Find a planner that will help you achieve goals
Tara Walton/Torstar News Service
For some, figuring out how to manage money on your own can be daunting. Enlisting a financial planner can provide the guidance you need, but you better be prepared to do your homework.
“In Ontario, as is the case in most other provinces in Canada, the term financial planner is not regulated. Anyone can call themselves a financial planner,” warns Ann Bowman, the vice-president of communications and corporate relations for the Financial Planner Standards Council. “It is absolutely buyer beware.”
Bowman recommends talking only to certified financial planners. This will ensure the experience and know-how needed to help inform your decision making.
Certified planners will have at least two years experience in the financial services industry. They are also required to complete courses, and an examination pertaining to financial planning.
In order to retain the title of certified financial planner, members must enrol in at least 30 hours of continuing education a year, and must adhere to a code of ethics that is governed by the Financial Planners Standards Council. Membership is renewed annually.
“In Toronto there are well over 2,500 financial planners, with certification, working in every segment of the financial services industry,” says Bowman.
Sifting through so many qualified candidates can be a challenge, so Bowman suggests investing the time to think about your goals. “The best place to start is to figure out what it is that you want. Find a planner that is going to help you achieve your life goals.”
It is important to keep in mind that your relationship with a financial planner should be long term. Finding someone you feel comfortable with is key.
And knowing what you want will go a long way in formulating an overall plan for your finances.
“A common misconception with financial planning is that it focuses only on one area, like retirement planning,” says Bowman. “For instance, RRSPs are important, and especially these days, top of mind. But RRSPs are just one area of concern. A financial planner will help you make the decisions you make, within the context of your overall financial plan.”
As for the idea that financial planning is only for the well-to-do, Bowman says that it is simply not the case.
There are a myriad of fee structures available to consumers, explains Bowman, adding most financial planners will work with their clients to ensure an affordable payment plan. “Financial planning is not just for the rich. But you have to be willing to do some work.”