Having a financial plan is probably one of the most useful things you can do for yourself. Our finances is so intertwined with our everyday lives that it is necessary for everyone to have a financial plan if they want to have a great sense of financial clarity, especially living in this beautiful yet expensive city of Vancouver. This article will go over the key parts of a financial plan, so that you can get started on creating something for yourself and help you establish a strong financial foundation living in Vancouver.
Financial Planning Checklist in Vancouver
A financial plan is composed of different components that work together to guarantee you a financially secured future. While some of these components are a must, you may do away with others. It all depends on your current financial situation, short term needs needs, and longer term financial goals. Before we get there, it’s important that you gather some information to analyze your current situation.
The number one thing to start before the financial plan is the analysis of your current financial situation. You cannot possibly plan for your future if you do not understand your current situation. In analyzing your financial situation, you must consider the following:
Your assets will tell you where you stand financially. You need to make a list of all your assets which often include your bank accounts, emergency funds, retirement accounts, brokerage accounts, investment accounts, real estates, and cars. Your assets include all your valuables and they must all be assessed to determine your worth before you start your financial plan. You can create an asset spreadsheet to help you easily view what you own. Some information you want to include are: Type of asset, account number/address, book value, market value, date of purchase, and monthly contribution.
You will also need to analyze your liabilities which may include loans, mortgages, credit card debts, and business loans. To make things easier for yourself, create a spreadsheet on Excel where you can easily glance over and update all your liabilities. Some information you want to include are: loan provider, loan number, amount outstanding, interest rate, payment amount, payment frequency, start date, and renewal date.
3. Credit Snapshot
To obtain a credit snapshot, you may request a credit report for free from Equifax or Transunion. Otherwise, you can obtain them from websites such as Borrowell or CreditKarma. A credit report will give you a snapshot of your current credit score, a list of your credit current and previous credit accounts. Having this credit report will also give you an idea of your current credit worthiness.
4. Insurance Portfolios
It is important to assess all your insurance coverage as well. Life, critical illness, and disability insurance policies should be considered. It’s also recommended that you have a spreadsheet to track these. Some information you want to include in the spreadsheet are: Type of insurance, amount of coverage, policy number, payment amount, payment frequency, payment method, effective date, and renewal date.
5. Financial Goals
Financial goals are an important aspect of a financial plan that you must include. This is a compass for your financial planning checklist. Your financial goals are what will drive your savings and investments and they will also give you a sense of direction on your finances. You can divide your financial goals into the following:
- Short term goals – between 6 months to 2 years
- Mid-term goals – between 2 years to 5 years
- Long-term goals – 5 years and longer
Your financial goals are your road map to how you will spend, save and invest your income to meet your various financial goals. Short-term goals which could be in a time frame of 1 or 2 years include paying off high interests debts, vacations, and short-term investments in a savings account or a TFSA. Mid-term goals take a few years and it includes life insurance policies, real estate purchases, and starting a family. Long term goals, like the name implies, is usually for a long period and it includes your estate planning and retirement planning. Having a clear financial goal is important when you live in Vancouver as it allows you to prioritize your savings towards something that’s important to you. It also avoids unnecessary spendings as every dollar counts when you live in this expensive city.
The Financial Planning Checklist
If you want to succeed financially living in Vancouver, you must have a detailed budget plan. This is also another important element to include in your checklist. You can break down your budget into weekly and monthly budgets. This will enable track your expenses and ensure that you are within your expected spending limit. It also separates your needs from your wants. It will also help you reach your financial goals on time. If you need help with a budget plan, you can contact us and we will be able to send you a complimentary budget tool!
2. Emergency Funds
An emergency fund is a fund you set aside to use for any unforeseen circumstances. Things you don’t plan for may happen anytime and this is one of the major reasons for having a financial plan. Having an emergency fund in your financial plan ensures your savings and investments continue to increase in value without interruption, even in the event of emergencies. Emergencies are usually unexpected, such as job loss, special levy on your condo, or additional taxes you have to pay. Financial advisors recommend that you have at least 3 to 6 months of your living expenses as your emergency fund. It is also advisable to put your emergency fund into a liquid checking or savings account in order to be able to access the funds in a time of emergency. If you own a home and have a variable rate mortgage in Vancouver, you will clearly see the value of having that emergency funds stashed away. Many people have experienced higher mortgage payment due to rising interest rates in 2022, and their monthly payments towards the mortgage alone have increased dramatically. Not to mention the price increase in everyday necessities such as groceries and household items. These are just a few things that all Vancouverites have felt in the past year.
3. Debt Management
Debt is not a pleasant thing to have on your neck, especially with rising interest rates. While it is advisable to avoid any form of debt, there are some debts that you may not be able to avoid at a particular stage of your life. Some of these debts include mortgage, student loans, and lines of credits. While preparing your final plan, you should come up with a debt management strategy to reduce your debts. For instance, you can start with paying off the ones with high interest rates. Having a debt management strategy will keep your financial plan healthy.
When it comes to investments, we are quite blessed in Canada with many tax advantaged accounts. Being able to save and reduce your taxes will help you greatly in accumulating your wealth overtime, especially living in Vancouver. Some of the common accounts you can start your investment plan will be TFSAs, RRSPs and the new FHSAs that started in April 2023. All these accounts will give you tax benefits to help you grow your money. Investment plan is arguably the backbone of your financial plan. It is a must on your checklist because it is what will ensure the growth of your savings. It is advisable to diversify your investments within each account to ensure a healthy financial plan. You should also align your investment portfolios to your risk tolerance.
5. Insurance Plans
Another important component of financial planning that you must include in your checklist is insurance plans. It goes side by side with your emergency fund as it ensures that certain aspects of your life are covered without you needing to dip into your savings and investments. Health insurance will cover your health needs such as dental, physiotherapy, massage therapy and prescription drug fees, to name a few. Health insurance are usually covered by your employer. However, if you are not offered one, you can also purchase independent health insurance through Pacific BlueCross or Greenshield. Life insurance provides financial security for your loved ones when you are gone, and it may also serve as a tax tool to enhance your estates. To protect your ability to earn income, which is very important with high cost of living in Vancouver, would be critical illness and disability insurance policies. Everyone’s insurance needs are unique, so find out about your options through a licensed insurance advisor in BC.
6. Retirement Plans
Even though the cost of living is relatively high here in Vancouver, it is still possible to plan for your retirement. The essence of a retirement plan is to make you financially independent post-retirement. It is never too late to include a retirement plan in your financial plan to give you a much-desired independence post-retirement. For a sufficient retirement plan, it is advisable to save between 20% to 30% of income during your working years. This percentage will increase if you start later. You should also create financial goals and a budget for life after retirement. This will ensure you don’t outlive your retirement funds. A good place to start is to check to see if your employer offers pension or group RRSP matching contributions. Be sure to take advantage of that as it accelerates your savings towards retirement. Please note that you may also qualify for government retirement benefits such as Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security (OAS), and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS),
7. Tax Planning
In life, there are two things that are guaranteed, one is death, the other is taxes. Without tax planning, you will be paying a lot of unnecessary taxes to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). There will always be questions of taxes when it comes to your assets. Your short and long-term gains on your investments are subject to capital gains tax, unless they are invested in a registered investment account such as TFSA, RRSP, FHSA or RESP. You can engage a professional such as a financial planner or tax accountants to help you maximize every tax benefit available to you. Have a tax strategy before making any financial move that concerns your financial plan. You need to optimize your approach for tax benefits when you want to sell your assets, such as setting up a charitable trust or donation, utilizing a permanent life insurance policy, or shift your investments. Having a well designed tax plan will increase your bottom line in your financial plan. A dollar saved in taxes is a dollar earned, and it’s much easier to save 20-30% on your taxes with no risk than to earn 20-30% in the investment market with considerable risks.
8. Estate Planning
Estate planning is a way of taking care of your finances when you are no longer around. It is usually in form of a Will or Trust. A Will states your wishes on how to handle your assets, dependents, and the administration of your estate when you are gone. Your estate plan should also include a section that will appoint the person that will make medical and financial decisions when you are incapacitated. This is also known as enduring Power of Attorney (POA). Your estate plan should also include an up-to-date list of beneficiaries of your insurance policies and registered accounts such as RRSP and TFSAs. Having a Will is vital if you live in Vancouver, because when you pass away in British Columbia, having a documented Will allows the estate to be processed much faster with lower costs. Having a Will also means you get to design your estate distribution when you die, rather than leaving to the provincial government to decide how your heirs might get the money.
Consulting A Professional
The role of a financial planner who helps in reviewing and putting together your financial plan should not be overlooked. You may choose to prepare your financial plan using this checklist, but it is advisable to engage the services of a financial planner to put everything in order and ensure each component is well designed. A professional financial planner will also help you consult other professionals such as a tax accountant, estate lawyer, investment specialist and an insurance specialist, to help you review sections of your financial plan that requires their input. Engaging a professional to guide you when preparing your financial plan will help you save a lot of time and effort at your end. To help you get started, simply click find an advisor button on the RightFit Advisors website to get matched with a vetted financial advisor who lives in Vancouver and will truly understand your needs.
Financial planning should include a financial analysis, debt management strategies, financial goals, insurance and investment planning, tax planning and estate planning.
7 Key components of financial planning include establishing financial goals, cashflow planning, investment planning, insurance planning, retirement planning, tax planning, and estate planning.