lot of issues outlined here are seldom talked about by most people, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important.

So maybe for a New Year’s resolution, rather than trying to lose 10 pounds or checking off sky diving on our bucket list we actually try to get our financial house in order.

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