Shoot to score

A goals-based approach targets financial planning to meet objectives throughout life.

How do you measure the success of your investment strategy? Most people look at their returns: five per cent is better than three per cent. But investment returns don’t tell the whole story. Whether or not an investment strategy is successful depends on whether it delivers the money the investor needs at the right time, allowing them to achieve specific goals.

That’s the aim of a goals-based approach to financial planning. Rather than chasing returns on investments, this approach identifies the amount of money required at different times throughout an investor’s life and structures separate investment portfolios, alongside debt management, insurance, tax and estate planning strategies, to help ensure the investor has that money available when it’s needed. Then, instead of checking returns against the markets, the investor evaluates success by measuring their progress towards each goal.

In addition to redefining success, a goals-based approach also redefines risk. After all, the true risk for an investor is not that an investment portfolio loses money this year; it’s that the investor falls short of their savings goals and can’t do what they had planned to do.

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Get S.M.A.R.T. about goal-setting

Realistic and well-defined objectives are more attainable than those that are vague.

After all, goals should set you up for success. One simple and effective method to help you succeed is to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. Here’s an example of how it works:

Specific – Ensure your goal is specific, with as much detail as possible. Think of the who, what, when and why.

Instead of: “I want to start jogging.” Consider: “I want to be able to do a 10-kilometre jog by the summer, so I can feel healthier.”

Measurable – How are you doing? Knowing your progress along the way can help you reach your goal.

Attainable – Determine how you will reach your objective. These are actionable steps you can take to get there.

Instead of: “I will jog every week.” Consider: “I will jog three times per week, starting with one kilometre in week one, two kilometres in week two and so on.”

Realistic – This is all about managing expectations and being realistic about what you can achieve (and don’t be too hard on yourself!). It’s a good idea to think about how the goal will benefit you.

Instead of: “I will run the half-marathon this spring.” Consider “By starting low and working my way up to 10 kilometres, I will improve my stamina and endurance, and feel healthier.”

Timely – Give yourself an end date! Recognize how much time you need to reach your goal (be realistic). It could be a good idea to set some timelines and plan ahead.

Instead of: “Spring.” Consider: “April 30, 2020 – 12 weeks to reach 10 kilometres, including a two week buffer in case of unexpected circumstances.”

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Retail Therapy

How to be a savvy online shopper.

If you’ve purchased something on the Internet recently, you’re in good company. Last year, 26.8 million Canadians bought goods or services online.[1] Nowadays, you can buy almost anything online, from groceries and electronics to clothing and home furnishings – it’s no wonder that roughly one-third of respondents to a 2019 survey indicated that they planned to spend more money online in the coming year.[2]

Why shop online?

Some people appreciate the convenience of online shopping, some like the wider choice and, for others, the lure of a good deal is what brings them to the internet.

Always open

Many of us don’t have time during business hours to go shopping. For the busy professional, the shift worker or the parent of young children, the only spare time to shop may be at night or in the wee hours of the morning. The internet is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. No bricks-and-mortar retail outlet can match that.

Easy and convenient

Whether because of traffic snarls and extortionate parking prices in urban centres, or driving distances in rural areas, it can be a pain to get to the store. Online shopping avoids all that – the traffic, the crowds, the lineups and the over-eager sales-people. Even better, deliveries come right to your door. Online shopping can save you time and the hassle of going out and getting the item yourself.

More choice

Unlike traditional retail stores, with online shopping, the world is your oyster. Your options are no longer limited to your local area, and you can access goods from almost anywhere in the world.

Cost savings

If a retailer can manage with fewer bricks-and-mortar stores, it saves money. So, to provide shoppers an incentive to make purchases online, retailers often make discounts and special offers available. Shoppers can also subscribe to a retailer’s emails so they never miss a deal.

Product comparison and reviews

Many Canadians do online product research to figure out what they want to purchase and where they’ll get the best deal. You can easily compare products and prices from a variety of retailers online. Consumer reviews are another benefit, letting you read what people are saying about a product or service before you buy.

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Break the habit

How small changes can help reduce your debt load and improve your financial outlook.

Debt – a four-letter word that many of us know all too well. In fact, according to Statistics Canada, Canadians owe, on average, $1.78 for every dollar of disposable income earned.[1]

Whether or not you currently have debt, you likely have a good understanding of how easily it can accumulate and how challenging it can be to change spending habits. It’s no wonder, when you factor in the rising cost of living – from near-record-high housing costs to increasing child care, gas and grocery expenses – and how relatively cheap it is to borrow money, with interest rates at historically low levels. With borrowing costs so low, it can be easy for debt levels to rise. So what’s an indebted Canadian to do?

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‘Tis the (spending) season'

How to keep your credit rating in good standing during the holidays.

The holidays can be a magical, yet expensive, time of year for many Canadians. In this season of giving, we are often tempted to overspend on gifts for loved ones. We attend more parties and social gatherings with friends, family and work colleagues. And with the kids on break from school, it’s also a popular time of year for travel.

Many people finance their holiday fun with credit cards. In fact, six out of 10 Canadians are willing to go into debt to purchase gifts.[1] It can be easy for holiday spending to quickly spiral out of control, and before you know it, you receive a credit card bill in January that you aren’t able to pay off right away. In a recent survey, three in 10 Canadians admitted that they struggle to pay off debt after the holidays.

Using credit with care

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The financial realities of farm retirement

How much money does a Canadian farmer need to retire? According to farm finance and transition experts, it depends primarily on the intended lifestyle and a personal definition of financial security.

Getting a hard number, however, means developing a plan that aligns retirement goals with business and savings realities.

Set realistic goals

Brent VanParys is an Ontario-based accountant and business transition services expert. He says lifestyle factors like place of residence, travel goals and whether leaving assets for successors is a priority are some of the most important considerations in determining retirement needs.

Business owners, VanParys says, should go through a “comprehensive financial planning exercise” with a trusted advisor to see what their future might look like based on current realities – as well as how their lifestyle could be adapted.

“They may need to change their lifestyle or definition of financial security in order to meet all of their expectations,” VanParys says.

Colin Sabourin, an investment advisor and financial planner based in Winnipeg, says making a good plan starts with totalling expenses to see how much is needed each month. From there, look at the time frame, how much has been saved and how much can still be made.

When expectations and financial realities don’t line up, farmers can either retire later, save more money or find a new source of income such as taking more investment portfolio risk.

“They only have three options. You can’t keep all three… If they don’t want to do any of them, they have to be comfortable with not reaching their goal,” Sabourin says.

A comprehensive look at expenses and savings

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3 key questions to ask when starting a business partnership

Going into business with someone? Here’s what you’ll want to keep in mind as you secure your finances.

For an entrepreneur, finding the right business partner can be very gratifying — revolutionary, even.

You gain a teammate to bounce ideas off of as you grow. Plus, your business can benefit from the unique strengths and talents you each bring to the table.

That said, mixing your interests and resources with another person could be challenging. That’s why it’s important to secure your business together and ensure you’re both protected and prepared for the unexpected.

As you establish your partnership, it may help to ask the following questions. The answers you come across can help you start your partnership on a strong foundation of mutual benefit, trust, and respect.

What happens if your business partner is unable to work?

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What happens to an RESP if your child doesn’t go to school?

RESPs are a great way to save for your child’s education. But what if they choose not to go? Don’t worry, there are plenty of options.

When 20-year-old Ariel Hartman was in high school, she didn’t worry about how she would pay for her post-secondary education. Hartman’s parents had set up a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) to make sure there would be money to help pay her tuition.

Hartman’s RESP was a joint family effort. Her parents put in what they could and relatives contributed as birthday gifts.

They did the same thing for her brother; however his RESP is unlikely to go toward post-secondary education.

“My brother just graduated from high school last May and he doesn’t want to go back to school. He’s not a university or college guy,” says Hartman. She’s hoping her parents may transfer the funds to support her grad school tuition.

What happens if you don’t use an RESP?

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Hot yoga, superfoods and insurance

Protect the healthy lifestyle you’ve worked hard to build.

Your health and well-being matter to you. Perhaps you play ultimate frisbee or sweat it out in high-intensity interval training. Maybe you follow fitness influencers on Instagram, meditate or meal prep on the weekends. Whatever your preference, chances are you make a commitment to feeling your best. But what if your world suddenly turns upside down?

Ironically, millennials, widely considered the most health-conscious generation,[1] often feel immune to the kinds of health problems that can derail the best-laid plans. Even if you know someone your age who has experienced a serious illness or disability, it can be hard to believe something similar could happen to you. In fact, there’s something called the “optimism bias” that makes people underestimate the risk that negative events, including injury and sickness, will affect them.[2]

The healthy lifestyle you’ve worked hard to achieve also includes your finances. Safeguarding your income can help prevent you from being caught off guard by lessening the financial impact of an unexpected illness or injury.

Ensure you have the right protection

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4 surprising myths about life insurance

By Sylvie Tremblay

Finding the right life insurance plan doesn’t have to feel confusing. Don’t let these myths stop you from getting the coverage you need.

Buying life insurance that’s tailored to your needs can be an invaluable source of financial protection. Especially when it comes to protecting your loved ones during a challenging time. But how do you make sense of your life insurance needs when there are so many myths?

Luckily, you can gain more confidence in your decisions by arming yourself with the right knowledge. Here’s the truth behind some of the most common life insurance misunderstandings. By debunking these myths, you’ll have a better understanding of how to get the most out of life insurance.

Myth 1: Your employer’s life insurance coverage is enough

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