Holistic Financial Planning Puts You First

Holistic Financial Planning Puts You First

To many people, “financial planning” is all about the numbers; how much to buy, how much to invest, how much to save. Many of the professionals in this industry believe this too… that ensuring the financial wellness of a client can be achieved through the right combination of products and formulas. While these tools are important, they are only one piece of the metaphorical puzzle.

“Most consumers receive financial advice when they are in the market for a financial product or professional service. They choose a course of action when they make a buying decision, but rarely do so with any strategic plan.”[1]

Without knowing what motivates clients to engage their services – the overarching goals and fears – it is difficult for any professional to see the “whole picture” and make suitable recommendations.

“‘Holism’ is the idea that various systems should be viewed as wholes, not merely as a collection of parts.”[2] Holistic or comprehensive financial planning then, is an approach to planning that incorporates the quantitative and the qualitative – the numbers and the emotions – in order to create a plan which captures the full scope of a client’s needs.

“The holistic financial advisor’s in-depth knowledge of the client’s life can yield a coordinated financial plan that efficiently moves the client toward their financial and life goals.” [3] Above all else, the holistic planning process is “client-centric.”[4]

In their report, “The Holistic Financial Plan,” Kelly Adams and Ken Robinson discuss the issues that arise when various, unrelated professionals – financial planners, lawyers, accountants, investment advisors – operate independently, only viewing the needs of a client through the myopic lens of their specific profession.

For example, problems arise when an investment advisor recommends that a client with seemingly unallocated cash in their corporate bank account, invest in an aggressive portfolio. Unbeknownst to the investment advisor, the funds are meant to fund a corporately owned life insurance policy and the financial planner has recommended the client keep those “redundant” funds in the corporate bank account (and out of the market) because of risk management planning.

Regardless of how well the investment advisor manages those funds, the risk associated with a potential downturn in the market means risking the long-term goal. In this case, the client receives contradictory information and feels more confused after seeking advice than they did beforehand. This example illustrates an opportunity for multiple advisors to work collaboratively and prioritize helping a client reach their financial and life goals.

Three Elements of Holistic Planning

Firstly, by taking the time to get to know a client, advisors are able to identify not only immediately obvious needs like having an adequate amount of life insurance, but they are also able to uncover hidden or less obvious needs. If a financial planner knows, for example, the client’s family dynamics and the personalities, shortcomings and concerns involved, they would be able to determine the best strategy for disbursing an estate while also being mindful of anticipated tensions or stresses between certain family members.

Secondly, a planner who believes in a holistic approach knows how important it is to communicate and collaborate with the other trusted professionals on the client’s team. When everyone is on the same page, they can all provide congruous recommendations to better support the client and their goals.

Lastly, holistic planning demands a larger, more diverse breadth of knowledge than what has traditionally been expected of financial planners. The aim is not to replace the accountant or lawyer, but rather to be able to strategically identify planning opportunities that may otherwise fall outside of a financial planner’s expertise. The holistic planner can ensure the client has access to necessary resources by directing them to seek needed advice from other appropriate professionals.

The combination of these elements is holistic or comprehensive planning, and the result is a client-centric approach that accommodates your unique needs, whether they are obvious or yet to be determined. For help establishing a comprehensive financial plan and ensuring all your trusted professionals are on the same page, connect with us.

[1] Adams, Kelly, and Ken Robinson. “The Holistic Financial Plan.” Retrieved from https://www.acplanners.org/acpmainsite/consumer/media/holistic-financial-plan

[2] Holism. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holism

[3] “The Holistic Financial Plan”

[4] “The Holistic Financial Plan”

Risk and Return: Why Risk Tolerance Questionnaires Matter

Risk and Return: Why Risk Tolerance Questionnaires Matter

Whether you are a green or a seasoned investor, completing a risk tolerance questionnaire is key to making sure you are investing in ways that align with your needs and goals throughout your lifetime.

The questionnaire considers factors like your current financial situation, age, investment time horizon and goals to determine your optimum portfolio and ensure your expected risk matches your expected return.

It is necessary to assess these factors prior to investing, but also periodically thereafter to make sure your money is always suitably invested and continuously working to serve your evolving needs.

Simply put, a risk questionnaire helps determine risk tolerance by way of a point system; the higher your score, the more aggressively you may be comfortable investing. Your age and time horizon also help determine your investment objectives. A young professional in their 20s or 30s, for example, may want to invest more aggressively for maximum growth because their portfolio will have ample time to weather market ups and downs and even continue to grow before they need to make withdrawals. 

A senior approaching retirement, on the other hand, may be more interested in preserving their wealth and/or preparing to take a regular income. With increasing life expectancies and potentially longer retirements, a conservative portfolio may be better equipped to accommodate various possible scenarios later in life.

A suitable portfolio balances your unique investment horizon and risk tolerance at every successive life stage. Many individuals may have different risk tolerances depending on if the need for that particular investment is short- or long-term.  for a short-term example, saving for a large purchase or education funds for children.

Although the emotions surrounding the market downturn are heightened due to COVID-19, now is a good time to check in with ourselves and reflect on our true feelings about risk. Some people are realizing that anticipating risk amid an 11 year up market is quite different from experiencing the outcome of that risk in a down market.

Be honest with yourself – are you feeling relatively comfortable about the movement in your portfolio or are you losing sleep over it?

Chances are, one or many circumstances have changed in your life since the beginning of 2020 and your investment portfolio may need to be realigned. If you feel like you may be invested in a portfolio that no longer reflects your current situation, there is no better time than now to discuss this with your advisor and (re)take a risk tolerance questionnaire. For help getting started on or modifying your investment portfolio, connect with us.

Business as (un)Usual

Business as (un)Usual

“We’re going to have to rethink many ways of how organizations are going to be able to function in the future.”[1] – The Honorable Perrin Beatty, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce

It goes without saying that by now, we are all intimately aware of the enormous strain this global pandemic has put on our day to day lives. Like most people around the world, Canadians are struggling to cope with the stress of juggling numerous roles – teacher, caregiver, full-time employee – on top of varying degrees of financial instability and health concerns.

While COVID-19 – and the ripple effects it is having on our world – is not normal, the recent economic downturn is considered a part of the natural cycle of the markets. Markets go up and down in the short-term, sometimes drastically, but in the long-term, markets go up. Drops usually occur quickly while increases are more slow, and last for a much longer period.

Significant drops like the one we experienced in March are characterized by large, single day movements. That includes single day increases which can happen with no warning. Even amid all this uncertainty, the markets went up close to 9% each on two separate days in March.

While it may be nerve-wracking to watch the news or look at our accounts and see them down, now is not the time to panic. After 11 years of an up market, we were due for a drop. The most important thing to understand is that selling or moving assets to cash now would crystalize losses; if no sale is made, any loss is only theoretical. Selling in March – and missing the two, single day increases of about 9% each – equates to over 18% forgone in increases. The best strategy for most is to ride it out and wait for the markets to recover – which they will.

In these volatile and uncertain times, you deserve to have access to sound advice from knowledgeable advisors. To meet your needs, many financial advisors are implementing changes in the way they conduct business. Here are some of the changes you can expect to see going forward at Intent Planning:

Flexible meetings

To facilitate physical distancing, the advisors at Intent are more than happy to offer video or phone meetings in lieu of meeting face-to-face. The goal here is to adapt to meet the evolving needs of clients, pandemic, or no. We believe it is reasonable to carry these adaptations forward to a time when we are no longer in crisis and while we don’t believe in-person meetings should be replaced, we do see the value of offering more meeting options to our clients.

Electronic options

In recent years, we have seen several of our processes shift to online. Where only paper copies of applications used to be available, we now have electronic versions that can be printed or emailed to clients. Physical distancing mandates have revealed how necessary it is to expedite this shift and update paperwork processes and thankfully, many insurance carriers and financial service providers are doing just that. Wherever possible, we are taking advantage of new electronic application and signature options to eliminate the need to complete paperwork in person.

Temporary exceptions and relaxed requirements

From group renewals to life insurance underwriting, exceptions and relaxed requirements are temporarily being offered by carriers, like Canada Life, on a case by case basis. If you are concerned about your affairs – premiums, renewals, or whether you have enough insurance – let us know and we will do everything we can to ensure your needs are continuing to be met.

Here at Intent, we are in your corner and ready to help deliver peace of mind, however we can. For questions or concerns about your financial situation, connect with us.

Be kind to yourself and remember: the goal should not be to return to normal… instead it should be to improve, across all industries, so to make life better for all Canadians.

[1] 52:51, This Week with Canada Life conference call

How to Handle Competing Financial Priorities During RRSP Season

How to Handle Competing Financial Priorities During RRSP Season

If you are having trouble prioritizing how best to allocate your money this RRSP season, don’t be alarmed. We may be in the homestretch now but that does not mean you have missed your opportunity to maximize your savings and keep on the path towards achieving your goals.

Whether it’s due to a lack of knowledge, undefined or unclear financial goals or numerous pressing monthly expenses, a common dilemma Canadians face this time of year is deciding which of their competing financial priorities – monthly bills, child education and/or retirement savings, debt repayment, etc. – to address first.

There are numerous reasons why people may decide not to contribute (or maximize said contribution) to an RRSP every year. Retirement, especially for young people, is often viewed as a distant concern for our future selves to worry about. The seeming remoteness of retirement is often reason enough for people to place saving for it at the bottom of their list of priorities. Add a mortgage and/or child(ren) into the mix and suddenly there are numerous competing priorities your money can be used to address instead.

Financial advisors often assist clients who face this exact dilemma, especially where mortgages are involved. According to the 2016 Canadian census, “63% of Canadian families owned their principal residence;”[1] meaning a significant percentage of those families had a monthly mortgage payment. People often think by contributing extra towards their mortgage (instead of to an RRSP), they’re effectively reducing the lifespan of their largest debt burden and freeing up savings opportunities later in life.

Though not untrue, the advantage of contributing to an RRSP earlier is that you give compound interest time to work its magic. Consider a $131,070.00 mortgage at 2.89% interest with an amortization period of 25 years. The $613.00 monthly mortgage payment equates to an annual payment of $7,344.00. Paying an additional $166.67 per month ($2000 per year) towards the mortgage principal results in shaving 5 years and 2 months off the mortgage amortization period. Sounds great right?

In this scenario, waiting until later in life to contribute the now freed up mortgage payments of $9,344.00 per year into an RRSP (with a return of 5% for the 5 years and 2 months) equates to an additional retirement savings of $72,186.00.

Now consider the compound interest of an annually recurring, $2,000.00 RRSP contribution subject to 25 years of compound interest growth at a rate of 5%. The result is $97,624 of savings. That is over $25,000.00 worth of savings the person in this example is unknowingly forgoing by deciding to pay off their mortgage debt 5 years sooner. Higher average rates of return in the RRSP account over the 25 years will amplify the potential lost savings. An 8% rate of return, for example, results in over $151,000.00 of lost RRSP value.

If a client must make a choice about how to allocate her or his savings dollars, financial advisors recommend asking this question: “is my money making more by being invested than the amount my debt is costing me?” In the above scenario, the person whose money is accruing 5% compound interest on their RRSP contributions is gaining more than their mortgage debt is costing them at 2.89%. We are currently in a historically low interest rate environment which means the cost of having a mortgage (for longer) is relatively cheap. The compound effect of investing in an RRSP is more beneficial, as far as our fictitious person is concerned, even if it means a small portion of their savings will be put towards a mortgage payment while nearing or even during early retirement.

For many Canadian parents, childhood education savings is also a top contender when it comes to competing savings priorities. Parents want to do what they can to ensure children are set-up for success and nowadays, that tends to translate into post-secondary education. RESP savings are important, but they should not take precedence over making yearly contributions to an RRSP, especially not when young people have the option to work a part time job or take out a low interest rate student loan when the time is right. Having conversations with children about how they can be apart of financing their own education are not only crucial for cultivating financial literacy, but also for establishing expectations that are financially healthy for the entire family.

It is true that compound interest requires years to be maximally beneficial and the earlier a person can start contributing to an RRSP, the better. It isn’t true however, that she or he must pick retirement savings over everything else. With the upfront tax benefit, RRSP contributions also provide opportunities to address other savings goals, like paying down a mortgage or contributing to an RESP, while still putting retirement and long-term financial wellness first.

For help determining how best to prioritize your savings goals and maximize the value of your dollars, connect with us.

[1] https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/75-006-x/2019001/article/00012-eng.htm

What’s Right for You? TFSA, RRSP… or Both?

What’s Right for You? TFSA, RRSP… or Both?

When it comes to retirement savings, you’ve likely come across the question “TFSA or RRSP?”. Deciding which registered investment type is best for you isn’t a matter of determining which is fundamentally better, but of understanding which will best suit your current and anticipated future marginal income tax rate and your short and long-term savings goals. The real question is ‘which one will best facilitate my goals?’

Tax-Free Savings Accounts

Like an RRSP, a TFSA is a personal savings account which accommodates growth by sheltering your investment returns from tax. Unlike RRSPs, which have been around since the 1950s, TFSAs are relatively new. They were introduced in Canada in 2008 and are currently used by approximately 50% of Canadians.

TFSAs can be invested in a wide variety of investments and can be easily accessible. There are no penalties for withdrawing from your TFSA and when you do so, you aren’t required to pay income tax. These factors make TFSAs an attractive option for emergency and short-term savings (think down-payment on a property or planning a wedding).

When it comes to long-term retirement savings, TFSAs are also an excellent investment option for individuals who expect to be at a higher marginal tax rate when they withdraw their money compared to when they initially invested it. Simply put, if you begin investing while in a 25% marginal tax bracket, for example, and eventually withdraw retirement savings while in a 40% marginal tax bracket, a TFSA will allow you to avoid having to pay 40% taxes.

While not designed for a specific age group, TFSAs are often a solid choice for younger individuals just starting their careers who likely have short- and mid-term financial goals as well as retirement savings goals. Also, they expect to be more established and making a higher income in 10 to 20 years when they can take advantage of the tax benefits of an RRSP.

Registered Retirement Savings Plans

Canadians tend to be more familiar with (and, in some ways, trusting of) RRSPs because of how much longer they have been around. While this is a valid attitude, each investor’s needs are different and the appropriateness of RRSPs as part of your retirement savings initiatives, should be determined as part of building your full financial plan with your advisor.

Unlike TFSAs, yearly individual RRSP contributions – those made with “after tax dollars” – are typically accompanied by an upfront tax benefit, like a tax refund.

Group RRSP plans offered by some employers differ slightly in that they contribute “before tax dollars” – deducted from an employee’s paycheck – directly into an RRSP. The advantage of this situation is that you don’t have to wait for a refund and more of your contribution dollars are working for you sooner.

In theory, people who choose to hold retirement savings in an RRSP will likely be in a lower tax bracket during their retirement years than the one they occupied while working. When the time comes to begin taking a retirement income, it would be better to do so while in a 30% tax bracket than the 40 to 50% bracket you were in at the height of your working career.

When Two is Better than One

A common misconception about TFSAs and RRSPs is the idea investors must pick one. Remember, life is unpredictable and your financial situation when you begin investing will most likely change throughout the years until you’re ready to retire. With this need for flexibility in mind, know that there are numerous ways of strategically incorporating both TFSAs and RRSPs into your financial plan. Many people don’t know they can flip their TFSA, with no tax consequences, into an RRSP when it makes most financial sense.

Similarly, it is common practice to buy an RRSP as a method of offsetting tax debt. Instead of paying the Canada Revenue Agency directly and saying goodbye to your money, transferring savings from a TFSA into an RRSP account could allow you to retain your money as eventual retirement income while still “paying” the CRA by giving them the opportunity to put your tax benefit towards some or all of your outstanding debt.

For help determining how a TFSA and/or an RRSP will best suit your financial goals and retirement needs, connect with us.

How to Celebrate Mindfully this Holiday Season


With the holidays upon us, it might be a good idea to take a few minutes to reflect on your financial goals and see how they are faring against the busiest spending season of the year. If, like me, you find yourself enticed by the trademark sights, smells and activities of the holidays, then you likely know how easy it is to get into a mindset of excess; if a little is good, a lot is better.

Establishing a holiday budget with our short and long-term financial goals in mind is one of the best ways to minimize the financial stress that seems to come part and parcel with the giving season. Without a game plan, we can easily find ourselves overspending in a multitude of little (or big!) ways that can quickly add up and derail us from the goals we work towards throughout the rest of the year.

Setting and sticking to a holiday budget is only one half of the equation however, when it comes to mitigating seasonal financial stress. The second half is reassessing what the holidays mean to us and reflecting on the reasons why we feel driven to express our seasonal spirit and love for those around us the way we do.

It is no secret that Canadians carry a significant amount of debt. “In March of 2019, Canadian household debt reached 2.6 trillion… the highest debt load in the Group of Seven economies.” [1] Of course, debt is not inherently ‘bad’, but we need to be realistic about how these reported levels are indicative of excess and potentially unhealthy relationships with spending.

In addition to establishing a holiday budget that is right for you, here are a few things to consider for a more financially healthy holiday season.

1. Set Expectations

Are you the type of person who likes to give lots of small gifts or do you prefer to give a few larger ticket items? Whichever you are, people likely have preconceived notions of what to expect from you based on years prior. Rather than feeling like you need to live up to your giving history, consider modifying these expectations by reaching out to friends and family and letting them know what your plans for giving will look like this year.

Ask people what they need, and you may be surprised at how little it takes to make them truly happy – think dinner at their favourite restaurant or the promise of time spent together. Seek to add experiential value to their life instead of material gifts they may not really need or want, and you will likely be able to cut out superfluous spending/gifting without feeling like you haven’t lived up to expectations.

2. Create New Traditions

Are the seasonal traditions and activities you engage in every year accompanied by a hefty price tag? If your budget is stretched between multiple gift exchanges, mailing seasonal greeting cards, and baking enough to feed an entire elementary school, perhaps it may be time to evaluate if your seasonal traditions truly bring you joy. Participating because you feel obligated to or for fear of disappointing others are clear signs you may not be doing what is best for your mental or financial well-being.

Brainstorm ways you might refocus seasonal gatherings on what is truly important: quality time spent together. You don’t have to miss out on attending events, like gift exchanges, just because you prefer to opt out of bringing/receiving a generic gift. The same goes for certain traditions, like sending seasonal greeting cards, that are taking a toll on your budget. Be open to replacing or modifying yearly traditions to include friends and family so the activity becomes less about the material output and more about the process of working together. 

3. Opt for the Unconventional

If you truly love giving gifts to the people you love (as many of us do), why not take an unconventional approach this year and try your hand at ‘doing-it-yourself’? DIY activities are an excellent opportunity to spend time with others, especially kids, and the perfect way to show others via time spent and thoughtfulness, how much you love them.

If you or the intended recipient would prefer to forgo giving material gifts altogether, an excellent alternative might be to donate money in their name. Simply choose an organization in line with their values and let them know you helped them support a worthwhile cause this holiday season.

As fun and heartwarming as the holidays can be, we all need to be realistic about whether they are worth derailing our yearly budget for. Come January, gratuitous spending is much less appealing and rationalizable than it was amid the seasonal fervor of November and December. Remember, you’re not required to spend money to have fun or show people you care for them this holiday season. What is more, it is never too late to do what is best for your financial future, even if it means downsizing in ways people may initially find surprising. For help establishing or modifying a budget to help you withstand every season, connect with us.

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-03-26/canadians-are-feeling-the-debt-burn

What’s the Deal with Probate?

What’s the Deal with Probate?

In Canada, probate is the process by which the provincial court verifies a will as current and legitimate. Although probate is not required, per se, it can be a helpful process for the people trying to handle the estate of a loved one because it grants legal power to an executor. This allows the executor to go about dividing an estate without pushback from institutions holding the deceased’s assets – like banks – who cannot verify wills and therefore may otherwise refuse to deal with them.

Despite the benefits of the process, people tend to fixate on the cost of probate and, depending on which province you live in, the complexity of the fee structures. Probate costs vary (sometimes drastically) by province and estate size. For example, in Quebec, no fee is assigned to probate whereas in Alberta, it can cost up to $525. Several provinces charge a flat amount for the first $10,000 of the estate and a percentage of every $1,000 after. Manitoba, for example, charges $70 + $7 per $1,000 or fraction thereof in excess of $10,000.

Too often, people will make financial decisions in an attempt to circumvent paying “death taxes” which end up having significant, unintended consequences that make paying for probate look like a dream.

One such common decision is joint ownership. Older parents will sometimes make a child a joint owner of an asset, like a bank account or a house, without fully understanding the avenues of access they’re opening by doing so. What happens if that child files for divorce? How about if they get into an accident and are being sued as a result? Being a joint owner means the parent’s assets are viewed as belonging equally to the child and are therefore accessible to outside parties regardless of the parent’s wishes, which adds additional risk to an asset that wasn’t a concern before.

Because estate planning is so complex, here are three potential ways to minimize probate fees, ‘at a glance’.

1.Designate Beneficiaries       

Non-registered assets that are put into segregated funds, a permanent life insurance policy or a fixed term investment offered by an insurance carrier, like a GIC or term deposit, may allow people to designate a beneficiary to whom the proceeds will flow directly; bypassing probate and other legal and estate fees. Designating beneficiaries can be an effective way to minimize probate fees, however it should not be the only reason for choosing a product.  Working with a financial advisor to review your needs and beneficiaries is an important part of the estate planning process.

2. Establish a Trust

A trust is “best described as a relationship of trust between two or more persons whereby one person (called the Trustee) holds the legal ownership and control of property for the benefit of someone else (called the Beneficiary).” There are many different types of trusts and each have their own oversight and administration fees.

Trusts can be a method of minimizing probate fees since the assets within them, at the time of disbursement, will be dealt with under the conditions of the trust (the Trust Agreement) and not of the estate. With increased tax legislation in the past decade however, trusts are a decreasingly accessible investment option for the “average investor.”

3. Give Gifts

One of the simplest ways to reduce estate-related fees is to decrease the number of assets that will be included as a part of an estate upon death. For those people who can afford to, gift giving before death might be a practical and even emotionally rewarding way to downsize an estate. It could also provide a window of opportunity to talk to loved ones about any remaining assets, expectations, and final wishes.

Communication and good planning will go a long way to alleviate stress and uncertainty for our loved ones when we’re gone. Try to remember estate planning is ultimately for their benefit and come to terms with the fact that, in some cases, probate may make the lives of our loved ones easier (or at least not more difficult).

While minimizing probate fees is great, your entire financial plan should not revolve around strategies for doing so. It’s important to meet with an estate planner who can assess your situation and advise on what options for minimizing probate fees are suitable for you.

Connect with us for more information on estate planning.

Estate Planning Can Make Us Feel Comfortable and in Control

Estate Planning Can Make Us Feel Comfortable and in Control

“The greatest mistake we make is living in constant fear that we will make one.” – John C. Maxwell

Though there are many misconceptions about financial planning, two common ones are:

it’s only for the wealthy and/or

it’s only for ‘type As’ with Herculean levels of self-discipline.

Even people in the throes of planning – who are neither wealthy nor perfect – can find themselves deterred by certain types of planning for fear of not having enough or making mistakes.

Estate planning, “the disposition of assets during life and at death,”[1] is an example of planning that tends to inspire discomfort and aversion. At first glance, estate planning focuses on things that require us to acknowledge our eventual passing and really, relinquish our sense of control over our lives and our assets. Think wills, powers of attorney and executors.

Good advisors, more than anyone, know how hard it is to think about and plan for the time after we’re gone. Combine these heavy emotions with the complexity of estate planning and it is understandable why people might feel overwhelmed and prefer to ignore it altogether. But estate planning is far more about gaining control than relinquishing it and far less about ourselves and more about our loved ones.

For those who have been avoiding estate planning, here are three key questions to consider:

1. Do you have assets?

Although this is a straightforward question, a lot of people overthink their answer. Young people especially, who tend to have lower incomes and fewer assets, convince themselves they don’t need a formal, legally binding will because they don’t have enough to bother. What many of them don’t consider however, is their debt and how it too can be inherited by loved ones after their passing.

Perhaps paying for a lawyer to draw up a will isn’t practical or necessary for some but having a plan for their assets (and debt) in the event of their passing is.

If this reasoning sounds familiar, consider writing a holographic will. It is simply a letter of direction signed by two non-beneficiaries that outlines how your assets are to be divided and distributed. Though more contestable than a formal will, it is still a legally binding document unlike giving someone verbal instructions.

2. Do you have dependents?

The last thing anyone wants is for the government to choose a guardian for our loved ones. Estate planning looks at the impact our passing would have on loved ones and helps us determine the key people we need to appoint (trustees, guardians, beneficiaries) to ensure our minor children, dependents, and even pets will be taken care of in the manner we approve. There’s no need to worry about making a mistake either, these key players can be modified as life circumstances change.

Estate planning also addresses survivor income needs, often in the form of life insurance. To be clear, different cultures have different opinions on life insurance which means there is no one ‘right’ view. One way to think of it, however, is as a method of compensating for the loss of your income and ensuring your family has the time and resources to deal with your passing as comfortably as possible.

3. What are your final wishes?

Rituals and practices surrounding death vary all over the world. In Canada, having a funeral is commonplace and so is having to make the very personal decision between burial, cremation, or perhaps other options. Trying to plan for and make these kinds of decisions on behalf of others can be extremely difficult and emotionally taxing.

Having a will that explicitly outlines final wishes (i.e. specific funeral details, charitable intentions, burial or cremation preferences, etc.) can help alleviate stress on loved ones and ensure they don’t grapple with the choices they may otherwise be required to make.

Even if our natural inclination is to shy away from estate planning – whether it is because we’re afraid of making mistakes others will suffer the consequences of (i.e. triggering taxes) or because of the unease thinking about death brings – it’s important to keep in mind that having a plan keeps us feeling in control and at ease.

As difficult as it may be to imagine the time after we’re gone, it is so much more comforting to know our planning can help soften the impact of our eventual absence on our loved ones and hopefully, enable their continued protection and prosperity.

For help establishing or revising your estate plan, contact us.

[1] https://keystonebt.com/2014/08/exit-planning-succession-planning-estate-planning-similarities-and-differences/

Your Advisor Needs to Know About More Than Just Financial Things

Your Advisor Needs to Know About More Than Just Financial Things

For financial advisors, being able to adapt to the unique needs of clients is integral to deliver sound, relevant advice. Increasingly savvy clients with easy access to technology – online information, advice and investment tools – continue to challenge the financial industry to prove the value of professional, face-to-face advice.

At the same time, changing social and cultural norms are redefining certain needs advisors have historically associated with specific life stages and genders.

Each successive generation of Canadians is forcing us to reconsider our notions of things like wealth, marriage, homeownership and retirement.

Depending on your situation, finding an advisor who understands and can adapt to the evolving needs of different generations can be the key to realizing your financial goals.

Here are two groups of Canadians who are redefining societal norms and in doing so, challenging wealth management professionals to stay relevant.


We have all read headlines like: “Millennials are killing the (blank) industry.” From diamonds to department stores, millennials have earned a reputation for rejecting industries and practices traditionally viewed as culturally important, even necessary.

Younger generations are approaching homeownership, marriage and divorce – key events when it comes to wealth management – differently than previous generations. When it comes to homeownership, many millennials are waiting longer to take the plunge: 30.6% of young adults aged 20-34 in 2001 lived with at least one parent whereas 34.7% did as of 2016.[1]

Younger adults are also putting off getting married and having children. This means when it comes to divorce, “Millennials tend to have fewer assets to divide, and they’re more likely to have similar incomes,” making spousal support a nonissue. Our society – advisors included – tends to view divorce as an event which should take a substantial financial toll on one or both partners.

When you combine inconsistent incomes due to freelance or “gig” work, high rates of student debt, and the cost of raising children, the reality is many married millennials can’t “afford to buy [their partner] out of the matrimonial home.”[2] Millennials’ finances are requiring them to be more frugal, even democratic, than previous generations and advisors should be prepared to accommodate their unconventional situations.

As the largest generation in Canada,[3] millennials have a huge impact on our economy and, despite their purported financial irresponsibility, spend a lot of time thinking about and managing their money. A 2019 report from BMO found, “millennials [are] outpacing [their] baby boomer counterparts” when it comes to retirement savings and “continue to hold higher amounts [in RRSPs] over time, accounting for the highest percentage increase with 87 percent since 2016 ($28,821 vs $15, 377 in 2016).”[4] Millennials may not be buying diamonds, but they are being mindful of their finances.


Today, women account for approximately half of the labour force (up from less than a quarter in the 1950s[5]) and “directly control no less than $2.2 trillion of personal financial assets.” By 2028, that number is expected to rise to $3.8 trillion.[6]The archetypal investor – historically a man – is quickly changing to reflect the increased number of women, both married and unmarried, who are directly participating in the Canadian economy and making more household financial decisions.

In fact, a 2019 CIBC study found, “three-quarters (73 per cent) say they’re actively involved in their own long-term financial planning – a number that grows higher the older they get, rising to 82 per cent among women aged 55+.”[7]

Most Canadians need better-defined retirement plans (about 90% do not currently have an adequate one[8]) however, advisors should be prepared to provide advice which accurately reflects women’s needs, especially given their burgeoning control of financial assets.

Employed married women “in the core-working age demographic… now account for a record-high 47% of family income, almost double the share seen in the 1970s.”[9] Women also live, on average, four years longer than men[10] meaning many will likely inherit assets from their spouses later in life. 

Yet, despite women having more (control over) money, they are also more likely than men to forgo incomes and therefore pensions for the sake of their families. “Almost 1 in 3 (30 per cent) women say they’ve reduced or stopped saving as a direct consequence of childcare or eldercare responsibilities.”[11] A good financial plan will account for and work to minimize the impact these kinds of events have on women’s retirement savings.

Take Away

When it comes to wealth management, finding a professional who understands the unique situation and need of each individual client makes all the difference between stellar and just average financial advice. Millennials and women are two demographics frequently on the receiving end of stereotypes – most of which have the potential to impede their ability to achieve their financial goals if their advisor subscribes to them.

Advisors who approach common milestones like homeownership, marriage and divorce from an outdated standpoint and disregard the way social norms are changing, will likely have a harder time relating and remaining relevant to those clients whose circumstances challenge them to go above and beyond “business as usual.” Make sure your advisor is a fit for you.

Connect with us to learn how an advisor and a customized financial plan can benefit you.

[1] https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/as-sa/98-200-x/2016008/98-200-x2016008-eng.cfm

[2] https://www.advisor.ca/my-practice/conversations/offering-money-advice-when-millennials-divorce/

[3] https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-627-m/11-627-m2019029-eng.htm

[4] https://newsroom.bmo.com/2019-01-29-BMOs-Annual-RRSP-Study-National-Attitude-Shifts-On-Retirement-As-Average-Amount-Held-Increases-by-21-Per-Cent-Since-2016

[5] https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/89-503-x/2015001/article/14694-eng.htm

[6] https://www.advisor.ca/my-practice/conversations/womens-growing-share-of-assets-to-change-wealth-management/

[7] http://cibc.mediaroom.com/2019-02-21-7-in-10-women-make-significant-financial-sacrifices-for-the-sake-of-others-new-CIBC-study-finds

[8] http://cibc.mediaroom.com/2018-02-08-Am-I-saving-enough-to-retire-Vast-majority-of-Canadians-just-dont-know-CIBC-poll

[9] https://www.advisor.ca/my-practice/conversations/womens-growing-share-of-assets-to-change-wealth-management/

[10] https://www.cibc.com/en/personal-banking/advice-centre/women-and-wealth.html

[11] http://cibc.mediaroom.com/2019-02-21-7-in-10-women-make-significant-financial-sacrifices-for-the-sake-of-others-new-CIBC-study-finds

Financial Planning is for Everyone

Financial Planning is for Everyone

With millennials entering the global workforce and baby-boomers on the cusp of retiring from it, the world is experiencing a substantial transition; one accompanied by rapidly changing technology and social norms.

It can become easy to focus on perceived generational differences instead of similarities with many generations of people interacting and working alongside each other. This is especially true with finances and financial planning.

Despite what media headlines might say, financial literacy – or the lack thereof – is not exclusive to one group of people. General unease with the intricacies of financial planning coupled with the highly complex emotions surrounding money means many Canadians of all ages are reluctant and/or unsure how to seek professional financial advice.

According to a September – October 2018 survey done by the Financial Planning Standards Council, “one-in-three Canadians fail the [financial] stress test, meaning they somewhat or strongly doubt their bank account can withstand a financial emergency… [and] nearly three-in-ten are not confident they will achieve their financial life goals.”

The same survey found “two-thirds of Canadians have not engaged the services of a professional financial planner.”[1] Many Canadians clearly share a reluctance to seek professional financial advice and this reluctance is having a serious impact on their sense of financial stability and well-being.

The survey listed the following reasons for why Canadians avoid seeking financial advice:

  • I don’t have a big enough portfolio
  • I do not know who to trust
  • It is too confusing and overwhelming for me to consider at this time
  • I’m embarrassed by my financial situation
  • I do not know where to find one

Although those who reported having never sought professional financial planning help were predominantly Gen X and Gen Y (18 – 44), a lack of financial know-how is not exclusive to younger generations.

50% of the respondents who had not sought financial advice stated not having a big enough portfolio as their reason why. This misconception was significantly more of a concern for individuals 45 years and older.

Remarkably, this tells us that from millennials to baby boomers, a major reason why Canadians are avoiding seeking financial advice is because of the misconception that they don’t have enough money to warrant it.

We only need to look at the reasons listed above to know guilt, shame and mistrust are emotions with a profound impact on our ability to make healthy financial decisions. Moreover, the way these emotions impact us can differ depending on social demographics.

For example, the survey found although significantly more women than men listed feeling too confused and overwhelmed to consider seeking financial advice, significantly more women than men also felt confident in their ability to achieve their financial goals and withstand a financial emergency. Likewise, significantly more people listed being too embarrassed by their financial situation to seek help if they made less than $40,000 annually.

The take away is: regardless of age, gender or income, many Canadians are stressed about their finances to the extent that it impacts their ability to secure their financial well-being. A good financial advisor will be understanding of the unique challenges faced by different generations and will craft a personalized plan based on his or her client’s lifestyle, timeline and goals.

If a fear of judgement is preventing you from seeking financial advice, you are not alone. Advisors understand the emotions experienced by investors and should take care to meet each person where they are today.

Connect with us to learn how you can start working towards securing your financial well-being.

[1] http://fpsc.ca/docs/default-source/FPSC/news-publications/fpsc-cross-country-checkup.pdf