When it comes to financial planning, there’s no time like the present to get the ball rolling.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re in your 20s, 40s or 80s, as long as you start,” said Laura Rossiter, a consultant with Investors Group Toronto Midtown.
But the earlier you start, the stronger your plan will be and the better your saving habits will become over time, she added.
There are a number of ways to develop a financial plan, says Tamara Smith, vice-president of marketing and consumer affairs for the Financial Planning Standards Council.
Start by setting life goals, tracking how much you spend over the course of a month, setting a monthly budget and sticking to it, and trying to save 10 per cent of your take-home salary, she said.
“It’s like a diet, you’ve got to start the first day and then you go the second day and the third day and you just keep at it,” Smith said.
The next step is to make an appointment with a financial adviser.
Most major banks provide financial planning as a complimentary service for customers, but the service may be attached to products such as RRSPs, a mortgage, or a savings account.
Other groups, such as Moneyadviser.ca, offer financial advice without the attachment to products, but charge a fee for the service.
Whatever route you choose, it’s important to talk to a professional, says Kevin Macleod, certified financial planner and vice-president of Moneyadviser.ca in Calgary.
“I think there’s a lot of misinformation that gets poured down our throats about money,” he said.
A financial planner helps you sort through the maze of information out there and figures out what works best for you, he said.
Finally, when looking for a financial adviser, make sure they know what they’re talking about.
“Most provinces do not have any regulations around who can call themselves financial planners, so it’s really a buyer beware market,” Smith said.
The Certified Financial Planning credential is the largest, identifiable, credentialled body in the industry, she said. There are 17,500 CFP professionals in Canada and the Financial Planning Standards Council website, fpsc.ca, provides a databank of certified professionals across the country.
“It’s one of the best ways to find someone who is truly competent and ethical,” Smith said.